November 22 – Mark 10:46-52
Let’s start at the end, when Jesus tells Bartimaeus, “Your faith has made you well.” The word behind “made you well,” or “healed,” is the same word used in Mark 10:26, “Then who can be saved?” That word, sozo, can be used both to talk about eternal salvation and temporal healing, and in 10:52 Mark is intentionally using the word for its double meaning. When we read about healings in the Gospel of mark, we should think back to Mark 2, where Jesus healed a paralyzed man only after telling him, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”(2:5) When Jesus heals someone, in Mark as well as the other Gospels, often he is primarily doing three things: #1 administering physical healing, #2 emphasizing the deeper need of spiritual healing, and #3 instructing his disciples (plus anyone else watching). The healing of the paralyzed man is a good example of this: Jesus eventually heals the man physically (#1), but only after addressing the problem of his sin; by doing it in this order, he communicates just how pressing the problem of sin is (#2). Meanwhile, as the Pharisees and disciples look on, he teaches them who he is, the Son of God who can forgive sins, and why mercy is so important to the Christian life, while they had just been blocking the door and not letting the paralyzed man inside (#3).
Now take that framework to this text. Jesus certainly heals Bartimaeus of his blindness. But look at how Jesus handles the situation—he asks Bartimaeus what he wants. This presents Bartimaeus with the opportunity to confess who he thinks Jesus is, and he does exactly that. Just having called Jesus, “Son of David,” a Messianic title (see Mark 12:35), he says to Jesus, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” Implicit to his request is the assumption that Jesus has the authority to allow it. He doesn’t even say, “Give me my sight back;” it’s almost as if the power to give him sight is ready to go and just waiting for the word from Jesus, who doesn’t even have to lift a finger. This echoes the very creative power with which the world was made, when God only had to say the word for there to be light.
And then Jesus specifically tells Bartimaeus, “Your faith has healed you,” drawing up that double meaning I mentioned above. This healing of a blind man echoes another from Mark 8, in which Jesus heals a blind man right after he told his disciples, “Do you not yet understand?”(8:21) Every physical healing points to the greater spiritual need for salvation, to be liberated from sin and have the eyes of our hearts opened to Jesus as Savior and Lord. Bartimaeus had already received the greater healing, believing in Jesus, before he recovered his sight. Thus Jesus stresses in the moment not how great it is to have vision, though it is great, or how amazing it was that the man was healed, though it was amazing, but how essential faith is.
And in Jesus’ third priority of teaching his disciples, they see Jesus turn aside to a man who was just being told to shut up. This echoes the woman from Mark 5:34, for whom Jesus stopped everything so he could look her in the eyes and call her daughter. When Jesus stops to make time for the outsider and the forgotten person, we should remember yet again that he stopped for us even when we were outsiders. This reminds us to love others with the love we’ve been shown in Jesus. But also in Bartimaeus Jesus’ disciples see yet again that Jesus can open the eyes of the blind, meaning he can give them spiritual eyes to see the truth as well, a truth you and I need just as much. In other arenas of life we trust in our own knowledge, being able to Google the answer, or being skilled at defending our position. But when it comes to salvation, these are of no use. Unless Jesus gives us sight, we will never see. This truth gives us every reason to rejoice in God’s grace, that he would save us and enliven us to his truth and beauty. But this same need is reiterated over and over in the Christian life after salvation. When it comes to understanding God’s word, obeying it, and walking in wisdom and love, unless the Lord lights our path, we have no way to go. The power that opens our eyes is the same power we need to keep setting them on Jesus.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Mark 10:46-52 for us?
• What stands out to you from this passage?
• Why do you think many people rebuked Bartimaeus?
• How does Jesus handle this situation, and what can that tell us about him?
• Why do you think Jesus specifically says, “your faith has made you well”?
• What can this passage tell us about what we need from Jesus?
• How is this passage calling you to faith in Jesus?