Mark 10:46-52 | 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
A Loaded Question
Every time I read the story of Bartimaeus, I am struck by the fact that Jesus asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” Unsurprisingly, Bartimaeus answers, “Master, I want to see.” (v. 51). So why does Jesus pose the question? Don’t all blind men want to see?
My dad is very hard of hearing. Not long ago, he got very sensitive hearing aids. But they weren’t the instant fix he’d hoped. They amplified everything, and his brain had to relearn to let background noise recede. Over the years, Daddy had also become used to silence. But we live in a noisy world, all of which was amplified by hearing aids. In short, the hearing aids put him in a sensory overload. My dad discovered he wanted to hear some things—conversation in particular—but not everything.
“What do you want me to do for you?” is actually a loaded question.
Life is complicated. There are no easy answers, and, unfortunately, there’s a bad side to everything. When Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” He wants us to think deeply about the whys behind our desires. A Jew answering this question in the early first century might have answered they wanted the Messiah to lead them to victory. And Jesus did that—He brought about victory over death, though, not over the Romans. Had this person delved deep to articulate why they wanted this victory, they might have realized they really sought personal glory and revenge.
With this question, Jesus asks us to delve deep into our motivations, to discover the reason behind what we ask of Him. Held to the light of day, does that reason reflect Jesus’s mission? Bartimaeus could answer that question with a resounding “yes”—Jesus saw his heart and not only gave Bartimaeus his sight but also bestowed on him the highest of praise, “your faith has saved you” (v. 52). Bartimaeus responded by following Jesus, presumably straight to Jerusalem to witness the crucifixion.
This was the final recorded healing miracle before Jesus gets to Jerusalem. Maybe Bartimaeus was a final metaphor for Jesus’s message: “Ask and you shall receive” (Matthew 7:7), not carte blanche to write a letter to Santa, but a promise. If we have the faith to ask, God will give us what we need. Bartimaeus had the faith.
One last time, Jesus was making it clear that God has given us free will. We choose whether to participate in the plan. Jesus didn’t just wave His healing hands to give Bartimaeus sight. Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wanted, and Bartimaeus had to respond. Further, this miracle underscores the personal relationship God wants to have with each of us. He wants to be in conversation with each of us. May each of us one day hear, “Your faith has made you well.”