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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Blind Bartimaeus and Faith in Israel

1531  Lucas Van Leyden


His Eyes were Blind, He could not See...Bar Timaeus

"And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus , the son of Timaeus sat by the highway side begging."

I would like to begin "in those days" as though the blind no longer have to beg, but the truth is, physical blindness today, is often treated just as inhumanely now as back then: we have a sort of "chrono-centricity" in which we think we are far advanced and more 'mature' than back in the first century a.d. but the truth is, if anything, while our technology has grown, our hearts have stayed the same, or perhaps grown even more cold and brutal.

As the disciples and Jesus came to Jericho (and went out of Jericho*) they encounter a blind beggar by the name "Bar-Timaeus", or son of Timaeus. That day, they were in no small number, and 'blind Bartimaeus' would probably have gone unnoticed to another crowd of this size, but when Bartimaeus heard that it was "Jesus of Nazareth", Yshua the "nazarim" something in his spirit caused him to 'cry out'. Before the healing, before even the gaze of the Lord turned to him, he cried out something rather unusual, for a Jewish beggar with no sight---not 'help me', nor 'give me something', but

"Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me." 10:47

Eager to calm the crowds and hustle and bustle, many charged him to be quiet--- after all, the real Jesus of Nazareth was at hand, and seemingly to many, if he were the Messiah, he would have no time to deal with this poor blind man, whom most saw as the bottom rung of the social ladder of Israel. This encounter has been written of no doubt thousands of times, but the healing often gets little more than a brief pause, and the 'cry' of an Israeli beggar for his Lord and Savior, receives almost none.

The more they tried to stop him, the more he continued in his plea and purpose [like much of Israel], he cried out "all the more"

"Thou son of David, have mercy on me."

Why did the blind man call out son of David? The title "Son of David" is mentioned exactly 23 times, 9 in the Old Testament. The titles 'son of Man', son of the Blessed, son of Adam, and son of God as well as son of the most High and others are also mentioned:  the Son-ship of Christ was not in dispute,  but peculiarly, ‘Son of David’ indicated that the blind man requiring mercy from Jesus,  already believed he was the Messiah of Israel,  as ‘Son of David’ used as a title pointed to the anointed one of Israel.    It is interesting in the New Testament, that while Jesus is called “Son of Man”  several times,  the term ‘son of man’ or  in Hebrew, ‘Ben Adam’ (Son of Adam) can be and is used of other prophets and even just a member of the human race.

For example, used of one merely in the line of Adam, the following two examples show that the term could be used somewhat liberally:

[Num 23:19 KJV] 19 God [is] not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do [it]? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
[Job 25:6 KJV] 6 How much less man, [that is] a worm? and the son of man, [which is] a worm?

The term ‘Son of Man’ though is also used more eminently when referring to the prophets, particularly of Ezekiel :

[Eze 2:1, 8 KJV] 1 And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. ... 8 But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.
[Eze 16:2 KJV] 2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,

The term is used in the three verses above to refer to Ezekiel, by God,  and in 91 other passages in that book alone.  Jesus also as part of his ‘offices’ which he held, was a prophet,  so the term ‘son of man’ certainly carries with it a significance that points to the ‘son of Adam’, son of God,  and prophet,  but less directly though albeit of a certainty, the messiah.

The Blind Bartimaeus though,  cries out the more specific term:  “Son of David”.  His faith is evident before Jesus even requires it of him.   Like the children and others on the road into Jerusalem during the Triumphal entry,  who cry the same,  Bartimaeus was declaring and trusting that he was the ‘Son of David’,  the Messiah of Israel.

One could argue that ‘Son of David’ would have included any of those in David’s line, since it is mentioned, for example in descriptions of Solomon or Absalom and even Joseph (Matt 1:20), literal sons or in the line; but the Davidic covenant of the land and seed, and the forthcoming King to sit on the throne of Israel (the Messiah) more clearly takes foreground from several passages:

[2Sa 7:11-14 KJV] 11 And as since the time that I commanded judges [to be] over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the LORD telleth thee that he will make thee an house. 12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son.  


