So perhaps it’s not surprising that one of my favourite Bible stories is about another person who has trouble seeing—Blind Bartimaeus, who had an encounter with Jesus that changed the course of his life.
A Matter of Trust
Jesus was passing through Jericho on His way to Jerusalem for what would be the final days of His earthly life, a journey leading Him to the cross. Along the way, Jesus was still changing lives in spite of what He knew lay ahead of Him.
“As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging” (Luke 18:35). It’s important to note that people in Jericho were very aware of an event that occurred just a couple of weeks before in the village of Bethany, where Jesus raised a man named Lazarus from the dead.
So Jesus was the focus of attention. Was He the Messiah? Was He about to establish His kingdom? What was going to happen next?
Imagine the hustle and bustle as crowds of people made their way to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Yet Luke, the Gospel writer, focused on one person: Bartimaeus.
“When [Bartimaeus] heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ ” (Luke 18:36-38).
In those days, people were known by their town. But notice the blind man didn’t say, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Instead he called out, “Jesus, Son of David.”
Jesus, descendant of King David, was fulfilling the promise of God that a Messiah would come through the line of David. And Bartimaeus was confirming his faith that Jesus was the coming Redeemer.
Cast aside by the world, in anguish and desperate—the word that the Gospel writer Matthew uses for “call” was “scream”—Bartimaeus blindly believed that Jesus was the only one who could help him.
“Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him” (Luke 18:40). The surrounding culture ignored Bartimaeus, but Jesus, despite the blind man’s lack of position in the world, responded to his cry for help.
God looks at a person’s heart, not his social status.
Jesus wanted to meet him at his point of need. In Mark’s account of the same story, “Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So, they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:49-50).
There was nothing to think about, nothing to consider. Bartimaeus cast off his robe—likely his only earthly possession—and came to Jesus.
And when he did, Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the man said, “Lord, I want to see.” The Bible says the man immediately regained his sight and he followed Jesus. Bartimaeus not only regained his physical sight but his spiritual eyes were opened as well—he received salvation. He went from a despised, rejected beggar to a friend of God.
There is something much deeper happening here than the gift of sight.
This miracle reveals a basic spiritual truth about seeking and finding one’s way on the path to God. Ironically, while many struggled to see who Jesus was—many in the crowd, in a short while, would be shouting to crucify Him—a blind man had full clarity of vision.
By declaring Jesus as the promised Messiah, as the One who has the power to restore sight to humanity, Bartimaeus’ faith led to his restoration.
Perhaps like the blind man, you, too, find yourself in a desperate situation. I know what it is to be in the dark—both physically and spiritually— but I’m thankful that as a result of my faith, my spiritual sight has been restored and my life now has meaning and purpose.
Just like the call that raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wants to resurrect the dark places of our lives. And He still asks the question today: “What do you want Me to do for you?”
What will your answer be?
Major Jennifer Hale is the secretary for candidates at The Salvation Army’s territorial headquarters in Toronto.