Bartimaeus: The Wise Asker

Begging hands

BLIND MAN who made his living sitting by the side of the road and begging for spare change saw more clearly and showed more wisdom than many men and women who have degrees, titles, and honors as long as your leg.

His story — recorded in Mark 10:46-52 — has several plots worth our attention. First, this blind man knew it was Jesus coming down the road. He couldn’t see Jesus, but he didn’t have to. When Jesus comes, there will be a racket that even the blind can recognize. It was so then, and it is so now. The coming of Jesus, in such a way that people are changed, has a force to it. It attracts attention. People know about it. Some may wonder what is going on, and the whole ruckus may attract some doubters. But there is a racket.

The second plot deals with those fine people who tried to keep the blind man quiet. Jesus was coming. They didn’t know what all that meant for sure, but they knew they needed to be on their best behavior. Keep everything proper and dignified. Don’t let those homeless beggars on the street call attention to themselves. After all, someone very important named Jesus is coming, and we want to put our best foot forward. We want to make a good impression. We don’t want any screaming beggars crying for mercy.

So they tried to shush Bartimaeus. What an embarrassment he must have been for the crowd.

However, Bartimaeus was not an embarrassment to Jesus. He specializes in such people. Jesus did not come for us to show Him our best, but He came for us to show Him our humbleness and faith. Bartimaeus was willing to do that, and he may have been the only one on the street that had the right attitude about this whole parade.

Finally, Jesus responded to Bartimaeus’ cries and stopped. Wow! Think of it. Jesus stopped to talk to the blind beggar. Now listen to the question Jesus asked: “What do you want Me to do for you?” (v. 51 NKJV). Now think about that. This is Jesus. He was with God in the beginning when the whole world was created. He can turn five loaves of bread into enough food for an army. He can make the wind stop. He can walk on water. He even knows where the fish are biting. And He makes this offer to Bartimaeus: “What do you want Me to do for you?”

This is the offer Jesus made to Bartimaeus, and this is the offer Jesus makes to us every day. It isn’t three wishes from a genie in a bottle. This is Jesus Christ who is asking what He can do for us. Have you ever noticed how often the men in those fantasy stories with three wishes blow it by requesting something stupid? We have a much better offer than three wishes from a genie in a bottle, but how much wisdom do we show when Jesus asks?

Bartimaeus was a wise man. He didn’t ask for gold. He didn’t ask for a new house. He didn’t ask for a better corner from which to sit and beg. He got right to the issue: he asked for his sight. He knew what he wanted, and he knew who to ask for it. What wisdom!

There is no study more relevant for us than the story of Bartimaeus asking Jesus for his sight. How many people do you know who are throwing their lives away chasing something they wouldn’t even want should they happen to catch it? And is one of those persons me? That’s my constant prayer and confession.

Sometimes we are as silly as dogs who chase cars. We get involved up to our necks in something called the rat race, but we wouldn’t have any idea what to do with the rat if we did happen to catch it.

In the name of success we steal from our family time, our church time, and even our own individual relaxation time. But once we get to the level of success we define as successful, we see another level up above that one, and we take off chasing the rat again.

We know the instructions from Jesus. We can recite them by heart:

• “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matt. 6:25 NIV).

• “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (v. 27 NIV).

• “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (v. 34 NIV).

• “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (v. 33 NKJV).

• “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36 NIV).

What do I say when Jesus asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

These admonitions are all a part of our creed, but getting them out of our minds and into our hearts, where we can put them into daily practice, is one of the toughest tasks we face.

Through the years we slowly learn lessons which help us get a bit of focus. Several years ago I was a high school basketball coach. I worked hard at the job. I stayed late to help players work on skills. I came to school early for the free-throw practice. I scouted teams at night. I happened to have a couple of babies at home at the time, but that wasn’t important. I had to coach basketball, even if it meant seeing my babies awake only a couple of times a week.

During that season, partly because of my “brilliant” coaching, we put together a spectacular record—0 and 18. We didn’t win a game. We didn’t beat a single opponent. Now 30 years later, I stay awake at night and ponder how many games we might have won if I had gone home to play with the babies.

This experience and some others have helped me put together a little test I give myself occasionally:

1. If I don’t do the jobs I have on my list to do today, what difference will it make in 10 years?

2. In 50 years, who will be around to remember me, what I stood for, and how I worked? I know my boss won’t be around, nor the customer, nor the person I am working so hard to impress. No. If anybody still remembers me 50 years from now, it will be my own children and grandchildren. That’s about the only permanence my life stands for.

3. If I had a heart attack and died today, how long would it take them to find someone to do my job?

Based on these questions, what do I say when Jesus asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

There is no need to have a bigger car if you don’t have time to travel. There is no need to have roses if you don’t have time to smell them. There is no need to have children and grandchildren if you don’t have time for hugs. There is no need to have a beautiful world if you don’t have the eyes that can see it.

The power of Jesus, the co-Creator of the world, the miracle maker, is as close as our hearts and our lips as we phrase our prayers. But the question we face is whether we are asking Jesus for what we really want, and if we really want what we pray for.

The blind beggar wasn’t afraid to cry to Jesus, even with the crowd shouting at him. And that beggar spent his remaining years seeing the world around him simply because he knew how to pray.

The late Cliff Schimmels was a professor of education at Lee University, the author of more than 20 books, a father, and a grandfather. This article is taken from Men I’d Like to Meet (Pathway Press).