“On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
‘Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.’
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more,
‘Son of David, have pity on me.’
Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
‘Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.’
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
The blind man replied to him, ‘Master, I want to see.’”
The blind man, Bartimaeus, was desperate. One definition of desperation is, essentially, giving in to despair. I think that actually misses our common understanding. Something is left out. A football team down by two scores with a minute left in the game makes the risky choice to go for it on fourth and long. They have no choice, really. They are desperate. A lone hiker with his arm trapped by a boulder for six days breaks his bones with a rock and uses his knife to amputate his arm to survive. He was desperate. A woman whose angry separated husband sends their kids to his parents for their safety walks into a meeting and is honest for the first time, “I’m an alcoholic.” She was desperate. These folks have not given in to despair. They have faced it, sure, but then something clicks. There is one path of hope and they risk everything to grasp it. The Cambridge Dictionary (online) defines desperation as “the feeling of being in such a bad situation that you will take any risk to change it.” Yeah, that’s it.
Bartimaeus was desperate. He had likely been told that his blindness was due to his own or his parents’ sin. He was situated to a lot in life: sit in darkness by the side of the road and beg for sustenance, hopeless for a change. That is, until one day, he hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. Others have spoken rumors to him that this Jesus could be the messiah, the son of David. He could never have reached Jesus on his own, but what an opportunity that Jesus is passing by! With the strength of desperation, he cries out. In the face of derision, he continues to cry out. When called, he casts all his worldly possessions aside. When asked, he clearly and honestly requests that for which he could hardly hope, but has deeply desired for so long. “Master, I want to see.”
Are we desperate? Perhaps in our lives we someday face a diagnosis that we can’t control, the unexpected loss of a job, or the death of someone we love deeply. Most of the time, however, our day to day lives are fairly comfortable. If we’re honest, we can become complacent. If we’re more honest, there’s a deeper ache within us. A yearning for that which is beyond our grasp. We always want more! We may seek to fill this with sex, substances, success, superiority, status, or stuff. But it is never enough. We have an infinite desire. We want love beyond measure. This, in fact, is what we were made for. We may be driven to desperation by circumstances, but if we dig deeper, all of us are in a desperate situation: we all want more than anything or anyone in this world can offer. Nothing finite can fill our infinite longing. As much as we try, there is only one hope. Bartimaeus risked everything for his one hope, Jesus. Our one hope is the same. What will you risk?