Mark’s amazing gospel again; this week, chapter 10:46-52, the story of Blind Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, one of the few supplicants named in the gospel stories. Bartimaeus did not play games with Jesus, he knew exactly what he wanted and asked for it. He did not engage the crowd, like the Rich Young Ruler who made sure everyone knew that he was a good person. Bartimaeus was not trying to impress anybody but he knew what he wanted.
Those around tried to stop him asking Jesus for help. In the same way, many victims of circumstances today are urged to keep quiet, sometimes by communal shame, sometimes by official obstruction, sometimes by those who just don’t want anyone to make a fuss. Think for a moment of all the rape victims who don’t come forward because of the power that the rapist has acquired over them and the shame of admitting what has happened.
But Bartimaeus wanted something badly. He was prepared to defy social convention and pressure to ask for it. Such single-minded drive found empathy in Jesus. His faith made him well.
Interestingly, Jesus asked him what he wanted. Wasn’t it obvious to anyone? Well, no, actually, it was not obvious to Jesus in this story. Imagine if you were a short person with a burning ambition, would it be to become taller? Probably not. I am a deaf person but my ambition has nothing to do with being able to hear again. Jesus did Bartimaeus the courtesy of naming his ambition instead of assuming. A lesson to us all who try to help people.
Being newly-sighted causes problems. You have to learn what every object and person that you know so well looks like. What a learning curve that would be! Our brains process some 11 million bits of information each second, 10 million of these come from our eyes. Imagine taking on that extra load of data to process? Jesus was perhaps checking that Bartimaeus really did want to be able to see. He did.
Be careful what you wish for is perhaps the most obvious lesson from this story. The attitude of Jesus and the apparent healing of Bartimaeus, reinforce what we really know; that if you want something badly enough, you sometimes get it. Sometimes, just making the single-minded effort is enough. The difference between a genius and an ordinary person is 10000 hours of practice.
What is it that we want so much that we will defy social pressure and convention to get it? Or are our lives are so satisfied that we have no ambition? Disturbing questions that will take me some time to ponder.