This commentary on Mark 10:46-52 focuses on the blind Bartimaeus and seven characteristics of faith.
Having faith does not make things easy, it makes things possible.
- We are told in 1 John 5, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith” (1 John 5:4, NLT).
- Jesus said in Mark 9, “Anything is possible if a person believes” (Mark 9:23, NLT).
- We are told In Ephesians 6 to “hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil” (Eph. 6:16, NLT).
- Paul told some Christians in 1 Thessalonians 1, “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do” (1 Thessalonians 1:11, NLT).
As followers of Jesus we are learning how to believe and how to follow. Faith in Jesus transforms how you think. Faith impacts how you feel. Faith alters what you do. Faith changes what you believe. God uses faith to direct your life and rearrange your priorities. Faith is one of the key subjects in the Bible. God wants you to understand faith and what believing in Him is truly all about.
Today we are going to see a man who trusted Jesus and followed Jesus. From him we see several truths about our faith we need to learn or be reminded of.
Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road. (NLT)
This passage marks a milestone in our Lord’s ministry. For the gospel of Mark, this is the last miracle we will be told about prior to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Let’s set the scene. Jesus and His disciples are on their way to Jerusalem. They reached Jericho. Probably rested, got some food and water. By this time, Jesus is extremely popular. He has healed thousands of people. Raised the dead. Walked on water. Calm the storm. Cast out evil spirits. He is a superstar in the eyes of many. For some He is the Messiah and for others He is the next earthly great king. To others He is a miracle worker and an amazing teacher. The crowds love Him. They want to be around Him. They want to watch Him and listen to Him. They are obsessed with Him.
We are told in verse 46, as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. This large crowd is mixed with a variety of people: some who were true followers like His disciples, others who were curious, some wanting to see a miracle, and other joining the crowd headed to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. As Mark says it was a large crowd.
We are told Jesus, His disciples, and the large crowd were leaving town. In many towns like Jericho they had large gates where people entered and left the town. Around these gates, these entrances and exits, would be beggars. Some crippled, some blind, and others having some deformity that caused them to not be able to work and earn a living. There were no social or government programs to help these people. Their help came from either family, friends, or strangers. To see beggars around these gates was very common.
This is where Jesus encounters Bartimaeus. Mark tells us in verse 46, A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. There are actually two blind men in this story. Mark only mentions one of them. Matthew mentions both of them (Matt. 20:30), but only one is identified by name and it’s Bartimaeus. Three things about this man.
- First, Bartimaeus is blind. Blindness was common during the days of Jesus (Matt. 11:5; 15:30; 21:14). It was caused by birth defects, injury, or disease. Occasionally, Jesus would use it as an object lesson to illustrate spiritual blindness or spiritual ignorance (Matt. 15;14; Luke 4:18; 14:13). However, during Jesus’ day, the blind along with those with other disabilities, were despised and reduced to begging (cf. John 9:8), since they were considered to be sinners under God’s judgment (John 9:1-2).
- Two, Bartimaeus is a beggar. He had a hard life. He was poor. He was a blind man who lived and existed among the poor beggars.
- Three, Bartimaeus is named. This is significant. Most of the miracles that Jesus performed were done for people who were not named. On rare occasions we are told the person’s name. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. When Jesus healed Malchus’ ear that Peter chopped off at the garden. When Jesus performed a miracle we are normally told it was this man’s son or the centurion’s servant. Why are we told this particular blind man’s name? By the time Mark writes his gospel of Jesus Bartimaeus is well known within the church. Some believe that Bartimaeus became a prominent leader within the church. This is probably due to him following Jesus, then traveling from town to town and church to church sharing his story about how Jesus saved his eyesight and saved his soul.
Bartimaeus represents all of us before Jesus comes into our lives.
- We are spiritually blind. We live in darkness. We are dominated by it. Darkness rules our lives.
- We are beggars. Before God we are poor and in need of much. We are desperate and need great help.
- Even in that state, Jesus can give us a new life and new direction just like He is about to give this poor blind man.
