They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
This story is a turning point in Mark’s narrative. Until this point Jesus’ ministry has focused on healing and teaching. At the gates of Jericho, he heals a blind man. He leaves Jericho, setting off towards Jerusalem and the ending of his life.
This story is a turning point for the other characters. Bartimaeus is a blind beggar, waiting at the gate in Jericho with some dim hope of healing. When he hears Jesus is nearby hope grows and he calls out. He isn’t going to be quiet—this might be his moment. Jesus does hear him. He calls Bartimaeus to him, and asks what he wants. Bartimaeus asks and is healed. From this point he begins a life of following Jesus. This story is a turning point for Bartimaeus—he moves from being a blind beggar to being a follower of Jesus. Bartimeaus would probably tell and retell this story for the rest of his life—this life-changing moment.
In this story the crowd began by trying to silence Bartimaeus, but then they change their tack and tell him to get up and go to Jesus. The crowd turns from baring access to Jesus to opening the way to Jesus. This was their turning point—from being a movement that kept the story inside their circle to a community with open boundaries. It was, perhaps, the moment they truly heard the call of the broken world and found a way to bring that brokenness to God.
What was our pandemic turning point? What story will we tell about God’s work with us in the past year? Were the last 12 months a time when we were forced to stop, to listen to cries for healing, to bring people to God for healing? Have we changed direction? Is our re-newed calling to to less use of fossil fuels, to being anti-racist, to listening to the cries of those who need love and healing, to being healed ourselves? What is your pandemic turning point story?
Prayer Healing God, open our ears to listen for your calling. Open our ears to hear the cries of those who need healing. Give us courage to ask for healing. Give us faith to trust your call. Give us the words to tell the story of our healing and our calling to new directions. Amen.
Rev’d Martha McInnes, Minister, Cardiff and Penarth Pastorate