6 min read
Mark and Luke wrote this fascinating narrative about three men who came to Jesus and the different responses Jesus gave to each one of them. These writers, through these real-life stories, share with us who gets to experience God’s grace—God’s unconditional love.
This post is about the third guy in the narrative—the poor blind guy. Who was he? What did he do that made heaven ground to a halt? And what do we need to do as good moral people or as Christian people to get heaven to act on our behalf, especially when we are in need?
Let’s find out.
Who is this guy?
Mark, names him. His name, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.
As Jesus and his entourage near Jericho, fresh from meeting the good moral guy, they meet Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus sat by the road. He was blind and poor. As Jesus passed by, Bartimaeus heard a loud commotion from the crowd. Thinking it was his lucky day, he asked a person in the crowd what the commotion was all about. The person told him Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Instinctively, and without hesitation he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then those who went before warned him he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”, Luke records.
The Helps Word-studies transliterate the Greek word for mercy, eleos, as (translating OT 2617 /kataisxýnō, “covenant-loyalty, covenant-love” in the OT-LXX over 170 times)—properly, “mercy” as it is defined by loyalty to God’s covenant. This is equivalent to the Hebrew word chesed, which means grace, lovingkindness, God’s unmerited favour towards the lowly, needy and miserable. The bayithamashiyach, an online resource that translates the New Testament Greek to Hebrew transliterates the word mercy, to chaneni, and chaneni means grace, unmerited favour, kindness. Chaneni is a synonym of chesed.
Bartimaeus literally shouted “Grace, grace. Jesus give to me what I don’t deserve. I deserve poverty and blindness because I’m a sinner but give me grace.” What Schulter? C’mon, the man didn’t do any wrong. He was born blind. These were circumstances beyond his control. How can a good God judge a man for what he is not responsible for? the religious, humanist, agnostic and atheist may argue. Seems so unfair. On a human level, it seems so, but not on the cosmic level.
Bartimaeus was a sinner because of Adam’s sin. (Romans 5:12 NLT) And as a sinner, he deserved God’s judgment. Adam, our forefather sinned, and hence we all sinned. That’s the main claim of the Christian faith. We are all sinners because of what Adam did and hence deserve poverty, sickness, disease, loneliness, rejection, guilt, condemnation and even death.
Bartimaeus knew this and therefore asked for grace. He asked to receive what he didn’t deserve. Bartimaeus understood the gospel. What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news that because of who Jesus is and what he has done, we can receive from God what we don’t deserve (grace) because Jesus received from God the judgment we deserved.
And when he asked for grace, Jesus stopped in his tracks. Jesus stood still. What makes heaven stand at attention and stop all its activities? What did he do that made heaven ground to a halt? What sound pierces heaven and stops its normal operations and cause it to divert all its resources? What makes supernatural beings stand at attention? The answer is obvious—grace.
The gospel is the good news that because of who Jesus is and what he has done, we can receive from God what we don’t deserve (grace) because Jesus received from God the judgment we deserved.
The good moral guy and the Christian guy wanted to get something from Jesus because of what they had done for God. Right? Bartimaeus wanted something from Jesus and yet had nothing to offer Jesus.
The good moral guy and the Christian guy put forward their performance as the reason God should bless them. Bartimaeus, however, asked Jesus to give him something he hadn’t worked for. It was not a quid pro quo arrangement. Notice the difference? What can I do (good moral guy), or this is what I have done for you (the Christian guy), is juxtaposed to what do you want me to do for you? (Jesus to the poor blind guy)
And immediately we see Jesus’ response. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked Bartimaeus. The poor man said, “Lord that I may receive sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Grace, what God will do for us on Jesus’ behalf is the core message or doctrine of the Christian gospel. This is counterintuitive to what every other faith teaches. All other faiths teach basically what the good moral guy and the Christian guy believe that God only blesses good upright people. Even secularists teach that if you are a good person, only good things will happen to you. Whatever energy you put into the universe is exactly what you will receive back from it—the law of cause and effect made famous by various scientific streams and polytheistic faiths. The Christian gospel upends these ideas. The Christian gospel holds firmly that the God of the universe will bless us on account of what His son did for us.
This my friends is news too good to be true.
Hey, good moral guy, could it be that you are trying to earn your way to eternal life through your good works? I’m a good person, I’m a hardworking person, I pay my taxes, I obey the law, I treat my house helps and employees well, I give to charity—help the poor, widows, orphans, I’m a spiritual person, etc. If so, expect Jesus to give you more rules. Most likely you are experiencing too much pressure emotionally, spiritually, physically, professionally and even relationally because you asked for it. You asked for more weight added to your already exhausting schedule and you are buckling under the pressure. You can’t do it. You will implode. Give it up. I will suggest to you come to Jesus and receive the rest he offers. (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)
Hey, Christian guy, could it be that you are not receiving anything from Jesus because when you go to him you unleash your spiritual CV? You remind him all the sacrifices you made for him, all the tithes you gave, all the poor, needy and hungry you fed and clothed, all the prisoners you visited, all the Church meetings you attended, the time you spend in Bible study, prayer and fasting, etc. If so, Jesus will throw a wrench into your plans. You will be last and those who come to Jesus in grace will be first. I will suggest to you the next time you are in need, resist the urge to pull out your spiritual CV, and instead pull out the grace card. Jesus will give you much more than you deserve. Much more.
Bartimaeus, unbeknown to him, stood before Jesus who would a few days later, on the cross, become blind and poor. On the cross, Jesus felt total darkness. In Luke 23:44, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. Jesus was in the dark. Jesus became poor, too. Paul the writer of the second letter to the Corinthian church notes this about Jesus that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor so that by his poverty he could make you rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT) Jesus felt all these for us.
So here’s the gospel. Jesus took Bartimaeus’ place—Bartimaeus represents all of us, all human beings, poor and blind—and we took his place. Jesus, the rich man took our place of poverty so we could take his place of riches and honour. Jesus, the light of the world took our place of darkness so we could take his place of light and glory. This is the gospel.
That’s what grace looks like