I firmly believe that one of the lingering effects of the failure in the Garden of Eden is that sin has imposed a gravity-like force which essentially blinds us to our potential and a proper sense of identity. It is certain that we were created in the image of God and were blessed with a “built-in” potential to reflect, enjoy and expand the Kingdom of our Creator.
I also firmly believe, due to the struggle with our sin-ravaged nature which has raged over the generations, that there has been a cumulative effect on our hearts and minds. The result has been the erection of perceptual boundaries that can effectively limit our development. Our Heavenly Father has nothing to do with such boundaries and has sent Jesus to obliterate them!
Have you ever just felt like your circumstances were painting you into a corner and “defining” you? In effect, setting boundaries around your potential? If so, you may be able to relate to the man in our story today that had surrendered to “gravity” and was just eking out an existence within the prescribed confines of his circumstances. It is likely that he had adopted a fatalistic attitude about his situation. Probably, he could have related to those of us who eventually tend to respond to a seemingly debilitating situation with a shrug and a comment like; “well, I guess it is what it is”. He was understandably resigned to living out his life within the boundaries dictated by his culture and his circumstances. Identified as “Blind” Bartimaeus, he took his “place” in life and sat plaintively begging for charity along the side of the road.
What happened next, however, should serve as a tremendous encouragement to each of us! The One who was passing by that morning was not constrained in any respect by the limitations “Blind” Bartimaeus had succumbed to!
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what this man did that stopped Jesus in His tracks and subsequently enabled him to beat the odds and defy gravity!
The man in the spotlight of the passage is
BLIND BARTIMAEUS. Notice how that all we know about this man is associated with the one missing element in his life… his eyesight. In essence, who he really is, has been lost. His obvious disability has become the dominant factor of his identity. As a result, his life now revolves around this one missing physical capability!
I might add that he was not the only one who couldn’t see in this story. In a very real sense, those around him couldn’t “see” him either!
It would be reasonable to conclude that he was even called by this name. His one physical limitation had become his identifying label! This one issue was effectively dictating his destiny!
However, there is more to this identifying element than meets our eye. His name, Bartimaeus, carried the connotation of being “foul” in a religious sense. It literally meant “defiled, infamous, polluted, unclean”.
What a burden to carry, especially when it was a common religious belief that his debilitating condition likely had something to do with sins committed by himself or his parents! Consequently, he would expect that a life spent as an outcast, begging beside the road, would be about the best he could hope for in life!
As we meet him, he is sitting along the road leading from Jericho to Jerusalem on a day when huge numbers of religious pilgrims are headed to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. He is heard making his usual plaintive cry of “have mercy” as the biggest crowds of the year pass by. He sits by the road, exposed to travelers …yet not a traveler! He seeks something from them, but a few coins are the most he can hope for.
He heard… that Jesus of Nazareth was also traveling along with the growing throng passing his way today! This was the first time Jesus had come to Jericho and it would be the last. As he noticed the swell and intensity of the crowd and the excited voices indicating that Jesus was nearby, He began to cry out “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me.” This was the name that identified Jesus as Messiah and would in addition to his disruptive volume and generally unruly outburst be offensive to the religious crowd heading to celebrate the Passover.
In spite of resistance and rebuke, he intensified his cry for help! AND…
JESUS STOOD STILL AND COMMANDED HIM TO BE CALLED! Jesus attention was arrested by the earnestness and desperation of his heart and stopped in His tracks at the sound of His voice. There would have been many such unfortunates begging along the road that day…But this one voice had connected!
He immediately responded to Jesus’ invitation! He paid no attention to the thoughts and taunting words of the crowd who tried to shame and ridicule him for his desperate request! “He threw aside his garment, he rose (“sprang up”) and came to Jesus.” He defied the “gravity” holding him down and holding him back! He resisted the very real efforts to “keep him in his place!”
Some records of the customs of the time indicate that the blind were identified by a particular kind of garment and that garment was usually spread out beneath the person who begged for assistance. The donations would be dropped on the garment.
Can you sense in his actions the desperate readiness to immediately abandon his culture of blindness and make his stumbling, potentially embarrassing and uncertain journey toward Jesus while his own stunned community watched him potentially making a fool of himself? How would Jesus receive him, seeing how the religious crowd had treated him? What of his belongings and the donations he had received?
He came to Jesus (his single-minded priority) leaving the trappings of his past behind!
Jesus simply asked Bartimaeus what he wanted Him to do for him.” He replied; “that I may receive my sight.”
Jesus said; “Go your way, your faith has made you well.” It is noteworthy and instructive that Jesus administered a miracle healing to this man then gave him the freedom to go where he wished to enjoy his miracle! Bartimaeus’ response was instructive as well…” he followed Jesus on the road.”
We are left with the impression that Bartimaeus abandoned the trappings of his blindness and accompanied Jesus on His solemn journey toward Jerusalem. Consequently, it is entirely possible that just a few days later his newly opened eyes may have taken in the scene on a hill outside Jerusalem as Jesus was crucified.
One of the great contrasts in this story is the distinct difference between just sitting by the road, hoping to profit from the excitement of Jesus passing as opposed to actually joining Him as He traveled along with it!
I pray that “holy jealousy” will infect us today driving our passions toward “crying out” as this man did. No longer content to imagine what it is to “walk the road” as others do but to “see” it for ourselves!
I find myself wondering what kind of encouragement and liberty “NO LONGER BLIND” BARTIMAEUS was able to share with those, who themselves, still lived under the influence of the same kind of “gravity” he had known! I believe for the rest of his days Bartimaeus told the story of the day anti-gravity, Himself, came within earshot!
I am convinced that many of us still suffer as “Blind” Bartimaeus did. Our identity and our destiny have been manipulated by circumstances that may or may not have been beyond our control. In any case, Jesus is passing nearby today. His ears are still tuned to the voice that is not afraid to cry out! He will always stop and “stand still” for the one who will “rise up” and come to him! It’s time to defy gravity, get our eyes opened and head down the road with Jesus!