From the gospel this week we have the story of Jesus healing the blind man, Bartimeaus, who is begging alongside the road. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.
Bartimeaus shouts out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me” yet the crowd sternly orders him to be quiet. Apparently the shouting he is doing is loud enough to irritate a crowd. Why do they want to silence him? I wonder what this is about? Because when Jesus hears him, in fact, he calls for him. And at that point the crowd actually encourages Bartimeaus to go to Jesus by saying, “Be brave, take heart!” “Rise up” they say.
When Jesus asks Bartimeaus what he wants, Bartimeaus casts aside his cloak springs up and responds that he wants “to see again.” Jesus heals him and tells him “Go, your faith has made you well.” Bartimeaus then follows Jesus “on the way.”
There are some wonderful nuggets of spiritual wisdom woven into the narrative if we consider the symbolic nature of the story. On the surface Jesus has cured a blind man who then follows him on the road to Jerusalem. But we also see a man spiritually healed who bravely asks to be united with God on the spiritual road or hodos (Greek for “way”).
This brave move on Bartimeaus’ part is not just in asking for his right to the healing hand of God, but involves dropping his cloak and leaving behind everything to follow Jesus. His cloak was not only his warmth and protection from the elements, but his means for gathering alms. Everything he had accrued in a day was on this piece of cloth, drawn up and then presumably used to sleep in at night. So this story stands in strong contrast to the earlier story of the wealthy man who left grieving when Jesus asked that he sell his belongings to enter into everlasting life. It is a fearless move.
We also see the foreshadowing of Palm Sunday with Bartimeaus’ cloak and his claims that Jesus is the son of David. In just a few more passages Jesus will enter into Jerusalem on a colt, the crowd will lay down their cloaks and palm branches as his “red carpet,” shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our Ancestor David.” We often don’t stop and think about the incredible significance for the peasant class placing their garments (for some their only cloak) on the road to be trod upon, offered up as a self-emptying practice in the name of hope.
These efforts illumine hope in the form of fearlessness.
So how do we reflect on these activities in our own lives?
Hope and fearlessness go together. Hope is not a passive stance. It is an engaged and embodied activity with righteousness at its core; with truth as its lens; and “belief” in the (form of trust and commitment) as its engine.
And it isn’t a one time event. Hope takes practice.
We are faced with the decision to have faith and hope frequently, to be brave on a regular basis (more frequently than we probably admit, even to ourselves). And there are forces, crowds at work, telling us to be quiet, not to draw attention to ourselves – or to the truth.
When Bartimeaus rises up to greet Jesus, the word used for rise means also to “wake up, arise, waken.” And this form is used in many of the healing stories. Bartimeaus has his eyes opened from blindness, but he is also awakened to new life, to the “way.”
Having hope requires waking up. In our own daily efforts to work for justice, peace and love, we need practices to help us keep awake. Prayer, centering prayer, and meditation can help us practice being awake, so we can continue to be brave in our efforts to bring hope to ourselves and for our world.
What activities help you cultivate awareness, this sense of being awake to what is true?
Take a fearless leap and discover what helps you on “the way.”