The Perfect Servant in Mark’s Gospel: His Itinerary

This article concludes our studies in the third main section of Mark’s Gospel (8:22-10:52). It may be profitable here to remind ourselves of the structure of this section:

Introduction: The Blind Man Enlightened

Jesus’ Identity Affirmed: The Christ

The Cross and Glory

The Cross and Greatness

The Cross and Glory and Greatness

Jesus’ Itinerary Affirmed: The Cross

Conclusion: The Blind Man Enlightened

We have seen that Mark records two incidents in which a blind man receives sight. These occasions reflect the spiritual condition of the Lord’s disciples whose presuppositions about the Messiah had blinded them to the Old Testament predictions of His sufferings. The Lord has sought to open their eyes by reminding them that “it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought” (9:12).[1] We cannot pick and choose which parts of Scripture we wish to believe; the same Old Testament that predicts the glory of Christ also predicts His suffering.

Conclusion: The Blind Man Enlightened (10:46-52)

The disciples, having passed through Jericho, continued with the Lord on the journey to Jerusalem. They had about eighteen miles still to walk before they would enter the walls of that great city. The road upon which they travelled was thronged with a multitude of pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem for the feast. This was the ideal spot for a beggar hoping to gain something from the passing crowds. It was here that “blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat … begging” (v46).

While his sight was impaired, Bartimaeus was still well equipped with good hearing and a loud voice. When “he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me” (v47). “Jesus of Nazareth” was a common designation for the Lord, signifying the town from which He had emerged to commence His ministry, but Bartimaeus did not call Him by this name. The scribes taught publicly that the Messiah was the Son of David (cf. 12:35), and Bartimaeus’ use of this title revealed his belief that Jesus was no less than this promised Messiah, the King of Israel.

Bartimaeus based his appeal for “mercy” on his identification of the Lord Jesus as the promised Messiah. He clearly had no difficulty associating sovereignty with service. The Lord had spent the journey to Jerusalem teaching His disciples that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (10:45 ESV), and they were about to be given a practical demonstration.

Many among the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus, charging him to “hold his peace” (v48). This was the same attitude that previously marked the disciples and greatly displeased the Lord (vv13-16). It was the mindset which assumed that a “great” person such as “Jesus of Nazareth” would not have time for a blind beggar. This thinking was so contrary to the Lord’s teaching that He deliberately, by His actions and words, demonstrated His true interest in Bartimaeus and his need.

As Bartimaeus cried out continually for mercy, the Lord “stood still, and commanded him to be called” (v49). Mark’s Gospel is a record of busy activity and constant movement; this makes it all the more noteworthy that the Lord “stood still.” The cry of the needy would not go unnoticed; it would not hang in the air without a response. The same crowd that tried to silence the blind man now spoke to him, “Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee,” and he, “casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus” (vv49-50).

Bartimaeus’ garment may have been placed on the road before him to collect coins thrown in his direction. If so, he showed by his actions his confidence that what Jesus would offer was of far greater value than the proceeds of his begging. If, on the other hand, Bartimaeus removed a garment he was wearing, he did so to divest himself of anything that could impede him in coming to the Lord.

Coming to Jesus he heard merciful words: “What do you want me to do for you?” (v51 ESV). These are the words of an attentive and caring Saviour. The perfect Servant was determined to accomplish the work that would provide pardon and salvation for Israel and the world. His face was set “like a flint” (Isa 50:7) to achieve that universal goal, but this did not make Him oblivious to individual need. He was the Servant who knew “how to speak a word in season to him that is weary” (v4), and He would not fail to speak that word. His character would shine through in every interaction with every kind of person.

Bartimaeus requested his sight and the Lord granted his request: “Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole” (v52). The immediate restoration of his sight was accompanied by no further constraint from the Lord upon him. Released from darkness he could go his way. But Bartimaeus “followed Jesus in the way” (v52).

He who had sat beside the way (v46) now followed Jesus in the way (v52). Grace not only enabled him to see; it motivated him to follow. From that time the path of Jesus was the chosen path of Bartimaeus.

Both the Lord and Bartimaeus illustrate for us the lessons of this section of Mark. The Lord shows us that, no matter the dignity or status conferred upon us, we should remain attentive to the urgent cries of need that surround us. If we are equipped to respond to these we should not hesitate to do so. In Bartimaeus we see illustrated the deliberate decision to follow Jesus in the way. Have you made that decision? Are you willing to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him?

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.