On the whole, life was pretty tough for Bartimaeus. Oh, it was ok when Jericho, the city where he lived had a festival or celebration. Then Bartimaeus would have more than enough to eat. But that wasn’t most days. Most days Bartimaeus would be found sitting by the side of the main road that went all the way through Jericho, and on to Jerusalem, with his begging bowl in hand, hoping and praying that somebody would give Him what he needed to make it through the day.
Of course it hadn’t always been like that. There’d been a time when Bartimaeus had worked in the fields and vineyards with everybody else.
But the day had come when the owner of the vineyard had been cross with Bartimaeus. Apparently, he’d left lots of grapes on the vine. And then … it became hard to recognise his friends. And the sun … it didn’t seem to shine as brightly as it used to! (PAUSE) The truth was - Bartimaeus was going blind. And it’s not like being blind today where there’s lots a blind person can do. In Bartimaeus’ time the only thing he could do – was become a beggar.
And so each day ended up being pretty much the same. And today, when Bartimaeus woke up, he thought it was going to be a day like any other. (P) As he woke he shivered in the cold morning air and pulled his cloak tightly around his shoulders. And then he reached to find his begging bowl. There was some bread left from yesterday. OK it was a bit stale and hard, but when you’re a beggar you can’t afford to be fussy. (P)
After he’d finished his small breakfast, Bartimaeus reached out his hand to find his stick, and then made his way slowly down to his usual spot by the side of the road, under a big tree that gave him some protection from the hot midday sun. And there he waited.
But today wasn’t going to be like any other day. There was already something different happening. You see when you’re blind, quite often your hearing seems to work much better. And Bartimaeus had learned to recognise the people of Jericho not by what they looked like, but by how they sounded.
Who was that, oh yes, he recognised those fast footsteps. That was young Miriam. But where was she off too? (P) And hang on, who was that? Ah, of course! He recognised that limp and walk with a stick. That was old Caleb! But he hadn’t heard Caleb moving so fast in years! And who were those people he was talking to? In fact, where was everybody going? It seemed as if everyone was leaving the city! He wanted to ask why, but there was nobody to ask! So there he sat, begging bowl in hand - waiting. (PAUSE)
It was quite a lot later that day when he heard it. It was the sound of a large crowd. And they were heading his way. So that’s where everybody had gone. They’d gone to see some really important person who was on their way through Jericho and on to Jerusalem. But Bartimaeus didn’t know who it was. And so as the crowd got closer and the first few people started to filter past, he called out.
‘Hey, hey, excuse me, can you tell me - what’s going on?’
‘What?’ said a passer-by, ‘Oh don’t you know? It’s Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth, He’s coming through town on His way to Jerusalem.’
Jesus of Nazareth! Even Bartimaeus had heard of Jesus of Nazareth, and the incredible things he’d said. People were still talking about them months after he’d said them.
And, there were all those healings! It was said that Jesus had made people who couldn’t walk, walk again! And that He’d made people who couldn’t hear, hear again. It was even said that Jesus made people who couldn’t see, (PAUSE) see again!!!’ Jesus made blind people see!
All of a sudden Bartimaeus knew what he should be doing. Oh, he just hoped he hadn’t missed Jesus. So he called out in a loud voice.
The first few people who heard Bartimaeus calling - told him to shut up! ‘Oh Bartimaeus be quiet will you. Jesus isn’t going to be interested in a blind beggar like you. Be quiet!’
But Bartimaeus wasn’t the giving up kind, and he called even louder. ‘Jesus, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. Son of David, have mercy on me.’ (PAUSE)
There was a man in the crowd, constantly being jostled by the people. Just trying to make His way through Jericho and yet listen to and help the constant stream of people who came to Him. And as He made His way forward, He heard His name being called over and over again. ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.’
As He walked He started to look for the owner of the voice and eventually He saw a scruffy, blind beggar sitting by the side of the road shouting out for all he was worth. So Jesus stopped and said to some of His disciples, ‘Bring him to me.’
The disciples went over to where the blind beggar was still shouting his head off, and tried to quieten him down a little. ‘SSSHHH - It's OK, you can be quiet now, the Master’s calling for you.’
When Bartimaeus heard this he leapt up, threw off his cloak, and held out his hands. Jesus’ disciples took him by the arms and led him to Jesus. And when he arrived - he heard a voice asking him, ‘What is it? What do you want me to do for you?’
‘Oh teacher,’ said Bartimaeus. ‘I want to be able to see again.’ (P)
And then he heard Jesus’ voice again. (P) ‘Because you believed that I could make you well - you have been healed.’
At that moment Bartimaeus had to cover his eyes to cope with the light that came streaming in. And the first thing he saw - was the smiling face of Jesus- filled with love. Then Bartimaeus leapt for joy, shouting and singing praise to God, because Jesus had healed him.
And when the crowd realised what Jesus had done they were astonished, and they too started praising God, as Jesus continued, to slowly make His way through Jericho and on to Jerusalem.