30th Sunday Year B
The gospel readings of the past few weeks show how the disciples of Jesus fail to see the true nature of discipleship. In the Gospel of the 28th Sunday Year B, there is this man who could not let go of his possessions and free himself to follw jesus. Then in the Gospel reading of the 29th Sunday Year B, is about the apostles “failure to understand Jesus”, prophecy of his passion, and finally the sons of Zebedee eager to claim positions of power at Jesus’ right hand. At the end of this catalogue of misunderstandings, the Gospel of Mark gives us an outstanding example of true discipleship. It is Bartimaeus, the son of Temaeuas, the blind beggar who recognises Jesus for who Jesus is, the son of David. And despite the crowd’s attempt to put him off, he shouts out to Him for mercy.
Let us look at what happens after the blind man has called on Jesus: (i) Jesus stops and calls Bartimaeus to Him. (ii) Bartimaeus throws off his beggar’s cloak, the only thing he has in the world, and jumps up to go to Jesus. (iii) Jesus asks him the same question He had just asked James and John: “what do you want me to do for you?” (iv) While the sons of Zebedee had asked him for positions of power, Bartimaeus asks Jesus for the restoration of his sight. From this we learn that the true disciple asks to see clearly and knows that he needs the power of the master to be able to do this. (v) Jesus acknowledges this plea as the sign of his faith, the faith He has been preaching as the essential prerequisite for healing and insight into the truth. (vi) With his sight restored, Bartimaeus completes the pattern of discipleship. He follows Jesus along the road to Jerusalem. In other words, he takes up the way of life revealed by Jesus which will lead to suffering and death.
In this story we learn, among others, the following: (i) The first step in discipleship is that of not knowing, the simplicity expressed by Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, or the homelessness of the wanderer. True disciple lays no claim to being special. But something special happens to them through their encounter with Jesus. (ii) The next step is that we place ourselves under His healing power. Sometimes, like Bartimaeus, we have to fling off even the little we have, our cloaks, our means of livelihood, what offers us fame and fortune in the world. But in the act of healing the great gift we receive is that of freedom. We are no longer bound by the burden of such worldly expectations. (iii) Rather we are freed to follow Jesus along road of frequent challenges. (iv) The question Jesus continues to ask on the journey is the one he put to Bartimeaus: “what do you want me to do for you?” At times we can persecute ourselves with guilt or anxiety because we feel we are not doing enough for him. Once again we have it the wrong way round. He wants to know what He can do for us. Following Him along the road is first of all allowing Him to bind up our wounds. And answering the question we hopefully make the same response as Bartimaeus and ask that we too may see.
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