Besides the fact that both Zacchaeus and Bartimaeus encountered Jesus in a meaningful way as He passed through Jericho, both men were seeking Jesus. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but found the crowds were too big, and being short in stature, decided to run ahead of the crowd. When he got ahead of the crowds, he climbed into a sycamore-fig tree.
Have you stopped to think about that?
Imagine for just a second that you are at a political rally in your own neighborhood. There's a candidate who seems to offer true hope for your community, your life, your neighbors' lives. But there's a huge crowd. You really want to shake this man's hand, but between being short and the crush of the crowd, it seems hopeless. What do you do? If you're like me, you give up hope of shaking the man's hand and shrink back. Maybe it was silly to think you could reach out to him and shake his hand. Would he even want to shake your hand?
Wait. It doesn't cross your mind to run ahead and climb up into a tree so that you can see the man as he passes by? It would probably cross my mind, but I would quickly dismiss it. How crazy would I seem if, as an adult, I climbed a tree to see this guy as he passed by? Really?
But Zacchaeus didn't seem to care about how his actions might be perceived by the crowd.
Bartimaeus, the blind man, wanted to see Jesus. Who wouldn't? Jesus had healed many who were sick. He'd healed lepers, the paralytic, and the blind. He and His disciples had cast out demons. Certainly, Bartimaeus recognized his best chance for healing, for regaining his sight came at the touch of Jesus. Like Zacchaeus, Bartimaeus put himself into the mix as Jesus was passing by.
But Bartimaeus had a distinct disadvantage without his eyesight. He needed Jesus to see him, to come to him. Bartimaeus was likely stepped on, kicked by the crowds. His seat at the side of the road and his inability to see where Jesus was right now, let alone the path He would be taking meant that he was not able to run ahead and climb a tree.
But these facts of life were not going to dissuade Bartimaeus. He wanted to SEE Jesus, so Bartimaeus began calling out. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Really? This guy thinks among the crowd that Jesus is going to hear his voice, pause, and actually look for him as he sits beside the road? Ridiculous. People in the crowd yelled at him. Like the homeless beggar in the park panhandling for spare change and facing public ostracism, Bartimaeus is being verbally ostracized by the crowd.
But this doesn't stop Bartimaeus, and quite possibly, it encourages Jesus. Bartimaeus begins to shout out louder. Like Zacchaeus, his concern for what others think about him is not going to stop him from meeting Jesus.
In both stories, Jesus SEES these men. Jesus sees the unpopular Jewish tax collector, and He sees the blind man who begs. And Jesus asks them, He asks us today,
What do you want me to do for you?
Bartimaeus knew exactly what he wanted Jesus to do. "Make me see!" And with Jesus' blessing, Bartimaeus is healed and follows Jesus.
But what do YOU want Jesus to do for you today? Are you willing to run ahead of the crowd and climb a tree, no matter how ridiculous you look? Are you willing to yell out even amidst the rebuke of society, friends, and family members? Jesus is still asking each of us, "What do you want me to do for you?"
Well, what do YOU want?