What can we learn from blind Bartimaeus?
In the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho and on their way to Jerusalem when they hear a blind beggar named Bartimaeus cry out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Called forth and asked what he wants, the blind man tells Jesus, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus tells him, “Go, your faith has made you well,” and immediately Bartimaeus regains his sight and follows Jesus on the way.
The subtitle to Roc O’Connor’s friendly, astute and therapeutic book is What the Story of Blind Bartimaeus Teaches Us About Fear, Surrender and Walking the Path to Joy. O’Connor notes that “[b]lindness serves here as a metaphor for the all-too-human unwillingness to recognize whatever wounds, hurts, and dis-eases keep us from recognizing God, ourselves, and others.”
Our consolation should always be that “[t]here is nothing in our lives that God cannot use as a means of salvation.”
To aid in that recognition, O’Connor looks closely at the Greek text of Mark, noticing that the Greek used for “blind,” or tupholos, relates mostly to idolatry, oppression and willfulness. The word used for “seeing” is anablepo, which generally is associated with a return to covenant fidelity. “Seeing means following Jesus’ way; it signifies salvation, which involves losing one’s life, surrendering one’s possessiveness, letting go one’s demand to rule, and walking with Jesus to the cross...and receiving the healing of his resurrection.”
We collaborate with God’s grace and find conformity with Christ, O’Connor reminds us, by acknowledging our creaturehood, our temptations, our distractions and expectations, our doubts, our grudges, our compulsions, and by allowing “Christ to pray for us, with us, and in us.” Our consolation should always be that “[t]here is nothing in our lives that God cannot use as a means of salvation.”
The journey of the blind beggar illustrates a healthy way to personal growth: from self-awareness to a request for help, to a gracious reception of healing and then to following the healer. In this wise, consoling and accepting book, O’Connor lays out how Bartimaeus’s path to joy, hope and peace is available to each of us.