Wed, October 20, 202110 mins readFather Hans Buob

The Healing of a Blind Man at Jericho

Biblical Homilies on the Sunday Gospels in Reading Year B

Bible passages

Mark 10, 46-52

Biblical Homilies

The Healing of a Blind Man at Jericho

They came to Jericho. As he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. As soon as he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he called out loudly: Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me! Many ordered him to be silent. But he cried out much louder: Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus stopped and said: Call him here! They called the blind man and said to him, 'Have courage, get up, he is calling you. Then he threw away his cloak, jumped up and ran towards Jesus. And Jesus asked him, what wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man answered, Rabbuni, I want to be able to see. Then Jesus said to him, Go! Your faith has saved you. At that moment he could see and he followed Jesus on his way.

Jesus has now arrived in Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. Jericho was the gathering place for the pilgrims to Jerusalem who came from Galilee. From there they went up through the Judean desert to Jerusalem. The pilgrims went in groups because the way was partly dangerous. They had to climb from 300 meters below sea level to 800 meters above sea level. Jesus is just setting out for Jerusalem with his disciples and the other pilgrims. The ascent to Jerusalem is a real experience, but Jesus also uses it in a figurative sense for all those who follow him. Here "on the way", it says, that is, precisely on Jesus' way to Jerusalem, where death and resurrection await him, the blind beggar sits and meets Jesus. Being blind and begging belonged together at that time. How else could the blind man live? On this way, the Jerusalem pilgrims usually passed by, who were obliged to give alms on their pilgrimage anyway. So, it is understandable that the blind beggar sits on this path, which is at the same time the path of Jesus, his life path and destiny path to Jerusalem.

As soon as he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he cried out loudly: Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!  (cf. verse 47)

So, Jesus must have been known to him. Since there was a large crowd, he began to shout: Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me," because he could not see Jesus. And there were so many people passing by. So, he had to shout loudly so that this Jesus who was walking somewhere could also hear him. But at the same time, it was also the cry of the blind man for the one who is the light - again, something in the figurative sense: it was Jesus' path where he was sitting.

Many ordered him to be silent. But he cried out much louder: Son of David, have mercy on me! (cf. verse 48)

Many did not want to be disturbed in their pilgrimage procession and therefore wanted to silence him. Instead of helping him and leading him to Jesus, they silenced him - actually an incomprehensible reaction for those on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. But this shows us: We can very well walk on a spiritual path and still be very selfish. All we care about is that we are with Jesus, that we are walking with him and therefore want to be left alone. And the still blind - again figuratively - the blind to faith, the still unbelievers on our path, we overlook them or we even overhear their cry for Jesus. Let us examine how often this happens to us. We walk our path with God, perhaps very faithfully, very honestly, but we do not hear the silent cry of the unbelievers along our path. We look only at ourselves. We look only at our salvation. We very often don't hear the crying out, the longing for the truth or a resisting of the truth - be it in the media or even in the attacks on the faith. So, we have to be listeners on the way with Jesus - we have to perceive the cries of the blind, the blind in faith, the unbelievers - and then, if it is possible, lead them to Jesus. Sometimes it happens in our lives that we even silence these people who are crying out for God, for the meaning of life, through our lack of love. Because we Christians do not live as Christians, they cannot find Christ - but they look for a guru somewhere or something that gives them answers to their unsolved questions of life. So, we have to ask ourselves again and again: Are we in the company of Jesus, as his disciples - and only looking at our own salvation? Or do we have an ear for the crying blind along our path? Do we even silence them through our lack of love, because we think: "The main thing is that we are at Jesus' side" - and forget to lead them to Jesus? Today's Gospel speaks very forcefully to these deep layers in our existence. Jesus again uses an external situation to address much deeper truths of faith and to make us aware of them.

Jesus stopped and said: Call him here! They called the blind man, and said unto him, take courage, arise, he calleth thee. (cf. verse 49)

Jesus hears the cry and stops. He gives us an example - he stops. But - listen carefully! - Jesus does not call him himself, but the people are to call him. So, we are to lead people to Christ. We have to call out. But the blind man, the unbeliever, must also take a step. He must stand up - as a sign of his faith. In the Gospel, every word is a statement. He even "jumped up" - so he believed deeply: if Jesus calls me, if I am called to him, then I have a chance of help. And he must now take steps towards Jesus. He runs towards him, safely guided by the others. But he must not stop. To stand up and take steps towards Jesus - that is important. Jesus does not forbid him to call him "Son of David", because that is what the Scriptures call him. The Messiah is the "Son of David". Until now, he did not allow that. Now, from the blind man, he allows himself to be called that. Shortly before Jerusalem, he allows himself to be addressed by this title from the Old Testament. For in Jerusalem, at the time of the entry, Jesus reveals himself as the Son of David. The people there called out to him: "Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!" (Mt 21,9)

