“On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me’” (Mk 10:47-48).
When you are blind, what kind of challenges do you face? I recall a friend of mine who became blind through multiple sclerosis saying that she dislikes Mathematics. Did I ask why? She said Maths is a visual subject and she could not see therefore she had difficulty understanding. Another acquaintance who has retinitis pigmentosa mentioned two things that stuck with me. She dislikes when persons wore a suit or outfit of the same colour.
It makes the person look like one solid block—no shape, no form. She also shared that she dislikes looking at persons on their funeral day as that is the image of them that becomes embedded in her mind. She cannot recall them as she had seen them while they were alive.
Persons with visual impairment may recognise others by their voice. In this account of the healing of the blind man, it is unclear whether Bartimaeus heard Jesus’ voice for himself or if he heard the people saying that Jesus was in their midst. Neither of those things is important. We do not know the extent of his blindness. It could have been mild short-sightedness that in modern times are easily corrected by glasses or a total lack of sight. Sometimes not being able to see may not be such a bad thing. He could not have seen the size of the crowd; he was not able to see how far or how close Jesus was to him. He did not know who was standing directly in front of him, whether tax collector or synagogue official. All Bartimaeus knew was he had to open his mouth.
Today, we look at a song from Tyrone Dominic Walters also known as ‘Blessed Messenger’. The song is titled ‘Doh Tell Me Dat’. The song looks at the criticism that he received from people who know him. Yet like Bartimaeus, he does not focus on what people say about him. He places his attention on the One whom he serves, the One who changed his life. He knows his worth and value to the One who saved him.
Perhaps Jesus had passed this way before and Bartimaeus was not there that day. Perhaps he had not heard anything about Jesus before that time and did not know the power that he had. Yet, on this day he knew. On this particular day, he was aware and he was not going to let anyone hush him up. Like Blessed Messenger he may have said “…doh tell me… I cyah lift my voice up…I’m a child of the King”. The sound ends on a final note emphasising “…doh stand up dey and criticise me, you doh know my struggle”. Bartimaeus could not have had an easy life relying on begging.
Where are we in this story? Are we the crowd that was accompanying Jesus? Aside from His disciples, we do not know the names of anyone in the crowd. The text clearly separates the disciples from the crowd. Are we the “many”? These would have been people on the roadway—not a disciple, not the crowd of followers but just general onlookers who would have rebuked the blind man and told him to shut up. Are we Bartimaeus who was only known by his father’s name, with no identity of his own? Are we like him, shouting out to Jesus and not allowing him to pass us by, not fearing others but speaking up and seeking out our own healing? Or are we Jesus? Engaging the man and asking him what he wanted not just conferring sight on him when he may have had another need.