Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, told a story on himself. He was waiting for a taxi outside the railway station in Paris. When the taxi pulled up, the driver hopped out and put his suitcase in the trunk and then got into the taxi. After Doyle got in the cab himself he was about to tell the taxi-driver where he wanted to go, the driver turned and asked him: “Where can I take you, Mr. Doyle?”
Doyle was astounded. He asked the driver if he knew him by sight. The driver said: “No Sir, I have never seen you before.” Doyle was puzzled and asked him how he knew he was Arthur Conan Doyle.
The driver replied: “This morning’s paper had a story that you were on vacation in Marseilles and were returning soon. This is the taxi-stand where people who return from Marseilles always wait. Your skin color tells me you have been on vacation. The ink-spot on your right index finger suggests to me that you are a writer. Your clothing is very English, and not French. Adding up all those pieces of information, I deduced that you are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”
Doyle exclaimed, “This is truly amazing. You are a real-life counter-part to my fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes.”
“Oh, there is one other thing,” the driver said.
“What is that?” Doyle asked. “Your name is on the front of your suitcase.”
We see things but we do not always really notice them do we? The story from the gospel lesson today is fairly familiar. Jesus is leaving Jericho and a blind beggar named Bartimaeus is sitting by the road as was Jesus passing so he starts yelling out for Jesus. Jesus hears him, Bartimaeus gets healed and it is a happy ending.
Sometimes what is familiar gets overlooked so let’s look a bit more closely at this story because there are at least three things that are unique in this healing story that sets it apart from every other healing Jesus did in Mark’s gospel.
First we should note that this is the last healing that Jesus does. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. His disciples and the crowds that are with him are thinking that Jesus is going to make his big announcement—he is going to proclaim to everyone that he is the Messiah. This thinking is underscored when a day or so from this event Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey so this event is a couple days before Palm Sunday and thus very close to his crucifixion. So this event, this healing of Bartimaeus is within two weeks of the end of Jesus’s ministry here on earth. It is significant that the last recorded healing of Jesus by Mark is that of blindness.
Second, this is the first and only time Mark lists the name of the one who was healed. Jesus has healed all kinds of people in this gospel. But in no case are we told their names. Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother in law. We are told who this woman is in relationship to Peter—but we aren’t told what her name is. Jesus brings back to life the daughter of Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue in Capernaum. Again, we are told the name of the name of the ruler, but we are not told the name of the daughter. So what is different about this situation? Why does Mark include the name of Bartimaeus and that of his father? We are not told the reason, but logically it would follow that the readers of this gospel were told the name because they knew who Bartimaeus is. Perhaps they even knew of his father. Apparently he was a well-known Christian at least to this community.
And third this is the first time in Mark’s gospel one of those who is healed follows Jesus. Jesus heals many, many people during his ministry. Most of them Jesus sends home, in some cases he sends to the priests to validate the healing as in the cases of leprosy. One fellow who had been freed from the many demons begged to be able to go with Jesus, but Jesus told him instead to go back and tell those people in his village what Jesus had done for him. But Bartimaeus immediately followed Jesus. He doesn’t ask permission, he simply leaves what little he has behind and follows Jesus. And it wasn’t a whim, he followed Jesus and apparently was still a follower of Jesus at the time this gospel was written some 25 or 30 years later.
You may be thinking, “Well that’s fascinating; those are interesting points about that story, but what does this have to do with me? How does this apply to my life today?” This applies to you and me because we are all blind in varying degrees. We may see things but not really noticing.
Jesus pointed out that we have eagle vision when we look at the behavior of others but when we look at our own behavior we tend to be legally blind. He said we can see the speck of dust in our brother’s eye but not the log that is in our own. So perhaps the first area of our blindness is not seeing how I behave to others. Am I being kind and patient to others? Do the words I say to others encourage and help them?
A second area of blindness may be our own wellness. Pain is ironically one of the gifts God gives us and He gives us pain so we know something is wrong. Physically if I twist my ankle it will give me pain so that I do not put weight upon it. So in order to get better physically, I need to pay attention to what is hurting and take care it so that it can get well. And we understand this when we are physically hurt. But the same is true for my spiritual and emotional well-being. However since we cannot see bleeding wounds on emotions or on our souls we do not tend to pay attention to the emotional or spiritual pain. But we need to. Many Christians suffer from grief, or loneliness, or worry, or stress or from any number of other areas. About those places of emotional and spiritual hurt we need to ask the Lord and for help and healing. We need to be as bold as Bartimaeus was in calling to Jesus for help and as confident as he was that he would be helped.
So we may be blind to our behavior; we may be blind to our own emotional or spiritual needs, but perhaps most importantly we may also be blind to who Jesus is. One thing Bartimaeus knew even though he was blind was that Jesus could help him. He knew that if he could just get to Jesus it would be OK. You see he knew Jesus had helped other blind people. And because he had heard others had been helped he was convinced that Jesus could help him, another lowly blind beggar. And us, well, we know all what Jesus did and what he taught and we know now even more. We know that Jesus was willing to die on the cross for people like you and me. We know all this yet we tend to overlook how much we are loved. We see the life of Jesus; we see his caring for others and healing them and even dying for the sins of the world, dying for our sins, and yet we just don’t seem to get how much love God has for us. It is as though we are blind isn’t it?
We see things, we know things, but we do not always really notice; we don’t always really get them do we? Sometimes the name is right on the suitcase. We need, like Bartimaeus did to ask Jesus to ‘let me see.’ And as our eyes are opened, hopefully we will see in our lives areas we haven’t seen, areas in which perhaps we need to improve our behavior, areas perhaps of pain that need healing. And may God let us see His great love he that he has for us more clearly. Amen