46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Every day you sit by the side of the road, wrapped up in your old cloak. Each day you hear the footsteps of passersby, the creak of cart wheels, the braying of donkeys, and the hum of human voices as life passes you by. You live in a world of sounds and smells – a world lived and experienced by what you taste and touch, which, as a poor beggar, hasn’t been much lately.
Today, however, is different. Today, the sounds are louder and there’s a tremendous energy coursing through the air – you can feel it. You frantically ask those around you what is going on. They tell you that it’s Jesus from Nazareth. He’s coming down the road and soon he’ll be here – right near you. You can hardly believe it. What is he doing here? Your neighbors explain that he’s on his way to nearby Jerusalem for the Passover. Your mind begins to race. Isn’t this the man who has been healing people? Isn’t this the man people have been talking about as they traverse by your roadside spot every day? Your heart is pounding in your chest.
Suddenly, you’re shouting: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd whips around and begins to rebuke you. You know you shouldn’t be shouting at the teacher or slowing up his journey to Jerusalem, but you cannot stop. You’ve got nothing to left to lose and you know you cannot continue living the way you have been. This man, so talked about, must be able to help, if anyone can. So you keep crying out, hoping against hope, ignoring the crowds. It’s as if every fiber of your being is crying out with you: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
You pause. Something is changing. It’s quieted down and you hear the sound of footsteps approaching you. Your heart sinks and you think, “what have I done?” But then a voice speaks through the nervous stillness, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” You cannot believe it! Jesus of Nazareth is calling to you, a poor beggar?! How can this be?
Your joy overflows and you cannot contain yourself. No one has ever reached out to you like this before. You leap up, throwing your cloak aside and rushing to Jesus. Standing before him, you tremble, not even knowing what to say or where to begin. Then he speaks and his words could not be more shocking to you: “what do you want me to do for you?” Wait – Jesus is asking you what you want? You hesitate, but you don’t want to delay the teacher any longer, so you speak the words you’ve only dreamed of, asking him to restore your sight.
Immediately, bright light floods your eyes and the forms of the crowd and the surrounding landscape, your home, begin to take shape. You. Can. See. Before you stands the one who has made it possible – the one who heard your desperate cries and did not run from your pain, but called you to himself, listened to your needs and healed you. As the crowd stares on in disbelief, Jesus quietly proceeds toward Jerusalem, followed by his disciples. You glance around and without hesitation, you follow the one who had mercy on you and gave you new sight.
Friends, it is true that we don’t all live like Bartimaeus, but no one can deny that we all have things with which we need help. The real question is, to whom do we turn when we need help, when the pain is too much for us to bear alone? To whom do we cry out when we are confused and lost, feeling hopeless or alone? We can turn to the one who asks, gently and humbly, “what do you want me to do for you?” We can turn to Jesus Christ, the one whose love, mercy and compassion compelled him to heal people, to drive out demons, to forgive, to restore and to make whole. The same one whose incredible mercy led him all the way to bear our sins on a harsh cross.
Even having suffered a cruel death for us, Jesus does not turn from us or ignore our cries for help. The same Jesus that once called out to and healed Bartimaeus before entering through Jerusalem’s gates, calls out to each of us today, asking “what do you want me to do for you?” So how will we answer? What would we ask of the Son of David? Do we leap up like Bartimaeus, full of faith, at the chance to boldly ask Christ for healing and hope? My sneaking suspicion is that we often let our pride get in the way. Our pride, like the crowds surrounding blind Bartimaeus, tries to silence our cries for mercy and assistance. We don’t ask for what we really need, thinking we will betray our weaknesses, but all the while Jesus stands there beside us, calling to us. He longs for us to open ourselves up to him, to pour out our hearts and to trust him completely so that he might mend us.
Then, having been made well, how would we respond? Would we follow Jesus on his way to the cross? Would we also put others first, asking those around us, “what can I do for you?” Therefore, I propose a twofold challenge to you: answer Jesus’ question boldly, like Bartimaeus, and, having done so, ask others the same question to the glory of Christ Jesus. Amen.
© 2009. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.