Jesus restored the sight of a blind beggar while he was “on the way” to his death in the city of Jerusalem – Mark 10:46-52.
This is the last recorded healing miracle in Mark’s account. And here, Jesus is called the “Nazarene.” Previously, he was only so identified when he exorcised demons, thereby delivering someone from demonic oppression. And in the Gospel of Mark, the name “Nazarene” frames his first and last healing miracles – (Mark 1:24).
Significantly, nowhere in the Hebrew Bible is there a record of any blind person being healed. However, in Isaiah the restoration of sight was part of the commission of Yahweh’s “servant” – “Behold, My Servant… I will give you as the light of nations to open eyes that are blind, to bring forth out of the dungeon the captive, out of the prison the dwellers in darkness” – (Isaiah 42:1-4, 18).
The town of Jericho was approximately 24 kilometers from Jerusalem and over 1,600 meters lower in elevation. For Jesus and his disciples, the remaining road to Jerusalem would have been a very steep ascent.
- (Mark 10:46-52) – “And he went to Jericho. And he and his disciples and a large multitude depart from Jericho; the son of Timaeus, Bar-Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting beside the way. And having heard that it is Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and to say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, take pity on me!’ And many were admonishing him that he should be silent, yet he so much the more was crying out, ‘Son of David, take pity on me.’ And, coming to a stand, Jesus said, ‘Call him here!’ And they called the blind man saying to him, ‘Take courage, rise, he is calling you.’ Now he, having cast away his cloak, jumped up and came toward Jesus. And answering him, Jesus said, ‘What do you desire me to do?’ Then the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbouni, that I might see again!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go! Your faith has saved you.’ And straightway he saw again and was following him on the way.”
The name “Bar-Timaeus” is Aramaic for the “son of Timaeus.” Mark provides both the Greek and Aramaic versions of the phrase, and that indicates that his original audience consisted of Greek-speaking Gentiles unfamiliar with Judaism, Aramaic, or the Hebrew language.
Jesus asked the blind man the same question he previously asked of James and John – “What do you desire me to do?” Unlike the two brothers, Bar-Timaeus did not ask for power or position, only to be restored to his full humanity. And unlike the preceding incident, the “Son of Man” granted this man’s request.
“Son of David” was a messianic title. When demons identified Jesus as the “Son of God” or “messiah,” he silenced them. But here, it was the crowds that commanded Bar-Timaeus to remain silent when he cried “son of David!” But he only cried out all the more.
In response, Jesus told him that his faith had “has saved you.” Noteworthy is how the text describes him as “saved” rather than “healed.” This suggests his physical AND spiritual restoration.
At the beginning of the story, the blind man was sitting “beside the way,” marginalized and sidelined by society. After being made whole, he began to follow Jesus “on the way” to Jerusalem. Up until that point, other than demons, only Peter had addressed Jesus with any of the common messianic titles – (Mark 8:29).
“Son of David” carried strong messianic overtones. The irony is that it was a blind man who recognized who Jesus was, the Messiah of Israel, and not the crowds or his disciples. Unlike some who had interacted with him, immediately after the restoration of his sight, Bar-Timaeus began to “follow” him on his way up to Jerusalem.