Blind Faith

Readings for October 28, 2018

Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 126
Hebrews 5:1-6
Mark 10:46-52

www.usccb.org/bible/readings/

There are numerous references to blindness in the Bible. Leviticus 21:18 lays out the rule that a blind person must live outside of their community. Jeremiah writes of gathering the blind and lame in consolation. In each of the gospels, Jesus mixes metaphors to equate physical blindness with spiritual blindness, often times accusing the religious elite of being blind.

All of these references to blindness lend themselves to the story of Bartimaeus. Importantly, Bartimaeus’ tale stands out in a couple of ways. First, in all of Jesus’ healings, it is rare that the person healed is named, yet Bartimaeus gets top billing in Mark’s gospel. Next, what is perhaps even more rare is that Bartimaeus is not a named king or nobleman, but a beggar (given the rules from Leviticus). As someone who studied some English in college and has a little practice analyzing literature, I can’t help but consider, of all the characters who were not named, why Bartimaeus? I believe doing so is a literary point of emphasis, elevating the story of a blind beggar’s faith.

As someone who needs to beg to survive, Bartimaeus is quite used to being persistent with his call for alms, dismissing those that ignore him and paying no attention to those who rebuke him. He exhibits all of his persistence as he calls out for Jesus’ help. Jesus obliges but first asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus doesn’t presume, he asks. As a beggar and someone living outside of the community, there are likely any number of things Bartimaeus may want and, as the Son of God, Jesus knows full well what they are. But Jesus knows that the exchange between he and Bartimaeus leads to the heart of the healing. And so, for much the same reason that we are encouraged to pray–to enter into a relationship with Jesus–he encourages Bartimaeus to ask for what he wants. “I want to see.” And just like that he is healed.

However, before the healing, Jesus praises Bartimaeus for his faith. At first read, this is a bit surprising. Wasn’t Bartimaeus just a beggar doing what he does everyday? Begging? No, I think it was much more–he was acting on his faith. The key indicator of that faith is when told Jesus will see him, Bartimaeus throws aside his cloak in a triumphant, perhaps even boastful gesture. However, as the crowds press in, it is unlikely he will find his cloak again, and Bartimaeus must know this. As a beggar, he must also know that he depends on that garment not just for clothing but also for shelter, as he almost assuredly slept outside. So if the healing doesn’t happen, Bartimaeus will be even worse off than he was before he asked Jesus to heal him. But without the instruction to do so, without the promise of a new life, Bartimaeus casts aside his own life, casts aside all of his belongings, and goes to Jesus in complete faith, in blind faith. In stark contrast, this is something that the unnamed rich young ruler in last week’s Gospel reading (Mark 10:17-30) could not do.

Bartimaeus displays confidence in things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1), the actual definition of faith itself. And in so doing, Bartimaeus becomes the personification of faith and the portrayal of the gifts that come from faith. Living a defined faith is a pretty good reason for him to be referred to by name in the Bible, while so many others are not.

My life and all that I am given, spiritually or physically, is a gift from God. Upon receiving his sight, Bartimaeus follows Jesus, reciprocating the relationship Jesus started. Upon receiving my own gifts, I am commanded to do the same.  And so in humble gratitude, confident in what I hope for but may not fully see, I will follow Christ.

Lord Jesus, as you heal Bartimaeus you also open my eyes to what I am called to be. Thank you for healing me with your Word. All glory and honor to you, from God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen

28 thoughts on “Blind Faith

  1. Just to let you know, I have been practicing with you a form of dialogue that many atheists are now using with Christians and other theists called “Street Epistemology”. It is a non-confrontational style of discussion in which the focus is on methods of evaluating universal truth claims to determine if we are using methods that are reliable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim,

    How confident are you, on a scale of 0-100%, that the resurrected Lord Jesus rules the universe and interacts with you in your daily life?

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      1. Wow. That is amazing. In my worldview, I am never 100% certain of anything. For instance, I would say that my confidence/certainty in the historicity that Jesus rose from the dead is about 1%. Since I can’t prove this event did not happen, I leave open the possibility, even if very small, that it might have happened.

        If you could create a pie chart, Tim, and give the percentage that your belief in the resurrected Jesus that is based on faith (as defined in Hebrews 11:1) and the percentage that is based on evidence, what would your numbers be?

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  3. “Bartimaeus casts aside his own life, casts aside all of his belongings, and goes to Jesus in complete faith, in blind faith.”

    Many modern Christian apologists don’t like the term “blind faith”. The modern definition of faith seems to have become: “belief based on evidence”. What evidence did Bartimaeus have to believe that Jesus could heal him other than stories he had heard about Jesus? He obviously never saw any of Jesus’ other miracles. Have modern apologists distorted the true, biblical meaning of faith?

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    1. I’ll just fall back on the biblical definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1 and go from there. No modern apology changes, that, I don’t think.

