In the first century, in Israel, there was once a man named Timaeus. Timaeus, like so many, found a girl, settled down, and had a child. A boy in fact. The pride of every father in Israel, the joy of every mother. They had so many hopes and dreams for this boy. But something went tragically wrong. We don’t know all the details, the exact timing or cause. But this son of Timaeus started to lose his eyesight and eventually went blind. A world of promise dimmed before him. The faces he knew and loved, the landscape of light and color, the hope of a new day’s dawn, all faded into darkness.
Of course, at this time, there were no options for this dear son and his plight. No doctors to appeal to, no medicine, no surgery, no school for the blind, no braille, no seeing-eye dogs, no ADA standards, no special work programs. And so, eventually, Timaeus’s son took on the only profession available to him: he became a beggar. He would live out his days, his everyday, asking for handouts, hoping to provide for his welfare from the generosity of strangers.
So, he set up near Jericho by the highway that went to Jerusalem. That road would have enough traffic that he could hope to make a living. And there, he lived, chatting with some of the other blind men who had also gathered there, spending his days begging, spending his days listening to the world as it passed him by. But one day, he heard a new sound.
The son of Timaeus heard the sound of a huge crowd. This was no doubt unusual. Yes, many people came and went down that road, but he had never heard such a commotion. So many footsteps. So many voices. What was going on? He didn’t realize it then, but his life was about to change.
Timaeus’s son asked somebody what all the fuss was about. They said it’s Jesus the Nazarene. Jesus? News of Jesus had already reached his ears. He had heard the stories. Unbelievable stories. Incredible teaching that was somehow ancient yet new, that somehow seemed to be alive. Miracles. So many miracles. Water to wine. Driving out demons. Feeding thousands with only a few loafs of bread. And, healings! Lepers cleansed. Mute mouths opened. Deaf ears restored. And yes, the blind receiving their sight. Could this be his chance?
So, this son of Timaeus began to do the one thing he knew how to do: He begged. He cried out and begged for Jesus to come to him. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” he cried. He would probably never say this himself, but he was really quite good this. In fact, he was so loud and persistent, some from the entourage gave him a hard time and told him to pipe down. But what did they know? They had never been blind. They didn’t know what that was like. And besides, they didn’t speak for Jesus. So he cried all the more. This was his moment! He was not going to be denied. “SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!”
All of the sudden the blind man heard a change. The shuffling of feet stilled. Jesus had heard his cry and stopped. Jesus said, “Call him.” And so some ran back to the man and said, cheer up; it’s your lucky day…Jesus is calling you.
Well, you didn’t have to tell Timaeus’s son twice. He threw off his blanket, leapt up, and went to Jesus. And Jesus looked at him, and Timaeus’s son waited and listened. Jesus spoke and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” Well, phew, that’s an easy one! And Timaeus’s son quickly replied, “Rabbi, let me see again.” And stirred with deep compassion, Jesus touched the blind man’s eyes, and immediately he could see.
He could see…everything. The brightness came into focus. The sun to the south. The city skyline off in the distance. The olive trees and their dappled shade underneath. The dust particles in the air. He could see the crowd now. Men with beards and women with long hair, boys and girls nestled at their legs, religious leaders in their fancy garb and outcasts in their tattered clothes. What a crew! And he could see Jesus.
And Jesus looked at him, and Timaeus’s son looked at Jesus, and Jesus said, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Now, what would you do at that moment? Your whole life ahead of you. Finally free. Born again, in a sense. What would you do? Would you run off to the bar and buy a round of drinks for everyone? Would you skip down the road, shouting “Free!” Would you go back to your home town and tell everyone? Would you start thinking about the possibilities of a new life? A new job? Marriage? Children?
Well, this son of Timaeus, who was known in Aramaic simply as “Bar-timaeus,” looked at the face of his Savior, his Teacher, his King, his Jesus, and thought, “I know what I’ll do. That’s an easy one! I will follow him.” And he did.
I love that story, so much. It appears in Mark 10:46-52. Let’s read it together…
“ 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.  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!”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”  And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.  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.”  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.”
