What’s In a Name?
Everyone who received a miracle from Jesus had a name; yet we are not introduced to any. Except one. Mark tells the story of a blind beggar in Jericho. We don’t know if his sightless eyes were from birth, an accident or a disease. We do know that he spent his days begging by the roadside. But today, he will meet Jesus. His eyes will be opened and his heart will be freed by faith. Mark gives us his name - Bartimaeus. It matters that he is named. Let me explain.
When Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is passing by, he calls out incessantly. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The locals try to keep him quiet and stop him from being a bother. Bartimaeus turns up the volume. He catches the ear and heart of Jesus, who stops and calls for him. When Jesus and Bartimaeus were nose to nose, Jesus asked him a strange question. “What do you want me to do for you?” Everyone in the crowd knew the answer. It seemed too obvious to justify a question. But Jesus asked. Bartimaeus answered. Eyes were opened. Faith was affirmed and Bartimaeus followed Jesus down the road - without help from anyone. Miraculous grace! Still, I wonder, “Jesus, why do you ask a blind beggar what he wants?” I think it’s because the beggar has a name.
Jesus could have skipped the question. He could have touched the eyes and simply been on His way. But Jesus responds to a person not to a sickness. He sees Bartimaeus not as a problem to fix nor even as a disease to cure. This beggar is a man with a name. Jesus will not simply do something to Bartimaeus. He will do something with Bartimaeus. So Jesus engages the blind man’s desires. He speaks to his faith. He honours his will and choice. He interacts with the man, not with a malady.
What was true for Bartimaeus is true for us all. When God looks at us, He sees the bumps and bruises of our life, our floundering starts, failed intentions and disordered desires. But, we are more than the sum total of our needs or of our shortfalls. As Bryan Stevenson says, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” Jesus speaks to us as those who have voice and choice. He addresses people, not problems.
Frankly, we need that reminder. We may fear that we’re defined by the glaring failures so obvious in our sight. God is not blind. He sees what we see. But He knows our name. He calls and engages us. He could do something to us - perhaps something we would welcome! But He chooses to do something with us. He invites us to ask, to trust and to follow. Jesus knows what is wrong with you. He knows where you hurt. He knows what you need. But He knows who you are. He knows your name. It’s written on His heart.