“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks his disciples in last week’s gospel and again of Bartimaeus in today’s. Their responses couldn’t be more different. The disciples showed that even though they had been with Jesus for a while, they still didn’t understand his purpose or message, for they asked for positions of privilege in his new “kingdom.” Bartimaeus, on the other hand, knew who Jesus was and answered simply, “My teacher, let me see again.”
When Scripture refers to “sight,” it is rarely just about the physical ability to see but more about a person’s understanding and attitude. In all the years that I’ve heard this gospel, it wasn’t until this year that I caught the detail that Bartimaeus was not born blind as others Jesus had cured. For reasons unknown to us, Bartimaeus had lost his sight and now wished to see “again.”
So often things happen in our life that change our outlook on life and we become blind to God’s grace and mercy in our world. Someone we love dies, and we lose all sense of hope or joy. An injury is done to us, and we see life through a veil of anger or bitterness. We have been rejected, and we can no longer see ourselves as worthy of love. We are inundated with bad news, and we view the needs of humanity with a numb apathy. Our joy, sense of purpose and ability to see God’s goodness in the world around us is lost.
Bartimaeus shows us that we can restore this life-giving vision. By calling out to Jesus as “Son of David,” we know that he understood that Jesus was the Messiah and that Jesus has the power to make him well. Bartimaeus risks the insults and reprimands of others to ask Jesus for help. He drops his cloak (probably one of his few possessions) to reach Jesus and leaves it behind to follow him. He teaches us that to see the world with the eyes and mind of Christ, we may have to risk being vulnerable and discomforted. We may need to drop mental walls and change the attitudes we have used to protect ourselves. To love again, is to risk being hurt again. To see ourselves as valuable and beloved, we need to trust that God loves us as we are. To see the goodness or the needs of those around us, we must let go of anger and prejudices so that we are able recognize that God also lives and works in them. To feel hope again, we must have the courage to step out into our messy world and become that hope in action. Seeing the world with the mind and heart of Christ takes trust and courage.
Each time we call on Jesus in prayer, he asks us, “What do you want me to do for you?” Do we respond like the disciples or like Bartimaeus? What “cloaks” of comfort and self-protection are we willing to leave behind so that we may see and live life with the eyes of God’s love, hope and promise? Jesus assures us that the reward will far surpass the risk.