Today’s gospel from Luke 18 spotlights a blind man and his heartfelt cry: Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me. Mark 10 identifies the man as the beggar, Bartimaeus, stationed by the roadside near Jericho. Jesus was passing by, accompanied by disciples and a great multitude. When Bartimaeus calls to Jesus, the crowd immediately rebukes him, ordering him to stop. But Bartimaeus cries out even louder!
The beggar’s humble yet bold plea is one that is heard and answered promptly by Jesus. Bartimaeus was born blind but was blessed with the spiritual insight to recognise that the wonderworking, compassionate Jesus was indeed the promised One to come – the Son of David and the Messianic King and Saviour of the chosen people. Peter would proclaim this truth in Matthew 16:16, a truth revealed to Him by the Father in Heaven. So too would the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:22) and the ten lepers (Luke 17:12-14), all of whom turn to Jesus with trusting hearts, knowing He had the answer to their desperate situations.
Ironically, the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees, well-versed in scripture and prophecy, witness Jesus’s miracles with wide-open eyes, but do not make a similar proclamation of faith. Bartimaeus’ physical blindness and childlike faith contrasts starkly with their willful spiritual blindness, born of false pride and obstinacy. In the Old Testament we hear God repeatedly lament that His people have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear. (Isaiah 6, Jeremiah 5, Ezekiel 12).
Bartimaeus on the other hand, demonstrates an audacious but well-placed trust. He recognises his utter poverty and unashamedly cries for help. The stories of Jesus’s past miracles have sown seeds of faith and hope in his heart. When Jesus bids him come, he quickly steps up with bold faith to make his impossible request known to the Messiah-King. Bartimaeus overcomes the vehement opposition of the crowd and in a few short moments he experiences a supernatural victory – the complete healing of his eyesight.
The Jesus Prayer
Bartimaeus’ short but powerful prayer, calling on the saving name of Jesus, later became commonly known as The Jesus Prayer. It has been a lifeline for saint and sinner alike. It is said to have been used as early as the 5th century by the early Egyptian Fathers and is used with small variations by the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches. Typically, it was said using Jesus beads as a breath prayer, with an inhalation on the words Jesus, Son of the Living God, and an exhalation on the words have mercy on me a sinner. There are wonderful testimonies of healing, deliverance, peace, strength, and victory in spiritual battle by the simple repetition of the Jesus Prayer.
The name of Jesus was at the heart of Bartimaeus’ prayer, as it is at the heart of all Christian prayer. (CCC 435). There is no other name in heaven given to mankind by which we may be saved. (Acts 4:12). What battles are you facing today? Are there blind spots that you need Jesus to remove? Call on the name of Jesus and recentre your life on the Name above all names.
Inhale—Jesus, Son of the Living God
Exhale—Have mercy on me, a sinner.