This is the ‘for ever’ Kingdom and King of Israel which will proceed from David’s bowels, in other words, the ‘zera’ or seed which creates the generations of David.  We find in both the ‘genealogies’ of Jesus, the one from Mary and Joseph’s side, that Jesus is a direct descendent of David:

[Mat 1:1 KJV] 1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
[Luk 3:31 KJV] 31 Which was [the son] of Melea, which was [the son] of Menan, which was [the son] of Mattatha, which was [the son] of Nathan, which was [the son] of David,

That the people who were eyewitnesses to the miracles and healing of Jesus on more than one occasion used the term ‘Son of David’ as a messianic one is clearly seen in a sample of the many passages in which he was addressed by the expression, and further evidence comes from their corollary use of the word ‘Lord’ when addressing Jesus:


[Mat 9:27 KJV] 27 And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, [Thou] Son of David, have mercy on us.
[Mat 12:23 KJV] 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?
[Mat 15:22 KJV] 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, [thou] Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
[Mat 20:30-31 KJV] 30 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, [thou] Son of David. 31 And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, [thou] Son of David.
[Mat 21:9 KJV] 9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.


Many other passages point to the same idea.  In Israel, no man was ever to receive worship:  it was considered a form of idolatry to attribute worship, reserved only for the Creator, toward a created being.    Yet in several verses, the people of Israel confront Jesus in very unusual ways.   They bow down before him and worship him (Matt 2:11, 8:2, 9:18 etc.) even as a young infant.  In Matthew 14:33 he is referred to as the Son of God, which if it had not been true, would have been blasphemy. In 18:26 and 26:9 they fall down , or bow down and worship him, in the former, grasping his feet.    One has to understand Jewish culture in that day and time to consider how terribly unusual it was for the common people of Israel to do such a thing:  calling him the ‘Son of David’, a ‘Prophet’, the “Son of Man’ and the ‘Son of God’.  They would have been cut off from their communities and synagogues, if these attributions had been to a mere man.   Something in the Messiah, triggered the Jewish spirit so in the first century,  that frequently even in a first encounter, those seeking healing for themselves or others,  called him ‘Messiah’ in one form or another, recognized him in faith as God’s Son, and sometimes bowed down and worshipped him. (at least 12 times in the New Testament, though one was the soldier’s mocking worship.)

Though the above defense of the term is somewhat parenthetical,  we nonetheless need to take it into account in order to understand the significance of a blind man on the wayside,  crying out for mercy to Jesus,  and calling him “Son of David”.  He was declaring his very sufficient faith not only in his ability to heal, but also declaring that he recognized and thoroughly trusted Him for all that he was and would do, for to otherwise use the term would have ostracized him entirely from his people, and the blind were already marginalized in the society of the first century.

So intense was Bartimaeus’ faith that day on the roadside to Jericho,  that when he hears that it is Jesus of Nazareth passing by,  he calls out for mercy from the Son of David, not once but twice,  even amidst the admonition of those attending:

 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me

Bartimaeus was certain that Jesus could heal him because he was the Son of David, the long awaited Holy One of Israel, the Meschiach.

Jesus, never a respecter of persons, does not tell his followers to silence the man, nor does he rush on to the next town:  he stops everything to attend to faith in Israel.

Mark 10:49 And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. 50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.  

The blind beggar also showed signs of immediate obedience:  the minute Jesus calls, he ‘casts away his garment’,  a very precious thing then as the poor often had no more than two,   but he is willing to leave it behind, even suddenly counting it as of no value for the great treasure of being in the presence of Jesus.   Already, by this point in his ministry Jesus has encountered everyone from Roman soldiers, Kings and nobles, to outcasts and villagers:  he counted them all the same save that the value he looked for in the children of Israel and others was faith.    Often as we have seen in other studies, his first remarks are about faith, before he healed people.  Faith was more important than disease and infirmity, more important than healing, though healing followed.