      I think Bartimaeus knew who Jesus was and understood what he was asking. His physical blindness was almost certainly a metaphor for others’ faith, which is why the story is elevated above some of the other healing stories. But his evidence of faith was, indeed, casting aside his sole possession, the one thing that gave him comfort and protection, for the comfort and protection afforded him through faith in Christ.

      I could be all wet. I’m not a theologian, just a guy with a blog who prays for some level of understanding or insight prior to putting pen to paper.

      Thanks for the thoughtful questions and for reading the reflection. Peace.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually think that you have the correct definition of biblical faith: choosing to believe something for which there is insufficient evidence.

        Bartimaeus risked his most valuable possession (his cloak) in believing by faith that Jesus had the power to heal him. Bartimaeus had insufficient evidence upon which to base this decision; he had only heard stories about Jesus’ powers. He had never seen them himself. He was taking a gamble.

        In the story, Bartimaeus decision to believe by faith pays off. He is healed. But in our lives, is it a good idea to make major life decisions based on insufficient/inadequate evidence? Is it wise to gamble and “go for it” or is it better to thoroughly research the evidence for a particular claim before we make a decision about it?

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      2. Pascal’s wager is an argument says that gambling on faith in God is more pragmatic than a gamble. My reflection upholds Bartimaeus as exemplary story of faith. What are your thoughts?

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      3. The problem with Pascal’s wager is that there isn’t just one God and one exclusivist religion (Christianity). If you choose Jesus, you must exclude Allah. If you choose Allah, you must exclude the Christian God, Jesus, and the Mormon God, and the gods of the Hindus, etc., etc.. So there is no safe bet.

        I see the story of Bartimaeus as a thrilling story, but not as good or practical advice for making important decisions in one’s life. Major life decisions should be based on sufficient evidence, not on blind faith. I don’t see faith as a reliable means of determining truth. What about you?

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      4. I believe Pascal was very much talking about the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe in faith. Do I always practice that with reckless abandon? No. I am, at heart, a planner and a pragmatist. But the times I have been successful in “letting go” (typically a time of trial or hardship), God has shown me great things. I believe that is the gospel’s message of the rich vs. the poor. We want it to be about monetary poverty, but there are lots of poverties. Allowing myself to consider my poverty, my powerlessness, allows me to lean on the riches and power of God. Been there. Worked. Need to do it more often. Not doing so leaves me with the belief (faith) in my own works, my own doing. Been there also. Doesn’t work. Need to less of that.

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  4. A question for your consideration? Was Bartimaeus’ faith a blind faith? Do we come to Jesus on blind faith? I’ve heard this often but consider all the stories we’ve heard from God’s word, the proof it offers. Consider the testimonies of fellow followers of Christ. Consider God’s creation. It seems to me God has given us much proof of His existence and His goodness. It’s then left to us to choose to believe the revelation or deny it.

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    1. I think many hear the stories, even perhaps see the results of faith, and are still blind to faith. I think the story of Bartimaeus is the opposite. He certainly heard the stories or he would not have called out. His blindness kept him on the outside but did not keep him from seeking Christ and his healing. He “blindly” lets go of everything — his outsider status, his cloak, even the bias against him — to seek healing and then follows Jesus. Blindness isn’t necessarily completely black. I get that definition from my nephew who has a degenerative eye disease and works with young people (he is just 18 himself) to teach them about blindness and help others who have the same sight limitations he does.
      If, for example, we don’t see clearly and don’t choose to work on seeking through the lack of clarity, I believe we are blind. If we aren’t sure what we see, but in faith persevere, that is blind faith. Those are my thoughts. I’m not a theologian, just a guy with a blog.
      Peace!

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  5. Thanks Tim for such a meaningful reflection.

    Suffering is always intended to lead to Faith; which then leads to Hope which then leads to LOVE.

    What an amazing God we have

    God Bless; persist in FAITH,
    Patrick

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  6. Thankyou for thus. I am physically blind. I have much that I wish I could say about this. About faith. About the eyes of the heart. About being an outcast. A beggar. About focusing only on Jesus. I wrote a poem about Blind Bartimaeus and it is near to the very beginning of my Blog. Either the first or the second posting. So much foid for thought. Thankyou.

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      1. Thankyou so much Tim. It was so steange waking up this morning and then reading this. It was comforting. God bless you too Tim.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. The amazing thing about the crosses we are commanded; and at the same time; invited to bear is that Jesus OUR GOD; the son of a carpenter CUSTOM builds them individually for each of us.

      Dear friend thank YOU for witnessing that our salvation may very well hinge on the acceptance of these heavy burdens given to us for the necessary grace for our salvation; when as you have done; accept and offer up these sacrifices for grace to continue doing you’re will dear Lord.

      May God continue to Bless YOU and guide your path,
      Patrcik

      Liked by 1 person

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