30th Sunday of ordinary Time Cycle B
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Jesus’ miraculous curing of the blind man outside Jericho is one of his miracles that doubles as a kind of parable in action. The parables of Jesus are intended to instruct us regarding the salvation offered to man by God through Jesus Christ, and sometimes these parables can take the form of his actions rather than the normal form of a story that teaches. This brief event, then, we can see a kind of parable in action teaching us the relationship between faith, prayer, and salvation.
In this little vignette in Mark’s Gospel, this miracle/parable, there is taking place a much deeper drama of salvation that only Jesus understands at the time. In this drama, the action seems to take place on two distinct levels simultaneously, first, the immediate and apparent level of the man’s quite human desire for a miraculous cure of his blindness, and secondly, and more profoundly, on the hidden level of the drama of salvation which is actually taking place in this incident.
In fact, when looked at from this second perspective, what is ultimately most important in this miracle account is not the physical miracle of curing the man’s blindness, which everyone can see, but rather the hidden miracle of his personal salvation which only Jesus can see. And Jesus points to this deeper level of meaning precisely when he says to the man, “your faith has saved you.” In biblical language this can mean your faith has gained the miracle, but in another deeper sense, your faith has gained you salvation.
The underlying theme of this wonderful drama of salvation, the man’s faith, is captured in Mark’s account when he tells us that the people were trying to make the blind man keep silent, but he persists in crying out “Son of David, have pity on me.”
First, we might focus on how wonderful it is that this man refuses to be silenced since he knows this may well be his one and only chance with Jesus, the miracle worker, who may not pass this way again. The poor blind beggar, who had no hope for a cure from the physicians of this world, must have “heard” that Jesus of Nazareth, the miracle worker, was luckily passing his way that day outside Jericho, and he was not about to miss his chance to ask mercy from this man whom he believed had such powers. This was the first act of his faith.
However, he not believed in Jesus’ miraculous power, and so refused to keep silent, but more important was the what he kept crying out, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Jesus immediately saw the significance of this choice of words, and Jesus recognized the faith behind them, the faith not just in His power, but in Him.
So, here we have a second, greater act of faith, for quite surprisingly this poor blind man refers to Jesus using a quite definite messianic title, Son of David, a title rarely encounter in the Gospel of Mark. Does this not suggest, then, that the blind beggar may well have “heard” about he Messiah being a Son of David, and may well have had a beginning of faith that this man might be the Messiah himself? Faith comes through hearing, and what a marvelous thing that the blind man already has the vision of faith, while so many who see Jesus visibly are still blind as to his identity.
So I think we can be on firm ground in assuming that Jesus Himself saw something deeper in the man’s faith, for when he cures him, Jesus tells him, “your faith has saved you.” So Jesus sees that the man’s prayer of petition, “to see”, contains, implicitly at least, because of his faith, a desire to see in a much greater sense, to see the Kingdom of Heaven come, to see God. His knowledge of this title showed a deeper religious interest in the Kingdom and the coming of the Messianic King.
Thus this little drama is something wonderful to witness. The blind man is rewarded for his faith and prayer far, far beyond what he actually prays for. His expression of faith, not only in Jesus’ miraculous powers, but in Jesus Himself as the promised not only receives the miraculous cure, but the promise of his salvation. And then note how Bartimeaeus confirms his faith, and his understanding of the promise by Jesus regarding his salvation by immediately becoming Jesus’ follower.
Of course the parable that emerges from this wonderful miraculous event is obviously meant as a parable for our benefit too and not simply for Bartimeaeus. To begin with, when it comes to our salvation, we too are blind men until faith takes hold of us. Then we walk in the light.
Secondly, only if we have genuine faith will we persevere in prayer, like the blind man, persistently asking God that we may see, to help us to see more clearly what that salvation is which He truly wants for us. The blind man surely wanted to see the world that others see; so we should want to see the world that the spiritually blind cannot see, the marvelous unseen world that God has prepared for us by sending his Son to our rescue. Only the Son of David can give us that vision of faith that penetrates the world of God.
By such miracles as this curing of the blind man, Jesus himself encourages us to ask him persistently for the things we can only hope for from Him, all the things connected to that one great reality, our salvation – light, life, virtues that direct us to God, graces that enable us to make our way by following Him along His way.
“Ask and you shall receive,” Jesus says, and faith will overcome our hesitancy to ask; faith will make us persistent like the blind man who would not be silenced simply because he believed this was his only chance to get what he was asking for. Like the blind man, we never know if Jesus will ever pass quite this way again in our lives. So we must always cry out, like Bartimeaus, Lord that I may see.
How important, then, to recognize that it is precisely the faith of the blind man that is praised by Jesus, faith that is persevering, faith that wins the favor asked, and so much more, from Jesus.
How sad, then, that so many people today hesitate to ask Jesus for their needs, especially their spiritual needs, or at least do not persist in asking. Is this not a sign of the decline of a living faith in our world?
Living faith implies a readiness to surrender everything into God’s hands, one’s temporal and spiritual needs, mind, will, heart. Living faith implies a readiness to surrender everything to God because such faith believes that God wants nothing but good for us, wants nothing more than our love, our self. A living faith is certain that God is concerned above all for our greatest need of all, our need for Him, for His salvation. The blind man asked to see, and God gave him paradise.
If someone had asked that blind man what he would ask Jesus for if he happened to pass his way, he probably would have said just what he he said to Jesus, that he might see. He had faith, but he did not yet explicitly see what his greatest need was until Jesus that day enlightened his faith. But when he did finally “see” this greater need, he followed Jesus down the road wherever it might take him.
Finally, while we are encouraged to ask for everything we need, faith will always ask with the heart of Jesus, who entrusts everything into the hands of His Father. The blind man is a great example of faith leading to petition and such prayer leading to salvation. Whatever we ask for with the heart of His Son, we can be sure the Father’s response will contain much more than we can possibly begin to imagine.