The Life of Jesus Christ: Jesus, Blindness, and Humility

Mark 10:46-52

The episode we will examine today is perhaps the shortest of our entire series thus far - seven verses. But what we see in these seven short verses is a powerfully true event that is also symbolic and transitional. All three of these aspects will be our target today.

Mark chapter 11 records the official presentation of Jesus to the Jewish leadership and the capital city of Jerusalem as their King - the rightful Messiah, King of the Jews. The transitional event that leads up to this triumphal entry is the healing of blindness. In all of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) this same story immediately precedes the triumphal entry. This is so because that is way it really happened. But the gospel authors record it this way for another reason, made plain by the way they arrange and link the stories together.

Matthew 19 contains several of Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees on specific topics. Then it captures His conversation with the “rich young ruler,” a conversation that doesn’t end on a good note. The young man chose not to follow Jesus. In Matthew 20, after another kingdom parable, Jesus again explains that in Jerusalem he would be betrayed, killed and buried. Shockingly, next, a rough conversation happens with the disciples about who is the greatest among them. There is obvious trouble in the camp. The next story is Jesus’ healing of a blind man as Jesus leaves Jericho on His way to Jerusalem. The next episode is Jesus’ triumphal entry in Matthew 21.

Mark 10 contains much of the same progression: interaction with Pharisees, the rich young ruler, Jesus’ sufferings in Jerusalem are discussed, the disciples argue over pride of place, then the episode of Jesus healing a blind man as he leaves Jericho for Jerusalem. The next episode in Mark 11 is the triumphal entry.

Luke 18 again follows much of the same timeline: a parable on prayer, Jesus’ parable contrasting the Pharisee and the tax collector in prayer, His interaction with the rich young ruler, His forthcoming rejection and death in Jerusalem, then the blind man is healed as Jesus enters or “draws near” Jericho. Next, in chapter 19, Jesus interacts with Zaccheus in Jericho, then he tells another parable about money. The next event is the triumphal entry in Jerusalem.

So, while Luke arranges things slightly differently and includes a unique story about Zaccheus, the timeline and organization of Jesus’ healing blindness just before His triumphal entry is represented by all the synoptic gospels.

The ancient Jericho of the Old Testament was, in Jesus’ day, a pile of old stones just west of the Jordan River’s terminus into the Dead Sea. A second, New Testament time period city named Jericho is still thriving today, nestled a little north and west of the ancient location, still in the Jordan River valley, but tucked closer to the Judean Mountains to the west. Coming up from the Jordan valley, Jesus and his disciples, along with the large throng traveling to Jerusalem for Passover, entered and exited Jericho on their way. It was about 15 miles to Jerusalem from Jericho.

Bartimaeus calls Jesus the “Son of David,” a title not used in the Old Testament (except for the literal son or sons of David) and only rarely in the New Testament. The title had significant weight and meaning, however, likely developed for hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. It is born out of Old Testament Messianic expectation on multiple levels: a man from the physical bloodline of King David according to the eternal Davidic Covenant, a royal Messianic title and a person who fulfills the promises of God. Taken all together, that Bartimaeus calls Jesus the “Son of David” is quite a statement of faith.

While Matthew uses the title more often in his gospel account, Mark uses it only here and in the subsequent conversation Jesus has with the scribes during His passion week (see Mark 12:35-37 quoting Psalm 110). In fact these are the only chapters where Mark mentions David at all, except for in Mark 2:25. This connects the proclamation of Bartimaeus with the events of the triumphal entry and the passion week. The title the “Son of David” is used, in this way, as a point of decision.

Consider also the physical blindness of Bartimaeus. He asked Jesus to “regain his sight,” thus it seems that he was not born blind but rather lost his sight somehow after birth. This stands in specific distinction from the man “born blind” in John 9 and others whose ailments are said to be life-long. We are not made aware of the details of Bartimaeus. But as the Davidic title links the story to Jesus’ passion, so does the blindness. The humility of faith expressed by blind Bartimaeus stands in stark contrast to the arrogant claim of “sight” and knowledge of the Jewish chief priests, Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes. Even the crowds eventually join in this spiritually arrogant blindness.

The remedy is the spiritual humility of faith in Jesus, the Son of David. This is what heals Bartimaeus of his blindness and it would have healed the nation and its leaders of their blindness.

In fact, arrogance in general stops growth. Pride in the heart prevents a person from developing as God designed. Even more, spiritual arrogance stops spiritual maturity. It is the spiritual equivalent of congestive heart failure. It is personified and exemplified in the Pharisees and chief priests at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

The remedy should not be over or underestimated. The simple faith of Bartimaeus is a great example. In many ways faith can be seen as spiritual humility in action. Therein is a volitional choice to trust in Jesus and not in your own wisdom or another religious or idolatrous system. This requires humility, both in the change of belief and in the act of trusting Jesus.

So how do the spiritually arrogant move towards humility? I think the Scriptures reveal that this can happen suddenly through a dramatic encounter with God or a tragic situation that God uses. It can also happen more slowly and “naturally” as a person examines their heart, listens to the wise counsel of community and walks in vulnerability with other believers.

All this from the seven verse story of Bartimaeus.

Family Discussion Questions:
  1. Today we’ll look at Jesus’ interaction with a blind man named Bartimaeus. What would you miss most if you lost your ability to see?
  2. Why was Jesus coming and going from Jericho? Where was He headed and why?
  3. Why does Bartimaeus call Jesus the “Son of David”? What does that mean?
  4. Why do you think some were trying to get Bartimaeus to be quiet?
  5. What did Jesus ask Bartimaeus? What do you think is interesting about Jesus’ offer?
  6. How did Bartimaeus express faith in Jesus? Where do you see it in the story?
  7. How does Bartimaeus respond when Jesus heals him?
  8. This story is obviously about Jesus’ ability to heal and Bartimaeus’ humble faith in Jesus. But what is the opposite of faith? What is the opposite of humility? How would these responses change the story?
  9. How can you avoid spiritual arrogance and the bad fruit that it bears?

Small Group Discussion Questions:
  1. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the events that precede and progress from Jesus’ healing of Bartimaeus in each of the first three Gospels. (Matthew 19-21; Mark 10-11; Luke 18-19)
  2. What do you think Bartimaeus meant when he called Jesus the “Son of David”?
  3. Read Mark 11:8-10 and Mark 12:35-37. Are these references to David and the “Son of David” important as a theme in your opinion?
  4. How might Mark be using the true, historical healing of Bartimaeus as a literary foil for Jesus’ coming interaction with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem?
  5. What do you see in the hearts of the “many” in Mark 10:48?
  6. What do you see in Jesus’ interaction with Bartimaeus? What do you find noteworthy about his words or question?
  7. How would you describe humility? How is humility seen in action?
  8. Share your description of spiritual arrogance with your group. Discuss its effects on a person and in a group of people.
  9. Discuss how a person would practically discern their own heart level of spiritual arrogance and spiritual humility.
Posted in

Related Posts