When Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem for the final time he passed through Jericho, a blind beggar called after him:- “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The Gospel of Mark (10:40-52) names him as Bartimaeus. Many Bystanders told him to be quiet but he cried out all the more urgently. When Jesus stopped and called him he jumped to his feet and rushed towards Jesus. When he told Jesus that he wished to see, Jesus replied “Go, your faith has healed you.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. The next paragraph in the Gospel of Mark is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Though Jesus would have passed through Jericho many times on his way to and from Jerusalem in order to attend the Jewish feasts, Bartimaeus seemed to sense an urgency that his opportunity for healing was not going to happen again. Considering that Jesus’ disciples were rather slow to see the Messiah as the suffering servant who would die for their sin (and ours as well), despite Jesus trying to teach them. Did Bartimaeus know something that the Twelve did not?
A clue might be given elsewhere in the Gospels where Jericho is mentioned, namely the parable of the Good Samaritan. The reason why the victim in the parable was passed by a priest and a Levite on that road, was because many of the priests and Levites who worked in the Temple lived in Jericho, and they did not want to risk becoming unclean and barred from Temple until they were cleansed, especially should the victim die after they had touched him. We know that discussions had taken place among the ruling elite as to what should be done about Jesus. So, Bartimaeus might have overheard something by members of the priesthood and other religious leaders threatening to kill Jesus? Because beggars are often treated as if they are invisible, even today, with all the equality legislation in place, disabled people feel frustrated when people talk to their carers rather than themselves, as if they are incapable of understanding speech. So, it is quite possible that should have been discreet whispers could have been overheard by a beggar. This could have been a factor in Bartimaeus’ urgency, because he feared he would not have another opportunity to be healed.
But it might not have been the only one. From John chapter 9 there is the account of the man who had been born blind. Now you can imagine people coming back from Jerusalem and Bartimaeus’ ears picking up on hearing the debate. That would be somebody he needed to meet.
In Luke’s Gospel he is not named but there is an apparent discrepancy, in the he puts the incident as happening on the way into Jericho rather than on the way out as Mark does. How come? Well, we know that Luke accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, but as he was not arrested along with Paul he was free to travel throughout the Holy Land whilst Paul languished in Caesarea. He used the opportunity to research what would become his Gospel and the Book of Acts. Commentators have suggested that that these were originally compiled as evidence for Paul’s defence before Caesar. Luke was also involved in Paul’s shipwreck on Malta, which may have meant that any material damaged needed to be rewritten from memory. I believe that when Luke researched his Gospel in person, he checked out the parable of the Good Samaritan by travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. When he arrived in Jericho he also checked out the story of Blind Bartimaeus, and he not doubt asked where it happened, and he was told that he had passed it on the way in. So that is why he later put the incident as being on the way into Jericho.
David G. Rose 2014