Who Was Blind Bartimaeus?

Jesus healing a blind man

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Jesus healed so many people throughout the Gospels. Passages like Matthew 4:23–24 tell us that Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, healing every disease and affliction among the people. We don’t know the name of most of the people Jesus healed. 

We remember some of the stories by associating the healing with specific details about the event:

  • The paralytic at Bethsaida
  • The woman with the issue of blood 
  • The man blind from birth

In other cases, we remember the healing because of the person’s association with someone else, like Peter’s mother-in-law or the centurion’s servant. 

But occasionally, the Gospel writers include the actual individual’s name in the account. That’s how we remember characters like Lazarus and Bartimaeus. 

Who was blind Bartimaeus? 

Bartimaeus is remembered as a remarkable story of faith, healing and persistence. Mentioned in the Gospel of Mark, Bartimaeus is a personification of hope and transformation. Let’s dive into Bartimaeus’ narrative, explore the historical context, his encounter with Jesus, and the lessons we can glean from his story.

First, let’s look at how Mark tells the story:

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road (Mark 10:46–52, New International Version).

Bartimaeus’ historical and cultural context

Bartimaeus is a blind beggar who calls out to Jesus for mercy and healing as the Lord passes through Jericho. The historical and cultural context surrounding Bartimaeus’ story provides insights into the narrative’s significance.

Blindness in the cultural context

Blindness was often associated with significant social and economic challenges. Blind individuals were frequently marginalized, considered unclean, and excluded from participating fully in society. They were often dependent upon charity and begging for survival. Bartimaeus, being a blind beggar, would have been seen as a vulnerable member of society.

Jesus’ divine compassion

The Lord’s response to Bartimaeus highlights the compassionate nature of His ministry. Jesus hears Bartimaeus’ plea, acknowledges his faith, and grants him healing. The restoration of Bartimaeus’ sight serves as a symbol of Jesus’ ability to bring wholeness and restoration to everyone, including those who society has forgotten.

Messianic expectations

In the broader historical context, Jesus’ ministry occurred within Hebrew society’s messianic expectations. The Jewish people anticipated the coming of the Messiah, a promised deliverer who would establish God’s kingdom on earth. Many expected that the Messiah would perform miracles, including healing the blind (Isaiah 35:4–5) and that he would liberate them from Roman rule. Like the rest of Jesus’ ministry, Bartimaeus’ story aligns with these messianic expectations and demonstrates Jesus’ divine authority. 

Seeing with the eyes of faith

Bartimaeus’ encounter with Jesus helps illustrate themes of faith and spiritual insight. Despite his physical blindness, Bartimaeus demonstrates profound spiritual perception by recognizing Jesus as the Son of David, a Messianic title. Bartimaeus calls out to Him, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” This acknowledgment shows Bartimaeus’ faith in Jesus’ ability to heal and deliver him. Additionally, his persistence in calling out to Jesus even when others try to silence him illustrates his unwavering faith.

Bartimaeus’ encounter with Jesus 

Jericho was an important cultural center in Jesus’ day. Because of its strategic position on major trade routes, it was a bustling commercial and cultural center. It had a diverse population that included Jews, Samaritans, Greeks and Romans. 

In Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan, He makes Jericho the destination for the helpful traveler. When Jesus comes upon Zacchaeus, it’s as He is passing through Jericho. It’s no wonder a man like Bartimaeus would end up in Jericho. Being someone reliant upon the charity of others, he’d likely end up in the most high-traffic location possible. 

The bustle of the city is essential to consider as you read this story. When you think of Bartimaeus calling out to Jesus, you have to keep in mind the large crowds and the commotion of a high-traffic road. Bartimaeus wasn’t casually calling out to the Lord. He had to consistently and emphatically raise his voice over the traffic and commerce.  

Bartimaeus’ plea for help 

It’s not hard to imagine that stories about Jesus’ healings were making their way around the countryside and had become a topic of hope for all of Judea’s sick and infirm. Imagine Bartimaeus’ excitement at hearing that Jesus’ entourage was passing by. He knew he probably wouldn’t have another opportunity like this.  

In that moment, Bartimaeus had to raise his voice above the other people begging for alms, the conversation on the thoroughfare, the wagons pulled by donkeys, and the commerce happening all around him. Think about it for a moment. His shouting would have likely been loud, shrill and persistent—abrasive enough that people were trying to get him to stop. 

The critical part of Bartimaeus’ plea is the actual words he uses. By calling Jesus the “Son of David,” Bartimaeus was making a messianic proclamation. This wasn’t just some itinerant healer and preacher roaming around Israel; Bartimaeus had faith to recognize who He was.

Jesus’ response to Bartimaeus 

When Jesus hears the blind man, He instructs His followers to call the man over.  The crowd’s tone changes from chastisement to encouragement as Bartimaeus casts off his cloak and makes a beeline toward Jesus. 

Jesus’ question is thoughtful and meaningful. The beggar has been calling out for Jesus to have mercy on him. It should be fairly obvious what Bartimaeus wants the Lord to do for him, but Jesus makes the man communicate what he wants, pushing him to verbalize his expectation. 

Your faith has healed you 

It’s safe to assume that Bartimaeus didn’t have a lot of hope that his condition would ever change until he learned about Jesus. It was his faith in Jesus that healed him. Jesus tells him as much:

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road (Mark 10:52).

Notice what happened at the end of the story. Jesus tells Bartimaeus to go because his faith has healed him. But blind Bartimaeus chooses to follow Jesus. 

Lessons and applications from Bartimaeus’ story 

As we contemplate Bartimaeus’ encounter with Jesus, we can find some takeaways that will help us in our own lives. Here are some principles that arise from this story.

1. Bartimaeus’ persistent faith 

Bartimaeus believed that Jesus was the Messiah and because he believed that, he knew Jesus could heal him. And it was his persistence in that faith that paid off. The first test of that faith’s perseverance is when the crowd tries to silence the blind man. Who knows how the story would have played out if he had listened to the people and chosen a path of obedience to social convention?

The second time we see Bartimaeus’ faith is when Jesus explicitly asks him what he wants. It was one thing to believe that Jesus had the power to heal him, but it’s another altogether to stand in front of the Messiah and explicitly say, “I believe you can heal me.” 

Bartimaeus’ faith passes both of those tests. 

2.  Discipleship is an expression of gratitude

Jesus gave Bartimaeus permission to go. He had demonstrated his faith in the Lord, and he had been healed. This could have been the extent of the exchange between the two. But Bartimaeus’ faith in Jesus as Messiah wouldn’t allow for that. His gratitude for what had been done for him wouldn’t allow for that. He had to follow Jesus as a true expression of his thankfulness.   

This should be the same for us. Our gratitude for what Jesus has done should propel us to follow Him and expand His rule in our lives. 

The story of Bartimaeus serves as a timeless reminder of the power of faith, healing and persistence. His encounter with Jesus demonstrates the transformative nature of encounters with the divine and teaches us valuable lessons about empathy, breaking societal barriers, and the significance of gratitude. As we reflect on Bartimaeus’ journey, may we find inspiration to approach life’s challenges with unwavering faith and a willingness to seek healing and transformation.Not everyone can read or will read stories like this one in the Bible. Jesus Film Project delivers the story of Jesus on film so all can hear Him speak in their language and see His love play out on screen. We believe film is the most powerful way to share the story of Jesus. Discover why and how you can use our resources to share the gospel in your heart language.