Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy
Twentieth Sunday after Trinity
Text: Mark 10. 46-52 "Seeing Clearly "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Share your stories about what you have left behind to follow Jesus.
What has your faith cost you?
A Window on the Text
The healing of Bartimaeus comes at a very significant place in the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, as told by Mark. It follows on from Jesus’ meeting with the rich man who was unable to give up his possessions in order to follow Jesus, and after the disciples have had yet another argument about who is the most important.
Here is a man who throws aside the one and only thing he owns, the cloak which is all he has to protect him, and who asks for no significant position in the social hierarchy. It is both a healing story and a calling story, and a testimony to the power of persistence! We see the fickleness of the crowd, turning from condemnation to welcome once Jesus hears the man’s cries. We see the willingness of Bartimaeus to follow Jesus after the restoration of his sight, contrasted with the apparent blindness of the disciples. They still don’t see the significance of Jesus’ message, and waste time in bickering for position along the journey to Jerusalem.
Bartimaeus is the first to name Jesus ‘Son of David’; to recognise his true identity, after Peter (Mark 8:29) (other than by a demon or evil spirits). It is the first public and un-rebuked acknowledgement of Jesus as Messiah. The secret is out. This story provides a powerful link between Jesus’ attempts to open the eyes of his disciples to what being ‘Messiah’ truly means, and his arrival in Jerusalem to fulfil this destiny.
Bartimaeus’ attitude is that of true discipleship – he is aware of his blindness and helplessness, recognises his only hope of a cure is now within his grasp, and calls for help. His faith persists despite initial discouragement, and brings its own reward. His response is to follow Jesus without question – towards the danger and suffering that lie ahead in Jerusalem. It is his faith and his willingness to give up all he has that has brought about the change to his physical condition – he has taken the initiative and not merely allowed his victim status to be reinforced by the ‘blind’ acceptance of a ‘miracle’ cure.
Responding as a community
- Share your stories of how Jesus brings hope to those outside the centres of power.
- Discuss what you would be willing to abandon, if Jesus said “What do you want me to do for you?” What would you have the courage to change?
- It has been said that blindness, deafness and hardness of heart are spiritual disabilities of the human condition. In the face of so much global poverty and the threat of global warming and climate change, how can we help each other to see the contradictions of our ways of life and open our ears to the cries of the oppressed?
- Where do you think your own community is ‘blind’ or ‘deaf’ or ‘hard of heart’? How can you help to change this?
Pray for wisdom to know what you can help to change, and where to concentrate your energies – in yourself, your lifestyle, your community.
Use the “Serenity Prayer” by Reinhold Niebuhr –
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
And Proverbs 3, 5-6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
Finish by praying – “Let us see again – through the eyes of love – to follow on the Way”.
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.
Rank and status were very important in 1st century Jewish life. Bartimaeus is poor, landless and disabled – at the very bottom of the honour and purity ranking. He dare not approach Jesus directly as a social equal with his request, as did the rich man, or the disciples who asked Jesus about their own ranking. He is not enquiring about the mysteries of eternal life or about who gets the top posts in the new administration, he simply desires mercy. Because of his low station the disciples, ever anxious to enforce propriety, try to impede him: they had no problem with allowing the rich man access to Jesus. Jesus couldn’t help the rich man, or the disciples, because they are still addicted to wealth and position – but he helps Bartimaeus because he knows his own helplessness. The rich man slinks away, the disciples are scolded by their colleagues – but Bartimaeus is welcomed because he is willing to break out of the system and risk everything he has.
- Jericho is the last stop en route to the City of David, the final leg of the pilgrim journey. A blind man begging would have been a common sight on this the standard beat for most of the city’s beggar population. Pilgrims would have the mood and the means to respond and give alms.
- ‘We are the most educated, economically powerful and socially mobile people in the world, yet most of us are confused and paralysed about how power is distributed in the real world. A vicious spiral of dependence, delusion and denial has led to a near-complete loss of vision. We see the world neither the way it is nor the way it could be.’ from Who will Roll Away the Stone? by Ched Myers.
Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion