Mark 10:46-52, the Gospel lesson appointed for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost in the Year of Mark, is a lesson not often read in Lutheran circles because of its proximity to Reformation Sunday. It remains, however, a very important story about faith, and one man's experience of trusting in Jesus. The story contains elements of both Law and Gospel. It will be the preacher's task to proclaim both.
(The following questions have been developed to help the preacher understand the function of the Word in the text, a fundamental concern of Law and Gospel preachers. These questions are not meant to be exhaustive, but work best when used with other sets of questions with other concerns. For more on this method and on Law and Gospel preaching in general, see my brief guide, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? There are several clear statements of Law here: One, the fact that Bartimaeus is blind. Blindness is a condition in need of a savior/healer; two, the rebuke of those who would silence the blind man. The world around us often seeks to silence our voice as we cry out to God. The Word also functions as Gospel in several places, first, as Bartimaeus is told, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you," and second, when Bartimaeus' sight is restored.
2. With whom are you identifying in the text? The central character whom is addressed by the Word (i.e. Jesus) is Bartimaeus, thus we identify with him. We are those crying out each Sunday, "Kyrie, eleison!" We are often blind, as the disciples were, even though we have some proximity to Jesus. We need Jesus to come and heal us.
3. What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text? The call to obedience in this story is implicit, not explicit. The final verse says, "[he, being healed] followed him on the way." The call is clear: people of faith, follow in the way of Jesus.
4. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? The central couplet is clear: blind/seeing. Other couplets suggest themselves: unbelief/faith; unenlightened/given wisdom.
5. Exegetical work: Donahue and Harrington state it simply: "The healing of blind Bartimaeus is on the surface a miracle story, but it is also, and more profoundly, a dialogue about faith." (Sacra Pagina series, Mark, p. 319). Eugene Boring, in his commentary, concurs, and adds some detail. He makes much of both the blind man's words and his actions. "By throwing his cloak aside, Bartimaeus threw off the garment of his old self and the life he had been living in blindness, beside the way rather than on it." "[The term Bartimaeus used] 'Rabbouni' is a very exalted expression, used by the rabbis themselves only in addressing God." (The NT Library series, Mark, p. 306). Lamar Williamson also highlights the meaning of this story as a primer on faith: "Of particular relevance to insiders is the text's instruction on the meaning of faith. Some Christians, moved perhaps by Mark's exposure of the blindness of the disciples, may come to realize their own misunderstanding of Jesus and of discipleship, but accept their condition as normal. The healing of Bartimaeus is testimony to the power of Jesus to restore (make well, save) those who know they are blind. The eager persistence of Bartimaeus in calling out and his activity springing up to come to Jesus when called serve as a model for faith." (Interpretation series, Mark, p. 199).
6. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? If you go to the home page at crossings.org/text-study, you will see that there are multiple analyses of this text using the Crossings model. The way the Law and Gospel express themselves is creatively noted by at least 3 insightful writers.
Blessings on your proclamation!