Jesus Heals Bartimaeus
Summary of Workshops:
- Art: Create an illustrated book using texture, for a blind child.
- Cooking/Science: Make “Bart’s Open Eye” treats (round cookies decorated to look like eyes). Experiment with a home-made magnifying glass.
- Puppets: Use handle-bag puppets to enact the story of Jesus healing Bartimaeus.
- Video: Watch a video about leader dogs for the blind. Review the story of Bartimaeus’ healing by Jesus.
SCHEDULE NOTE: This Rotation was originally done during the summer, a time when we offer just 2 workshops each Sunday and do 3 week Rotations. Students will be gathered into two groups:
➢ Those going into 2nd grade through those going into 4th grade.
➢ Those going into 5th grade through those going into 7th grade.
Mark 10:46-52 (also in Matthew 20:29-34 and Luke 18:35-43)
Key Bible verse:
Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Mark 10:52a
Rotation Objectives — After completing this Rotation, participants will be able to:
- Name that the story is found in the New Testament in the Gospels; identify the four Gospels.
- Locate the story in the Gospel of Mark.
- Re-tell the story in his/her own words.
- Define faith as belief and trust in God.
- Examine the concept that blind Bartimaeus was able to recognize Jesus for who he was – the Messiah. Explore what can keep us from seeing Jesus clearly.
The story of the healing of a blind, begging man is found in three of the Gospels. Only Mark’s Gospel identifies this man as Bartimaeus. (Pronounced: bar-tih-MEE-uhs). The following material comes courtesy of the G.R.E.A.T. Adventure Dream Team at State Street United Methodist Church, Bristol, VA. “Blind Bartimaeus – Faith Heals: Rotation Overview and Background Information.” 2002.
What was it like being blind in Bible times
Blindness was a common ailment in biblical times due to inadequate nutrition, infectious diseases and poor pre-natal and post-natal care. Because employment required able-bodied and healthy workers, the infirm, lame, blind or otherwise physically handicapped in society were unable to work. Blind people were also illiterate (Braille had not been invented yet). They were uneducated and disrespected. Socially they were powerless.
Even worse, people in those days looked at physical illness as a punishment by God for some sin they had committed; therefore they were outcasts of society. They were forced to beg from passers-by and depend on the compassion of family and strangers. We know that this assumption of sinfulness leading to illness was common at the time. In the ninth chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus heals another blind man and addresses the issue of sin causing illness. “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” the disciples asked. “Neither,” Jesus replies. “This happened so that the glory of God might be revealed.” (John 9:3) This was a new and radical idea for the Jewish people. God does not punish people with illness, but God uses the illnesses and hardships of the world to reveal his character and purpose.
"Blindness" in the scriptures was also a metaphor for sin, or being "blind to God", or blind to the truth, or people's needs. Share some examples of this with the children.
The setting for our story – a crowded road
In Mark 10, we find Jesus and his disciples and followers passing through Jericho on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Jericho was a prosperous town about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Beggars typically lined major roads to better their chances of receiving assistance, and the roads would have been especially crowded during the time just prior to Passover. Additionally, those people who could not make the journey to Jerusalem for Passover turned out to cheer the travelers on. The commotion and noise must have been especially noticeable to someone without his sight.
As was typical of the day, crowds of followers surrounded a popular teacher. Jesus’ disciples and many others crowded around him. As Jesus walked along, he taught. One can imagine the commotion and noise as they strained to hear the infamous teacher! Bartimaeus hears all this and is told that Jesus of Nazareth is on the road. Immediately he begins to call out loudly, pleading for mercy.
Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus
Bartimaeus’ pleas and calls would have been considered an unwelcome intrusion. With all of Bartimaeus’ hollering, the crowds couldn’t hear and tried to quiet Bartimaeus. But just as in the earlier story of Jesus welcoming the children, Jesus now has compassion for another outcast of society. Jesus showed that his concern and love were for all people, especially the downtrodden, the poor, the lame, and the outcasts!
