Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus
Mark provides a series of parables in chronological order matched to the overall story of the Bible. This one is about Russia’s Christian conversion.
46And they came to Jericho; and when Joshua went out of Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, a blind man, Timaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. 47When he heard that it was Joshua of Nazareth, he began to cry aloud and say, Son of David, have mercy on me. 48And many rebuked him and told him to keep quiet, but he cried out more saying, Son of David, have mercy on me. 49Then Joshua stopped and commanded to call him. So they called the blind man, and said to him, Have courage, rise; he is calling you. 50And the blind man threw off his robe and got up and went to Joshua. 51Joshua said to him, What do you wish me to do for you? The blind man said to him, Master, that I may see. 52And Joshua said to him, See; your faith has healed you. And immediately, he saw, and went on his way. Mark 10:46-52
The location of this parable, outside of Jericho with a large number of people, is key to opening up the rest of the parable. Jericho is most famous as the first city taken by the ancient Israelite army as they crossed the Jordan river. The most famous resident of the city was Rahab, the prostitute.
Rahab is one of the most curious characters in the Old Testament narrative. She gave shelter to the two Israelite spies. When the Jericho city officials came around looking for the spies she gave them cover by saying they had departed the city when in fact they were hidden on her roof. In return for the favor of shelter she asked for protection for her family. The spies granted her that request on the condition that she tie a red rope in her window so the invading army would know it was her house and on the condition that all of her family must remain in her house.
When the walls of the city collapsed Rahab’s house was spared, at least enough that her family escaped the collapsing rubble. Since Jericho’s wall fell by miraculous intervention it is a curious fact that God himself spared Rahab’s house.
Rahab is also listed in the genealogy of Jesus. Specifically, she is an ancestor of David, from the tribe of Judah. After the ancient Israelites conquered Jericho she was allowed to marry into the tribe of Judah. Why?
The answer to this question likely deals with the fact that the names of the spies sent to explore the land around Jericho are not named. This is odd because this was a particularly prestigious assignment. Joshua would have picked his best men. Men who were able to handle themselves and likely take leading roles in the army. This is how Joshua and Caleb, the two leaders of the Israelite army had received their military commissions. These two had survived the 40 year Sinai death march because God’s favor was upon them. Surely the two spies at the crossing of the Jordan river would receive similar recognition.
But, there was a small problem. These two spies had ended up in a prostitute’s house in the enemy camp.
Say you were a spy working for General Patton in World War II. You’re sent to Paris in order to figure out how the city is defended. Your orders are to report back on the military defenses of the city. Your boss wants the report because he will be arriving in a few days time with the army. He won’t have time to survey the city himself during the heat of battle. He wants no surprises later and is willing to risk the life of the spies in order to gain information.
What information does the General want? Military tactical information like troop strength. The amount and types of armaments. Perhaps some sense of the moral in the city under siege.
How do the spies get that information. By visiting a whore house?
The Bible’s text does not say what happened with the spies. Likely one of them had to marry Rahab or face capital punishment as an adulterer. If the spy did not yet have a wife then sleeping with a prostitute is not an act of adultery against a wife. It does, though, become as effective as having married the prostitute. Because the situation was so embarrassing for all involved the names of the spies were left out of the account. The names were left out of the official records of the crossing of the Jordan. All that remained was a marriage record in the family of Judah that one of its prominent sons had married a woman named Rahab. She, eventually, became an ancestor of David and the rest of the kingly line of ancient Judah. She also ended up in the genealogy of Jesus. The spy really was a prominent son.
When this parable opens in the crowds around Jericho the parable is pointing at the time when the crowds surrounded Jericho and one of the people of Jericho was set free. Our attention is on Rahab the woman who married into the family of Judah. She was the woman set free in Jericho.
Judah is the name of a tribe of ancient Israel. It is also the name of the patriarch, the father of the tribe of Judah. Judah’s mother was Leah. Leah had bad eyes. (cite) Today we might say that she needed glasses, but in terms of the parables of the Bible this means that she, and her kids, had trouble seeing into the things of the Lord.
The Book of Genesis records various stories about the patriarchs. The patriarch with the most press is Joseph who is sold into slavery in Egypt. The second most prominent story is the account of Judah. His story is much less glamorous. He looses his sons to sin and eventually sleeps with a prostitute who turns out to be the wife of one of his dead sons.
This Genesis story links the line of Judah to the act of sleeping with prostitutes. This reinforces the habit that got someone into trouble at the crossing of the Jordan.
Part of the reason Judah appears to have so much trouble is his sight impaired mother. His stories seem to center on not being able to see. This is in part what the rest of Jesus’ parable is dealing with.
The name of the man that Jesus heals of blindness in this parable is "Bartimaeus." This is explained as the son of Timaeus. Timaeus appears as a hominim to Thomas, the famous doubting disciple that would not believe unless he could see the scars from the crucifixion on Jesus for himself. The focus is on healing the blind one or blind tribe so that tribe could see Jesus.
In about 990 AD the king at Kiev sent envoys to understand and report back on the religion called Christianity. The king ruled over the Russian peoples at the time. This was before the city of Moscow became the capital.
The king’s envoys traveled west. The explored the practices of the western branches of Christianity. The reported back that they did not understand much about the religion and that they were overcome by the vulgar smell of the people. (This before indoor plumbing, but apparently before anyone in western Europe even cared.)
The king’s envoys also traveled south. They went to Constantinople in order to understand the eastern form of Christianity. Upon realizing the significance of the heathen envoys in their midst the Orthodox Christians made every effort to win the envoy’s to eastern Christianity. They were successful. Within 20 years the Russians had been converted.
Russians are the modern descendants, ie the "sons" of the ancient tribe of Judah. This event, the conversion of the Russian peoples to Christianity, marks the time in world history when the descendants of Rahab, the sons of Thomas, would receive their sight and be able to "see" Jesus.
Phil Stone, Updated 2016-11-06