FROM A READING FOR OCT. 25, 30TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child...a great company, they shall return here...' -- Jeremiah 31:8


One of the keys for understanding Mark's message in Sunday's Gospel (Mark 10:46-52) is that his Jesus only twice asks someone, "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus does so here, and in last weekend's reading.

We saw that James and John's response to his question wasn't the one other Christs should make. This Sunday's response from Bartimaeus is much more appropriate.

From the beginning of the passage, the evangelist depicts the blind beggar as doing what individuals called by Jesus should do: first, he's persistent in demanding Jesus "take pity" on him, even in the face of the crowd's objections; second, he immediately responds to Jesus' call by throwing aside his cloak, springing up and hastening to Him.

I presume his discarded cloak - probably his only possession -- didn't hit the ground. Someone else would have grabbed it. Neither does he check his appointment calendar to determine what day and time he can meet with Jesus. Nothing stands in his way.

At this point, he's Mark's example of a perfect disciple.

Respond to Jesus
So, in contrast to last week's Gospel, how does the perfect disciple respond to Jesus' question, "What do you want me to do for you?"

It's a simple, "Master, I want to see." True disciples don't ask for the glory seats -- for high positions in the community - nor for an easy life. They just want to see what God and the risen Jesus want them to do. Notice Jesus doesn't say, "I restore your sight." Against expectations, He assures the blind beggar that it doesn't take a miracle to receive the sight to know God's will: Disciples of Jesus already possess what's necessary to clearly see what God wants.

"Go your way; your faith has saved you," Jesus says. Those who accept Jesus' value system as their own will know in which direction God expects them to go.

It's no accident that Mark ends his three prediction/misunderstanding/clarification passages with the observation that Bartimaeus "followed behind Him on the way." Mark next describes Jesus' Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem. He has less than a week to live. This "way" leads to the suffering, death and resurrection which all Jesus' followers are expected to experience.

Now, Jesus' command, "Get behind me, Satan!" to the befuddled Peter, back in chapter 8, makes much more sense. Unlike Bartimaeus, the perfect disciple, Peter isn't content to follow behind Jesus. He stands in front of Him and tells Him how He should "do it."

Watch and learn
We only know how to imitate another by going behind him or her, not by standing in front of them. That's how we learn to live the faith Jesus demands.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews (Heb 5:1-6) couldn't agree more. That seems to be why he emphasizes Jesus becoming one with all of us. He doesn't expect us to become God. He simply believes that we're called to imitate the faith and actions of another human being.

Just as the Jewish high priest was "taken from among humans," so Jesus was also taken from among us. He did what any of us, with His help, is capable of doing. But, as with Bartimaeus, it all revolves around seeing what Jesus sees.

Even Jeremiah (31:7-9), active 600 years before Jesus, understood that faith helps us perceive what others ignore. He's able to see Yahweh bringing eighth-century-BC Israelite exiles back from Assyria, though such a return hadn't formally taken place.

Such faith constantly perceives a caring God acting as a parent with God's family, even when a majority of people never seem to notice such loving characteristics.

If we're not seeing individuals and situations with different, loving eyes, we're really not following close behind Jesus.