Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

Bart's Story

Message preached October 28, 2012
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon Mark 10:46-52

Order of Worship

"Jesus Heals the Blind Man" by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1655-60

(Imagine hearing the story from the man himself)

listen to this in mp3 format

When you are blind you are tempted to assume that since you cannot see, then everybody else can see everything that you cannot. Furthermore, if everyone sees everything you cannot then, you may think, everybody must know everything that you do not. Finally, if everyone knows everything that you don’t, then you must be stupid and worthless. I know. I’ve been there.

My name... my name is bar-timaeus. That’s all. Bar-timaeus. No more. (turning to nearest boy:) Young man, what is your name? Kinger? And what is your father’s name? Callixtus? You are Kinger bar Callixtus, Kinger son of Callixtus. That’s a nice name.  (turning to nearest girl) Young woman, what is your name? Courtney? And what is your mother’s name? Roxanne? You are Courtney bat Roxanne, Courtney daughter of Roxanne. That’s a nice name. Me? I’m simply bar-timaeus. No more.

Maybe it was because something happened at my birth, and ever since I have been blind. Maybe it was because there were so many children in my family, and so little hope that I would survive. Maybe it was some other reason I’ll never know. Whatever the case, my parents never gave me a name. From the day I was born, I have been known only as bar-timaeus, son of Timaeus.

This is ironic, since I never really knew my father Timaeus. Oh, he was around, alright. He just never had anything to do with me. I never felt his arms around me. I never heard his voice speak to me, or even near me. He kept his distance. I may me bar-timaeus, son of Timaeus, but what does that mean?

When you are blind, you learn to rely on other things. I listened. That’s how I learned to speak. As I came to rely upon listening, I became very good at it. I could hear many things. The sounds of the birds, the rippling of the stream, the cry of the locust - even far off. I can hear the words people speak, even their whispers. Within the silence I can make out messages. Things people intend but do not say. I can hear this.

For instance, early on I could tell that my name had some meaning people could not really say. “Poor bartimaeus,” they would whisper when they passed. And I could hear within the name of my father something ugly, polluted, unclean. I wondered about this. Most every name, in our language, has a meaning. I know this even though I cannot read. The dream of every boy to stand before the synagogue on his 12th birthday and read from the Torah, was never a dream to which I could aspire. What I learned of Hebrew was just what I could pick up listening to what people said, or didn’t say.

I wondered about that name I was given, my father’s name. Timaeus. Did it, indeed, mean something unclean? If so, why would anyone give their son such a name? Was there more to my grandparents than I knew? There was a mystery surrounding this man who would not touch me, a something I could not fathom.

Every now and then, others would come through our town, persons who spoke with strange accents, indicating to me that ours was not the language of their birth. These strangers sometimes asked about me, and when they repeated my name that ugliness was not on their tongue. In fact, when they said “bar-timaeus,” it had a sweet taste to it, as if it was something special, highly prized. Even though, like everyone one, they didn’t want to have anything to do with a blind boy, the name they repeated sounded different, even in a whisper.

Funny how this name, which is not much of a name at all, which connects me with a man whom I do not know, who wanted nothing to do with me - funny how this name has come to define me. On the one hand, as a blind man, I am a nothing, a nobody, something ugly (whatever that means) and unclean. On the other hand, however, there is a spark within me that says, or at least hopes, that I am special in some way. “Dream on,” I often told myself, however. “Live in the real world.”

In this world, people want little to do with you, especially when you grow up and are still handicapped. Who wants a blind man nearby? They’d rather I be invisible. That must be the temptation of persons who can see, to believe that if someone can’t see, then they must be invisible. I’ll tell you what, though. I may not be able to see, but I am not invisible. Early on I learned that if people would not see me, then they certainly would be able to hear me.

I learned how to speak with a loud voice. When you are relegated to sitting outside the gate of the city and beg for your daily bread, you find your voice ... big time. When someone passed me by, they would hear it. “Please, have mercy!” I would cry. And if they would not respond I’d inch the volume up a notch. I grew to have quite a voice. Had circumstances been different, I might have become a powerful speaker. Instead, I was reduced to begging.

Until one day when a certain Jesus bar-Joseph came to town. He was on his way to Jerusalem from Galilee. I heard within his footsteps something different. So different that when he entered Jericho, I did not engage in my usual routine. For once I was silent. I listened. Throughout the days he spent in town, I listened. I heard, from a distance, but still loud and clear, the things he said. I heard what others said about him: his words, his actions. He was a miracle worker. He was a teacher. He was a great prophet. All this I heard them say.

