October 24, 2009


30th Sunday - B
Mark 10:46-52

Obstacles in Being Followers of Jesus

From previous passages in Mark's Gospel, we learn what prevents the disciples from being authentic followers (disciples) of Jesus. Their own idea of the Messiah, their self-importance, and their ambition are probably their three biggest obstacles. And in today's passage, these elements come up again. This time, they prevent the disciples from truly understanding and following Jesus. Moreover, they even cause the disciples' attempt to stop the blind man Bartimaeus coming to Jesus.

The disciples have witnessed Jesus moved with pity for the crowd who had no shepherd or were hungry (6:31; 8:2), and reaching out to those in need (for example, the blind man at Bethsaida in 8:22) [1] . Yet, they still have not understood Jesus nor acquired his attitude. As a result, they "rebuke" Bartimaeus and tell him to be silent. They want Jesus and others to operate by their standards.

The disciples see only their own importance. They fight over who is the greatest. They try to secure the best position for themselves. And they become "indignant" when they learn that others were trying to outdo them. Bartimaeus, who is blind, on the contrary, sees his desperate situation and knows his need for Jesus. So he cries out, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." And nobody can stop his act of total faith in Jesus.

The disciples' ambition is evident at the various incidents mentioned above. Unlike them, Bartimaeus is humble. When Jesus calls him, he throws aside his cloak, "the only vestige of dignity," [2] springs up, and comes to Jesus. He addresses Jesus as "Master" and makes his request.

The disciples carry their baggage of their own ideas about the Messiah, their pride and ambition. As a result, though they journey with Jesus, they have not yet followed him. Bartimaeus, on the other hands, sees past his blindness and accepts the Messiah as he is. Acknowledging his needs, with humility, he ask the Messiah to have pity on him. He then "receives his sight" and "follows Jesus on the way" - the way to Jerusalem.

[1] Francis J. Moloney. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 209-210.
[2] Ibid.

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