A large, probably admiring crowd is traveling with Jesus this morning, happy and proud to be in the entourage of the wonder worker who has captivated their imaginations and their hearts. But soon the euphoria is interrupted by an annoying blind beggar, crying out. Many in the crowd tell him to quiet down; he’s disrupting things, really ruining the mood. But the guy refuses to be silenced, and he shouts out all the more insistently, begging for Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Praised be to God, Bartimaeus knows what he wants. He may be blind, but he has clear insight- in his plea he calls Jesus Son of David, recognizing Jesus’ royal lineage as well as his reputation as healer.*
Actually this passage often strikes us as one of the more humorous ones in all the Gospels, for at this point Jesus calls for him and asks the blind man, who probably has stumbled toward him, hands feeling the air, “What do you want me to do for you?” At this point in his ministry Jesus has this marvelous reputation as a healer. The man is blind. Why else would he be crying out to Jesus? Isn’t it obvious? But apparently Jesus wants him to say it, “I want to see.” Jesus wants him to say it, wants us to blurt out our desire, our deepest longing. “What do you want? What do you want me to do for you? Tell me. How can I help? I am here for you always, always; please let me in. Say it; let me hear your voice, for your voice is lovely.”
Many of us accustomed to praying might be apt to say, “But Jesus knows; he knows everything. He knows what I need, what I want; I don’t have to tell him.” True enough, but when we say it, we get to hear it; we hear ourselves, hear our neediness, our poverty and know our real, desperate need for Christ. Prayer is relationship; there are times to be quiet, times to sit together, times to talk a blue streak to someone you love, whom you know will listen compassionately. Jesus must be at last as good as that.
Photograph by Brother Brian. *Insight from Sacra Pagina: Mark.