beggarMark 10:46-52
with Tony W. Cartledge

Teachers: Scroll down for teaching materials.

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’” – Mark 10:51

What Do We Really Want?

Do you know any Deadheads? How about Beliebers? Fans of popular music stars, especially the sort who follow their favorites from concert to concert, have picked up a variety of nicknames. “Deadheads” can’t get enough of The Grateful Dead. Justin Bieber’s young fans are called “Beliebers.” Barry Manilow has “Fanilows,” Clay Aiken has “Claymates,” Taylor Swift has “Swifties,” and Phish has “Phans.” All of us probably know a Parrothead or two: when fans of Jimmy Buffet take their children along, they’re called “Parakeets.”

I wonder if the crowd that followed Jesus around picked up any nicknames. “Yeshuites,” maybe. Today they might have been called “Jesus Freaks.” During the 1960s and 70s, a movement of Christian hippies became known as “Jesus People.”

Today’s text points to another interlude during Jesus’ determined march toward Jerusalem. In Mark 10, Jesus has traveled south through the Transjordan area and crossed into Judea near Jericho. Along the way he has tangled with Pharisees, talked with a wealthy wannabe-follower, taught his disciples, and picked up a multitude of traveling fans.

What will be next?

A hopeful parade(v. 46a)

Today’s text finds Jesus coming into the city of Jericho, and apparently leaving almost straightaway. “They came to Jericho” is followed immediately by “As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho” (v. 46a).

Imagine how difficult it must have been for Jesus in those days when his popularity had skyrocketed. Everybody wanted something from him. Mobs would gather when word got out that he was around. Supplicants wanted healing, supporters wanted enlightenment, and opponents wanted to debate and discredit Jesus.

Over time, a large crowd of fans began following him from place to place like groupies trailing their favorite rock star: Jesus’ entourage came to include not only the 12 disciples and the supportive people (mostly women) who helped to finance the Jesus movement (Mark 15:40-41), but also a “considerable crowd” of others.

Who do you think might have been in that crowd? Some, like the women, were likely committed disciples who wanted to learn more from Jesus by hearing him teach at every opportunity. Others may have been hangers-on who figured that staying near Jesus would assure a regular supply of food. Yet others may have been drawn to Jesus the way spectators are drawn to a fireworks display, hoping that they might witness some great works of power. Still others might have trailed along because Jesus had healed them of some infirmity – or because they were still hoping that Jesus would get around to healing them or a loved one.

A determined beggar(vv. 46b-50)

As they were leaving Jericho, according to Mark, the Jesus train passed by a blind beggar sitting by the side of the road. That would not have been unusual: Just as homeless people today sometimes stake out a highway exit ramp with a cardboard sign seeking charity, blind or lame people in ancient Israel were often positioned near highly traveled roads. The road between Jericho and Jerusalem was a prime spot, for both wealthy merchants and pilgrims inclined to give alms would have traveled the road on a regular basis.

The man’s name was “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus” (NRSV), which identified the man in two languages: “Bartimaeus” is an Aramaic name that literally means “son of Timaeus.”

Had Jesus passed by Bartimaeus on one of his previous trips? Had Bartimaeus missed earlier opportunities to meet Jesus because he couldn’t see him pass? We don’t know, but when the blind man “heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth” (literally, “Jesus the Nazarene”), he made the most of the chance.

Bartimaeus began to shout “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 47).

That the man would address Jesus as the “Son of David” comes as a surprise. Although Matthew’s and Luke’s birth stories emphasize Jesus’ descent in the line of David, most people would not have known of them at the time. Some followers had begun to connect the dots between Old Testament prophecy of a Davidic deliverer and Jesus’ appearance, however, so Bartimaeus’s cry may have echoed the growing belief that Jesus was the hoped-for Messiah.

The poor man’s cry, “Have mercy on me,” was not only a natural way to ask for undeserved help from a compassionate person, but also an echo of several psalms in which the petitioner asks God to have mercy/pity on his or her (or the nation’s) desperate plight. The plea recognizes that any potential benison would not be earned, but due to the gracious compassion of the benefactor.

Mark tells us: “many sternly ordered him to be quiet” (v. 48a). Their interference recalls the disciples’ earlier attempt to keep children away from Jesus (Mark 10:13-16). Perhaps they thought Jesus had far more important things to do than stop to help a blind beggar. Others may have wanted to shush the man’s shouting for fear that others would join him in acclaiming Jesus and attract unwanted attention from the authorities.