But here it is the blind man who gives Jesus this title for the first time and Jesus allows him. Now all those who go with him to Jerusalem, now they shall all see. Through Jesus' encounter with the blind man on this final journey to Jerusalem, we are shown that only those who have sight can go with him. They are to recognise him as the Messiah, i.e., to become sighted. Until now, some have followed him because they expected a political Messiah. Now they can only walk with him if they recognise him as the Son of David and thus share his destiny, that of the Son of David, as it is described in the Psalms and in the Servant of God songs of Isaiah - namely, with him into his death and resurrection. They must choose to follow him into his death and resurrection. For until now, even the twelve apostles were blind to this. They never understood him. Whenever he had spoken of his death and resurrection, they did not understand him. And now Jesus says: It is time for you to see, otherwise you will not understand me in Jerusalem, and above all you will not walk with me.

Then he threw away his cloak, jumped up and ran towards Jesus. (cf. verse 50)

Here it is wonderfully expressed in the image that we can blindly trust Jesus and that we should throw off all safeguards if we want to go with him on the way to Jerusalem. Only in this way can we follow him into death and resurrection, only in this way. The cloak is an image of this. The blind man jumped up and threw away the cloak - the expression of his absolute trust. He does not hesitate for a minute. He threw off his coat. The coat was necessary for the blind man's existence, because at night it was so cold that he needed the coat in order not to freeze to death. And during the day he needed the coat to gather. He put it in front of him. People would throw money into it as they passed by, and then in the evening he would gather up the coat and have the money together. So, he needed it very much, the coat was necessary for his existence, at night as well as during the day. So, the blind man blindly trusts Jesus and throws away his livelihood. In the meantime, someone could have taken his coat away and he, as a blind man, would not have noticed or would not have found it. Through this wonderful, powerful image, Jesus shows his disciples, who are all watching and listening: Whoever now decides to go with me to Jerusalem and to share my life's destiny must throw off all security and trust me completely, totally trust me, otherwise he cannot be my disciple. We are asked again and again in the Gospel to give up all safeguards. That is the key point. We are allowed to have things like the rich young man, but they must not be our security. Our security is only the love and mercy of God and trust in Jesus, nothing else. Here it is a very different, wonderful way of expressing it, especially in the case of a blind man.

And Jesus asked him, what wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man answered, Rabbuni, I want to be able to see. (cf. verse 51)

Jesus then asks him what he actually wants, why he is crying out. This is another sign that it is necessary to express my need before God in prayer - what moves me, what burdens me, perhaps also before other people, before fellow believers, before the church - in order to obtain healing. So, this is also an image for the path of healing: what is not spoken out will only heal with difficulty. And with the statement "Rabbuni, I want to be able to see", with the answer to Jesus' question "What do you want me to do to you?", Jesus wants to indicate to his disciples that all who are now walking with him should ask him to be healed of their spiritual blindness, so that they really recognise Jesus as the Son of David. Only God can take away that blindness. And this really happened at Pentecost when all these veils were taken away from the inner eyes of the apostles and all believers. God can take away this blindness, but man must ask him for it. So, we too must ask the Holy Spirit again and again to take away our blindness - the blindness to recognise God, to recognise Jesus, the blindness that we only imagine Jesus as we need him at the moment, as a helper in need, and do not want to know much else about him. When I am healed of this, I know: He is the Lord and I alone want to serve Him and hand myself over to Him alone and lean on Him alone. I have nothing to criticise about him. That is how I want to live. It is the Spirit of God who uncovers what is blind in us, what is wrong. We should ask for this daily, ask again and again, that he may take away our blindness, all our false ideas of God.

Then Jesus said to him, "Go! Your faith has saved you. At the same moment he could see and he followed Jesus on his way.  (cf. verse 52)

Again, also a hint for all who now follow him on the path. Faith is decisive. This "... he followed him" to Jerusalem is in the imperfect tense, i.e., he followed him from then on. He did not just walk a few steps with him, but it was his life decision: he followed him on his way. This image applies to all his disciples, to all who follow him: They have to make a life decision for Christ. That is what is at stake today. ∎