Mark 10:46-52 ­– Blind Bartimaeus (OT Reading, Isaiah 35:3-10)

Setting the scene

Jesus is on his way up to Jerusalem, travelling with his disciples. He knows what awaits him there – conflict, rejection and at the end, crucifixion. In the following chapter of Mark's Gospel we read of Jesus entering Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, arriving as a king, but arriving in humility.

But here we read of him passing through Jericho. His presence, as always, has stirred up a crowd who are now travelling with him. It was nearly Passover and Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and the crowd wanted to see what he would do.

Blind Bartimaeus

As they left the city of Jericho, Jesus and the crowd passed a blind man sitting by the roadside, begging. Maybe there were traders leaving the city who had made good profits that day and might be willing to throw some coins his way. Maybe there were those who had bought produce in the market that day who could spare him something to eat. Blind Bartimaeus kept a ready ear open to try to hear who was passing by.

And now he hears the sounds of this excited crown. He knows that something unusual is happening and he wants to find out what it is. And so he asks one of the crowd and he is told that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by on his way to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus must have heard stories about this man ­– his teaching, his miracles, his healings – and he has formed his own conclusions as to who this man is. And so Bartimaeus begins to shout out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me."

The crowd are anxious for Jesus to get on his way to Jerusalem, so many of them turn to Bartimaeus and tell him to be quiet. But Bartimaeus will not be quiet. He knows that this is his one opportunity to meet with Jesus and so he cries out all the more, perhaps also louder, "Son of David, have mercy on me." He believes that Jesus is the Messiah and that he is able to restore his sight.

Maybe Bartimaeus had in mind the passage from the book of Isaiah that we read earlier:

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    ‘Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.’

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.  (Isaiah 35:3-6a)

He believed that Jesus was the Messiah and could restore his sight and nothing was going to stop him crying out to Jesus for mercy.


Here I want to stop for a moment and ask you whether you also are convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, the promised Saviour of the world and that he is the Lord Jesus who is able to meet your need? Do you cry out to him in prayer for him to have mercy on you and bless you? Don't let anyone or anything discourage you from crying out to Jesus in prayer. Let me say to any today with fearful hearts "Be strong, do not fear; your God has come to save you in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is ready to hear your cry."

Have you come across the prayer called The Jesus Prayer. It's a simple prayer reflecting the cry of blind Bartimaeus, a single sentence that can be repeated: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." When other words fail us in prayer, this is a prayer we can surely remember and repeat:  "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

And that's what we will be doing when we approach this table in a few minutes. We come as those who know we are not worthy to come, but we come because our wonderful Lord Jesus went to the cross for us and shed his blood for us that we might be forgiven, accepted, and welcomed at his table to feast with him. Here we see that there is mercy and grace for us and blessings beyond description. And so we come boldly saying in our hearts, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Returning to Bartimaeus

Bartimaeus cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" and he would not let anyone silence him.

Jesus, we read, stopped in his tracks and told someone, perhaps one of his disciples, perhaps addressing the crowd generally, to call Bartimaeus to come to him. Luke tells us that Jesus had set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), he would let nothing and no one turn him back; but he stopped in his tracks for blind Bartimaeus. He stopped because nothing would persuade Bartimaeus to be quiet except a personal encounter with Jesus.

Now the crowd that had been telling Bartimaeus to be quiet are crowding around him saying, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." And Bartimaeus' response is immediate and dramatic. In his eagerness we read, "Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus." This blind man acts out the prophetic exhortation of Isaiah 35:

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    ‘Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come …

     to save you. 

Jesus asks Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you?" To which he replies "Rabbi, I want to see."   Jesus said, ‘Go, your faith has healed you." And the story concludes by telling us, "Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road."

Imagine Bartimaeus; the first thing he saw for a very long time – perhaps ever – was the face of the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is nothing he wants to do more than to be with Jesus. Jesus may have told Bartimaeus to "Go", but there was no way he was going away; he was determined to stick with Jesus and to follow him in the way. Bartimaeus, no doubt looking around at the crowds and the mountainous road ahead – "Gosh, that's what a mountain looks like!" – follows Jesus towards Jerusalem.

What would he now see? Before long he will see Jesus preparing to enter Jerusalem on a donkey. Will he remember the words of Isaiah 35?

those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)

Will he who had called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" now be one of those who joins in the crowd who shout out:


‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ (Mark 11:9-10)

Maybe he acted as an enthusiastic cheerleader on that day.

And what would he see that week and in the days ahead?

·         Jesus throwing the traders out of the Temple?

·         The withering of a fig-tree?

·         Jesus' growing conflict with the Jewish leaders?

·         The crowds, prompted by the Jewish leaders, crying out for Jesus to be crucified – what did he cry on that day?

·         Did he later see Jesus hanging on the cross?

·         Was he one of those to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection from the dead?

Why do you think we know Bartimaeus by name? Perhaps he continued to follow Jesus in the community of his disciples. Perhaps he told his story to the gospel writers, who recorded not only his healing but his name and his determination to go on following Jesus.

Our Response

What have we seen in Jesus? In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes the following:

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)

The gospel, the good news that Paul preached and that we seek to preach, displays the glory of Christ. Paul says of both himself and the Corinthian believers, that, "God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." Have you seen something of the glory of God in the Lord Jesus Christ? – the glory of God's holiness, his love and compassion, his grace, his mercy, his forgiveness?

And how do we respond to what we have seen in Jesus?

Like Bartimaeus whose eyes were opened to see Jesus, let us follow him. And what shall we yet see of Jesus as we also follow him in the way? We shall witness yet more of his grace and goodness not only to ourselves but also to others. And one day we also shall see him face-to-face and be utterly transformed by that encounter.

Let us praise the Lord Jesus as I am sure Bartimaeus did as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Let us bear witness to all that we have seen, heard and experienced of him that others also may come to see something of the glory of the Saviour and put their trust in him.

Peter Misselbrook: Christ Church, 1/6/2023 Thursday Communion