Stroll through Scripture for Sunday February 25, 2024 – Second Sunday in Lent

Based on Mark 10:32-52

The Narrative Lectionary lists this Sunday’s reading as “Bartimaeus Healed.”  Bartimaeus was a blind beggar.  The healing is one of the three sections of this Scripture passage, but the summary title misses the important discussions preceding it.  Maybe that’s on purpose though.  In a way, all three of the stories have to do with what those around Jesus can and cannot see.   

It’s important to note that the verse before this Sunday’s selection states: “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Mark 10:31).  This verse is about to be lived out in three different stories.  

The first one is Jesus walking with his disciples and telling them for the third time about the beating, death, and resurrection that awaits him in Jerusalem.  They are literally walking into harm’s way and it seems like the disciples either don’t get it or put their own spin on what they hear.  He’s told them three times about this at this point.  We’re on the other side of the events so we know how the story goes.  It’s quite easy for us to look back and say things like “why can’t the disciples see what is happening?”  Put ourselves in their shoes for a moment – they don’t know what’s going to be happening relatively soon.  Sure, they hear what Jesus is saying, but Jesus has a way of talking in mysterious parables.  Is this talk about beatings and death and resurrection just another parable?  Is it hyperbole to grab their attention?  It seems just too horrible to be taken literally, doesn’t it?  

The second section moves us to part of Jesus’ inner circle – James and John.  They were there with Peter at the Transfiguration.  They saw Jesus in his glory.  And unlike Peter, they didn’t feel the need to say something to fill the space.  They saw glory and were in awe of it.  Maybe there were thinking of something like this – If Jesus can do that, then what else can Jesus accomplish?  Maybe he’ll overthrow Rome?  We want in on that action Jesus! 

They saw Jesus in his glory, but did they see what that glory was really about?  Jesus didn’t destroy anything with might and anger and a sword. He didn’t crown himself like earthly rulers.  He didn’t vanquish any enemies.  He shown bright, like pure light, surrounded by Moses and Elijah – representing the Law and the Prophets.  God’s glory is far different than human glory, isn’t it?  This is what Jesus is talking about in verses 42-45: “So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’”

We finally get to the last section of this Sunday’s chosen Scripture – the healing of blind Bartimaeus.  Unlike so many of the other healing stories in the Gospel of Mark up to this point, Mark goes out of his way to name this man, including who his father is.  That’s a specific detail we should not gloss over.  Bartimaeus has a couple of different meanings.  In a raw sense, it means son-of-Timaeus.  So it would Son-of-Timaeus, who is the Son of Timaeus.  That sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it?  Timaeus means highly prized, so Bartimaeus, in one sense means Son of One who is Highly Prized, or Son of Honor.  

The other way to define Bartimaeus is as Son of the Unclean One.  This creates a bit of paradox in the meaning of the name.  Abarim Publications’ Biblical Name Vault has this to say about the meanings: “what is high-prized in our society is really a state of uncleanness, which results in blindness, which can only be healed by Christ.” (Source – https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Bartimaeus.html).

On top of Bartimaeus’ name, we are told that this incident happens in Jericho.  Jericho has multiple significances throughout Scripture.  Jesus uses the road from Jerusalem to Jericho in his parable of the Good Samaritan – a parable that flips things on its head and allows the hearer to see things differently, in a radical kind of way.  Jericho is called the City of Palms in the Deuteronomy, Judges, and 2 Chronicles because of its abundance of palm trees.  Maybe Mark’s use of foreshadowing of the triumphant entrance in Jerusalem as Jesus is greeted with people waving palm branches.  That would go with the other significant event related to Jericho – Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan and taking it as the first of many in its conquest and settlement in the Promised Land.  In that story, it’s important to remember that someone considered unclean, Rahab the harlot, recognized God’s plan to overthrow Jericho and hide Israel’s spies and helped them escape.  (Joshua 2).  Again, maybe this is Mark connecting Jesus with those earlier stories.  In this case, Jesus, whose name is Yeshua in Hebrew, another form of Joshua, is coming in and conquering Jericho, but in a different way.  Again, it is someone who is considered unclean who recognizes what’s going on – Bartimaeus calling out “Jesus, Son of David!”  He’s the only one who can see clearly, even if he is blind.  

Questions for Reflection:

  • What are our expectations for Jesus?  
  • Who we do see Jesus to be versus what Jesus tells us who he is?  
  • Where did those expectations come from?  
  • How do they serve us?  
  • What are we not seeing?  

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