Before we move on, let me point out that Bartimaeus was doing what he did every day. He was doing life as normal. He was sitting by the road, begging. There was nothing different about this day for Bartimaeus. I’m convinced that’s when Jesus shows up. We are going about our normal life; going to work, going to school, getting the kids ready, cooking supper, mowing the yard, going on vacations, going to church, exercising, fishing, or cleaning house. We are doing our normal life, then Jesus shows up. He shows up in a sermon, a song, a thought, a conversation, or in something you read. He grabs your attention, enters your world and changes your life. That’s what happened to Bartimaeus.
From Bartimaeus we see several lessons about faith in Jesus that we need to be reminded of.
Number one, faith sees. Faith sees who Jesus truly is. In verse 47, Mark tells us, When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Bartimaeus was on the side of the road. He began to hear a large crowd approaching. According to Luke, Bartimaeus “asked” someone standing by what “was happening. They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by” (Luke 18:36-37). Bartimaeus had heard much about Jesus and thought much about Jesus. For nearly three years everyone had been talking about this Jesus. Bartimaeus may have personally heard the testimonies of other blind men and women who Jesus had healed. I’m sure he had heard about Jesus casting out demons, healing all kinds of diseases, and raising the dead. He had heard about Jesus speaking to the storm and calming the waves and walking on water. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ” (CSV). Bartimaeus had heard the message and news about Christ, who He might be, and what He had done… and he was believing it.
I’m confident that Bartimaeus had prayed for and wished for and hoped for one moment with Jesus. I’m sure he had heard about Jesus going from town to town and maybe Jesus would pass by here someday. That day and moment had arrived. When asked what was happening and was told “that Jesus the Nazerene was going by” I can only imagine that his heart began pumping faster and the adrenaline began flowing. His immediate response was to cry out at the top of his lungs ““Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Mark tells us that Bartimaeus began to shout. The word shout (krazo) means to cry out, scream, or to shriek. He began to shout with a sense of urgency, desperation in what appeared to be state of frantic. This was his chance and he was not going to miss it.
Bartimaeus shouted out to Jesus by calling Him the Son of David. This was a messianic title. Somewhere within the past 2-3 years, Bartimaeus had heard enough about Jesus to be convinced that Jesus was the expected Messiah. Even though his understanding of the Messiah was limited, Bartimaeus was convinced Jesus was Him.
Bartimaeus not only identified Jesus as the Messiah with the title Son of David, but he identified Jesus as the one who could offer true mercy. He cried out have mercy on me. This is the cry of this man’s heart. This is a cry of a desperate man. Like many, he may have believed that his blindness was due to some sin he committed or due to some sin his parents committed. From his perspective he believed he deserved this blindness and that’s why he was crying out for mercy. He wasn’t crying out for justice because he believed some wrong had been done to him. He was crying out for mercy. By definition the word “mercy” is an act of compassion and forgiveness shown toward someone who should be punished. He believed he should be punished. He knew he had sin in his life. So, he cried out for mercy. He cried out for mercy to Jesus who he was convinced was the Messiah, he was convinced that Jesus could heal him, and he was convinced that Jesus could offer true mercy. The eyes of his heart saw Jesus clearly. His faith could see Jesus even though his eyes could not.
Even though he was blind he could see hope, healing, mercy, forgiveness, and a new life in Jesus. The reason the blind man could see this is because of his faith in who Jesus was. Faith sees.
Number two, Faith persists. Faith doesn’t give up. As a result of his constant yelling at Jesus to get His attention, we are told in verse 48 what the reaction of the people was: “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Picture what is happening here. Bartimaeus begins to shout “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He is screaming this over and over again. He can’t see Jesus because he is blind. He can’t hear Jesus because of the noise of the large crowd. He is not sure if Jesus is directly in front of him, down the road approaching him, or maybe Jesus has already walked by. According to Mark, he is yelling at the top of his lungs for Jesus.
I’m sure this was annoying for the people standing near Bartimaeus and maybe even a little embarrassing. As a result, Mark says that many of the people yelled at him. They started shouting back at him “Be quiet!” But Bartimaeus kept shouting for Jesus. The crowd would yell “Shut up!” Bartimaeus kept shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Someone yelled back, “If you don’t stop shouting you are going to need mercy!.”