I also heard things they did not, apparently. Funny how I often thought people who could see must know more than I.  In this case, however, they didn’t.  I heard Jesus speak about the kingdom of God. I also heard him talk about the path that led there for him. The road ahead, he said very plainly, involved suffering and rejection. Did no one else hear this. His disciples seemed almost giddy about heading to Jerusalem. Were they blind to something this blind man could plainly see? Something very important was to happen in that city of Shalom.

The time came for Jesus bar-Joseph to leave Jericho. His entourage was large - many persons heading to the holy city for Passover, pilgrims on the way. Soon he would be out of my life if I did not speak up. And so I did what I do best. I opened my mouth and started yelling. “Jesus bar-David, have mercy on me.” Don’t ask me why I chose to address him this way, except that to me, “bar-David” was like the positive side of my father’s name - special, worthy, prized. I wanted to speak to Jesus with respect, as one son to another.

“Bar-David, have mercy on me,” I yelled. And I kept on yelling it, even though everyone around me was telling me to shut up. That just made me yell louder. He could not leave without recognizing my existence. I was not invisible! He could not leave without hearing me. I kept yelling until someone came up to me and told me that the Master was calling me. He was calling me. Can you believe that? He was calling me, bar-timaeus! I threw off my cloak, sprang to my feet and raced to him.

It must’ve been quite a sight - a blind man running. But I didn’t care about who or what I might bump into. I was listening for the voice that called me. And then, there he was. How I knew it was him, I don’t know. I suppose, in retrospect, that there were guiding hands bringing me to him. Everything became very quiet, and Jesus simply asked me, bar-timaeus, what I wanted him to do for me.

What did I want? He had already recognized that I existed. He had called me to himself. Beyond that, it was a no-brainer. “Rabbi, let me see again.” And he did. Mind you, it wasn’t with any fancy mumbo jumbo. He didn’t utter holy words. I didn’t hear his arms swing or feel his touch. He just said, “Go, your faith has made you well.”

I could see. For the first time in my life, I could see. And on that first day of sight, I chose to follow. Jesus bar-Joseph and his disciples were headed to Jerusalem, along with many other pilgrims, myself included. Along the way, I watched and listened. I saw the crowds gathered outside the holy city. I heard the “hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” I saw the Temple for the first time, from the outside and within. I heard the sound of the ram’s horn calling us to worship. I saw Jesus bar-Joseph turning upside down the tables of the money-changers. I heard him cry, “This is my father’s house, but you have made it a den of thieves.”

I saw the looks and people’s faces change. I heard the whispers. I felt the growing conflict. Something was about to happen. I saw the disciples gather in a special place. Through the window I heard Jesus bar-adonai speak of bread and wine, of a broken body and shed blood. I sensed the confusion of those still blind to what lay ahead. I saw the police come to Gethsemane and take him away. I heard him say, “put away your sword.”

I saw the storm clouds gather. I heard the sound of the whip. I saw the crowd waver and lean toward the darkness. I heard them cry “Bar-abbas.” I saw the true father’s son led through the streets with a beam on his shoulders. I heard the jeers of some and the sobs of others. I saw them nail his hands and feet to the cross. I heard the sound of metal meeting metal. I saw Jesus son of Joseph, son of David, son of God lifted up. I heard him whisper, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Once upon a time I thought that since everyone saw more than I did, they must know more than I. Not so! They were more blind than I. “Forgive them,” he said.... I saw him die. I saw him placed quickly in the grave, before sunset and Sabbath. And then, on the third day, whether with the eyes on my face, or the eyes of my faith (I’m not sure which, the two are one and the same for me) I saw him risen from the dead. This blind man became an eyewitness to it all. And in that moment I realized that the eyes of God were upon me, bar-timaeus.

            In preparation for this message, delivered in first-person style, I found William Loader's "First Thoughts" on the text very helpful. By the way, if we explore the hebrew/aramaic roots of timai or tame' (u/)), the name is connected to being or becoming "unclean" or "polluted" (ritually), or regarded as such. On the other hand, in Greek the word timaios (according to Liddel-Scott-Jones) means "highly prized" or, as Loader writes "precious or worthy." What's in a name? Apparently Mark had a purpose in including it here, which may or may not have anything to do with an actual person. We know little more about this "bar-timaeus" than what is found here in Mark 10. Perhaps the original readers did. Maybe not. It's fascinating to ponder, to allow ourselves to enter the text and be touched by the Word.

©2012 (revised from 2000) Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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