SYNOPSIS – Jesus restored the sight of a blind beggar while “on the way” to his death in the city of Jerusalem – Mark 10:46-52.
This is the last recorded healing miracle in the gospel of Mark. It is no coincidence that Jesus is designated the “Nazarene.” The only previous time when he was so identified was when he exorcised a demon, thus delivering someone oppressed by the Devil. That was his first recorded healing miracle in Mark. Thus, in this gospel, the name “Nazarene” frames his first and last healing miracles – (Mark 1:24).
Significantly, nowhere in the Old Testament is there a recorded case of a blind person being healed; however, the restoration of sight was part of the commission Yahweh assigned to His “Servant” in the book of Isaiah:
- (Isaiah 42:1-4, 18) – “Lo! My Servant I will uphold him, My chosen, well–pleased is my soul, I have put my spirit upon him…I, Yahweh, have called thee in righteousness and will firmly grasp thy hand, and will keep thee and give thee as the covenant of a people, 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…Ye deaf, hear! And ye blind look around that ye may see!”
The town of Jericho was approximately 24 kilometers from Jerusalem and about 1,660 meters lower in elevation than the city. For Jesus and his disciples, the remaining road to Jerusalem would be a steep ascent.
(Mark 10:46-52) – “And he goes into 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.” – (Parallel passages – Matthew 20:29-34, Luke 18:35-43).
The name “Bar-Timaeus” is Aramaic and means “son of Timaeus,” presumably, his father’s name (bar = “son of”). This was not his personal name, which, for better or worse, has not been preserved in the written record. The gospel of Mark provides both the Greek and Aramaic versions of this name, another indicator that the original audience of ‘Mark’ consisted of Greek-speaking Gentiles unfamiliar with Judaism, Aramaic, and the Hebrew language.
Jesus asked the same question he asked just previously of James and John – “What do you desire me to do?” Unlike the two brothers, Blin 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 the blind man’s request. Another parallel with the previous story is the designation of Bar-Timaeus for Jesus – ‘Rabbouni.’
James and John addressed him as ‘Rabbi,’ a common term of respect for a teacher. Jesus is only called Rabbouni twice in the four gospel accounts – Here, and by Mary Magdalene in the gospel of John after his resurrection.
Rabbouni is more personal and means “my master,” or “my teacher.” It is a more reverential title than the simpler ‘rabbi’ – (John 20:16).
“Son of David” was a messianic title. When demons identified Jesus as the “Son of God” or “messiah,” he silenced them. Here, it was the crowds that commanded Bar-Timaeus to keep quiet. When they attempted to silence him, in desperation, he cried out all the more. But Jesus declared to the blind man – “Your faith 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 on the sidelines of society. After being made whole, he began to follow Jesus “on the way” to Jerusalem. Up until this point, other than demons, only Peter had addressed Jesus with a messianic title (“Christ”) – (Mark 8:29).
“Son of David” carried strong messianic overtones. The irony is that it was a blind man who recognized who Jesus was, not the crowds or his disciples. Unlike some who interacted previously with him, immediately after the restoration of his sight, Bar-Timaeus began to “follow” Jesus on his way up to Jerusalem.