On the Road to Jericho
Have you ever heard “It’s all in the details”? The quote comes from creative genius Walt Disney, and it’s a good thing to keep in mind as you read the Bible. You may be reading a passage and notice something and think, “I wonder why he mentioned that?” Doing some research into that obscure detail can reveal a beautiful revelation from God.
Such a detail pops up in the story of blind Bartimaeus receiving his sight. We find the account in Mark 10:46-52. It begins, “Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.”
We are immediately informed of three facts:
- The location is Jericho.
- There is a man named Bartimaeus.
- He is a blind beggar.
Jericho is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It’s located 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem, and is a gateway to the Jordan River. In ancient days it was known for its warm climate and fresh water springs; the oasis city was sometimes referred to as “the City of Palm Tress.” Its location made it an important political outpost and a prosperous trade city. The roads into Jericho were frequently traveled by rich traders and visitors from afar, and would be an ideal place for poor people to beg for coins.
Living in the Dark
We are told that Bartimaeus is the son of Timaeus. Bartimaeus is blind, but his family is no longer caring for him. Perhaps he was considered a burden, or shunned because of his handicap. Blindness was a familiar condition in Bible days, and there was a common belief that it was the result of sin, a curse from God sent as punishment (see John 9:1-3). Medical treatment was limited to ineffective ointments applied to the eyes in the hope of relief. There was no surgery, no antibiotics, no corrective eyewear available.
The Law did provide some protection for the blind. Deuteronomy 27:18 forbid giving misleading directions to the blind, and Leviticus 19:14 prohibited doing anything that would cause the blind to stumble. But there was no social welfare system in place to provide assistance to those unable to work, so unless they were cared for by their family, the only option for a blind man was to become a beggar. This would place Bartimaeus at the bottom of the social scale (only lepers were lower than beggars). His would be a life of darkness and despair.
This is why we find Bartimaeus begging at the roadside. Mark writes, “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, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Bartimaeus couldn’t see, but he could listen, and as travelers passed by him he heard their conversations. Perhaps he had heard accounts of healings that Jesus had performed. At any rate, Bartimaeus was aware of who Jesus was. He also understood who Jesus proclaimed Himself to be. When he calls out to Him, Bartimaeus uses the term “Son of David,” a reference to the Messiah. Bartimaeus knew that this was someone special passing by, and he was looking for more than a few coins from Him.
The people in the crowd did not respond with kindness. They sought to silence him. Perhaps they were ashamed to have a lowly beggar there; perhaps they were seeking Jesus’ attention themselves. But Bartimaeus was determined, and paid no attention to their demands. He persisted in crying out to Jesus, and refused to be turned away.
Mark’s account continues: “Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Jesus Changes Everything
Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “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.”
Jesus demonstrated His divinity by healing many people of various illnesses, including blindness. There are five accounts in the New Testament of Jesus healing the blind, but this is the only one that identifies the blind man by name. And it’s the only one with another intriguing detail.
What is Bartimaeus’ response when Jesus called him? “Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:50).
Why did Mark emphasize this? What makes this detail important to us?
A cloak was an important piece of clothing in biblical times. It was a long, wide, sleeveless tunic reaching to the ankles. It served as both an outer garment by day and a blanket at night.
A beggar’s cloak would be of the same design, but made of coarser, inferior cloth to the cloaks worn by most people. The cloak would have been given to Bartimaeus by the local elders. This cloak was the only object of any value that he owned, and it gave him the legal right to beg for alms. It is likely that Bartimaeus was homeless, so the cloak was his only protection against the weather. The cloak was a visible sign of his social standing. He would drape it across his lap to catch any coins that might be tossed to him.
It was a poor man’s garment, but it was all he had. And yet he threw it aside when Jesus called.
And after he was healed, Bartimaeus did not go back for it.
He left it there in the dust.
He didn’t need it anymore– he had found something better. He met Jesus, and his life was changed forever.
The Message of the Beggar’s Cloak
The beggar’s cloak– a small but significant detail. Yet I don’t believe Mark included it just for dramatic effect. The beggar’s cloak has something very important to tell us.
That cloak wasn’t just a piece of clothing. It was an identity.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are told, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!” I believe that Bartimaeus was saved the moment he jumped up in response to Jesus’ call. Jesus commended his faith. Bartimaeus was healed– but he received far more than his sight. His entire identity was transformed; he was now “in Christ.” His old identity was gone– he was no longer a blind beggar. Now he was a follower of Jesus.
That’s why he left the beggar’s cloak behind.
Why is this important to us? I believe there are many Christians walking around still wearing their beggar’s cloak. They don’t understand the transformation that took place when they were born again. They know they’re saved, but they really don’t know who they are. They haven’t discovered their identity in Christ.
I know, because for many years I was one of them. I accepted Christ as my Savior on September 21, 1973, during the Jesus Movement. But I was still in bondage to my past. I still struggled with many issues– a poor self-image, damaged self-esteem, insecurities, addictions. I was a Christian, I was a deacon in my church, I was in full-time ministry– but I was still wearing that beggar’s cloak.
It took many years– decades, in fact– for me to discover who I truly was in Christ. But when I did, the chains were broken and I was set free.
Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t have any battles. But knowing who I am in Christ has given me a confidence that I never had before. It’s truly changed my life.
How about you? Are you still wearing that beggar’s cloak? Do what Bartimaeus and I did– throw it aside, and start walking in your new identity as a child of God. Embrace the grace and freedom Christ has for you!
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To find out more about you identity in Christ, click here: https://www.ficm.org/about-us/who-i-am-in-christ/
“iDENTITY: Who You Are In Christ” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/identity-who-you-are-in-christ
“”Hello, My Name Is…?” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/hello-my-name-is
“Is A New You Really Possible?” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/is-a-new-you-really-possible