On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
He Had a Name
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. (Mark 10:46, NIV)
Before we make any devotional application to this story, let’s look at what first appears to be discrepancies in the three Gospel accounts of this incident.
First, Matthew (20:29-34) tells the story of two blind beggars whom Jesus healed.
Second, Mathew and Mark state that the incident took place as Jesus was leaving Jericho; but Luke states that it happened as Jesus approached the city.
Third, only Mark names the beggar — Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.
If we believe the Scriptures do not contradict themselves, how do we explain the differences among Mathew, Mark and Luke?
The account of the two beggars in Matthew and the one beggar in Mark and Luke are similar to the account of the Gerasene (Gadarene) demoniac. Matthew (8:28-34) gives the account of two, while Mark (5:1-20) and Luke (8:26-39) relate the story of one. Reconciling these accounts is easy if you think of a camera. Looking at the same scene, the camera can either take a panoramic shot or refocus and use a zoom lens on something that in particular stands out.
What stands out to Mark and Luke is what the one man did after his deliverance — he went and told others. Evidently the other man did nothing after his deliverance. Matthew is content to give us the panoramic shot of the healing; Mark and Luke, the close-up because of the follow-through. That principle applies here as well with the Jericho beggars. Matthew simply gives the panoramic; Mark and Luke, the close-up.
The greater difficulty is the sequence. The key to understanding the difference may be that Luke alone records the encounter with Zacchaeus (19:1-9), placing it in Jericho after the healing of the beggar. Did Jesus not intend to stay in Jericho when He entered — and according to Matthew and Mark was, in fact, leaving? Did Jesus turn around after the healing of the beggars, changing His itinerary so that Jericho became a stop? Thus, from one point of view Jesus was leaving the city and from another point of view approaching it.
Our main focus however should be on the fact that the man has a name. Excluding the mention of Jairus, in all the healings of Jesus this is the only recipient with a name — and only the Gospel of Mark gives us his name, Bartimaeus. Why is this?
Early Church tradition tells us that Mark’s Gospel first came to the Romans. Mark is the only one to tell us that the one who carried Jesus’ cross, Simeon of Cyrene, had two sons, Alexander and Rufus. Paul’s letter to the Romans contains greetings to Rufus and his mother (16:13).
Could it be that just as Paul calls attention to a member of the Roman church whose father had the distinction of carrying the cross, that Mark also points out another person known to the Roman church — Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus?
Of the two blind beggars healed that day, Bartimaeus is singled out for the “zoom shot” because he later became known in the Christian community — even to those in Rome. Perhaps Bartimaeus himself helped found the church in Rome.
So many are helped by Jesus but never go onward to serve Him. Bartimaeus did, and thus he is known.
A prayer of response
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark