Like Bartimaeus, wanting to see!

Like Bartimaeus, wanting to see!

Mark 10:46-52

Today’s reading tells the story of Jesus’ healing of blind Bartimaeus.

We’ve looked at this before from time to time, but because he is SUCH an interesting and central character, he certainly bears a revisit.

We don’t know too much about this guy, other than what we are told in the Gospels. Both Mark and Luke agree re the essentials – the similar place & time that it happened, the form of greeting Bartimaeus used to engage Jesus, the irritated attitude of the crowd, the throwing off his cloak – all of which cause some to believe that this narrative was based on an eye-witness account of something that historically happened. They both stress Bartimaeus’ perseverance, his faith, and gratitude as well as Jesus’ compassionate response.

It seems that that this is another of Jesus’ enacted parables. Jesus is recorded as using this healing as an opportunity for teaching at such a profound level. We can see Bartimaeus – whose name means ‘son of Timai (or uncleanliness[i])’ – as representing each of us as we allow whatever unclean influences in our lives to corrupt our perception of reality. We all do have those corrupting influences to some or other extent, stuff that influences how we live, what we come to expect: from ourselves, others, from the world. Perhaps it’s as we have been exposed to an abusive parent perhaps, or partner, and so our self-esteem/self-image has suffered. That can distort everything. Perhaps it’s as we have only ever experienced conditional love and acceptance. As a result we may live always feeling as if the world is somehow out to hurt us, expose us, as if nothing in our contexts is ever actually ‘safe’. Our past experiences can act as Bartimaeus’ uncleanliness that veils/ obscures/distorts/ obfuscates our perception of, well, everything. We all have them, to some extent.

For some, it’s not what may even seem obviously negative. Perhaps it’s the result of having had too much success early on in our lives. Or perhaps we’ve been over-indulged by well-meaning parents. Perhaps it’s the result of not too much hardship and, as a result, we may now think of ourselves as being the center of the universe, as if everything needs to revolve around us. That can be a distorted vision of reality. But whatever our life experience – negative or positive – if our life-experiences have been allowed to distort our vision of all this as the Christ-soaked reality that it is, then this enacted parable of Jesus and Bartimaeus is for us!!!

Blind Bartimaeus represents us – as we find ourselves trapped within a cloak darkened by our most natural biases and prejudices.

Yet, instinctively, as he sensed that Jesus was near, he was given to know that this passing-by-Jesus represented something very good for him. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus’ response is most interesting: he didn’t assume anything. ‘What is it you want from me, Bartimaeus? It’s as if Jesus was wanting to ensure that Bartimaeus was at a place where he was asking the healthy questions – where he could be healed. What if Bartimaeus was misreading who and what Jesus represents – what Jesus actually is and does?

What if he was asking simply for Jesus to make him more popular, give him more friends, more possessions, make life easier…? Would Jesus have obliged? We’re not told – but I doubt it.

Bartimaeus’ response was spot on. He knew that what he most wanted from Jesus was that he wanted to see again! Anablepsw – he wanted to be enabled ‘to look upwards’– the ability to look out and beyond just the confines of his own inner ego-saturated self. He wanted to see again what he may once have had but had now lost – true, clear, enChristened’ sight!

Ever tried mastering those frustratingly difficult to see ‘3D stereograms’ that were all the rage in the 1990s? They seem like just so much complicated mixed up swirling colours and patterns until, by crossing your eyes and looking well enough, long enough, deeply enough, something quite wonderful happens – and a quite obvious 3D image emerges[ii]. It seems that life is like that. We can see all of the external, superficial, stuff quite easily in all of its swirling complexity – the ‘given’ stuff is quite obvious to our quick 2D glancing. But for the real inner stuff to pop – you know, for us to come to rediscover the existence of what is most real, the deeper ‘all-things-now-risen-in-Christ’ stuff, well, that requires a whole deeper kind of looking – a Jesus-healed looking!

Remember James Finley’s teaching on our needing to take LONG, LOVING, LOOKS in order to pierce the illusions and embrace God’s love-reality…?

Please join me now as I ask myself, just like that blind Bartimaeus perched on the side of the road as Jesus passes, just how blinded are we by so much of our own life experience: bad teaching perhaps, all sorts of other influences…

How darkened and distorted has our vision become…? We all have our own personal stories of how life has impacted us. Some are so consumed that that is all they can see – ‘my story’ becoming the world view through which I filter everything, all the time. For others it’s the community-story that we’ve have grown up within. As I think about reconciliation initiatives, my community story is partly that I am primarily a white, middle aged, male, profoundly privileged, part of Canada’s colonial elite, and so tied to a history of the oppressor. Also, that I am kind of ashamed for having benefitted from my birth country’s appalling apartheid history…  For others, their community identity may partly be that they are native, indigenous, having been severely discriminated against – part of the community of the oppressed, victims… Or perhaps it’s formed around our approach to climate change: we’re either part of a group of activists or deniers, conspiracy supporters or conspiracy deniers, or something somewhere in between. Whatever our personal or community story, that is the lens by which we tend to filter our perception of reality – it colours all we see.

May I never see my story, or even our story as a community, as the whole story.

However privileged or difficult, our personal or even community stories can never be all there is. Our perception is always just far too parochial – far too limited! It’s only somehow as we are impacted by the whole story that it can all hold together. It’s as we allow our own blinding-held-on stories/ our personal narratives somehow to be cracked open that Christ’s light from THE STORY can penetrate and transform it all.

Notice how often scripture associates Jesus Christ as the light of the world, a quick search revealed at least 20 times…[iii]. Remember, he isn’t calling himself the light that we get to see so much as the light BY WHICH we get to see – everything – properly, as it is!

As we are all created by God in Christ to be!

The light of Jesus Christ’ presence, is always love. It’s always all-pervasive, all-cleansing, all-drenching, and all-completed-in-Christ, love!

Can you see?
How do you see?
What do you see,

…of yourself?
…of your community?
…of your world?  

To what extent, like Bartimaeus on the side of that road, are you aware and just sick of being blinded by so much in your personal or community life-experience – distorting and darkening your vision?

To what extent as you look long and lovingly into all the circumstances of your life are you just longing to experience the emergence of Christ’s fullest 3D vision?

Oh Jesus, even as you are passing, please, do not pass us by but, please, Kumbaya: Come By Here – and like you did with Bartimaeus, hear our cry! Shine your cleansing light onto us/ into us/ out through us…THAT WE TOO MAY GET ACTUALLY TO SEE!


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[i] See Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible entry: ‘Bartimaeus’

[ii] I have been able to see them, but only occasionally, and briefly! Some, like my son, have absolutely no trouble: the images just pop out for them… There’s a secret: Apparently, the harder we try to see that 3D image, the more difficult… But the more we are given to relax, just let go, allow our eyes to kind of relax, blur even, so we do see it begin to emerge…

[iii] See, for example: Isaiah 42:6; Matthew 17:2; Luke 2:32; John 1:4,7,8,9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35,36,46; 1 John 2:8; Acts 22:9; 26:23; 2 Corinthians 4:4,6