“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!’” Mark 10: 47.
This verse comes at a crucial moment in Mark’s Gospel; in the previous chapter, Christ had revealed His glory in the Transfiguration, and He began giving the disciples some of the most important teachings that they would receive from Him; meanwhile, the disciples bickered amongst themselves over who was the greatest between them. Christ knows His time on earth is approaching an end and He is preparing the disciples to continue the work He would leave for them, but they are preoccupied arguing with one another over which one of them is Jesus’ favorite.
Jesus was on His way up to Jerusalem to celebrate the coming Passover, and His journey up to the City of David took Him through Jericho. Sitting by the side of the road outside of Jericho was a poor blind beggar named Bartimaeus. In Jesus’ day, there were no charitable organizations who looked after those with physical disabilities; there were no safety nets for people who were not able to work and produce for themselves. Bartimaeus, like many people in our own time, had no other option but to sit by the roadside and rely on the kindness of passing strangers to provide him with money with which he could buy meager provisions. Bartimaeus’ entire existence was an exercise in having faith.
As Jesus was passing through Jericho, a large crowd began following after Him. As you can imagine, the noise of this crowd passing by caught the attention of blind Bartimaeus’ ears, and he started asking those around him who it was that was passing by and creating such a stir. It is easy to imagine him sitting there, quite helplessly, asking for anyone to tell him who is passing by; we can almost hear him pleading for information now. Bartimaeus wanted so desperately to know what was happening around him, just to be able to understand what was going on.
When finally someone tells Bartimaeus that it is Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, Bartimaeus does something incredible. Without missing a beat, he began crying out ” Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This plea is packed with significance; first, it identifies Jesus as the Messiah. The ” Son of David” was a messianic title that alluded to God’s promise to King David that he would have a descendent upon the throne of Israel forever. Throughout the books of the Old Testament prophets, we see messianic references to David ruling over Israel and God’s restoration of the kingdom. The Son of David would be the perfect King of Israel, anointed by God, to rule over His people. This is the same greeting Christ would receive in Matthew’s account of the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the crowds cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Blind Bartimaeus saw something in Christ that everyone else had yet to see.
Bartimaeus wasn’t just hoping that Christ was the Son of David; he was boldly proclaiming Him to be so. He was sure of this fact. When those in the crowd tried to quiet him, Bartimaeus cried out even louder. He had heard the stories of Christ healing the blind and the lame. He had listened to the stories of the miracles that Christ had performed. Bartimaeus, a person who was used to living a life that relied wholly on faith in God, knew that such actions could only come from the Messiah. Repeatedly in the Old Testament prophets, most notably Isaiah, we find references of the era of the Messiah occurring when “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped,” (Isaiah 35:5). Bartimaeus trusted that, if Christ truly did all these things, He must be the Son of David—the Messiah. So he cried out to Jesus, whose name means “God is Salvation,” and begged for mercy.
Christ stopped for Bartimaeus. He was not so busy on His way up to Jerusalem that He could not help this poor, righteous beggar who was being hushed by the crowd. Let’s not forget why Jesus was heading up to Jerusalem in the first place: He was going there to celebrate the Passover, but this year’s Passover would be one that would change the course of history. The very next chapter of Mark’s Gospel is his account of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the beginning of Holy Week. This time when Christ went to Jerusalem, He would not be leaving alive. Christ was on His way up to Jerusalem to die. But Christ stopped for Bartimaeus. He did not brush Bartimeaus off, He did not ignore him, He did not say “Bartimaeus, I’m too busy getting ready to die for your sins, your vision is a trivial matter right now.” Christ stopped and asked, “What can I do for you?” and He restored Bartimaeus’ sight. He allowed Bartimaeus to see the Son of David in whom he had faith, and who would soon be dying to atone for his sins.
The text says that after this, Bartimaeus followed Christ on the journey up to Jerusalem. We can only speculate and imagine at what he witnessed following this encounter, but we do know that everything about Bartimaeus’ life changed, all because the Son of David took the time to stop for him. The blind beggar by the side of the street, pleading for mercy from the Son of David, was important to Christ. Even on His way to the cross, Christ never stopped serving those to whom He came to minister. Likewise, we should never be so busy that we can’t take time to minister to those we encounter, to the Bartimaeus on our path. Have faith like Bartimaeus, and be willing to stop like Christ.