I’ve sometimes wondered about whether, and how well, people healed by Jesus would be able to adjust to their new reality. Imagine for a moment that you’ve been blind for years. You have forgotten what the world looks like. You’ve been told that you’re a sinful creature and that is why you’ve become blind. The reality is that you can’t hold a job, so you have to find a busy street corner and camp out there, spending your days begging.
The image here shows some of what archaeology has revealed of ancient Jericho. Imagine the sound of feet and carts and animals going by, very close to where you’re sitting. Imagine overhearing all the conversations going on around you. Imagine calling out, wondering if anyone is paying any kind of attention to you. Imagine breathing all the dust, and your throat getting dry, making it even harder to cry out for alms, day after day, week after week….
Then imagine hearing that a new rabbi is passing through. You hear the excitement in people’s voices as they say that this miracle-worker is coming to Jericho. You feel the energy building, then people saying, “Here he comes!” You work up the courage—from your anonymous, dusty, forgotten spot on the road—to cry out to Jesus: “Healer, have mercy on me!”
Then you hear people say that Jesus is calling for you. You stand up and people grab your arms and lead you to him. Jesus asks what you want him to do for you. You tell him you want to see. You hear these incredible, impossible words: “Go; your faith has made you well.” Your eyes are somehow, immediately, transformed. You look up, into the face, the eyes, of Jesus. What do you see there? What is it like to suddenly see?
Then imagine turning your head and looking around, seeing—seeing!—a crowd of people, all staring at you. What is it like to be the center of attention after years of being overlooked along the roadside? What do you see in their faces?
Now take some time to ask yourself these questions: What comes next? What do I want to see now? What do I want to do now? What difference does it really make that I can now see?
This is the story of Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46–52). It’s one of the stories I intend to explore—from Bartimaeus’ perspective—in my online retreat series, The Ministry of Jesus through the Eyes of Others. In this case, the eyes will be particularly important!
I also think it will be important to explore what life would have been like for Bartimaeus after the healing. All the Bible tells us is that he followed Jesus. I imagine that there wasn’t much holding Bartimaeus in Jericho. Everyone there thought of him as a blind beggar, but now the condition of his eyes no longer defined him. He would have to adjust to a new reality.
What defines you—from your own perspective, and/or from the perspective of others? How might Jesus change it? What adjustments would you need to make if that definition, that reality, was suddenly, radically changed?