When we read the word “barren” in Jeremiah, we often think it is talking about the land, in particular the environment. The barrenness is in regard to people, in particular, God’s people (and their herds). They will soon no longer reside in the Promised Land, praising and worshiping God.
Poor decisions made by the People of God led to the barrenness and their exile. In response to their despair of exile, God promises them restoration. They have not even repented and God already promises their return. God spoke hope into the darkness. God spoke hope in the face of the people’s fear.
Fear is often a response to the unknown. Fear is also a response when we think we know what bad will come to pass. Those that followed Jesus behind the Disciples likely presumed the demise of this Messiah (self-declared Messiahs weren’t unknown, and they all died). They weren’t wrong.
This particular journey of Jesus to Jerusalem would indeed end in Jesus’ death. Those that feared weren’t wrong. Without being too specific (we have to remember that we often read the end into Jesus’ words, and the Disciples weren’t there, yet), Jesus spoke hope to the fear. Even while describing what would happen to him, Jesus spoke hope into the darkness.
The story of blind Bartimaeus seems to be just one of those stories of Jesus, but don’t overlook its placement within the context of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus was physically blind. Bartimaeus, on the other hand, had spiritual vision. We could just dismiss his cries to Jesus as pure desperation. Jesus, though, doesn’t seem to respond to sole desperation at other points in the Scriptures. Bartimaeus was something more. It seems quite reasonable that Bartimaeus’ place in the Gospel was to represent a counterpoint to the physically sighted who were spiritually blind.
The particularly glaring issue with the spiritually blind was how much vision they thought they had regarding spiritual issues, and definitely someone as significant as the Messiah. The so-called enlightened being compared to the least (a physically impaired person whose only source of income was through begging) would have been quite insulting.
Mark’s intent likely was that jarring comparison. As Mark wrote after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, Mark (along with other followers of Jesus) would be striving to confront those that thought they were spiritually enlightened with the world-changing Jesus.
- Which is your strongest tendency? (1) Seeing the bad that can/will happen and being overwhelmed with your fear of it (i.e., like those who followed the Disciples), (2) So consumed with the spectacle that your are blind to the darkness around or ahead of you (i.e., the Disciples), (3) Are sure you know that bad or darkness ahead but face it with the peace and strength of God (i.e., like Jesus)?
- Are you quick to assume you have Godly spiritual vision, or do you wonder if you are spiritually blind?
Lord, each of us have different responses to the world and its struggles. Help us to build Godly responses to the darkness. Amen.