Sunday Scripture: Seeing the meaning of Jesus
By Terrance Callan
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52
Sight is probably the most important of our five senses. It is the one that mediates our contact with the world most fully. We easily take it for granted, but quickly realize how much we value it when it is absent or threatened.
The reading from the Gospel of Mark is the story of Jesus’ cure of a blind man. As Jesus and His disciples were leaving Jericho, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus called out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”People tried to make him stop shouting, but he persisted. Jesus called the man over and asked what he wanted. The blind man said, “Master, I want to see.”Jesus replied, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately the blind man’s sight was restored and he began to follow Jesus.
We are invited to see this incident as a fulfillment of the promise made in the reading from the prophet Jeremiah. Speaking for God, Jeremiah promises that God will gather the people of God from the places to which they have been scattered and restore their fortunes. “Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst.” In conjunction with the reading from the gospel of Mark, this reference to the blind can be understood as a reference to blind persons whose sight has been restored.
In the Gospel of Mark the blindness that Jesus heals is not only literal, physical blindness. The cure of Bartimaeus is the final incident in Mark’s account of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem that will end in His death and resurrection. Earlier in his account of this journey, Mark has told several stories about how hard it was for Jesus’ disciples to understand Him.Their greatest difficulty lay in understanding the crucifixion of Jesus as the means by which God would accomplish salvation. The story of Bartimaeus shows us how we should deal with difficulty in understanding Jesus. We should say to Him in faith, “Master, I want to see.”And Jesus will give us sight and enable us to follow Him.
The reading from the Letter to the Hebrews offers us a way of understanding the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus is high priest. Like all high priests, He “is taken from among men” and shares their weakness (however, unlike other high priests Jesus does not share human sinfulness. See Hebrews 4:15). Sharing human weakness extends to sharing suffering and death. Thus from one point of view, Jesus’ crucifixion is simply an aspect of his humanity.
More importantly, like other high priests Jesus offers gifts and sacrifices for sins. In His death and resurrection Jesus, acting as high priest, offered himself as a sacrifice that once for all reconciled the human race to God. Thus Jesus’ crucifixion is His sacrifice of himself for our salvation.Finally the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews points out that God appointed Jesus high priest, and thus savior. God appointed Him with the words God spoke to Jesus in Psalms 2 and 110: “You are my son: this day I have begotten you” and “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Callan is faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.