Sometimes, locations greatly mattered in the life and ministry of Jesus. Think of Bethlehem – the promised location of the birth of the Messiah. The River Jordan – where Jesus began his public ministry. Lake Galilee – the location where fishermen would be called to be fishers of people. Jacob’s Well – the location beyond the Jewish nation where a Samaritan woman was forgiven and received faith. And, of course, Jerusalem – the location where the Messiah would come to claim his kingship.

Jericho, the home of Bartimaeus, is a three hour walk from Jerusalem, and the final township a traveller passes through before the downhill journey to the City of King David. To go to Jericho was to go through it, along the way to the promised location of God’s kingdom. When the time came for his great saving act, as St Luke tells us in his gospel, “Jesus resolutely turned his face towards Jerusalem.” But for him to do this, he had to pass through Jericho.

Was it by chance, or by design, that Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside as Jesus passed by that day? It was probably the same place where he sat every day, seeking the charity of passers-by. But we can also trust that nothing happened by chance in Jesus’ life; they were destined to meet. Bartimaeus was destined to stubbornly call out to the preacher from Nazareth; he was destined to refer to the preacher as ‘Son of David’. Jesus was destined to hear himself called by that title; he was destined to stop and turn to the blind beggar. And together, Bartimaeus and Jesus, were destined to encounter each other on the outskirts of Jericho, along the road to Jerusalem, in a moment of healing and faith.

We would do well to note the stubbornness and courage of Bartimaeus. (Think, here, of the parable of the Good Samaritan.) Disabled as he was, and probably used to being ignored, he wasn’t going to let the crowd of disciples get in his way of meeting with Jesus. Bartimaeus calls Jesus by a particular title, ‘Son of David’. This was more significant than even his courage, because this was an act of belief. The long-promised Son of David would need to be heading to the City of David; he would need to pass through Jericho.

This was a declaration by Bartimaeus of Jesus’ true identity – something that the others had not yet come to see. He was the only person in Mark’s Gospel who rightly identifies Jesus by his messianic ancestry, Son of David. A physically blind man, with the piercing sight of faith and hope. No wonder Jesus stopped and offered a healing love, thereby completing in their meeting that trinity of those things that will last in God’s Kingdom: faith, hope and love.

In his poverty and smallness, brought on by a disabling condition that rendered him an outsider, Bartimaeus nonetheless reached out in trust and in courage to find the attentiveness of the one who might heal him. Jesus welcomed Bartimaeus into his household, his kingdom, in recognition of his faith – a brother found, together with the Son. No wonder both would now walk together the road to Jerusalem.

Bartimaeus is our friend in faith, from many years ago; or at least he should be. So, call out to Jesus; do not be afraid to do so. Jesus recognises faith and hope, and he will always attend to it with his healing and saving love.

Feature image: 'Christ Healing the Blind Man' by Eustache Le Sueur