In the time we have remaining, I just want us to consider two things: the example we have of discipleship in Bartimaeus and the beautiful image we see of Jesus. So let’s start with Bart…
Bartimaeus gives us a perfect picture of discipleship
These last several weeks in these various passages in Mark we have been learning about discipleship, what it means to follow Jesus. We have learned that in the Kingdom of God there will be a great reversal: the first shall be last, and the last shall become first. We have learned that we should avoid temptations to sin at all cost; in fact, Jesus said if your eye causes you to sin, it would be better to be blind if it meant seeing the kingdom. We have learned about receiving the Kingdom of God. We have learned that all who would receive it, if they are to receive it, must receive it like a child. It is the only way. And we have learned about the dangers of wealth and possessions, how they can distract and keep you from the Kingdom.
Aspects of this teaching have been encouraging. It’s encouraging to know you don’t have to be powerful or rich to receive the Kingdom of God. It’s encouraging to know the least and lowly can get the kingdom. Other aspects of this teaching have been intimidating. It’s intimidating to consider the expectations to avoid temptation. It’s intimidating to consider the surrendering of all possessions to Jesus. And in either case, in the encouraging things and the intimidating things, it may be difficult to compose a composite sketch of the model disciple. Can anyone do all this? Who does Jesus have in mind? Has ever such a spiritual giant walked the earth? Sure, in some ways, the bar feels low, but in many ways, the bar feels really high. What would this look like? Enter Bartimaeus…
Bartimaeus is the perfect model of what Jesus has been describing. Bartimaeus is not perfect. He sins; he falls short of God’s standards. But in this scene, he nails discipleship. He is the model disciple. In this scene, he perfectly pictures the kind of discipleship Jesus has been describing. He is the composite sketch that brings all the teachings together.
1. Bart is the “better to.” Jesus said it would be better to lose an eye than go to hell. It would be better to have physical blindness if it meant spiritual sight. Bart shows us this truth vividly, in a literal, not-so-subtle way. It is Bart’s physical affliction that gets him to Jesus. And we’re left pondering the exchange: If that affliction led Bart to Jesus, to healing, and to salvation, I suppose it really was better. His blindness had actually given him spiritual sight, and he sees Jesus clearly for who he is. Bart calls Jesus the “Son of David.” This title designates Jesus as the Messiah and King. Bart calls Jesus his Rabboni, which means teacher and master. And Bart receives healing and rescue. And we’re left thinking maybe it really is better to be blind if it means seeing the Kingdom.
2. Bart is the unencumbered poor man. Jesus calls the rich man to follow him, but he can’t come. Why? Because he is encumbered by great possessions. Jesus calls Bart. And what does he do? He flings off maybe his only possession, his cloak, (no problem!) and comes to Jesus immediately. Bart is unencumbered by wealth and possessions. We see how easy it is to follow Jesus when you have nothing to lose.
3. Bart is the last man made first. He’s on the outside. The crowd, the action is passing him by. He is rebuked. In effect, they say, “Go to the back of the line!” But Jesus stops and brings him to the front of the line. There is a multitude around Jesus, but Bart stands front and center. All his life, he has been ignored and overlooked. But not with Jesus. Bart is first and center. It is hard to imagine the first made last, but here it is in living color.
4. Bart is the child-like receiver of the Kingdom. He cries out like a child. He’s not too proud to beg. He is humble enough to admit his need. He shouts for help and will not be denied, just like a child. As we just said, when he is called, he gladly goes. He does not hesitate. He leaps up, eager to meet Jesus, trusting him. He has this childlike hope and expectation. And when Jesus asks him what he would like, we don’t get some flowery speech. He doesn’t butter up Jesus. We don’t get a list of excuses. Instead, like a child, he just says what he needs, simply, humbly, honestly.
5. Bart is the heir of kingdom dividends, now and then. Jesus said you will receive back blessings in this life a hundredfold and, in the future, eternal life. Bart is one such recipient. In this life, he receives back his sight, and he joins the congregation. But in this encounter he also finds salvation. As we have already noted, he sees Jesus as the Messiah, King, and Teacher, his Savior, and calls out to him precisely because this is his belief. And when Jesus says, “Go your way; your faith has made you well,” the phrase “made you well” is bigger, meaning “has saved you.” Thus, it seems to have a double meaning: he has been rescued from physical blindness, and he has been spiritually rescued from sin and hell. And this double meaning is confirmed in the final scene because in the final scene we see Bart is now following Jesus, which leads us to our final observation about Bart…
6. Bart is the treasure finder of costly discipleship.
The last we see of Bart is him walking off with Jesus. It’s a beautiful picture. One commentator pointed out that the story begins with Bart beside of the road, but the stories ends with Bart on the road. Bart was stuck, sidelined, passed by, missing out, but he meets Jesus and enters the way. Yes, he has suffered much, and yes, he has forsaken everything to follow Jesus. But we see, in this vivid picture, the cost of following Jesus is nothing compared to the treasure you receive.
