When I was in third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Everett, stopped and pulled me aside to speak to me. She got down on my level, looked me straight in the eyes and told me, “You are a great student and one of the smartest kids in my class. I expect great things from you.” I certainly didn’t realize it at the time, but those words have meant so much to me. That she would purposefully stop and encourage me in my schoolwork was transformative. For whatever reason, I believed her. I believed that I was smart, that I would do good things. When I graduated high school, I was the first recipient of the Judy Everett Scholarship. This was a scholarship set up by her family after she died far too early from ALS. She saw something in me that was unnoticed by others, and it made all the difference.
This encounter with Mrs. Everett was brought to mind while I was reading through the end of Mark 10. Jesus was traveling toward Jerusalem. He had just left Jericho with a large crowd of people. On the margins of this crowd by the side of the road, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was crying out. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He cried out, and the people in the crowd tell him to be quiet. But Bartimaeus persisted. Maybe he had heard about Jesus from other beggars or travelers. Maybe he had overheard people in the crowd talking about this man who had healed others. Whatever the case, he had heard that Jesus was there, and this was his chance. With a tenacious and unbreakable faith, Bartimaeus continued to cry out all the more.
And then something remarkable happened. Jesus stopped. Somehow, over the commotion of the crowd, Jesus hears this man’s cries for mercy. Amidst the jostling and push of the crowd making their way to Jerusalem, Jesus stopped. No one would have expected him to stop for this blind beggar. His class and status would have put him at the lowest of the low. He was probably clothed in rags. He was likely unkempt. He sat there day in and day out, begging for money, hoping that someone might drop a coin in his cup, so that he might have money to eat or buy necessities. We see people like this all the time, and we just walk on by with barely a notice. No one would have expected Jesus to stop for Bartimaeus. The rich man from a few passages before or the disciples, that’s the type of person the people would have expected to interact with Jesus, but not this blind beggar.
Jesus noticed something that others would have just passed by. And he stopped. Whatever it was that he was doing, Jesus was willing to stop to consider this man. He takes time for this man’s cries. He takes time for one who might normally go unnoticed. He hears and sees the voiceless and the invisible of society. They might be insignificant or ignored by the crowd, but they are not overlooked by him. Jesus stopped and said to the crowd, “Call him.” RC Sproul commented, “It is one thing for us to call on the Lord. It is something else when he calls on us. That is where true redemption lies.”
Perhaps you’ve always been full of self-confidence. Perhaps you’ve never doubted yourself. Perhaps you have always felt that your voice was heard, your contribution was valued, and your presence was appreciated. Maybe that’s your story, but it’s not my story. I constantly struggle with doubts and fears. I wonder if I’m really known or appreciated. I grew up in working class family that constantly struggled with having enough. While I never went without the essentials, I rarely had the “right” clothes or things. So, I was constantly self-conscious about not fitting in. I can identify with Bartimaeus. I can identify with the guy on the margins, the guy who is on the side of the road. But Bartimaeus had a tenacity and a boldness in his faith that I wish I had. He cried out for mercy. He knew he needed help. He knew he had nothing to offer. He knew he needed Jesus. And no one was going to keep him from calling out for him.
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” When Jesus noticed Bartimaeus, it’s like the people immediately see him in a different light. They switched from rebuking him to encouraging him. “Take heart, he’s calling you!” Then Bartimaeus did something really interesting. He cast off his cloak and sprang up to go to Jesus. If you’ve ever been blindfolded for a game or stumbled around in the dark, you know how gingerly you walk when you can’t see. Slow and deliberate movements, so that you don’t run into or step on anything. Hands out to feel the way. Every step is careful and cautious. Not so with Bartimaeus. He sprang up and rushed to Jesus. He hadn’t been healed yet. He’s still blind. But he showed a faith that is both unbreakable and unbridled. He’s blind, and yet he sees his need more clearly than anyone else. He’s blind, and yet he sees Jesus more clearly than anyone else.
Jesus stopped and called Bartimaeus. So Bartimaeus cast off his cloak and sprang up, and Jesus healed him. Now as Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem, Bartimaeus is not on the side of the road but he is on the road. Jesus noticed the ignored and forgotten man on the margins of the road and realized there is a treasure there. So Jesus called him. And Bartimaeus responded with an unbreakable and unbridled faith by following Jesus on the way.