The effort was unsuccessful in any case, for the man “cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (v. 48b). Like other veteran beggars, he had learned to shake off insults and indignities. He would not be dissuaded. He would not miss his chance. He was determined to see Jesus.

As we have come to expect of Jesus, he stopped the entire procession and called for the blind man to come over: “Call him here” (v. 49). Why didn’t Jesus walk over to the blind man rather than standing in the road and expecting Bartimaeus to put his blindness on display by feeling his way toward him? Perhaps it was because their relative locations made it easier for Bartimaeus to come to Jesus rather than for Jesus to work his way through the crowd, where others might try to pull him aside. It’s possible that Jesus may have wanted to see Bartimaeus exercise faith by making his way forward – or that he wanted to invite others to practice grace by assisting him.

If v. 50 is an accurate depiction, Bartimaeus was quite practiced at following voices and finding his way. With no indication of outside assistance, Mark says that he threw off his cloak, then “sprang up and came to Jesus” (v. 50). Whether anyone helped him or not, Bartimaeus wasted no time. When Jesus called, he jumped to his feet and came.

A compassionate leader(vv. 51-52)

One might think that what the blind man wanted would be obvious, but as he had done earlier with James and John (v. 36), Jesus invited Bartimaeus to tell him precisely what he was after: “What do you want me to do for you?” (v. 51a).

Unabashed, the man – who had apparently had vision but lost it – said “My teacher, let me see again” (v. 51b). The word translated as “teacher” (rabbouni) is an Aramaic word used only here and in John 20:16 in the New Testament. It is better translated as “master” or “lord”: in an Aramaic targum (a type of translation) of Genesis, the word is used to translate the Hebrew adonai, which has that basic meaning.

The man’s use of the term probably does not indicate that he has professed Jesus as Lord; it’s more likely that Bartimaeus intended it as a title of respect and a sign of his own humility. He came to Jesus as an undeserving supplicant, depending entirely on the master’s gracious response.

Whatever else Bartimaeus knew about Jesus, he had almost certainly heard that he could work miracles and had healed many people of various diseases, including blindness. Longing to have his own sight restored, he put exigency before embarrassment and boldly asked for his greatest desire: “let me see again.”

In contrast to earlier healings, Jesus did not touch the man or apply saliva (as in 7:33-34, 8:23-25). He simply spoke the words: “Go; your faith has made you well” (v. 52a).

Two things happened in short order. “Immediately he regained his sight,” Mark says. … No description of gradual clearing of muddy vision or scales falling from his eyes, only the straightforward statement that his sight returned.

The second thing is that the man did not leave Jesus and go back home, but “followed him on the way” (v. 52). We can imagine Bartimaeus, now able to see, falling in with the crowd who followed Jesus up the road to Jerusalem, talking excitedly about his newfound vision and emerging faith. Perhaps Bartimaeus was one of the many who waved branches and shouted “Hosanna” when Jesus later rode into Jerusalem. Perhaps he saw Jesus crucified and raised again.

We don’t know where Bartimaeus ended up or what he eventually saw, but he was clearly off to a good start as a follower of “the way.” To return to our opening thoughts, that is what Jesus’ first fans were called: along with the derogatory nickname “Christians” (“little Christs”), early believers were known as “followers of the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22). After all, they followed the one who said “I am the way, the truth, and the light” (John 14:6). Do you? BT

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Adult Teaching Resources

Download the PDF for October 25, 2015 teaching resources. This PDF contains the FIT Teaching Guide, Digging Deeper, and Hardest Question pages.

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Additional Links/Resources
Read Scripture online: Mark 10:46-52



Teacher Prep | Youth & This Session

Our students want proof. Maybe this comes from their being able to find an answer to almost any question they ask in less than a minute. Or maybe they are trying to fit what they discover into their concrete mode of thinking. Either way, it isn’t out of the ordinary to hear one of our students say, “Prove it!” Maybe they want proof so that there is no doubt as to what they follow and believe in. There are some things that you will be able to prove to your students, and there will be other things that will remain a mystery. One of our responsibilities is to point to those things and say, “That is of God.” We can help them see what is of God until they begin to recognize it on their own. Until then, continue to prove what you can by showing it to them.

Teaching Resources | Download

Download the PDF for youth teaching resources. This PDF contains the FIT Teaching Guide for this lesson.

Encourage youth to check out this video ahead of the lesson.

“Healing the King” from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Additional Links/Resources
Read Scripture online: Mark 10:46-52