What Do You Want?

In the Gospel Reading, blind Bartimaeus will not stop yelling for Jesus to have pity on him, until Jesus finally calls for him.


And at this point the funny parts of the story start. Why doesn’t Jesus go to Bartimaeus? Why wait for the blind man to find his way to Jesus? And when Bartimaeus does get to Jesus, Jesus asks him what seems like the dumbest question: “What do you want me to do for you?” What on earth would anybody suppose Bartimaeus wants? He’s blind! And why does Jesus say that Bartimaeus’s faith has saved him? What does Bartimaeus’s receiving his sight have to do his being saved?


And yet notice what Bartimaeus actually says. He does not say to Jesus, “I want my sight.” He says, “I want to see.” To want sight is to want a capacity, which can be used for all kinds of purposes—raising sheep, making money. But to want to see is to want the connection with reality that the exercise of sight makes possible. Wanting to see is wanting to know the true nature of reality, hidden in some ways from a person when he is blind.


Once we see what Bartimaeus asks for, the funny parts of the story make more sense. When Jesus calls Bartimaeus to himself, he gives him a small space in which to consider what he really wants before Jesus asks him. And when Jesus does ask him, the presence of Jesus and that question serve as a call on Bartimaeus to commit himself to one heart’s desire. And he finds it: I want to see.


Seeing, however, isn’t limited to seeing the blue of the sky or the road to home. It is also a matter of seeing the truth about things, or even of seeing The Truth himself. 


And so Jesus gives Bartimaeus all that he asks for. Bartimaeus sees not only the world around him but also his Lord. And in seeing Jesus, Bartimaeus accepts the Giver with the gift of sight. Although Jesus gives Bartimaeus the option of going off, Bartimaeus stays by Jesus and follows him.


Bartimaeus came to Jesus and he saw the Lord, because seeing was what he really wanted. And that’s why Jesus tells him that his faith has saved him.