Bartimaeus: context

This coming Sunday is the 30th Sunday in lectionary cycle B. The gospel is the story of Bartimaeus, a blind man, who cries out to Jesus for pity. Despite the rebuke of the bystanders, Bartimaeus calls out even more vigorously. And in so doing he encounters Jesus who asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Our text serves as a dramatic contrast to the past two assigned gospels. Two weeks ago we had the man who had kept all of the commandments from his youth and who had many possessions, taken as a 1st century sign that he had been blessed by God. But he is not able to part with his possessions. He is not able to follow Jesus. In our text, we have a man who is blind and a beggar, understood as signs that he was a “sinner” and not blessed by God (see John 9 for this traditional view and Jesus’ rejection of it). However, the blind-beggar, throws off his cloak (v. 50), perhaps his only possession, and is able to follow Jesus. Continue reading