It is significant that when Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, he did not call for “Jesus of Nazareth.” Instead, he referred to Jesus as “Son of David,” the title reserved for the expected Jewish Messiah. Bartimaeus recognized Jesus for who he really was! Other than Peter and some of the evil spirits whom Jesus exorcised, this is the first person to recognize Jesus’ true identity. It is ironic that a blind man actually sees more about Jesus than those who have their sight.
Where did Bartimaeus receive this “sight?” Jesus points out that it comes from his faith.
Miracles are always dependent on faith. It is interesting to note the placement of this story in the chapter of Mark. Just one chapter earlier, we find the disciples squabbling over who was the greatest among them. Just a few verses before the story of Bartimaeus, we find the disciples again arguing about who would sit at the right and left hand of Jesus. Jesus tries to explain his mission and the cost of discipleship to them, but a recurrent theme in the gospel of Mark is the “blindness” and obtuseness of the disciples.
The problem with miracles
Miracles are often difficult for people to believe. An initial reaction to a miracle story in the Bible and in our time is often disbelief. “This event could not have happened! It is impossible!” Secondly, some people attempt to explain away the miracle. This is especially prevalent in today’s scientific and rational society. “Surely there must be a scientific explanation for what happened,” they assert. Many people in Jesus’ day did not doubt the authenticity of the miracles. They saw the results of his actions first hand. They saw the lame walking, the blind seeing, and the deaf hearing. They did not doubt that the miracle had occurred. But sometimes the religious authorities DID doubt that the miracles came from God. Some accused Jesus of doing the works of the devil, or doing tricks.
Why does God use miracles?
The first question is, "what IS a miracle?" Life itself is a miracle. That God loves us -is a miracle. Babies, love, an unexpected kindness. You could say that "miracles happen all the time" ...if we know what to look for.
Christians also believe that SOMETIMES God breaks through human and natural barriers to change something. Those changes not only help people, but they are INTENDED AS SIGNS of God's deep concern, love and empathy toward the world. God has set up the natural world to run by rules. People are born, people die, accidents happen. The scripture says that this is how we get a "heart of wisdom," ...by understanding how life works. Even death teaches us to RELY ON GOD and hope for our salvation. If God intervened in our lives in big ways all the time, we would not mature in our understanding about life or learn to rely on God's mercy.
Jesus' miracles most often had a special function. Jesus performed miracles because they were part of his calling to do the unexpected and to reveal the nature, power and authority of God. The miraculous events themselves are important. But just as important are the consequences of the miracles and what the miracles taught the people involved and what they continue to teach us today. Perhaps the most important question the miracle stories force us to ask is the question Jesus asked of his followers, “Who do you say I am?”
How can we “see” Jesus clearly?
What do we learn about Jesus through this miracle on the road to Jericho? Jesus reveals that the Kingdom of God is about focusing on the needs of others – the outcasts, poor, lame, sick and showing compassion to them. Jesus reveals that he has authority over illness and injury. Jesus reveals that faith releases God’s power in our lives. Bartimaeus received more than physical healing on that day. His life was transformed by a revelation from the living God. He discovered that wholeness comes from being in relationship with Jesus.
- Achtemeier, Paul J. Proclamation Commentaries – Mark. Fortress Press, 1973.
- Barclay, William. The Gospel of Mark. Westminster Press, 1975.
- Comay, Joan and Ronald Brownrigg. Who’s Who in the Bible. Bonanza Books, 1980.
- Disciple I – Becoming Disciples through Bible Study, Study Manual. Graded Press, 1987.
- Gilbert, John P. Jesus Christ – Miracles. Graded Press, 1985.
- “Invitation Bible Studies for Elementary A.” Graded Press, Spring 1993.
- Keener, Craig S. IVP Bible Background Commentary. Intervarsity Press, 1993.
- Sproul, R.C. and Robert Wolgemuth. What’s in the Bible. Word Publishing, 2000.
- The Illustrated Guide – How People Lived in the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002.
- Weaver, Walter P. Cokesbury Basic Bible Commentary – Mark. Graded Press, 1988
A Lesson Set written by Carol Hulbert from: First United Methodist Church
Ann Arbor, MI
(With many thanks to Jaymie Derden and the State Street United Methodist Church in Bristol, VA.)
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