Rev. Geoff McKee considers the New Testament story of how blind Bartimaeus receives his sight from Jesus – Mark 10:46-52 – and how that contrasts with the “blindness” of Jesus’ disciples at that time, as they neared Jerusalem and Jesus’ death on the cross. Vision or sight is absolutely critical to truly understanding the good news of the Kingdom of God. As Geoff explains, we can take this lesson from sources as diverse as Bartimaeus and Sylvester Stallone.
Mark 10:46-52 (New International Version)
Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
In his book, Catching the Light, quantum physicist Arthur Zajonc (Zye-unts) wrote of what he describes as the “entwined history of light and mind”.
From both animal and human studies, we know there are critical developmental “windows” in the first years of life. Sensory and motor skills are formed and, if this early opportunity is lost, trying to play catch-up is hugely frustrating and mostly unsuccessful.
Prof. Zajonc wrote of studies which investigated recovery from congenital blindness.
Thanks to cornea transplants, people who had been blind from birth would suddenly have functional use of their eyes.
Nevertheless, success was rare.
Referring to one young boy, “the world does not appear to the patient as filled with the gifts of intelligible light, colour, and shape upon awakening from surgery,” Zajonc observed.
Light and eyes were not enough to grant the patient sight.
“The light of day beckoned, but no light of mind replied within the boy’s anxious, open eyes.”
Zajonc quoted from a study by a Dr. Moreau who observed that, while surgery gave the patient the ‘power to see’, “the employment of this power, which as a whole constitutes the act of seeing, still has to be acquired from the beginning.”
Dr. Moreau concludes, “To give back sight to a congenitally blind person is more the work of an educator than of a surgeon.”
To which Zajonc added, “The sober truth remains that vision requires far more than a functioning physical organ. Without an inner light, without a formative visual imagination, we are blind,” he explained. That “inner light” – the light of the mind – “must flow into and marry with the light of nature to bring forth a world.”
We might not expect this principal section of Mark’s Gospel, ending before the account of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, to detail the simple story of a blind man being healed by Jesus.
There are many accounts of Jesus healing in the Gospels and we are accustomed, quite rightly, to read these healing stories as an example of the compassionate response of Christ to human need.
And here it is no different.
Jesus responded to the longing of Bartimaeus to see, by commending his faith and healing him.
But there is so much more here than that.
This story has been chosen by the compiler of the Gospel narrative to end a major section of the story and so we would expect to find more going on – and indeed there is! [Read more…]