The story of the blind beggar at the side of the road outside Jericho signals to the readers of the Gospel that the story is drawing to a close. Jericho lies at the base of Mt. Zion. Jerusalem lies at its peak. Traveling the road from Jericho to Jerusalem takes one from below sea level to an elevation above sea level, from a salt waste and the Dead Sea to the life of a thriving city. However, it is impossible to forget what happens upon Jesus' arrival in the city.
The son of Timaeus sits in darkness by the roadside as Jesus passes. After a brief interchange, Jesus restores the man's sight. Bartimaeus responds by following Jesus to Jerusalem. Underlying this story of restored sight is a metaphorical journey from darkness to light, from doubt to faith. This blind beggar places his faith in Jesus and follows him to Jerusalem. The evangelist says that he followed him "on the way," a phrase that takes on more meaning after the Resurrection. Because we will not hear the man's name mentioned again, we can only imagine what happened to him as he joined the band of disciples who followed Jesus. He probably scattered with the rest of the disciples when Jesus was arrested. Perhaps the gift of sight eventually led him back to faith in Jesus.
The road from Jericho to Jerusalem is the site of another story in the Gospel of St. Luke. In addition to the story of this blind beggar, Jesus also used the road as the backdrop for the story of the compassionate Samaritan. Anyone who has studied writing knows that placing the story in a particular setting is an important part of narrative technique. A journey is often used as a metaphor for life. This road has its bumps and hazards like any other road just as every life has its ups and downs. Bartimaeus' journey of faith begins with a simple cry for mercy. Like him, we beg for the gift of sight, for the eyes of faith. We pray that our steps will never stray from the Way.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator