When Jesus told us that he wanted to be in Jerusalem for the Passover the rest of the group tried to convince him it was too dangerous to go. For once I kept my mouth shut. If he felt it was time, who was I to correct him? He’d made that pretty clear the last time I spoke up.
We knew it would be next to impossible to get a room in Jerusalem during the Passover so the plan was to stay in Bethany and make the journey into the city for the celebration. Passover was still over a week away but Jesus told us there were people he had to see and things he had to do, so I kissed Esther goodbye, told her I’d see her in ten days or so and joined the group.
It took us three days to get to Jericho. We probably could have pushed on and arrived in Bethany late that evening, but Jesus decided that it would be best to stop and spend the Sabbath in Jericho. He said we could get an early start the first of the new week.
In the morning, after we had finished breakfast we headed out, and as usual, word had spread that Jesus was there and a crowd followed us out of town. There had been a time that people clamored to hear him, now they clamored to touch him or have him touch them. Stories of his miracles had spread, and it seemed that everybody needed something.
I don’t know how he stood the constant demands. Everyone wanted something from Jesus, and they all thought that they, more than anybody else, deserved what they asked for. It was as if Jesus had been sent for only one purpose and that was to meet their needs. And when he called people to follow him or challenged them on their behavior, they went away sullen.
As we moved down the road, I heard someone from the back of the crowd yelling out Jesus’ name. And those between us and the man were hushing him, telling him to be quiet and not to bother Jesus.
It wasn’t that they didn’t want Jesus to be bothered; it was more they were afraid that someone else might get what they didn’t get.
I had been with Jesus for three years and I didn’t understand who got healed and who didn’t. There didn’t seem to be criteria for the healings. It wasn’t as if you had to say a certain thing or behave a certain way in order for Jesus to heal you.
He didn’t seem to have a plan that so many blind people needed to be given their sight, and so many lame people needed to walk, and a certain number of mute people had to speak. At times it just seemed random. Some people got healed, and some people didn’t get healed. And sometimes people were grateful, and other times they just took it as their due and never even said thank you.
But that morning, for whatever reason, Jesus stopped and said, “Wait, bring him here.”
“Bring who here?”
“The man yelling from the back of the crowd. The one calling me the Son of David. His name is Bartimaeus, and he is blind.”
I had stopped asking how he knew those things a long time ago, so I did as he asked, worked my way through the crowd until I saw a blind beggar at the very edge of the road. He had his hands extended and kept saying, “Jesus, please take me to Jesus.”
When I put my hand on his shoulder he flinched, “Jesus, is that you?”
“No, my name is Peter, but I’m a friend of Jesus, and he wants to meet you.”
As I led Bartimaeus through the crowd, I heard people muttering and asking what made the beggar special. To that I had no answer.
When we got back to the group, Jesus reached out with both hands and took the man by the shoulders. “I’m here Bartimaeus, and I’m so sorry about your father.” Turning, Jesus answered the question that many were thinking, “No, I’ve never met him but his father Timaeus, died recently leaving Bartimaeus without anyone. He was a good man, and he loved his son.”
Turning back to the beggar, Jesus asked, “What is it you want from me?”
“What do I want? I want to see.”
“I can do that, but simply seeing is not enough. You not only need to see, you need to understand what you are seeing.”
“I don’t understand.”
I did, I had seen this particular story played out dozens of times. I hadn’t thought about it at first, then I heard a blind man who had been given his sight describe people as trees that were walking around.
“All your life, you have pictured things in your mind. There is a lifetime of things you need to understand, what people look like, what blue is, why not to look at the sun.
“When I ask you to open your eyes, you will see, but you won’t know what you are seeing. That is what you asked for. Then I want you to close your eyes and open them again. And then you will understand what it is that you see.
“That is the real gift I’m giving you. Now, open your eyes”
When he opened his eyes, you could see the confusion and fear.
“Remember Bartimaeus, that is what you wanted. You wanted to see. Now close your eyes and open them again.”
He closed his eyes, but there was a hesitancy, as if he didn’t know if he could face the unknown world of sight.
“Go ahead, open them, it will be all right this time.”
Slowly he opened his eyes and a smile spread across his face, “Jesus it’s you”, and he looked up at the sky and said, “It’s blue and it’s beautiful.”