Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, cries out from the roadside, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet. But he just wouldn’t shut up…
Let’s unpack this text a little: A person seemingly afforded little or no honor from those around him is named “son of honor.” A person named as “blind” in the story clearly sees who and what Jesus is – Son of David, bringer of mercy. Others try to use their power and position to silence his voice. But Jesus heard. Jesus responded. His outcry, his desire for mercy, his desire for healing were all signs of his faithfulness. No matter how much others were threatened and inconvenienced by his voice. Jesus’ ministry was to hear, to listen, to respond.
Notice that Jesus asks Bartimaeus, the “son of honor” the same question (What do you want me to do for you?) in verse 51 that he had asked James and John, the “sons of Thunder (cf. Mk 3:17) in verse 36. Bartimaeus’ question shows that he thoroughly understands Jesus’ ministry and mission as one of mercy and servanthood. James and John’s question shows that they completely misunderstand Jesus’ ministry and mission.
Mark seems to be written so that we can see what often-silenced honorable blind people see –and so we can hear, listen, respond. We are told 4 times in chapter 16 (vss 11, 13, 14, 16) about the difficulty of the disciples’ unbelief.
According to Mark’s telling, hearing and responding with care to the voices that have too often been silenced is a sign of faithful ministry. Silencing voices while we dream of thrones next to Jesus is a sign of unbelief. Whose voices have been silenced in our culture? (Poor Bartimaeus? Black Bartimaeus? Gay Bartimaeus? Female Bat-Timaeus?) How will we find the faith to hear, listen, and respond? What will we learn from these voices? How will their faithful cries change us and heal us?