Proper 25 - 28 October, 2012    Mark 10:46-52 

Blind Bartimaeus

Bartimaeus, the  blind beggar, is sitting by the roadside when he hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing; he throws himself on the mercy of God: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”. He persists, despite the crowd ordering him to be silent. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”.

Jesus calls him and asks him “What do you want me to do for you?”. The blind man answers “ Let me see again.”  Unwittingly he is taking the Lord at his word:  ”If you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14)  “Go, your faith has made you well”....he sees again and  he follows Jesus on the way.

It is interesting to compare this to what immediately precedes it - the request of James and John the sons of Zebedee, which we heard last Sunday. They come to Jesus saying : ”we want you to do whatever we ask of you.”  They ask for favoured positions with him in his glory. They, too, are taking Jesus at his word: ”If you ask anything in my name, I will do it”However, there is something wrong with their request, something to do with what St. James points out  in his  Letter: “You ask and you do not receive, because you ask wrongly". They have asked wrongly - for their own glory - and they have much yet to learn about the place of suffering and of service.

Bartimaeusin contrast, asks rightly - with faith - and he sees again. His request is granted by the Lord without qualification, except for this: "your faith has made you well".

This is a recurring refrain in the gospels; we hear it again and again. “Your faith has made you well.” Bartimaeus throws himself unreservedly on the mercy of God, trusting that God can do all things: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”No doubt  he is familiar with all those wonderful assurances in the Psalms: “the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting...God is plenteous in mercy to all who call upon him....Trust in the mercy of God forever”. (Ps 106,86,52)

The one most fit to receive the mercy of God accounts himself unworthy to receive it, writes one of the saints. (Imitation of Christ 3:22)

Faith does not put its trust in ourselves, as in the assertion of James and John that they are able to drink of the cup of which Jesus is to drink. Faith rather puts its trust in God, as  Bartimaeus does.

We all know that not all prayers for the help and healing of God are answered in the way that we want. This is a mystery we have to accept. One day we will know why; for the moment we must be content with seeing through the glass darkly. Yet it is widely recognised that God always answers the prayer of faith....but sometimes in ways we do not always desire or appreciate at the time. For faith in God’s mercy and power must always be held in tension with “Your will be done”. This was true of the Lord’s own struggle at Gethsemane and it must be true for us as well. “Nevertheless not my will but Yours be done”.  (This, of course, could be the subject of a whole year’s worth of sermons on its own.)

Our part is to throw ourselves on the  mercy of God, as Bartimaeus did, trusting and knowing that in His will is our peace. This is to ask rightly. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

So his prayer of faith and trust is vindicated:  “go, your faith has made you well”.

        Antony Grant CR