If you turn down the volume of Bartimaeus and the crowd for just a moment you will discover that Bartimaeus should represent us all. Bartimaeus knew that he desperately needed what only Jesus offered. What you really need in life, only Jesus can give you. Part of your spiritual journey will be to ignore the crowds and the people around you who are saying be quiet and stop. If Bartimaeus would have stopped and listen to the crowd he would have never received this miracle and blessing from Jesus. How many blessings have you missed because you decided to please the crowd or to please people? Ignore the crowd, trust Jesus, and let Jesus decide what He wants to do with you or for you.
For Bartimaeus, he was so deeply aware of his desperate and urgent need for Jesus that he was not going to let anyone stop him. What does it take to stop you from experiencing Jesus? What does it take to get you to quit pursuing the things of God?
Number three, faith responds. In verse 49, Mark tells us, When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus responded to the news that Jesus was passing by, Jesus responded to the cry of Bartimaeus, and some in the crowd responded to the instructions to bring Bartimaeus to Himself.
I find it fascinating that when Jesus heard Bartimaeus he stopped. Around Jesus was a large crowd of people. I’m sure many of them were shouting their hosannas and praising Him. I’m confident the buzz and noise of a large crowd around Jesus was loud, like it would be around any superstar walking through a crowd. It wouldn’t surprise me that some of the people in the crowd were going up to Jesus and saying things like, “Do you remember me, you healed me of leprosy” or “Thank you Jesus, you brought my little girl back to life” or “You cast out an evil spirit from my son, thank you Jesus.” In the midst of all this, Jesus heard one individual cry for mercy.
You may think God does not have time for you and that He has bigger and more important things to do than pay attention to you. You are the bigger and more important thing for him to do. He loves you. He hears you.
When Jesus heard Bartimaeus’ cry for mercy, He stopped and looked at those around Him and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” In every crowd God has His people. There will be times when God will speak to you and tell you to go to someone to cheer them up and guide them to Jesus. There will be times when Jesus will send people into your life to encourage you and point you to Jesus.
Number four, faith abandons. Faith will cause you to leave things behind. Throughout the gospel of Mark Jesus has been telling us to leave things behind and follow Him and to die to ourselves and follow Him. We see a glimpse of this again in verse 50 where Mark tells us, Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
Why would Mark mention that he threw aside his coat? What is so significant about that? In his eager faith, he cast away his beggar’s coat, likely the only thing he possessed. His act symbolizes genuine faith, which abandons all to follow Christ. He didn’t have much, but he was willing to leave it behind. The cloak represented his life of blindness and begging. For Him this was a symbolic act of abandoning the old life and embracing the new life with Jesus.[i] He was expecting Jesus to change his life and he was willing to leave everything behind for it.
Back in Mark 8, Jesus told His disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it” (Mark 8:34-35, NLT). Leaving his beggar’s coat behind was Bartimaeus’ way of losing his old life and following Jesus. What’s ironic is that Bartimaeus was leaving something significant behind, his beggar’s coat. Just a few verses earlier the rich young ruler was unwilling to leave anything behind for the sake of Christ.
What is your faith in Christ calling you to leave behind? Is there something you must let go of in order to follow Jesus where He wants to lead you? Faith abandons. Faith is willing to let things go.
Number five, faith asks. In verse 51, Mark tells us, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”
What an awesome question by Jesus, “What do you want me to do for you?”[ii] Jesus is not saying He is going to do anything Bartimaeus asked, but Jesus is asking an open ended question, “What do you want me to do for you?” I think how you answer that question reveals a lot about you. If Jesus were standing in front of you right now, how would you answer that question? What do you want Jesus to do for you?
Well, Bartimaeus said, “My Rabbi, I want to see!” Bartimaeus calls Jesus My Rabbi. He used a word that means “my Master.” Matthew says he called him “Lord” (Matt. 20:33). Don’t miss this detail. By calling Jesus “my” Rabbi, “my” Master, “my” Lord, he was declaring a personal faith in Jesus. For Bartimaeus, Jesus was not some Rabbi out there, some Master for someone else, or a Lord that belonged to another. Jesus was his Rabbi, his Master, his Lord. That’s what faith does, it makes Jesus personal.