In Matthew 13, Jesus says finding the kingdom of God is like finding a treasure hidden in a field; when you realize the find, you gladly sell everything to buy that field. In other words, the cost of discipleship should be reframed as a good deal. Do I really have to surrender everything to Jesus? Do I have to serve everyone? Stay married? Fight temptation? Receive the Kingdom like a child? And so forth? Yes, and what a deal! Pennies! Because you get the Kingdom treasure as Bart shows us. Bart is the picture of everything Jesus has been teaching, and it’s hard not to conclude that it’s worth it. When we see Bart give up his pathetic life and be healed and free and following Jesus, it’s hard not to conclude the exchange is in our favor.
You see the truth is we’re all Bart. We’re all blind beggars in need of rescue. We just may not realize it. But once we realize it, we see that everything Jesus is asking us to do is reasonable and inexpensive. It’s a great deal! C.S. Lewis said it’s like we’re little kids playing in a mudpuddle, who have never been to the beach and have no idea how fun a trip to the beach would be, and so when asked to forsake the mudpuddle, we see only sacrifice and loss. But if we could see the beach, we would see how silly our protests were. If we could see the beach, we would gladly leave our mudpuddle. Bartimaeus opens our eyes to this reality. We’re the blind beggar, stuck in our mudpuddle, but if we, like Bart, forsake everything and humble ourselves, we will find healing and salvation. And that is no sacrifice at all! That’s a deal!
Here, we see the picture of what Jesus has been describing: the poor, the least, the last, the suffering, nevertheless, seeing Jesus and thereby receiving everything, becoming the inheritor, the first, enjoying the riches, knowing their savior, and yes, of course, following him to Jerusalem. Bart really did leave everything, he really did endure much, but now we get the sense of it. It was no tragedy. It was leaving the puddle for the beach. It was selling much but to gain everything. Do you see? Forsaking wealth, fighting sin, lowering yourself, it’s all gain!
All of these sacrifices are not about earning your salvation but about emptying yourself that you might receive everything. With man, salvation is impossible, but with God anything is possible. So we must empty ourselves and get to God who can save.
And Bart vividly shows us all this. He is the treasure finder of costly discipleship.
So, Bart gives us the perfect picture of discipleship. But what’s great is he also gives us a practicable picture of discipleship. Let’s consider this practicable picture…
Bart gives us a practicable picture of discipleship
I mentioned earlier we might leave these teachings unsure of whom to picture. On the one hand, we know the teachings have indicated the availability of the Kingdom. But on the other hand, these teachings have indicated the difficulty of receiving the Kingdom. Considering the difficulties, you might be tempted to think you can’t live up to all this. You might think Jesus has in mind someone like John the Baptist, who, for his whole life, lived in the desert, ate bugs, and thought of nothing but the Kingdom. But Bart shows us what Jesus has in mind…
Who does Jesus have in mind? Who is the model disciple who follows all these teachings? Some blind beggar named Bart. Bart shows us that Jesus is not talking about some perfect saint. He’s talking about someone who will simply loosen their grip on this world, and let their hunger and desperation drive them to Jesus where they will find everything they need. That’s it.
And so the encouraging thing from this story is that, maybe we’ll never be John the Baptist, maybe we’ll never be a martyr like Stephen, maybe we’ll never battle the prophets of Baal like Elijah, maybe we’ll never be a missionary like Paul, but we can all be Bartimaeus, and Bartimaeus gets the Kingdom, and Bartimaeus gets the King.
Are you afflicted? Are you suffering? Are you heart broken? Be like Bart. Let that brokenness point you to Jesus.
Are you desperate? Are you angry desperate? Be like Bart. Cry out to Jesus! Don’t hold back.
Has the church hurt you? Have Christ’s followers told you to be quiet? Be like Bart. Shout out all the more. Don’t be denied. Don’t let some errant Christians or false-Christians keep you from Christ himself.
