Bartimaeus Mark 10:46-52

A sermon on Sunday October 26, 2003 with the congregation of St. Paul’s Anglican in Kingston, Ontario, Canada

by Robert Brow     (


In our Gospel reading today we have the most important question that Jesus will ask of us. And the answer was given by a blind beggar two thousand years ago just outside the city of Jericho.

Bartimaeus was sitting by the side of the road, holding up his hands and asking for money. When he heard a large crowd coming by, he asked "What is going on? Who is this important person?" And he was told it was Jesus. So he began shouting at the top of his voice, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." Obviously he had heard about Jesus, and believed that he was the Messiah. The crowd tried to tell him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the more.

Suddenly there was quiet when Jesus stopped, and said "call him here." Bartimaeus jumped up, even leaving his cloak behind him, and stumbled in the direction of Jesus. Now notice the question Jesus asked him, and this is the question I want you to think about today. "What do you want me to do for you?" "Bartimaeus, what do you really want, above all else?"

Now the beggar could have said. "Oh, I want a rich man to come by and give me all I need to eat this month." Or he could have said, "I wish you could get my brothers and sisters to help me out. They never bother with me."

But he asked for his one great need. "Rabbi, let me see again." We don’t know how this blind man lost his sight, but he remembered what it was like when he could see. There was a beautiful world around him, he could recognize his friends, he was free to come and go, and he could earn his own money instead of the daily humiliation of having to beg.

So this morning I am going to ask you the same question Jesus asked this blind man two thousand years ago. You came to this service not really expecting to have Jesus talk to you. And now suddenly he says "What do you want me to do for you?" And each of you would have a different answer.

In the Book of Samuel there was a woman named Hannah, and she was upset because she was barren. Her one longing was to have a child. She became the mother of the great prophet Samuel.

There is the prayer of Jabez (you will find it hidden in a bunch of genealogies in the 4th. chapter of 1 Chronicles). "Oh, that you would bless me, and enlarge my border." Jabez needed room for himself and his family to grow.

Paul had a terrible thorn in the flesh (probably an eye problem), and he asked for that to be healed three times, but the Lord said "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." But then Paul saw the one thing he really wanted was to be able to do his work as an apostle. His prayer became "I want to know the Messiah, and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death" (Philippians 3:10). I am not sure I would want to pray that prayer. The "power of his resurrection"is one thing, but "the fellowship of his sufferings" is something else. Don’t ask for more than you can handle. Better be honest in our prayer !

We are all different, and for each of us there will be a variety of answers to the Lord’s question. "What do you want me to do for you?"

So I am asking you to answer for yourself this morning what you really long for. You could say, "the one thing I want is to win the lottery so I can pay off my mortgage and credit cards, and then I can begin splurging again." That couple in Toronto, whose nine-year old daughter was abducted last week, might answer "We want our daughter back."

When I check my e-mail every morning there is junk mail advertising viagra and all it takes to enjoy better sex. Actually what most people really long for is to love and be loved. There are also some in whom the only real heart desire is for revenge. The opposite is a prayer for reconciliation in one’s family. What is your real heart prayer?

I can’t tell you what your supreme longing ought to be. The Bible does make clear that God is on the side of freedom. Blind Bartimaeus needed the freedom to see again. And a good longing is to ask for the freedom to do something worth-while in life.

But as I have asked you Jesus’ question, some of you are thinking "I can’t answer that question. My mind is muddled. I don’t know what I really long for above anything else."

What you could ask for is the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said "If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him" (Luke 11:13). That is always a good prayer. "I need the Holy Spirit to help me see what my heart really longs for."

As we come to take the Bread and Wine of communion with the Lord, it is good to bring our thanksgiving for all that is past and our heart longing for the road ahead.

Jesus asked blind Bartimaeus "What do you want me to do for you?" And the blind man said to him "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

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