Let’s not skip over Bartimaeus’ answer to Jesus’ question. Bartimaeus told Jesus, I want to see. This is not a generic answer. It’s personal, specific, and measurable. Bartimaeus is going to know without a doubt whether Jesus answers his request. Sometimes I think our prayers are too generic. We should be specific. Be precise about what you want God to do when you are praying for your church, your marriage, your kids, your friend, your coworker. Ask God to do something in such a way that when He answers it you know it and others know it. Faith asks.
Number six, faith saves. It restores. It heals. It recovers. In verse 52, Mark tells us, And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see….
According to Matthew Jesus was moved by compassion and put His hands on his eyes (Matt. 20:34) and Mark tells that Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.” There is a double meaning occurring. When Jesus used the word “healed” He used the Greek verb sozo which is the common word for salvation in the New Testament. He could have used another word (iaomai) for healed that is more specific for physical healing, but he didn’t. There was something deeper happening here beyond a physical healing. Jesus was saying “Your faith in Me has healed you, has saved you, has rescued you. What has happened physically to you, has also happened spiritually to you.” Bartimaeus was saved from his blindness, but he was also saved from his sin. This reminds me of when Jesus healed the crippled man and forgiving him of his sins at the same time (Mark 2:1-12). The physical healing was a demonstration of the cripple man’s spiritual healing. A similar thing has happened to Bartimaeus.[iii]
Faith saves. Bartimaeus is an illustration of how Jesus does the saving. We do the asking, He does the saving. Faith alone in Christ saves.
- In Acts 16:31, Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (NLT). Faith saves. Faith rescues. Faith heals you of your spiritual darkness.
- Paul also said in Ephesians 2:8, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—9 not from works, so that no one can boast” (vs. 2-9, CSB). Faith in Christ saves. You are not saved by being good, being baptized, or simply saying the sinner’s prayer. It is by faith you are rescued. Faith heals you of your spiritual darkness.
- Peter echoed this truth when he said in 1 Peter 1:8, “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls” (vs. 8-9, NLT). The reward for having faith in Christ is salvation. Salvation is not the reward of being good. Salvation is not the reward of having your good outweigh your bad. Salvation is the reward of faith.
Faith saves. Faith rescues. Faith delivers you from the kingdom of darkness.
Number seven, faith follows. Bartimaeus went from being a beggar to a believer. He can say, “I once was blind, but now I see.” He went from darkness to light. He went from sitting to being sent. At the end of verse 52, Mark points out, and he followed Jesus down the road.
The word “followed” in the Greek is an ingressive imperfect. It means the subject started something and then continued on with it. Bartimaeus began following Jesus that day and continued for the rest of his life.
What a picture of discipleship. Someone living in darkness gaining their sight because of Jesus and then following Jesus down the road of life.
Throughout the gospel of Mark we have been encouraged over and over to follow Jesus. To leave things behind, take up our cross, and die daily for Jesus. We have seen what it looks like to follow Jesus and fail Jesus. We have also discovered that Jesus is gracious, merciful and committed to our growth. We fail, He teaches, we learn. We fall, He helps us get back up.
When it comes to following Jesus down the road of your life, what actions of faith is God calling you too? Is there something you need to believe? Something you need to leave behind? Something you need to stop doing or start doing?
- Why do you believe God wanted to include this particular encounter with Bartimaeus in His Word?
- What are some general truths we see from this encounter? (example: God hears us when we call out to Him).
- What specific truth or application can you apply to your life from this encounter?
- Of the seven points about faith, which one speaks to you the most and why?
- How does Bartimaeus represent people today? Does he represent you in any way?
- What determines whether Jesus heals someone or not?
- Why do you think the crowd kept telling Bartimaeus to be quiet? How does the crowd today tell believers to be quiet when it comes to Jesus?
- Why do you think Jesus sent some disciples to get Bartimaeus rather than just walk over to him? What lesson is God teaching us through that action?
- What does following Jesus down the road look like in your life?
[i] Compare Bartimaeus’ devotion in casting away his cloak with the rich young ruler, who could not bring himself to cast away anything he owned to gain what he wanted.
[ii] It was the same question He had asked James, John, and Salome in Mark 10:36.
[iii] Instantly the man could see – Imagine how it was for Bartimaeus. Blind at the beginning of Christ’s sentence, he was seeing at the end of it! No surgery! No bandages! No adjustment! Boom – sight! He saw human beings for the first time. But the thing he saw first was the face of Jesus.