Bartimaeus: Leaving the Blanket Behind

Blindness is a common affliction in the land of Palestine, for the dust and glare of the desert is not kind to human eyes. A beggar named Bartimaeus sits by the wayside near Jericho in both physical and spiritual darkness. Perhaps he hears that the sick are healed, demoniacs are freed, the lame walk, the dumb speak, the dead are raised, and the blind see. The blind man’s pitiful condition is the epitome of desperation. He is misery personified, but misery is the object of Jesus mercy. The Lord never passes that way again, but He halts His journey to cross in the spirit of the cross. He is never too busy to deal personally with an individual. Bartimaeus cries “Jesus, Son of David!” in recognition of His Messiahship (Mk. 10:47). That phrase stops Jesus in His tracks. The beggar trusts the Messiah will stop and talk with him. The crowd surrounding the beggar tries to shut him up. Humans refuse to help him, but Jesus responds to his persistency. Bartimaeus is determined not be shouted into submission, so he cries all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 48). Whereas he used to beg for money that men gave; now he begs for the mercy only God can give.

Bartimaeus knows everything depends on his being heard by Jesus, but his condition makes it impossible to reach Him. His only hope is that the Lord will respond favorably to him. Nothing in His schedule takes priority over a cry of desperation, so He calls him. The crowd tells Bartimaeus to be quiet because they cannot hear Jesus’ message. But they miss the point, for this afflicted man is His message. It is ironic that we can hear great things from Jesus and still be insensitive to those around us. After Jesus summons Bartimaeus, the people change their attitude and say, “Be of good comfort, rise, He is calling you” (v. 49). 

Beggars in that era typically own a large blanket which serves as both a coat and a covering at night. This blanket identifies Bartimaeus as a beggar, but when Jesus calls him he casts it aside and leaps to his feet. He does not allow his condition, the crowd, or his cloak to hinder him from getting to Jesus. He seems to understand if he can get to Jesus he will be a beggar no longer. Bartimaeus tosses aside his blanket by an act of his own free will (v. 50). Like Peter and Andrew who forsake their fishing nets, he leaves his old life behind him (Mk. 1:18). But it is not sufficient to cry to Jesus; one must make contact with Him. Bartimaeus holds on to his position and his condition until Jesus calls for him. When he comes to Christ, he lets go of his blanket. Jesus does not instruct him to leave it, but he voluntarily casts aside the garment of his self-sufficiency. Jesus then asks Bartimaeus what he wants. “My Master; that I may recover my sight”. The first thing he sees after Jesus heals him is the face of the Master. “Thy faith has made you perfectly whole; go your way.” But this healed man chooses to follow Jesus instead (Mk. 10: 52).

We come to Jesus as beggars, but we follow Him as sons and daughters. A faith-response to Jesus demands abandonment of our blankets. One cannot serve Jesus dragging the trappings of their old life. Only those who forsake everything can be His disciples (Lk. 14:33). We are instructed to forget those things that are behind us and move forward into the future He has for us (Phil. 3:13).                                                 

Maxim of the Moment

I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate. - George Burns