My Gracious Friend:
As our year in this wonderful gospel draws to a close, let’s jump ahead a few chapters to an incident near the city of Jericho. A particular healing that was a favorite of my grandfather. It is a story of persistence in the face of disapproval, of faith born of desperation, and again the power of our Lord as always expressed by His compassion.
This is seen as well in the story of the man with a withered hand (Mt. 2:9-14), only there the persistence in the face of disapproval is that of our Lord’s. With the epileptic boy (17:14-21), but where the boy’s father confesses his lack of faith. The paralytic who is brought by his friends and because of the crowd is lower in front of Jesus through the porch overhang (9:1-8, but see Mark 2:1-10), yet here it is the faith of those friends. There are so many healings each a little different. Of one who sought only to touch the edge of his cloak, a funeral procession of a widows only son, a centurion for his beloved servant, a father for his dying daughter, lepers crying out by the road side, the demon possessed, and the many blind and lame. Some show no faith, others incredible faith, some seek Him out, and others Jesus seeks. But the one consistent fact in our Lord’s power to heal is His compassion.
Here in Matthew we hear of two blind men begging for coppers, hoping for a few silver ones, as the pilgrims pass them on their way up to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. Mark, in his account identifies one as Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus (Mk.10:46). These small differences in our gospels disturb some, confuse others, and are used by still others to disparage, even dismiss our gospel narratives. When it is so obvious that each of our gospel authors had their own eye-witnesses, and knew the treasured and remembered stories. Oral stories that were told and retold in every early Christian church before our gospels were written about thirty five and in one case about fifty years after the resurrection. That there are minor differences amid such similarities would surprise no one who has heard familiar stories told and retold.
However, more to the point, is that Our Lord despite being weighed down knowing the fate that awaits Him in Jerusalem, stops this vast festive crowd of pilgrims, who are singing and carrying on. He does so because he hears in the background, “Jesus, Son of David have mercy.” Because He cares, despite what some are telling the beggars and the inconvenience perceived by others. They may lack the proper decorum as beggars who should stay in their place, but this is their chance. Of importance is that Jesus does not rebuke the use of “Son of David,” as He has done previously. Now it is no longer the time for avoiding the controversy such a title will bring. Now is the time to rip aside the silence, the evading of just who He really is, which will be proclaimed for all to see when He approaches the city with shouts of Hosannas, palm branches, and riding on a colt. Here He but asks the obvious, “What do you want?” Their need must be spoken, and He will remove the grievous burden, alters the sorry condition changing their lives. Matthew tells us Jesus touched them, Mark and Luke that he said, “receive your sight.” Obviously He would do both and immediate they received their sight.
My grandfather loved the fact that Bartimaeus would not be quieted. He was going to be healed and no one was going to stop his one chance. That is so admirable when asking anything of God. But I like as well that all three account state that he followed Jesus. Not that he thanked Jesus, or praised him, which I’m sure he did. But this addition is unusual, and that it is included seems to add credibility to the long held tradition that Bartimaeus was a key figure in the early Judean church, and surely why his name and lineage was remembered. To follow Jesus is in its simplicity such a wonderful statement. What better accolade to have been said of one. To be healed is wonderful, and here so desirable. But to have it said that you followed Jesus, no matter where it was to lead, in this case, soon, to a travesty of a trial, crucifixion and then death. This man’s discipleship will become a testimony of vigilance, faithfulness, and yes, love. Oh, that it be said of us all!
That we might always faithfully follow Him,
Thomas Randolf Wyatt