A mid-week devotional from Central Presbyterian Church helping us to help prepare our hearts for the day ahead. If you would like to receive these in your inbox, please let us know. Find the complete archive here.
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”
On pretty much every mission trip I have had the privilege of being involved with, Wednesday is always the most difficult day of the week. By Wednesday morning, the novelty and excitement of being in a new place has mostly worn off and many folks are already looking forward to getting back to the familiar comforts of home. While it is true that mission “work” is immensely rewarding, and can also be a lot of fun, it is also physically and emotionally strenuous. Regardless of our best efforts to discuss and debrief as we go, Wednesdays require an extra measure of grace for every member of the team.
One particular Wednesday in the small town of El Limón was no exception. It was nearing the end of a long, hot, and busy day for our medical mission clinic. The small church which housed our clinic for the day was just down a small alley off of the main road through town, and unlike many of our other clinics, there was hardly any space outside for our patients to wait in the shade of the unforgiving Dominican sun. The church compound was enclosed by a cement block wall which did a great job of keeping out unwanted neighborhood dogs and chickens, but unfortunately also eliminated any cross breeze from flowing through and cooling down the small, hot, concrete oven, er, building. Around mid afternoon, after several members of our own team had already received treatment for dehydration, at the request of our physicians, we made the decision to close the clinic a little bit earlier than normal.
Everyone in the large crowd that greeted us that morning had been able to receive medical care, but the line of people waiting for our pharmacy was still over an hour long, and the longer the clinic stayed open, the longer it would be until we returned back to our home-base for dinner. After we officially “closed,” people continued to walk through the gate requesting to see a doctor. From all outward appearances, these people “looked” physically fine, and most admitted they were just hoping to receive some multivitamins or over the counter pain medication. When they heard we were closed, they simply shrugged their shoulders and continued on their way.
One older woman, however, would not take “No” for an answer. Every time I looked up, she was at a different window or doorway, trying to get someones attention. Finally, one of our doctors saw her and said, “You know what, I can take one more. Bring her over to me please.” Once again, she “appeared” to be walking and talking and moving just fine. However, after a brief examination, I overheard our doctor say through his interpreter, “Please tell her that she has had a stroke, and it is vital that she takes this paper to the local hospital as soon as possible so that they can give her the proper followup care that she needs.” Because of her persistence, she was able to receive the official diagnosis she lacked in order to receive the treatment which would prolong her life.
Jesus and the disciples came to Jericho as they continued their journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Now just 15 miles away from their ultimate destination, their small traveling party had once again turned into a large crowd on their way to celebrate the passover at the Temple. In that day, the poor and indigent would sit outside of the city gates, totally dependent upon the charity of others for their survival, and as the crowd passed through town, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, overheard the commotion and discovered that Jesus was passing by.
As soon as Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus, he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Apparently his cries were so obnoxious and unwelcome that those in the crowd around him demanded that he be silent at once. It is easy to imagine their responses to him: “Blind beggar, even you should be able to see that Jesus is just passing through. He’s got places to go and people to see, and you are not on the agenda. He doesn’t have time for the likes of you.” But Bartimaeus was undeterred, and in fact he only continued on even louder, more desperate than ever to get the attention of the Rabbi. And it worked.
Jesus heard the desperate cries of the desperate man and stopped the crowd in its tracks. He commanded that Bartimaeus be brought forward to him, those around Bartimaeus immediately softened. They told the beggar to “Take heart” or “Be encouraged” because now it was Jesus who was calling for him!
Without hesitation, Bartimaeus jumped up, discarding his cloak, the only garment to his name, and stumbled forward to Jesus. As he approached Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” Now, on the surface, this almost seems like a stupid question to ask, of course Bartimaeus wanted to see. But is that what a blind beggar would ask anyone else on the street? Of course not. Beggars were used to asking for help in the form of food or funds. They would have never asked a stranger on the street to make them well, because of course to do so would be a futile endeavor.
But Bartimaeus was not asking for a handout, he was asking for a miracle. By calling Jesus the “Son of David,” he was declaring that He was the Messiah. He probably had no idea who Jesus’ family was, but nonetheless he believed that Jesus was the Promised One of God.
Jesus responded to this request with the statement, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus actually touched the man’s eyes, but as always Scripture does not emphasize the method of the healing, as if this was something that anyone could replicate with the right formula or magic words. Jesus points out that this healing was a confirmation of the blind faith of the blind man. The only one in the crowd who could not see Jesus with his eyes was the only one who knew who He was. Fittingly, the very first thing Bartimaeus saw when he finally regained his sight was the face of his Savior. And Bartimaeus responded to Jesus’ words to “Go your way” by following Him on the road up to Jerusalem, and church tradition tells us, for the rest of his life. May we all be as blind as Bartimaeus.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we affirm the words of Martin Luther, who wrote from his deathbed, “We are all beggars. This is true.” Before you opened our eyes, none of us could see properly. We were lost and helpless on our own. But in Your mercy, You saw our condition, called us to Yourself, and gave us a gift that we could never repay. Because of what You have done for us, just like Bartimaeus, we long to follow You wherever You would lead. Continue to reveal Yourself to us through Your Word. Help us to remember the truth of who we were and who You are each and every day. We ask in Your most merciful name, Amen.