It is only recently that I have become aware of the fact that Jesus walked the road from Jericho to Jerusalem in the days just prior to his crucifixion, and it struck me that by doing this He literally walked out what, in many ways, His life on earth was all about. He was walking from the lowest point on earth, from the oldest city in which man dwelt, from a city representing the ‘ways of man’ up to Jerusalem, the Divine City, the City of Peace, to lay down His life so that all who believe in Him and share this road with Him throughout the ages can also enter into His peace.
As I was pondering on this I wanted to investigate whether or not the events that occurred on this last journey had any particular relevance for our day as we too, in our lives are journeying to return to the Divine City. In this episode of Caleb’s Journal we will start to look at one of these events, the healing of Blind Bartimaeus.
On a superficial reading, the account of Blind Bartimaeus seems to relay just one of the many healings done by Jesus. However, when we dig a little deeper we find that this account holds a hidden message that is relevant to us today.
I have no doubt that Bartimaeus was physically blind, but the account holds clues to indicate that this physical condition merely reflected his spiritual condition. As such, Blind Bartimaeus illustrates each one of us as Israelites who are blinded to the way of righteousness, a condition we also require healing from so that we can follow Jesus in the way.
Unclean and Highly Prized
The story of Blind Bartimaeus is found in Mark chapter 10. Beginning in verse 46 we read:
‘And they came to Jericho. And as he (Jesus) was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.’
Mark reveals to us the name of the blind beggar, which he does in an odd way. The name Bartimaeus literally means ‘son of Timaeus’. So why would Mark write that the ‘son of Timaeus’, who was the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside?
To find the answer to this conundrum, we need to look at the Hebrew and Greek languages which reveals to us that the name Bartimaeus could have two different meanings;
In Hebrew בַּר bar means ‘son’ and טָמֵא tāmē’, means the ‘unclean one’. In putting these two parts together we come to ‘son of uncleanness’.
However when we mix the Hebrew and the Greek within the same name we get the following meaning;
The Hebrew בַּר bar, meaning ‘son’ and the Greek τιμή timé, meaning ‘highly prized or honoured’. In putting these two parts together we come to ‘son of he who is highly prized’.
These two meanings seem to illustrate polar opposites. However, when we consider where this account took place, just outside of Jericho – representing the ‘ways of man’, we see that by introducing us to Blind Bartimaeus in this way Mark is stating:
What is highly prized (Timaeus) in our society is really a state of uncleanness (Bartimaeus), which results in a blindness that can only be healed by Christ.
I think that if we are honest, we can relate to this in our modern day. Those things that are highly prized in our society – the elevation of our own self importance, the pursuit of personal independence through the accumulation of possessions, money and fame and our continual chasing after this state of being, is really a state of uncleanness that results in blindness to the way of righteousness, a blindness which can only be healed by Jesus.
What was Blind Bartimaeus Begging for?
Blind Bartimaeus was a beggar.
It would have been common, in the days of Jesus, to see blind people begging for the necessities of life. But when we look at the Greek word that Mark uses when he describes Bartimaeus as a beggar, προσαίτης prosaitēs, we see that Bartimaeus was engaged in a specific kind of begging.
προσαίτης prosaitēs is derived from the root word αιτέω aiteó which means to request. However it is not to make a request in a loose sense but with the implied support of some code of conduct that could range from an appeal to basic humanity through to formal law. It describes a weaker person asking a stronger person to intervene in a situation that has gotten out of the weak persons’ control.
The begging that Bartimaeus is engaging in illustrates that he has come to the realisation that he himself is in a state of uncleanness and weakness, resulting from his fallen state, from walking and engaging in the ‘ways of man’. He has come to the realisation that he can not, by his own strength, overcome this situation of uncleanness and so he is seeking to come under the covering of a ‘stronger one’ who will intervene on his behalf. This is what Blind Bartimaeus is begging for… a healing of his fallen condition, a condition that has led to his blindness in which he cannot see the way of righteousness.
A cry to enter into covenant
He sees this ‘stronger one’ in none other than Jesus our Lord. He manifests this in the very next verse where we read;
And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Did you notice that Blind Bartimaeus is identifying Jesus as the Son of David? He is linking Jesus to the Royal line… he is recognising Jesus as King in his life, he is looking to Him for mercy and is seeking to enter into covenant with Him.
This covenant relationship that he is seeking is encapsulated in the Greek word κράζω krazó which is translated ‘to cry out’ in verse 47.
κράζω is a word which means more than just calling out and making a sound. It speaks of the space which is traversed by the sound from the maker to the receiver. As such it expresses the tying together of two distant locations by means of verbal expression. It is a crying for help in which the specific objective is to engage in a relationship with the receiver.
So not only is Blind Bartimaeus identifying Jesus as his King, he is also seeking to engage in a relationship with Him. For his healing to take place he realises he has to break covenant with the ‘ways of man’, he needs to leave Jericho, which is why the encounter happens just outside of the city, and place himself completely under the cover of the true King Jesus, the Son of David, so that he can be healed of his blindness, which will allow him to see the way to the City of Peace, Jerusalem.
In the next episode we will look at the strange reaction the crowd had to this desire of Bartimaeus to come into Covenant relationship with Jesus. They were not at all happy, they were openly hostile…