The passage of scripture before us today is significant for several reasons. Matthew and Luke, as well as Mark, relate this event in their gospel accounts. And both Mark and Matthew bring their portrayal of Jesus' public ministry to a conclusion as the events of Holy Week take center stage. Furthermore this act of healing by Jesus is his last. One other matter of significance involves a man named Bartimaeus whose life was radically changed as a result of this road-side, gospel event at the city limits of Jericho.
When Bartimaeus had gotten the attention of Jesus with his cries for mercy, the compassion of Jesus took charge, and he delayed his departure from Jericho in order to minister to this blind beggar. No surprise then or now in the action of Jesus. What is somewhat of a mystery is the question with which Jesus addressed Bartimaeus; "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mark 10:51). Jesus' question was not seeking information, rather he sought to establish a relationship with Bartimaeus, one that would forever change the blind man. We know, for instance, that his life would be altered in ways he had never imagined. He abandoned Jericho and followed Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. Might he have been among the crowds who shouted "Hosanna," welcoming Jesus as the "one who comes in the name of the Lord?" (11:9-10). And too, the fact that his name was remembered in the same early Christian fellowship from which Mark's gospel originated seems to indicate a continuing relationship with the early church.
Perhaps the key to understanding Jesus' question lies in the matter of faith. We know that Jesus perceived Bartimaeus to be a person of faith by which the blind man experienced healing. The question, then, may have been expressed this way, "What do you want ME to do for you?" The question is itself a call to faith, and this faith in Jesus Christ led to the healing. Maybe none of us will experience what plagued Bartimaeus, but we do have needs and do have the compassion of the Healer of Jericho. What do we want from the Healer? It is the relationship of faith that we share with Jesus and with Bartimaeus that brings us into the healing circle.
Prayer: Lord, strengthen our faith and grant us the healing we need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
In over 50 years of ministry David Freeman has served Presbyterian congregations in Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi. He and his wife, Mary, currently reside in Oxford, MS where he serves as parish associate of First Presbyterian Church. They are also my parents.