As I try to picture Bartimaeus sitting by the roadside begging, my own face appears in the scene as well. Would I experience him the way I often experience the homeless on NYC streets and subways? Would he be unwashed, disheveled, and sick? Would his bold request for food or money intimidate me? Do I turn my eyes away to avoid the sight of his humanity that might move me to act on his behalf? In this story, many sternly ordered him to be quiet (v. 48). Would I have been one of those many? Am I one of them?
Bartimaeus cannot be quieted, saying, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 48). As he continues crying out to Jesus, I wonder at his words. Why not proclaim, “Restore my sight” right away? He might have asked for food, money, or healing, but he asks for mercy instead. Is that the greatest, most important request? Jesus responds compassionately, not turning his eyes away. He does not seek to quiet or ignore the beggar, but shows him mercy, inviting Bartimaeus to come to him.
I rarely see my own need for mercy as well as this blind beggar sees his. I turn my eyes away from the brokenness and need for healing that lies within me, refusing to name that unmet desire. Bartimaeus seems to understand that experiencing wholeness requires mercy, so he seeks that from Jesus.
His story reminds me that Christ offers God’s mercy to all of us. Jesus does not look away from our need; he’s not repulsed or surprised by anything he sees in us. He understands our inner darkness and our need for healing and compassion better than we do. In his mercy, he calls us to himself.
How well do I know my own need for Christ’s mercy? Where do I need to experience the healing touch of Jesus’ compassion and forgiveness?
God, help us to not fear the broken places within us. Remind us that Jesus’ mercy restores us and sets us free. Amen.