December 6, 2016 • Life for Leaders
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
I’m one of those people who are genetically wired not to ask for help. If I’m in a hardware store, for example, looking for an unusual pipe fitting, and an employee asks me, “Can I help you find something?” though my answer should be, “Yes, please,” I tend to say something like “No, thanks. I’m doing fine.” Then I waste a half hour trying to find the piece that could have been located in two minutes. I don’t know exactly why I have a hard time asking for assistance. Probably some strange combination of pride, insecurity, and the feeling that my well-being depends on my having all the answers to everything.
When I read the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52, I am filled with admiration and a bit of envy. Here is this “blind man . . . sitting by the roadside begging” (10:46). Apparently, he had no other way to make a living besides asking for handouts. I can only imagine how difficult this must have been for his sense of wellbeing. One day, Jesus and his disciples were walking along the road where Bartimaeus sat. When he learned that Jesus, about whom he had heard great things, was passing by, Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (10:47).
This boldness impresses me. But Bartimaeus was just getting started. Even when the people around him told him to quiet down, he “shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (10:48). Bartimaeus sensed that Jesus alone had the power to set him free from his blindness and he wasn’t going to throw away his shot at healing.
Do you ever speak to Jesus as Bartimaeus did? Are there times in your life when you cry out with boldness to the Lord, even desperation? Or are you more like me in a hardware store, pretending as if you have it all together?
Scripture invites us to be like Bartimaeus when we pray. In Hebrews 4:15-16 we read, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” The NIV translation encourages us to approach God’s throne with “confidence.” The original Greek could be rendered more accurately as “boldness” (like the NRSV). The Greek word behind this translation is parresia, which literally meant “freedom of speech” and was often used to describe the bold speech of philosophers who challenged the status quo. The point is that we can tell God everything, without holding back.
Do you need boldness before God today? Do you need the freedom to cry out as Bartimaeus once did to Jesus? God invites you to come before him, not with cowering, not with the guise of self-assurance, but with boldness and freedom. God will, indeed, have mercy on you.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Are you the sort of person who finds it easy to ask for help? Or are you more like me? What does this say about you? Why do you think you are the way you are?
How about in your prayers? Can you speak freely to God? Can you pray with boldness? Why or why not?
If you felt free to say anything to the Lord today, what would you say? Are there requests and desires that you need to offer to God in prayer?
Gracious God, how I thank you for this story in Mark. I’m so impressed by the boldness of Bartimaeus. You know how much I am not like him, even in my prayers. So often I hold back, fearful to say to you what is truly in my heart. Forgive me, Lord, for my reticence.
Give me, I pray, new confidence in you, yes, indeed, new boldness. Help me to offer to you all that is in my heart, even those things I tend to hide. May I confess my true sins and ask for forgiveness. May I offer my deepest desires and hopes.
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Life in the Wilderness: Journey to the New World (Hebrews 3:7–4:16)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.