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Tony's Reflection 83
Ever played “blind man’s buff”? You are blindfolded. You grope your way around, to “catch” someone else in the room, using your sense of touch to guess who it is. Do you remember the sense of utter disorientation as that blindfold goes on … the bewildering swirl of noise and laughter around you?
Now imagine that confusion and darkness is all you have ever known, certainly all you can ever remember. You are entering the world of blind Bar Timaeus, whose story Mark tells us today (
Traders often came through Jericho and loved to stop there.
Traders have money. Where there are people passing with loose change in their pockets, there are beggars. The best begging place was on the main road out of the city. Refreshed by the oasis in Jericho, the traders would be in a good mood, perhaps willing to toss a spare coin or two your way.
Bar Timaeus has been using that pitch for years. Without sight, he is unable to work. If he is going to buy himself a loaf today, whether he will eat before bed-time, will depend on the pity of the passers-by. He sits there in his rags. His ears strain through the darkness, to pick up the next footsteps which bring hope of a coin and the prospect of food.
Every time he hears sandals crunching on the gravel, there is a lump in his throat and a sense of anticipation. Will he hear the thud of a coin into his cloak, spread out beside him, desperately inviting the charity of the traders? Will he eat tonight, after all?
He hears a crowd coming. Optimism and excitement rise in his heart. Many people mean many coins in pockets. Perhaps some of them will come his way.
The sound of this crowd is different. There is no sound of traders’ camels and carts. Just the hubbub of enthusiastic voices. This crowd sounds a lot bigger than usual. Generous giving to be had? Maybe bread and fish for tea tonight…
Bar Timaeus is curious. Why such a large crowd? The beggar beside him can see, so he will explain the mystery. Bar Timaeus learns it’s Jesus passing through.
Jesus! Bar Timaeus has heard of him. Who hasn’t? Everyone knew about his miracles. There had even been stories about him giving the blind their sight again.
As the crowd around Jesus comes closer, the general babble of excitement crystallises. Bar Timaeus can hear what they are saying.
Messiah fever has gripped the crowd. An old promise comes echoing down the years, from the dark recesses of Bar Timaeus’ memory. A promise of what would happen when Messiah comes… “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened…” (Isaiah 35:5.)
A sudden wave of faith rises up from deep inside Bar Timaeus’ spirit. This is very different from the hope that maybe, just maybe, a passing trader will drop him a coin. It’s an assurance that this passerby is no trader, he is the Messiah, himself.
Can Bar Timaeus can get his attention? Could this be the day when his eyes are opened?
But what chance Jesus will notice him? Bar Timaeus can’t even see where Jesus is. All he can hear is the noise of the crowd. In any case, a Jewish holy man wouldn’t give any attention to a beggar. Certainly not a blind one. It was obvious he had been cursed by God. Why else would he be without eyesight? Beggars were non-people. Most people just walked by, pretending not to notice. Surely Jesus would do just the same?
Bar Timaeus can hear the crowd getting closer. This is his moment. It’s now or never. He heaves in the deepest breath and bursts out in a pitiful cry: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me…”
He hears voices of disapproval. It was bad enough having to see this beggar, let alone hear him, making such a scene. Why would Jesus bother with him, anyway?
Bar Timaeus can feel the dismissive loathing in their voices, as they tell him to keep quiet. But he can’t. This is the once-in-a-lifetime chance to get his eyesight back. No…
This is do or die. Another even heavier intake of breath and another explosion of desperate emotion: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me…”
Bar Timaeus hears the relentless scuffing of sandals around him coming to a sudden halt. The crowd must have stopped moving. But why?
Hidden from Bar Timaeus in the blackness of his blindness, Jesus has stopped. No human being has ever called him “son of David” before, at least not in public. This is faith indeed.
Bar Timaeus, sat at his begging place is hidden from sight. But Jesus heard that cry. He felt the pain. He felt his faith, too. “Bring that man here,” he says.
Bar Timaeus barely heard those words. All he felt was despair and desperation. Jesus couldn’t possibly have meant him, could he? The voices around him turn into excitement. Would Jesus really make this blind man see? The crowd manhandle Bar Timaeus, until, groping and bewildered he stands before Jesus.
He hears that voice. In its warmth and acceptance, the despair and pain melt away into peace, hope and faith.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
“My teacher, I just want to see…” tears of desperation and sheer relief that Jesus has heard him trickle slowly down Bar Timaeus’ cheek.
“Go,” says Jesus. “your faith has healed you.”
Light comes flooding in to Bar Timaeus’ dark world. There are faces, all around. Hundreds of them, filled with excitement and amazement. But there is only one face in all that crowd that matters to Bar Timaeus.
“Go?” Bar Timaeus stutters through tears of gratitude, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m sticking with you, come what may.”
James and John shift uneasily. They want to get lost in the crowd. Messiah fever had filled them with selfish ambition. But this blind beggar had seen so much more than them…