By Michael Mays posted July 21, 2016
A note from Joy Mays: These are a busy couple of weeks as I prepare for the new school year, so I've asked Michael if he would write this week's devotional. I know you'll enjoy his unique perspective on a familiar Bible story...
"And Jesus said to him,'What do you want me to do for you?' And the blind man said to him, 'Rabbi, let me recover my sight.'” - Mark 10:51
One of the prayer habits Christians in America have developed is the offering up of “ambulance prayers.” We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time asking God to take away this struggle, take away that pain or sickness, or remove this or that temptation. If we ask God for anything, it’s usually on behalf of someone else—either because they’re having some health or personal struggle, or because we like to passive-aggressive gossip. Rarely do we actually, publicly solicit prayers for our own shortcomings, especially spiritual ones… but that’s another blog. <wink>
Some time ago our pastor preached from Mark 10 (the passage about blind Bartimaeus), and I observed something interesting: Bartimaeus doesn’t ask for his blindness to be removed. Rather, he asks specifically for Jesus to restore his sight. “Let me recover my sight,” he says in verse 51. This is one of those “onion” passages—there are multiple levels of truth taught in a tiny space.
First, we observe that Bartimaeus is asking to be given sight (v.51). I don’t think it’s insignificant—especially given our usual prayer habits—that Bartimaeus does not point out the problem he has (blindness) and ask Jesus to remove it. He looks past his present situation and places hope in this Nazarene prophet’s power to grant sight. “Restore my sight” is more proactive than “take away my blindness” and implies Bartimaeus’ future intention to get up and do something.
Secondly, in asking that his sight be restored, Bartimaeus speaks from the viewpoint (no pun intended) of one who has previously seen. He knows what he’s missing—he knows what color is; he understands binocular vision and, consequently, depth perception; he remembers dodging something flying towards him, or walking purposely towards an objective. He remembers seeing the faces of his friends and family members—he remembers the grins when a good joke was told, the tears of joy at a wedding, the lines of worry when a loved one was ill, and the look of anguish on the faces of mourners. He has seen all this…and he wants it again, knowing he will see it all again—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Third, Bartimaeus throws off his cloak (v.50). This is also not a throw-away notion. Up to this point, the crowd following Jesus hasn’t been very friendly or accommodating to Bartimaeus. He's accustomed to them ignoring him, but this time he insists on meeting Jesus. They don’t really care, they just wish he’d shut up… until Jesus tells them to fetch him (v.49). So they resignedly say to him, “Okay, calm down, Jesus will see you!” In throwing off his cloak, Bartimaeus is committing a significant act of faith: he fully expects that Jesus can and will restore his sight. Otherwise, he’ll never get back the one piece of property he has, as it’s pretty clear the people were likely not kind enough to help this blind pest find it again.
Bartimaeus’ story is such a picture of unwavering, unquestioning faith and intention. When trials and tribulations come to us, are we merely asking God to take them away? I think the lesson here is this: God is a giver. He is not in the habit of taking things away from His children (except our sin… but He did that only once, and once for all our sin, on the cross). Rather, He longs to provide for and equip us. Of course He knows what we mean when we ask for struggles to be taken away—even Jesus did this, in the garden. But I wonder what blessings we miss in the gifts God does provide when we view them as simply the removal of some discomfort or annoyance (or perhaps worse), rather than empowerments to turn hardships into missions, to accomplish His work in this world.