Do you have a material need? Do you need physical healing? Do you need a job? Are you worried about college? Do you need a spouse? Do you need money? Do you need a house? Do you need a car? What is your need today? Be like Bart. Honestly, simply, like a child, bring your request to Jesus. [You know, so many people’s stories of finding Jesus that I’ve heard start with a pressing need. Jesus is so gracious! He doesn’t require some theological vision to save you, just a moment of need and desperation where you call on him truly. So, just start where you’re at.]
Are you stuck? Stuck in sin? Stuck in addiction? Stuck in darkness? Stuck in hopelessness? Be like Bart. Cast off that cloak, leap up from your routine, and come to Jesus. Where do you need to be radical? Do it! Take heart; Jesus is calling you!
Cry out in chorus with Bart: “Jesus! Son of David, have mercy on me!” It’s all about Jesus. Get to him today. You cannot save yourself. But the good news is you don’t have to. Jesus can save you and he wants to! Cry to him like Bart: “Jesus! Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Come as you are! Do not linger. I think of the old hymn Come, ye sinners…
Come, ye sinners says:
Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched, Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready waits to save you, Full of pity, love and pow’r:
He is able, He is able, He is willing, doubt no more.
Come, ye needy, come and welcome; God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance, Every grace that brings us nigh,
Without money, without money, Come to Jesus Christ and buy.
Let not conscience make you linger, Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth Is to feel your need of Him:
This He gives you, this He gives you, ’Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.
Come, ye weary, heavy laden, Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better, You will never come at all:
Not the righteous, not the righteous, Sinners Jesus came to call.
The call of the song is to come as you are, just like Bartimaeus did.
Don’t wait! If Bart can do it, you can do it! You’re qualified!
Are you poor and destitute? You’re qualified!
Are you blind and hopeless? You’re qualified!
Are you forgotten? You’re qualified!
Are you full of sin and shame? You’re qualified!
Are you a long-time offender? You’re qualified!
Cry out today: Jesus, have mercy on me! And he will answer and save you.
[Caveat. After you make this exchange, will everything be perfect in your life? No. Remember, Jesus said persecutions will still come. And here again, we see his teaching illustrated, for where are they headed? They’re headed to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, when you turn to Jesus, the joys of the Kingdom begin to break in, and the consummation of the promises of the Kingdom.]
Okay, that’s Bart. He shows us a perfect yet practicable picture of discipleship. But I don’t want to end there. Instead, I want us to end today and pause our journey in Mark looking at Jesus. This is the last Sunday we’ll be in Mark for a while. Next Sunday, we’ll begin a new series I’m excited about called, “Habits of Grace.” So, let’s take one more long look at Jesus as he appears in Mark 10… For one last time, let us…Meet Jesus and follow Jesus.
Meet Jesus and Follow to Jesus
What would God be like if we met him? Would he love me? Would he be mean? Would he welcome me? Hebrews 1:3 tells us we get our answer in Jesus. Hebrews 1:3 says, “[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” What is God like? He is like Jesus. And what is Jesus like? We see it here…
On a crowded street overflowing with noise, Jesus hears the cry of one of his sheep. In this room today, he sees you and hears you. Do not doubt it. If he can hear Bart, he can hear you.
On his way to Jerusalem, his face like flint, set on the cross, Jesus stops to help a friend. He is interested in your life, its every detail. He has time for you. Maybe you thought your life was too small to matter to the King. But that’s not how he is. He cares about everyone, the very least.
To a down-and-outer, a nobody, Jesus calls, “Come to me.” Today, he still calls to those who are listening. Are you listening? Do you hear that call today? It is real. Don’t ignore it.
To a beggar on the roadside, Jesus engages in a conversation. He humanizes and dignifies this man with his question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Today, Jesus also takes you seriously, and he asks you: What do you want me to do for you?”
And how does he respond to messy, noisy, desperate people? He feels deep compassion and brings healing. In this life, grace sufficient for the day, and in eternity future, every dream come true. How when he respond when you finally come clean? With compassion.
And as we see with Bart, as he joins the congregation following Jesus, there’s always room for one more. You can get in on this.
Do you see this Jesus? This is your Messiah. This is your King. This is your Teacher. Do you see this Jesus? This is your God.
Wherever you are today. Don’t wait. See Jesus; Follow Jesus. Be like Bart, cry out, entrust your need to Jesus, and discover the hidden treasure.