The more I search the Scriptures, the more Jesus reveals to me about Himself, about my heart, and about the world. Sometimes, what I see is encouraging but, other times, what He reveals makes me cringe as I catch a glimpse of my own sin against the backdrop of His holiness. Still, I appreciate His Word because it makes me reflect and it changes me.
A few months ago, the Lord caught my attention with a perspective I hadn’t considered in a story that I have known since I was a child. Matthew, Mark, and Luke recorded the story of blind Bartimaeus. There are three main characters in the story: Bartimaeus, Jesus, and the crowd. Prior to this summer, I had never given much thought to the crowd, but I have since realised they are a major part of the story and worth studying.
Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Luke 18:35-39
The Gospel of Mark tells us that the blind man’s name was Bartimaeus. He sat outside of Jericho on the road begging, when he heard a crowd coming, and asked them what they were doing. People from the crowd told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.
Clearly, Bartimaeus knew either from prior stories or the crowd itself that Jesus was able to heal the sick. He must have heard that Jesus cared about the poor and destitute. In desperation, the blind beggar immediately began yelling for Jesus to help him. Then astonishingly, the crowd tried to silence him.
Why would they silence this man who clearly needed help?
It’s interesting that we aren’t told who made up the crowd or how long they had been following Jesus, but Mark does tell us they were great in number. People constantly flocked to Jesus for healing and to hear Him preach. The first three Gospels repeatedly mention the compassion He felt for the people and His desire to heal them both physically and spiritually. Thousands followed Him during His ministry because they knew He could help them.
But then that begs the question, why did these followers of Jesus try to silence Bartimaeus? Bartimaeus was a man with a real problem. Why didn’t they want him to call out to Jesus?
I have some theories:
At first, I couldn’t fathom how a crowd that understood Jesus was worth following could have thought any of these things. However, the more I considered it, the more similarities I saw between the followers outside of Jericho and followers in the church today.
It is possible that the crowd thought of Bartimaeus as some lowly beggar who wasn’t worthy of Jesus’s attention? Have you ever felt or been led to believe that some things are not worth praying about?
There was a time in my life that I only took the important things to God. Exams, job interviews, major conflicts and big decisions seemed necessary to pray about but, eventually, I learned that God wanted to have a say about my grocery list and daily conversations too.
God’s desire is that we become fully dependent on Him, not just for the big things but the small too. There is no Scripture that says God helps those who help themselves. He wants to be the provider of everything we need.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
What about the idea that some sins and situations are beyond redemption or hope? Perhaps the crowd thought Jesus couldn’t heal Bartimaeus. What are you tempted to believe is impossible for God to fix? While it’s true that, as humans, we get ourselves into some difficult and regrettable circumstances, God is the Great Redeemer. His followers should never wonder about His ability to reconcile and restore our biggest messes.
When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Lastly, there is the theory that the multitude knew what Jesus could do for Bartimaeus, but they didn’t want Jesus to stop and help him. This is a hard one. Why do Christians fail to intercede for others who have problems? Is it possible that sometimes we see another person struggling and we’re so busy thinking their suffering is deserved that we don’t even consider asking God to help them?
Or are we so concerned with our own issues that we will not give up 30 seconds to pray for someone else until we are satisfied with our own wants first? Self-righteousness and selfishness are closely related and can make even followers of Christ vindictive and unloving. Have you been silencing the requests of others before the Lord or have you joined them in asking the Lord for mercy?
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 1 Timothy 2:1
How do you as a follower of Christ resemble the multitudes that followed Jesus in this story? Are you quick to help someone lost and suffering meet Jesus or are you more likely to silence him due to your own lack of understanding and love?
Thankfully, this story does not end with a discouraged and silenced blind man. Though the Lord had withheld Bartimaeus’ sight at the beginning of this story, he was given good ears, a strong voice, and determination. While the crowd tried to silence him, the blind man cried out all the more until Jesus stopped and healed him. Scripture tells us that once his sight was restored, Bartimaeus began to follow Jesus too.
Bartimaeus understood the character of Christ to the point that he did not give up asking of the Lord until he got an answer directly from Him. Have circumstances or people discouraged you from seeking God’s mercy and help? Take some time to reflect on what Jesus has already done in your life and the lives of others. No one who seeks Him is ever turned away empty-handed.
How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:11b
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