Reflecting on Mark for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From The Gospel of Mark, by Mary Healy, commenting on Mark 10:46-52


Jesus and his companions arrive at Jericho, an ancient city fifteen miles northeast of Jerusalem, the site of Israel’s first conquest in the holy land (Josh 6). After passing through the city, they are accompanied by a sizable crowd, probably including both Jesus’ followers and pilgrims heading toward Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (Mark 14:1). Every year all Jews in Palestine who were able would travel to the holy city to celebrate Passover (see Luke 2:41), commemorating the exodus from Egypt.

Bartimaeus (Aramaic for son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, is strategically located at the roadside where he can beg for alms from passing pilgrims. In contrast to the festive crowds walking along, he sits, emphasizing his social isolation as a disabled person.

Sensing something unusual, Bartimaeus inquires and is told that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. He has evidently heard enough about this miracleworking rabbi to stir his faith. Bartimaeus is the only recipient of healing in Mark to address Jesus by name.

This is also the first time in the Gospel that the title son of David has been applied to Jesus. The title literally means a descendant of David (see Matt 1:20), but for the Jews it had much greater meaning as the heir of God’s promises, the Messiah-King who would restore the Davidic monarchy and rule over Israel forever (2 Sam 7:12–16; 1 Chron 17:11–15; Ps 89:21–38; Jer 23:5–6). Moreover, one of the promises associated with the coming of the messiah was the opening of the eyes of the blind (see Isa 29:18; 35:5; Luke 4:18).

Have pity on me is a plea often lifted to God in the Psalms (Ps 6:3; 25:16; 51:3; 86:16). Blind Bartimaeus already sees much more than those around him.

© 2008 Mary Healy and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.