Bartimeaus the Blind Begger: A Christian Marxist Perspective. By: Garron DanielsRead Now
Mark 10:46-52 details the story of a blind beggar named Bartimeaus. Bartimeaus encounters Jesus just as he, his disciples, and a large crowd leave the city of Jericho. It’s in this passage that the blind beggar cries out to be healed by Jesus and Jesus does so, restoring his sight. This is just one of the many stories of Jesus’s healing abilities. However, within this healing narrative there is so much more to unpack. It’s in this short encounter between Jesus and this beggar that Jesus makes it abundantly clear the direct duty we have to the poor. So, what is this passage all about and why is it important?
As previously mentioned, in this passage we see Jesus, his disciples, and a large crowd leaving Jericho; most likely after Jesus did some preaching, healing, and other works to the crowds of people. It’s during this time that he is leaving that a blind beggar cries out to Jesus, only to be silenced by the crowd. Bartimeaus, the blind beggar, again cries out to Jesus saying, “Have mercy on me, the Son of David!” This finally catches the attention of Jesus. He stops and calls the beggar forward. It’s at this time the crowd changes from their harsh nature to a more caring and compassionate nature because Christ noticed the man. It’s at this moment that the beggar asks Jesus to help him see again. Jesus takes heart to this and tells him that his faith has healed him, and in that moment the beggar can once again see! The passage then ends with the beggar following the rest of the way with Jesus.
Before diving deeper into what this passage means we need to understand a few important factors that might not be noticed. For example, we can see a hint of a socio-cultural hierarchy present in this passage. Here we see an order of relationships of those who are considered of high regard to those who are less fortunate and poor. Jesus, who is mentioned first in this story, is referred to as both the Son of David and as a teacher, denoting a higher social class or someone of authority. From there, the disciples and the “large crowd” are mentioned next after Jesus is mentioned by name. The last to be mentioned out of those in this passage is Bartimaeus, someone who our story tells us is a blind beggar, meaning they would most likely be of a lower social status compared to Jesus, the disciples, and the rest of the crowd. This is reaffirmed by the fact that many tried to silence Bartimaeus when he tried to cry out for Jesus, showing that he is not part of them or deemed someone they consider worthy to be listened to by Jesus. This order could potentially tell us how ancient society viewed people and where they stood compared to others.
So, how and why does this order matter to us as the reader? It’s important for many reasons, but one of the most important being that it shows that even in ancient Palestine there was a form of hierarchy in place like there is today (elite, middle class, poor, etc). Not only that, but it shows that average people and even followers of Christ can at times ignore the poor and needy; not realizing that is the exact opposite of what Christ asks us to do. As we can see in this passage, Jesus cares for those in most need of assistance. He stops in the middle of the crowd, turns around, and calls the blind beggar forward. He proceeds to hear what the beggar is saying and then proceeds to heal the man! Not only heal him, but he has the beggar join him the rest of the way (we get no detail of the rest of the crowd’s continued following of Christ, only the beggar). Here is one of the many examples of Christ showing the world the importance of actively helping the poor and needy. By Christ stopping to listen and heal the beggar he showed that this man was just as important to hear as the crowd and disciples; an action which demonstrates a moment where Jesus takes the sledgehammer to the hierarchical order of the society. Christ didn’t care what the others thought. He didn’t silence the beggar like the others did, nor did he continue going on and pretending to not hear the man. He stops in his tracks, hears and heals the man, and then has him follow him the rest of the way. Jesus Christ cares for those in most need of assistance and reminds us of our duty to help the poor and needy masses.
This passage is an important reminder to Marxists and Christian Marxists of one of the many important lessons Christ teaches us; to help those in our community in most need of help. Too often than not do I witness people pass beggars without helping them, choose to not give to charities or volunteer, and openly look down on people in their community for being “white trash”. This is an attitude that has no room in the Gospel and work of Jesus. Jesus saw the worth in Bartimaeus and therefore so should we. Jesus raises up the lower classes and brings down those of the elite. It is our duty as well to do the same; to look out for fellow men and help those in most need of our help.
When we examine the class society we live in we quickly realize that the only way to accomplish what Christ asks of us is to unite as workers. Our community must be guided by an imperative to care for one another. This means we must hear our blind beggars, and beyond this, treat them with the dignity they deserve. It’s what Jesus asks us to do. It’s what he himself did.
If we want to live more like Christ this means we need to look at passages like this one and ask ourselves how have we helped the Bartimeaus in our lives? How have we ignored and mistreated the Bartimaeus in our lives? We need to think of this as individuals and as members of a political movement. Our condition as Marxists and followers of Christ asks us to work as a unified and solidified class of people. This unification entails solidarity and empathy. Regardless of how powerless we might feel, in unity there is strength. What we have will always be more than any ruling class will ever have, for Jesus himself walks with the poor and the lowly; always and forever.
About the Author:
My name is Garron Daniels. I am a Marxist Leninist from Northwest Missouri. I have previously worked with Students for a Democratic Society, Socialist Rifle Association, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization. I am also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and of the Religious Commission of the Communist Party USA. I have a B.S. Degree in Justice Systems from Truman State University and am currently obtaining my Masters in Divinity at the University of the South: School of Theology where I am a Postulant for the Holy Orders of the Episcopal Church.
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