They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
We don't know much of Bartimaeus' life story, but I can tell you this much: it takes real guts to believe in healing when you’ve been told you’re not worthy of it your whole life. “Quiet, Bartimaeus, Jesus doesn’t have time for you.” I mean, that’s literally what folks are saying, “you’re not worthy of healing.” Have you ever heard that message? Do you still hear a voice saying “you’re so messed up, no one can fix that!” How many times does it take, hearing that message, before we just give up? What am I thinking, I don’t deserve healing. I’m a lost cause.
Thank God Bartimaeus didn’t believe that. He may not have conventional sight, but what he does have is wisdom, real insight that can only be explained by faith. He believes that Jesus DOES have time for him. Can you imagine the courage it takes to advocate for airtime w/ the man you believe is Messiah? Can you fathom the trust needed to reach out with no conventional ability to see this man you believe in? Your hand batted away by prejudiced bystanders, and still you insist on being heard.
Because Bartimaeus believed that he was worthy of abundant life, this miraculous encounter happens- and continues to provide you and I the courage it takes to reach out for help.
We don’t have to listen to the voices telling us we're not worthy. Because our faith insists that God is big enough, powerful enough, loving enough to hear everyone in their moment of need.
You may know the name Malala. On the morning of October 9, 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban, on a bus to school. And what had she done to deserve it? She spoke up about the right for all people to receive an education, even girls. “Have mercy on us!” was her cry; she too was silenced by prejudiced people, she too, did not take no for an answer. After her miraculous recovery from being shot in the head, Malala began to cry even louder, “Have mercy on us girls, we deserve an education too!”
Because Malala believed she was worthy of abundant life, and continues to give us the courage it takes to reach out for help.
Something in Bartimaeus & Malala just won’t let go of hope. Something in us just won’t either. We don’t have to be a character in the Bible or Nobel Peace Prize winner to act in courage for what we truly believe in: abundant life for all.
What situation might Jesus be inviting you to reconsider in your life? What needs healing? Where might you benefit from change? Now here’s the really tough question: do you have the courage to ask for help?
What is Bartimaeus’ motivation to pursue Jesus’ help despite the challenges? We hear the goal clearly at the end of the story: He’s given back his sight. But I think that’s only part of the story. The full picture is this: Bartimaeus, for the first time, is given the gift of pursuing abundant life- on foot- as a traveling disciple of Christ. Freedom to pursue love at last.
Do you have that kind of courage? Do you possess the insight that takes you beyond your present circumstance in faith that life could be different? Maybe your courage is clouded by pain. That’s a real thing, right? We can't see the forest for the trees. We can’t imagine what CAN BE because we’re so darn entrenched in what IS. And often what we can see is challenge after challenge, no way out.
I have a friend who works as a counselor in Aberdeen; she is so real, so in tune with the grittiness of humanity. And she contends that the #1 reason people don’t reach out for help with their problems is not pride or guilt or even stoicism. It’s a real sense that they’re not worth it. That engaging therapy (or any other potentially life-changing help, like joining a support group or faith community) won’t work for them, because they’ll always be a failure.
This is why we don’t walk the road alone. Left to ourselves, none of us may actually believe we’re good enough. But we’ve got a rich history of Bartimaeus’ & Malalas to inspire us with their courage. I believe the first step in pursuing that type of courage is trusting that we’re worth it- and often we become aware of our worth by surrounding ourselves with people who claim this truth for us. You and I are worthy of a Messiah’s attention. You and I are worthy of real change, of redeeming grace. If you haven’t heard it from anyone else in awhile, hear it now: you are worthy of healing. And therapy or counseling may be exactly the tool you need to overcome your challenges to receive a more abundant life.
Bartimaeus' story would never have made our scriptures had he simply waved at Jesus as he passed by, resigning himself to his fate. No, he insisted that Jesus could help him. He pursued a more abundant life. He believed that if he didn’t give up on himself, Jesus wouldn’t either. Friends, faith is what keeps us going- and the really good news is: we share a faith! When your faith isn’t strong, I’ll carry it for you. When mine isn’t strong, I trust you will carry mine. Together, with courage, we’ll pursue abundant life in the name of the one who came to save us from ourselves: “Go, your faith has made you well.”
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.