And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him on the way.
It seems that every week there’s a news report on some new technology that’s making the world more connected and safer than it was before. It’s an exciting time to be alive, isn’t it? A great example of this, is an app that came out a few years ago called Be My Eyes. A blind or visually impaired person can download this app to their cell phone and enter in information on what state or country they live in and what language they speak.
Seeing people who sign up to volunteer also download the app and enter in the same information. When a blind user needs help with a simple visual task, they can tap the app and send out a call to multiple volunteers in their general area. The volunteer and the blind person are connected by video chat.
In 2018, there were 80,000 blind or visually impaired users worldwide who had downloaded the app, and around 1 million seeing volunteers registered to assist them.
Sometimes, the person asking for help ends up giving help instead. A blind man from Idaho, shared his experience with using the Be My Eyes app a few years ago. While bending down to pick up something he’d dropped on the floor, he banged his face on the countertop. He felt that his nose was bleeding, but he couldn’t tell if he needed stitches. So, he tapped the Be My Eyes app, and a volunteer on video chat assured him that his nose was just fine.
They chatted a few minutes, and the volunteer mentioned that she was having trouble with her phone. The man works with computers and is tech-savvy, so he was able to diagnose her phone problems and explain how to fix them. Both he and the volunteer came away happy because they had each found a way to help the other.
In Jesus’ day, there were few options, for people born blind, actually only one option. If your family or community didn’t help you, then begging was your only way to survive.
Today’s lesson is about a blind man named Bar timaeus. The first thing we learn about Bartimaeus is that he was blind and a beggar.
These were primitive times. There were no recordings for the blind, no seeing-eye-dog program, no hope of a cornea transplant, no smartphone apps. Unless a miracle occurred, blind Bartimaeus was destined to spend his life in rags begging by the side of the road. He was truly among the disadvantaged.
It’s amazing to anyone who studies history how many great people start out with the odds against them. An extremely short list would include: Stephen Hawking, a world-famous physicist, who was diagnosed with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 21. He spent much of his adult life in a wheelchair, only able to communicate through a computer program. Yet Stephen Hawking is today known world-wide for his great intellect. But there are many well-known people who have had to deal with being disadvantaged.
Actor Tom Cruise, movie producer Steven Spielberg, and the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, all had dyslexia. Actress Emma Watson, one of the stars of the Harry Potter movie series, singer Justin Timberlake, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was paralyzed by polio. Actress Charlize Theron and Oprah Winfrey came from backgrounds of abuse. Surfing champion Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm in a shark attack at the age of thirteen.
You never know what kind of disadvantages the people around you are facing. You never know how hard someone had to work to achieve the life they have.
Bartimaeus was disadvantaged. Many great people have fallen into that category. Bartimaeus probably was not only disadvantaged but was also made to feel rejected. Even his name, Bartimaeus simply means “Son of Ti maeus.” We don’t even know Bartimaeus’ given name. He was not even important enough for them to have called him by any name except “Son of Timaeus.”
Religious people were probably small comfort to his feelings of rejection. As you know from reading the New Testament, there were many people, in that time, who felt that a physical handicap was a punishment by God. In their ignorance and superstition, they felt that someone surely sinned if a child was born with a handicap.
You may recall that Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995, was deaf. After Heather won the Miss America pageant, someone created a poster to honor her accomplishments. Under a picture of her winning the pageant was the caption, “They said she would only be able to get a third-grade education. Fortunately, she wasn’t listening!”
Bartimaeus was disadvantaged. All of us are, to a certain extent. We all have our handicaps. They may not be physical; they may be emotional. They may be handicaps of attitude. Some people let their disadvantage define them. Others let it drive them. Perhaps one of the most dangerous handicaps is that of living a privileged life, because we never develop the mental and emotional and spiritual toughness that’s required for dealing with adverse life situations.
Bartimaeus was disadvantaged but look at something else; Bartimaeus was determined. Bartimaeus was sitting beside the road going away from Jericho. Word came to him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Bartimaeus started crying out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Now remember, in that day, Bartimaeus was a nobody. A blind beggar. Someone to be ignored or avoided or pitied. But Bartimaeus refused to let his disability define him. He was determined to reach for the only hope he had, the mercy of the Messiah.
And that’s what Bartimaeus was doing that day: taking the first step in faith toward Jesus Christ. Many of the people in the crowd started to rebuke him and tell him not to make a scene, but he cried out all the more, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. Jesus stopped and said to His disciples, Call him. They called Bartimaeus saying, Take heart. Arise, He is calling for you.
Look what Bartimaeus did next. He threw off his cloak and sprang up and came to Jesus. Jesus asked him, what do you want me to do for you? The blind man said to Him, Master! Let me receive my sight! Jesus said, Go your way. Your faith has made you well.
Bartimaeus was disadvantaged but Bartimaeus was determined. He wasn’t going to let people tell him to be quiet. When he saw the opportunity for healing, he came. He wasn’t like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking, what must I do to be saved? He went away sadly when he learned that he would have to choose between his wealth and Jesus. Bartimaeus wasn’t like the man beside the pool of Bethesda, who, when Jesus asked him if he really wanted to be healed, made excuses for his situation.
Bartimaeus wanted to see with his eyes, and he was willing to pay any price to achieve this goal. He was determined. What a difference determination makes in life. Thank God for the Bartimaeuses of this world who will not be denied by their circumstances.
Bartimaeus was disadvantaged. He was determined. And finally he was discipled. Discipled is a verb we have made out of a noun. We talk about making disciples in the church. The shorthand version is to say that we “disciple” people. A disciple is a follower, someone who shows loyal allegiance to another. Bartimaeus cried out for mercy. Jesus was prepared to give him so much more. Bartimaeus was discipled. Listen to the last few words: Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way. Your faith has made you well.’ And immediately” we read, he received his sight and followed [Jesus] on the way.
Bartimaeus became a follower of Jesus Christ. How could he do anything else? All his life Bartimaeus had been blind, and finally this man Jesus had set him free of this tremendous disadvantage.
I believe something happened to Bartimaeus that day, don’t you? I believe the scales not only fell away from his eyes; I believe they fell away from his heart. For not only did his healing represent a victory over a physical problem, but his healing also said to Bartimaeus, you really matter. You’re a person of worth. The incarnate God cares about you.
I don’t believe that this determined man was ever again the same. I doubt if he ever let anyone put him down again. I doubt if he ever gave in to discouragement. Why? Because he knew he mattered. His healing was proof of that.
I have a feeling that Bartimaeus knew from the day he met Jesus that he was a “Child of the King” and he never forgot it. Thank God for this blind man with no name sitting beside the road out of Jericho, who was disadvantaged but determined, and finally was discipled, who became a follower of Jesus Christ, the man by whose love and whose grace he was healed.
Every person who comes to Jesus in faith finds freedom. It may not be freedom from a disability or a difficult circumstance. It may be the freedom of finding new purpose in life, of discovering the overwhelming and unchanging love of God for you, it may be the freedom of finding a new identity as a child of God. Jesus set Bartimaeus free from his disability. He set us free from being defined by our circumstances. If you come to Jesus in faith, you can find that freedom too. You can find that you matter. You are known and loved by God. There’s nothing you cannot overcome if you trust in His will.