Bartimaeus Healed

If we were to meet Jesus today, would we know what our deepest desire is?  

Blind Man's Meal
Picasso, Pablo. The Blind Man's Meal (detail), from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tenn. Original source.

February 25, 2024

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Commentary on Mark 10:32-52

In this passage Jesus and his disciples are on the road again. It is not easy to follow Jesus. This passage shows that he is disturbed about what could happen to him. He is walking fast, ahead of everyone, perhaps troubled by the feelings of anxiety and fear. They are now in Bethesda, much closer to Jerusalem, and that proximity to Jerusalem might have made his heart more anxious. So much so that he starts talking about his death again and all that he could have been waiting for, all so disturbing. 

Then, instead of having concerned disciples, all he gets is silly questions from them, this time from James and John. It is a flashback to what had happened not long ago. Jesus asks what it is that they want, and they say: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (verse 37). The disciples are relentless in their stupidity and self-centeredness. Here Jesus is talking about a violent death, and all they could think about was their place in heaven: “Well, if you are dying, can we sit next to you when we die too?”  

I love how the disciples are just like us. We are all stupid and self-centered like the disciples. We turn this immense gospel into pettiness, instead of serving others; we are all about our own recognition, honor, and entitlements. Like the disciples, we keep repeating the same things that divide us, destroy us, and break us. 

It seems Jesus can’t believe what they are asking. He says to them, “You do not know what you are asking.” Then he asks: “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (verse 38). This is something like “You want to go to heaven, but can you go through hell first?” And yet they say, “Yes, we can!” Jesus turns to them and says, “Great, you will do that.” However, “to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared” (verse 40). 

Again, the measure of Jesus’ life is servitude, the ability to live the inside faith so vividly that it will be an outward sign of God’s love. Grace! Compassion! To serve is the key to understanding Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus has shown the disciples time and again that paying attention to people suffering is key to one’s ministry. The life given to a community, the care of a people in need, the service to those in pain and sorrow, the deep care for the land, animals, plants, rivers, the earth—that is what marks one’s life with Jesus. As for the future, let us leave it in the hands of God.

Right after that conversation, Jesus is asked to serve again. This time he is asked to heal a blind beggar in Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus. Bartimaeus is literally at the margin of that society, on the roadside, living off of the goodness of some people. A miserable life. He knows about Jesus, and when he hears the buzz that Jesus is walking near him, he screams at the top of his lungs: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He knows it is his only chance to be healed. He doesn’t care about others who are trying to rush him. He gets even louder, the text says. And Jesus hears him.   

He is invited to go see Jesus. His faith is such that he throws off his cloak, which was perhaps his only possession. He has to hurry! When he gets there, Jesus does his typical thing: asks Bartimaeus what he wants. As obvious as it seems, Jesus always asks people what is the heart of their deepest desires. Then healing becomes clearer, more prone to happen: “Go; your faith has made you well” (verse 52).

This man, in contrast to the rich man of last week’s reading, has nothing—perhaps not even family—and decides to follow Jesus. He could go elsewhere, but his transformation is such that he has nothing else in his heart but to follow Jesus. And Jesus embraces him: the text ends saying that he “followed him on the way” (verse 52). 

If we were to meet Jesus today, would we know what our deepest desire is?  

On the other hand, so many people are screaming for mercy in our world. Have we ever considered all the people in jail? Prayed for them? Cared for them? Fought for them? I remember going to visit a women’s prison with my mother when I was young. It wasn’t easy to see their suffering. I was so scared. But that experience stayed with me. As I read about Bartimaeus, I am reminded of the precious people in jail who we don’t care or pray for. But I am also reminded of all the animals killed on the side of the roads, victims of roadkill. When I read about Bartimaeus, I am reminded of precious animals we don’t care about or pray for.   

What people on the roadside are you reminded of when you read this text? If we  consider ourselves to be Christians, our task is not to ask who is greater or if I can be recognized. Rather, we must hear the cries of all of the suffering beings on the roadsides of our communities. 


Lord Jesus, it was hard for your disciples to hear that they would have to suffer in order to follow you. Give us faith and courage to follow you when following is painful or frightening. Amen.


I’m so glad Jesus lifted me   ELW 860, NCH 474, TFF 191
Healer of our every ill   ELW 612, GG 795


Balm in Gilead, Jackson Berkey

Pittsburgh skyline

Festival of Homiletics 2024

May 13-16 | Pittsburgh (or digitally from anywhere)

The 2024 Festival of Homiletics is an invitation to lean into a little self-love. Hear from some of the voices of our time, including Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Pádraig Ó Tuama, Neichelle Guidry, Brian McLaren, and Angela Dienhart Hancock, and more! Experience inspiring worship along with time for reflection, renewal, and remembering – to recall once again the why for what we do.