As is always so in the power of the Holy Spirit, this evening’s scripture readings address the present moment in surprising ways. This occurs somewhat serendipitously as we read the story of Jacob’s courtship of Rachel on the eve of the Valentine’s Day celebration of romantic love.
However, after nearly a year of pandemic loss and isolation, I would like direct our prayerful reflection on the present moment, on God’s eternal ‘now’, through the story of Jesus’s encounter with the blind beggar Bartimaeus.
Mark’s Gospel narrative has reached an important juncture here. Jesus and the disciples have journeyed away from Galilee where great hope and joy have been generated among the people by Jesus’s ministry of teaching, healing and proclaiming the Good News. The travelers have now come to Jericho from which they are turning toward Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover festival, joined by a great crowd of expectant pilgrims. Yet on the road Jesus’s disciples have been deeply disturbed by his repeated disclosure of the purpose for their journey: at Jerusalem Jesus is to fulfill his identity and mission as the martyr-messiah of God’s kingdom. In misunderstanding and fear at the prospect, the disciples have retreated into deep denial. Thus when Bartimaeus raises his loud cries, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”, the disciples, in their alarm, join the festal crowd in attempting to silence the poor man.
There are a number of ways, I think, in which we could approach this story of Jesus’ encounter with blind Bartimaeus:
- We could see it as a miracle story, which it certainly is, and compare it with other miracle stories in the gospels, especially with other miracles that involve healing.
- Or, we could see this story as a story of faith. Jesus commends Bartimaeus for his faith, and suggests that his strong and persistent belief was the catalyst for his healing.
- But there is a third possibility, and this is the one that I would choose this morning – and that is to approach this story as a story of desire – a story of our desire for God, and God’s desire for us.