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Mark 10:46-52

Mark 10:46-52 – In the Way…

Lesson Focus: Jesus longs to help us regain our sight so that we might fully and faithfully follow him in the way of the Kingdom of God.

Lesson Outcomes: Through this lesson, students should:

  1. Understand that Bartimaeus’ healing is as much about the recovery of spiritual sight as physical sight.

  2. Understand that we often don’t know when we are spiritually blind.

  3. Be encouraged to seek to see if we are spiritually blind and then ask God to help us discover our sight again.

Catch Up on the Story Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem. He and his disciples are almost to Israel’s capital city. Several times in the last few chapters, Jesus has told his followers why he is going to Jerusalem. In no uncertain terms, Jesus tells his disciples that he will be betrayed, handed over to the authorities who will cause him great suffering. Ultimately, Jesus will end up on the cross where he will die. While Jesus is sure to tell of his suffering for the sake of Israel and the world, he also is sure to mention his subsequent resurrection.

For their part, the disciples have had a hard time truly grasping what the future holds. When they do hear what Jesus says, they’re quick to denounce that it should happen. At the same time, if Jesus is going to die, then the movement he’s started will need a new leader. The disciples argue about who among them might be the greatest and so carry the movement forward.

Jesus will have none of that kind of talk. True greatness in the Kingdom of God is service and selflessness for the sake of those who are the least of theses. Leadership in the Kingdom means service, not being served. Leadership in the Kingdom moves beyond service, though, and includes leaving all behind to follow Jesus. The first will be last, and the last will be first.

While they are on the road to Jerusalem, one last time, Jesus will tell his disciples what must transpire. Again, Jesus’ teaching on what it means to lead in the Kingdom of God is lost on the disciples. James and John, who were likely the instigators of the conversation about who was the greatest disciple, approach Jesus to request that they sit on Jesus’ left and right-hand sides when he comes into Kingly power. Again, Jesus rebukes his friends, articulating once more that power in the Kingdom comes not in the ability to make others serve you but in giving your life in service to others.

The spiritual blindness of Israel’s religious insiders, as well as Jesus’ disciples, has been a theme through these last few chapters, beginning with a story about Jesus restoring a blind man’s sight (Mark 8:22-26). Not everyone who walks with Jesus ends up being able to truly see Jesus for who he is. Mark ties Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem together with one last healing story. Once again, a blind man will receive sight.

Bartimaeus The journey toward Jerusalem is almost complete. Jesus and his entourage have made it to Jericho, only 15 miles north of the capital city. They passed through the town and were making their way out of town when they came upon a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, sitting by the side of the road.

Throughout the Gospel of Mark, the road, or the way, has been a significant metaphor for discipleship. To be on the way or traveling in the way was to be in active pursuit of Jesus, seeking to follow in his footsteps. This is both literally and figuratively.

Mark tells us that Bartimaeus is sitting by the road. The blind man’s position seems only natural. If you’re begging for money, you will not sit in the street but out of the way where those passing by would throw coins your way. But the man’s position is important. It signifies that he is not yet a follower of Jesus. On the side of the road is not where he’ll remain.

Sensing a commotion on the road before him, Bartimaeus must have enquired about who was passing by. Upon learning who was traveling before him, Bartimaeus loudly calls out to Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

To this point in the narrative, Mark has been relatively quiet about Jesus’ true identity, at least as the characters in Mark’s gospel are concerned. Bartimaeus positively identifies Jesus as the Son of David. Israel hoped that a King from the line of David would come to restore the Kingdom to Israel. David’s rule was a military one, and so the hope was that the anointed one who would come as Son of David would rule as David did. He would be a liberating, unifying force.[1]

While the masses will continue to hope that Jesus comes in the same way as David did, Bartimaeus connects Jesus’ messiahship, not with conquest, but with mercy. It seems that Bartimaeus, even though he has not been on the road with Jesus and the disciples, already knows more about Jesus’ true nature, for mercy is a vital aspect of the Kingdom that Jesus brings. It is with mercy that Jesus feeds the multitudes. It is with mercy that Jesus heals the sick and casts out demons. It is with mercy that Jesus dies for those who are and will continue to be estranged from God.[2]

The reaction to Bartimaeus’ cry is terse. He is told to be quiet, which only encourages the blind man, and he continues to cry out even more loudly. Again and again, he cries, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

As Jesus did when the disciples tried to keep the little children from coming to him, Jesus called the man to himself. Thrilled that Jesus has responded to his request, Bartimaeus jumps up, throws off his cloak, and quickly makes his way toward Jesus.