I like the story of Bartimaeus.
But it also bothers me a bit.
It goes like this:
Bartimaeus was blind. Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, and there was a huge crowd. And in that crowd, was Bartimaeus. Obviously, he was aware of the excitement–maybe, even, the electricity–running through the crowd. I can picture him, sitting there, straining his ears to try to pick up what was going on. He couldn’t see with his eyes, so maybe he asked people around him–“Who is coming? What is going on? Why are there so many people all of a sudden?”
And then, when he heard it was Jesus passing by, well, he didn’t hesitate.
No, there was no decision-weighing time. No thought as to how his next actions would be judged by those around him. No consideration for the political or socially correct-ness of what he was about to do.
None of that.
Without hesitation, he cried out:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And, I suppose, that’s what bothers me about this story–his tenacity. Or, rather, his recognition that Jesus was his only hope, and his acknowledgement that it was mercy that he needed, and his commitment to do whatever it would take, to be before the Son of God.
So, why does that make me feel uncomfortable?
I’m not really sure of the answer to that question.
It may be because I know that I would ridiculously worry about what people would think.
Or, it may be because I know that I would ridiculously worry that Jesus would reject my plea for mercy.
Or, it may be because I know that mercy is what I need, yet my penchant for self-reliance, independence and fear of being perceived as weak makes me run from where I need to be, which is before His throne on a daily basis, pleading for mercy.
I think the band “Ghost Ship”, in their son “Son of David”, accurately captures some of this in their lyrics, when they sing these words:
The blind won’t gain their sight, by opening their eyes…
Sometimes, when my soul or mind–or body, even–is messed up, I fall easily to old ways of thinking—the kind of thinking that says “If I try harder, if I work harder, if I do this or do that, I will fix this darkness that is in my soul. I will heal myself. Surely I must be strong enough, to do so…
But there is truth, in these words: The blind won’t gain their sight, by opening their eyes…
I can’t do it. I want to be able to, but I can’t. And neither can you. We are not capable, of fixing ourselves.
We need mercy. Just as much as we need grace.
Bartimaeus understood that. And, not only did he understand it, he didn’t hesitate to cry out, to the only one capable of granting the mercy he needed in order to have his sight restored: Jesus.
And, even though the crowd tried to stop him (which, sadly sadly sadly, would probably have been enough to stop me), Bartimaeus cried out even louder….
“Son of David”–that phrase recognized the kingship lineage that Jesus came from; Bartimaeus was proclaiming loudly that Jesus was king, and that he was pleading for mercy, from the king. A bold move, indeed. One does not approach a king lightly.
And the King of all kings heard him. Jesus heard him, and called him to come. And when Bartimaeus “sprang up” to meet him (can’t you just picture that?), Jesus restored his sight, based on his faith.
His faith. Whew.
And, then, Bartimaeus followed Jesus:
I want to be like Bartimaeus.
Well, no, that’s not exactly right. This is closer: I need to be like Bartimaeus.
Because I need the mercy of God. Every single day.
And I need the ability and awareness that I am at His mercy, because I can not fix myself. And you can not fix yourself. We need His mercy, and we need to cry out to him for mercy every single day.
And we need to ask Him to supply us the faith necessary to recognize that need, and the faith necessary to cry out ever the more loudly, and the faith necessary to do whatever it takes–regardless of the crowd’s reaction–to get to our Jesus.
The blind won’t gain their sight, by opening their eyes.
And I–and we–won’t gain the peace we need in our souls and minds, by pursuing the false belief that we can fix ourselves, by trying harder to “open our eyes.”
Son of David, have mercy on us.