Go thy way: when Jesus healed a blind man
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Text: Mark 10:46-52
Background Jesus, in this passage, is only a few days away from Calvary, where He would die for the sins of the world. He had already spelled this out for them, in fact, a few verses before (Mark 10: 43-44). Now they’re heading through Jericho, where He performed a miracle for a man who was blind. This is, interestingly, the last time the phrase, “Go thy way”, is found in the Gospel by Mark.
One of the most severe problems people had in Bible times was blindness. There were few, if any, “safety nets” or assistance programs, so if one became blind, about all he or she could do was beg, or, perhaps, depend on the assistance of others. Several blind people are mentioned in the Scriptures, especially Bartimaeus, who is featured in this text.
Mar 10:46-52 KJV 46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. 50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. 52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.
I. He was sitting by the way
In the immediate context, Jesus has just recently finished His conversation with the rich young ruler, one of the few men in the Bible mentioned as running to a person. Sadly, the ruler came running, perhaps expecting a blessing, but left sorrowful. He didn’t really own his possessions, but they surely had control of him (see Mark 10:17-22).
Then in Mark 10:32 we read how Jesus went before them (the disciples), and explained what was going to happen. I don’t think they ever “got it” or understood what Jesus was actually saying. According to Luke 18:34, they didn’t know or understand what He said at that time.
We need to keep something in mind about Jericho. This was a very old city, dating at least to the time of Joshua and no doubt even before that time. The city was also the first to fall to the Israelites when they finally entered Canaan, and it was the first to be totally destroyed. It was also one of the few cities to ever be cursed if it was ever rebuilt. All this is found in Joshua chapter 5. But it was rebuilt (see 1 Kings 16:34) and was still standing in Jesus’ time.
Now Jesus was there in Jericho, and, He’s leaving. According to Luke 19, Jesus had already healed one blind man, as He was coming into the city. He had met Zacchaeus, a hated man because he was chief of the tax collectors, but he was a man Jesus loved. In fact, Jesus commented that “ . . .salvation came to this house today(!) Luke 19:9, paraphrased]” because Zacchaeus was (now) a son of Abraham.
His ministry finished in Jericho, Jesus now heads out of that city, towards Jerusalem, and blind Bartimaeus is sitting by the highway side, begging. Remember there was little if any assistance available for anyone with a handicap or physical challenge. Something that puzzles me, though, is this—where was the family of Bartimaeus? Who led him to the city? Who handled the materiel that he may have received? What future did he really have?
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
Somehow he heard that Jesus of Nazareth who was passing by. I myself imagine, this was big news in those days! The fame of Jesus had probably spread “from Dan to Beersheba (!)”, at least from Capernaum to Jerusalem, and Jericho, a town which had suffered God’s curse, was the site where the Son of God made a stop on His journey.
And yet, even though Jesus was passing by, leaving Jericho for the last time before Calvary, would He make a stop? Would He take notice of one particular blind man?
II. He came to Jesus in the way
Bartimaeus didn’t waste any time in trying to find out. He began to cry, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” and he didn’t stop. One cry wasn’t enough for Bartimaeus. He wanted to see! He wanted to be delivered from his blindness! And he knew Jesus could do it. You know, I’ve often wondered just how word got around from place to place, regarding the various miracles, healings, and so on that Jesus did. At any rate, news of Jesus and news of His mighty deeds somehow reached Bartimaeus and he was going to make his request known.
Oddly enough, even though Jesus was passing by, many in the crowd (see verse 48) were telling him to be quiet! This, too, is something I’ve wondered over for a long time. Didn’t the members of the crowd want the blind man healed? Didn’t they understand that Jesus could heal those who had various problems, including blindness? Or were they so busy following they weren’t looking for others who needed the help only Jesus could provide? Sad to say, a lot of church members are just like the crowd leaving Jericho. They see the problems (how could they not?) but they are not looking for solutions. How different our world would be if we pointed people TO Jesus, instead of pointing them AWAY from Him.
