In the gospel of Mark ch10, there is an account of Jesus healing a blind man; Bartimaeus. It is one of many miracles Jesus did during his earthly ministry, but there is something about it which speaks volumes to me of Jesus’s concern, sensitivity, respect and love for blind Bartimaeus.
In the story, Jesus and the disciples are leaving Jericho surrounded by crowds. Blind Bartimaeus, sitting at the roadside begging, is told Jesus is passing by and immediately starts shouting asking Jesus to have mercy on him. Despite the crowds and noise Jesus hears the cries for mercy and has Bartimaeus brought to him. What happens next intrigues me; the man is blind, isn’t it obvious what he wants from Jesus? But, Jesus asks Bartimaeus, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
Jesus’ question doesn’t reduce him to just another blind beggar wanting to be healed; it lifts him to the place where he is treated as an individual, a place of respect whose words are listened to. I think many of us would have seen Bartimaeus and immediately assumed we knew what he wanted.
I’m not sure why February 14th has been called Valentine’s Day, or why on that day there is an emphasis on love. It’s strange how a bunch of flowers is about five times more expensive in the days around the 14th, but people buy them.
Jesus when challenged about the greatest commandment gave two examples. The first is to love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength. The second is; ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
The golden rule which is based on this commandment is; do to others what you would want them to do to you. Simply put, take the initiative when behaving towards others, don’t do anything to them that you wouldn’t want them to do to you. That rule, if followed, would resolve many tensions and stresses in life, because the cause of many of them wouldn’t happen in the first place.
But that isn’t the revolutionary part of the second commandment. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself is.’ I have met and spoken to many people who find the idea of loving themselves unthinkable. For whatever reason, when they speak about self they criticise their appearance, intellect, self-worth; they compare themselves to others and always come out wanting or deficient in some way. Their unhappiness with self-saps life of meaning and purpose and often leads to feelings of guilt and shame.
Bartimaeus, could easily have stayed on the roadside and thought ‘Why would Jesus want anything to do with me?’ When he cried out, the Son of God listened. Whatever the world thinks of me/you God places a great value on his children; he loves us. Can there be any greater message for a child of God?