Jesus’ first remark to Bartimaeus is not whether he is ‘saved’ (though that is always the point of healing),  nor does it have to do with his worthiness, or how many times he attends synagogue,  but rather,  sensing the deep faith in the man and his desire to be made well, accompanied by his belief in the Messiah of Israel,  his first statement is one of service:

Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? Mark 10:51

We see the fulfillment of the scripture regarding one of the reasons for the coming of the Messiah, which is pointed to right before the encounter with Bartimaeus:

28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

It is the case that when a person, in this situation the blind man trusts utterly, and places full confidence in God through his son, willingly laying all aside, that God is willing to do great works for and through him.   Bartimaeus has one request:  he wishes to receive his sight:

The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.

The healing of the blind was a sign of the Messiah:  in Isaiah, it is noted that he will give sight to the blind in Isaiah 42:7:

To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Sight in Israel was both literal and figurative:  blindness and sight were always a metaphor for spiritual blindness and sight, as Jesus in speaking with the Pharisees upon healing the man in the temple with clay to the eyes, remarks that he came to give sight to the blind, and “to take it away from those who say they can see”.  He says in the Temple:

And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. For. John 3:17

Sight to the blind was a promise of the Messiah made in Isaiah 61, Jesus’ “Inaugural Address” when he declared that he would bring ‘sight to the blind:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised
To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

It seems that Isaiah 61 does not contain the passage about the blind,  but the site called ‘Baptist Board’ and the Masoretic text includes the following translation:

א  רוּחַ אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, עָלָי--יַעַן מָשַׁח יְהוָה אֹתִי לְבַשֵּׂר עֲנָוִים, שְׁלָחַנִי לַחֲבֹשׁ לְנִשְׁבְּרֵי-לֵב, לִקְרֹא לִשְׁבוּיִם דְּרוֹר, וְלַאֲסוּרִים פְּקַח-קוֹחַ.
1 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the eyes to them that are bound;

The KJV is not incorrect but is translating the expression with regard to an idiom.   The ‘opening’  word, פְּקַח־קוֹחַ is based upon the word פָּקַח which means an opening of the eyes.  The preference in translation is difficult because it conveys both the opening of the eyes from some bondage, i.e. blindness,  and yet it also connotes release from captivity so both are correct and translators in a few passages like this have to consider the more salient meaning when the expression of both in English is not possible without saying more or less than is there: the Hebrew is able to convey both.  Being a KJV proponent,   I do not find any contradiction there to accuracy.
In any event, the beauty of this encounter,  is that it encompasses all that Jesus is looking for in Israel:  the opening of blind eyes, the setting free from captivity, ‘blind faith’  being better than ‘seeing unbelief’,  immediate obedience and trust, and servanthood.    Faith in Bartimaeus is the ultimate goal and accomplishment.  He is healed of blindness in the flesh, because he has in the Spirit declared Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, before Jesus heals him.
One last note must be made of this passage since many try to use the differing accounts in the Gospel as evidence of error or contradiction.  One account holds that there are two blind men, and the other names Bartimaeus and only the interaction with Bartimaeus is included in Mark 10.   Again,  one has to consider eyewitness accounts:  if one describes an accident on the corner, some will report who stood by and some will not.  That does not mean there were not more persons there than reported, or that a person who reports the onlookers is more or less correct or accurate than the one who does not, only that the one who reports the more detailed account has included more.  The same is true of this passage,  and since both accounts are included in the scripture, the whole picture comes together.  The gospels were collated as noted in Luke 1,  from many, many eyewitness accounts, firsthand accounts of people who were there when it happened.  As Luke and others put all the accounts together,   the complete picture was seen.    No error.
Faith in Israel was the heart cry of Yshua Ha Meschiach, Jesus Christ, ‘Salvation, or ‘He Saves’, the Messiah.   Jesus was more interested in forgiving sin, and granting eternal life to those in Israel even than performing miracles. The miracles and healings, though they are critical to an understanding of the beautiful Gospel,  are signs that point to Salvation and the Son of God, the Son of David.  Blind Bartimaeus could see that.
Till the next, Many blessings
Elizabeth K. Best
Judah’s Glory: Series: Healing of Christ, the Messiah of Israel


note 1:
skeptics sometimes point to this passage as an 'error' for how could Jesus be coming and going to the same place. If one does a bit of research, it will be discovered that there were 2 Jerichos, and the inconsistency is erased.



2. 84.