Even so, that didn’t stop Bartimaeus. He didn’t listen to the crowd, who were telling him, “Shut up!” He continued, kept on calling for Jesus! Mark said he called “a great deal”, and that simply means he cried out a lot! Bartimaeus had no way of knowing what was going to happen (he was blind, don’t forget) but he wasn’t going to go away quietly. No, this was his chance, perhaps his only chance, to receive sight and he wasn’t going to shut up and sit down. He kept crying out!
Now in verse 49, we have a fascinating encounter between Bartimaeus and Jesus Himself. This is one of the few times in Scripture where Jesus deliberately stops what He is doing (His journey, in this case) to listen to what someone is going to say. True, there were other times, and they’re listed in the Gospels, but not very often would someone call Jesus by the name, “Son of David”. Here, Bartimaeus did that very thing and Jesus stood still.
Not only did Jesus stand still—i.e., come to a stop, perhaps?—but He gave a command. He commanded someone (we aren’t told who) to bring Bartimaeus to Jesus. Verse 49 states, “that he should be called” and that meant summoned, according to Thayer’s Greek lexicon. In other words, Jesus gives someone, or a few people, the privilege of bringing a man to Jesus who might never have found the way himself. Even better, the people (“they”) tell him to be of good cheer and rise up because Jesus was calling him! I wonder how far away Jesus was and how He could have heard the heart cry from Bartimaeus. He surely did, though, and He was about to answer Bartimaeus’ prayer.
Once they—Jesus and Bartimaeus—are in close proximity, Jesus asked Bartimaeus a question. Bartimaeus had already tossed his garment aside, perhaps not wanting to be hindered in any way (could he have gotten his feet tangled in the garment?) on his journey to Jesus. I wonder just what Bartimaeus was thinking, when Jesus asked him, “What can I do for you?”
What would you think if you heard Jesus ask YOU that very question??
Bartimaeus didn’t hesitate a moment! He asked, specifically, “Lord, that I might receive my sight!” He was not satisfied with being blind. He wanted to see, to have his vision restored, and who could fault anyone for a request like that? Notice, too, he didn’t have a “laundry list” of things he wished for, nor did he pray for anything else. No, he had a severe problem and he was asking Jesus to provide a solution.
III Jesus told him, “Go thy way”
And Jesus did it!
All He did was say, “Go thy way, your faith has made you whole!” Compare this with other times when Jesus healed blind people: once, He actually spat on the eyes of a blind man, who replied, “I see men like trees, walking (Mark 8:24)”, then laid His hands on the eyes of that man, who then could see clearly. Another time, in John 9, Jesus spat on the ground and made mud (“clay”, KJV) then applied some of it to the eyes of a man born blind. No doubt there were other times when Jesus healed people, using various means to do this. Here, though, is a miracle, in that Jesus touched nothing, so far as we can read, but He simply spoke the words, and it was done!
And even better, Bartimaeus didn’t run away from Jesus. After all, he wasn’t told to show himself to the priest or anything else. He did make a conscious decision: even though Jesus told him, “go thy way”, Bartimaeus did one of the most touching things in all the Bible. He received his sight, and, as Mark tells us, he followed Jesus in the way! O that we might do the same.
Perhaps a word about another blind saint might be in order. Fanny Crosby wrote literally hundreds of hymns but she was blinded when she was only a few weeks old. She even wrote this poem when she was eight years old (!):
Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world contented I will be!
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't!
So weep or sigh because I'm blind, I cannot - nor I won't.
Bartimaeus could surely have said the same thing—the first face he saw was that of Jesus, too.
So in conclusion, we have seen Bartimaeus sitting by the way, meeting Jesus in the way, and receiving the command, “Go thy way”. He chose to make his way, God’s way, and I hope we too will do the same thing.
God’s way is always the best way.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)