Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus

In yesterday’s gospel we heard the account of the blind man along the roadside on the way to Jericho. The reading was from Luke’s gospel which leaves the man unnamed – he is named Bartimaeus in Mark’s account. Today’s gospel is the encounter in the city of Jericho with the tax collector Zacchaeus.The approach to Jericho signals the final stage of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Here, as in the incident of the children, the disciples try to keep an “insignificant” person from bothering the Master. The evangelist continues on another level to present the life of the church as a journey with Jesus on the way of the Lord. The note that it is “the people walking in front” who reprimand the beggar is a subtle warning to church leaders who might overlook the needs of the powerless (see Acts 6:1). But it is for these lowly who express their need for salvation that Jesus has come. The present chapter is a gallery of such people: the widow, the tax collector, the children, now the blind beggar.

The beggar’s name is given in Mark as Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46). Blind as he is, he cries out with inspired insight, calling Jesus by the messianic title “Son of David.” When questioned, he goes further to identify Jesus as “Lord.” In response to this faith, he receives the message of deliverance that by now is a stereotyped phrase: “Your faith has saved you” (7:50; 8:48; 17:19). Both the beggar and the witnesses see the ultimate meaning of this act of power and glorify God.

The two Jericho stories – the blind man and Zacchaeus – each contains interesting parallels:

  • a (poor) beggar || a wealthy chief tax collector
  • dependent upon other’s generosity || dependent on his own power and wealth
  • unable to see Jesus || initially prevented from seeing Jesus
  • wants to see (again) || tries to see (Jesus)
  • cries out to Jesus || says nothing
  • the crowd tries to keep him from Jesus || the crowd blocks his way to Jesus
  • Jesus asks what he wants || Jesus tells him what Jesus wants
  • Your faith has saved you” || “Salvation has come to this house

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