On the surface, the story of Bartimaeus is an inspiring story of a blind person who was miraculously healed by Jesus. I think we all like to hear these stories because they lift our souls and inspire us to push through those times when we experience poor health or worldly trials. I believe, however, that the real story is not found in the outward miracle, but in the timeless spiritual lessons that lie beneath the surface of this Gospel story.
Reflecting on Bartimaeus’ condition, because he was blind, he was dependent on other people to assist him throughout his life. Simple acts that we perform every day like eating, drinking, and walking were huge obstacles to him. He was dependent on people to provide him with money, food, shelter, and clothing. To make things worse, he was also considered an outcast, because in Biblical times, illness and disabilities were believed to be caused by sin and because of this, he wasn’t allowed to enter the Temple to worship. We have to assume that Bartimaeus spent many years of his life in this condition. Unable to provide for himself, he turned to the world in search for comfort and relief only to be chastised and rejected by those around him. Everywhere he turned he experienced pain and disappointment. His cloak became the roof of his tent, and his begging hands became the tools of his trade.
What is not apparent, however, is that Bartimaeus’ blindness is actually a blessing because his condition allowed him to learn a profound lesson in life. His physical blindness allowed him to “see” things as they really are. No longer distracted by the sense of sight, which attracts one to the allurements of the world, his blindness allowed him to see more clearly that the world will never satisfy his needs. He knew that he could not count on the world to bring him comfort, and his begging hands taught him that reaching and grasping the world around him would only lead to emptiness. Bartimaeus doesn’t yet realize that he is blessed. He hasn’t yet realized that the curse of his blindness is serving to strengthen his faith.
It is in this lowly state, that Bartimaeus encounters Jesus. Having heard stories about Jesus, through the eyes of pure faith, allows him to acquire a depth of faith that many of us wish we could attain. Unlike those who can see, Bartimaeus did not have the benefit of seeing Jesus. Although he was called to meet Jesus, Bartimaeus was rebuked by those around him, and he wasn’t able to glance into the eyes of the Son of God and be filled with wonder, awe, and love. Despite all this, Bartimaeus does not hesitate and immediately responds to Jesus’ call. Jesus tells him, “your faith has saved you.” In his spiritual darkness, Bartimaeus’ heart is pure and he possesses the blessed innocence of blind faith.
Throughout our lives, we keep trying to fill our emptiness with things that never seem to satisfy us. Like Bartimaeus, we put our hands out to the world looking for acceptance, happiness, and comfort, and as a result, we find ourselves seeking and accepting morsels that never fill us up. The story of Bartimaeus reminds us that the most sure, true, and beneficial path to God, is through blind faith. Our souls will always remain restless and empty until we make God alone the aim of all our desires in life.
“Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)