As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, 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…Jesus stopped and said, “Call him…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.
How would you have responded to a blind beggar pleading for mercy? In this brief passage from Mark 10, we notice two opposite responses.
Many in the crowd hushed Bartimaeus, dismissing him immediately and essentially telling him to shut up. They didn’t value what Bartimaeus had to say simply because they did not value Bartimaeus as a person. In their eyes, he was a worthless member of society—a beggar whose interruptions were unwelcome that day and likely on any other day he voiced his thoughts. His cries tore through the crowd, and everyone surrounding him rolled their eyes and shook their heads, disregarding his broken plea for mercy.
Everyone heard the racket of his voice, but only one man in the crowd heard the longing of his heart. In the midst of all the roadside commotion, Jesus Christ turned, saying, “call him.” Bartimaeus’ cracked, hoarse cry for mercy caused the Son of God to stop. Mercy made him stop. Mercy compelled Jesus to learn about the blind beggar’s needs and enter into them rather than shirking away with the rest of the crowd. Mercy tugged on Jesus’ sleeve, nudging him toward the beggar and causing him to restore Bartimaeus’ sight.
Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm; it is also defined as compassionate treatment of those in distress.
According to this definition, mercy lies in the hand of the person with the power to decide—power that can be used to inflict punishment or to extend compassion. When others have that power over us, we always desire to be treated with mercy. Oftentimes, we may even consider that mercy to be justice, a due response to our affliction. Yet, like many in the crowd, when we hold this power to decide, we are apt to impose judgment on others because they have not met one of our arbitrarily made standards. In our hearts we view them as a burden, and not wanting to be bothered, we tell them to “shut up,” and we continue on our way.
The next time you become aware of another’s need, take the opportunity to show mercy, knowing that you would hope to be treated with the same kindness. You will need to stop, take time to understand the person’s need, and use your resources to meet it. You may even need to go against the crowd, drowning out the clamor of their voices, and intentionally seek the call of the one who needs help.
Though this seems difficult, it is the exact model we see from the actions of Jesus Christ. In our dealings with one another, let us keep in mind the “Golden Rule”: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. – Jesus (Matthew 7:12).
Pastor Van Holloway is the pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Xenia and guest columnist. He was assisted by student assistant Debby Kuruvilla.