We come now to the last healing miracle recorded by Mark. We are on the threshold of the Lord’s suffering at Jerusalem. He has set His face to go there, knowing what will occur when He arrives. And He has come now to Jericho, which is about eighteen miles away from His abandonment by the Father.
“And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people . . .” ( Mark 10: 46-52).
When we study any one of the synoptic gospels, we frequently encounter problems of harmonization. Some of these are not really problems at all, but others do appear to present a challenge, especially when they are used by unbelievers to challenge the reliability of the Word of God. Matthew tells us there were two blind men here, and Luke says the healing occurred as they were approaching Jericho, not leaving it. What are we to do with this? What gives? There are several possibilities. One I have read is that there were two Jerichoes, the old city and the newer suburbs, and Jesus was leaving one and entering the other. Although possible, it seems a bit farfetched. A more likely explanation is that Jesus healed a couple of blind men going into Jericho. The word about this would have traveled fast in the blind community, and Bartimaeus applied for the same relief and healing as Jesus was leaving Jericho. Every itinerant minister should have multiple examples of how some synoptic problems are not problems at all. In how cities has he told that story, or had uncannily similar conversations after a particular talk?
The outline of the story is simple enough to follow. As Jesus was leaving Jericho (probably headed for Jerusalem), the blind man Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was begging by the side of the road, and heard that Jesus was coming by (v. 46). He is named, which is unusual in such healing accounts. One of the more plausible explanations is that Bartimaeus was known in the early Christian church, and hence his name was relevant to the first readers of this gospel. When he heard that it was Jesus, he began to cry out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” The people around wanted him to be quiet, and not to bother the great teacher (v. 48). But he redoubled his efforts, continued to cry out to the Son of David (v. 48). Jesus stopped and required that he be brought. Once Jesus has summoned him, the surrounding crowds became immediately encouraging (v. 49). He threw aside his cloak, and came immediately to Jesus (v. 50). Jesus asked what he wanted, and Bartimaeus was able to give a very specific answer; he knew exactly what he wanted (v. 51). Jesus grants his request, and says that his faith made him whole (v. 52). He received his sight on the spot, and followed Jesus along the road (v. 52).
We should consider first the placement of story, and its significance. Recall that Jesus is teaching dense disciples, and He was going to the Holy City, where the guardians of the covenant would treacherously murder Him. At this threshold, a blind man by the side of the road, cries out to Him, knowing who He is. Son of David has clear messianic significance. The Son of David was going to be murdered in the City of David, and a blind man saw the Lord in His true identity in Jericho, city of Rahab. “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped” (Is. 35:4-5).
Although this was an example of physical healing, the applications to our spiritual situation should be obvious. It is an example of strong faith—this man had only heard about Jesus. Unlike the disciples, he had not seen Jesus walk on water, feed the multitudes, raise the dead and heal the sick. He was blind and could see nothing. But he could hear, and what he heard, he had believed. He had less to go on, and yet he went on it. It is also an example of determined perseverance—in the face of opposition, he was willing to make a nuisance of himself. When everyone else thought he was too loud, he thought he was too quiet. And last, we see his gratitude—Jesus told him to go his own way. But he adopted as his own way the road which Jesus was traveling, to His own death. He had received his sight; what did he use that sight to look at? The answer is Jesus, up ahead of him on the road.
When we consider our estate, our condition, and what we owe to the Lord’s grace, the parallels should be plain. We have not seen Jesus with our eyes, and yet we believe in Him. We must persevere through various trials as we seek to get a glimpse of Him. And we, of all people, should be characterized by thankfulness.