In this week’s Gospel, from Mark 10, Jesus and the disciples encounter a roadside beggar, “the son of Timaeus” (bar means “son of” in Hebrew). Who, then, was Timaeus? And why was his son reduced to begging?
I came across two intriguing possibilities in this article by Gareth Hughes, Chaplain at Hereford College in Oxford. One translation of the word is “honor” or “worth” — Bartimaeus, then, would be “the honored one.” The second, equally intriguing, translates the word as “unchaste” or “impure,” in keeping with the idea that disability is a sign of parental wrongdoing. The sins of the fathers, you see.
And so, in today’s Gospel we find Jesus restoring the honor to one who has been judged worthless and disposable, and was determined not to own it.
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me.”
Right now I’m working on a book in which men and women railed against the efforts of those around them to “stay in their place” and accept various humiliations and limitations. In some cases they took the indignity with humility and patience. In others, they refused to submit and battled on — some becoming broken and embittered.
In today’s Gospel, we see that such circumstances can have a soul-enlarging effect when we cry out to the God who hears. We may not be able to change our circumstances in the short term. But then, that’s not really the point. Like Job of old, the plea for God’s pity, his intervention, his justice may not miraculously restore all that was taken from us — as it did in the blind beggar’s case. And yet, those supernatural graces that pour out upon us will guide us through the night, and prevent us from falling on the rocks of bitterness and rebellion.
Son of David, have mercy on me!