In these passages, we see God’s work of restoration, whether it was for Job, Bartimaeus, or even for ourselves. As blind Bartimaeus sat by the side of the road, he heard the multitudes passing by and praising Jesus. He then in faith and feeling sure that the expectation of the prophets was being fulfilled before him, called out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.”
Origen takes note a little about the fact that Bartimaeus called him Son of David rather than Son of God. St. John Chrysostom sees it as recognising the fulfillment of prophecies to use Son of David, but Origen thinks that it would have been more proper to use the term Son of God when asking for healing. We can take comfort from the fact that whether he used the correct term or not Jesus heard him and heeded his call1.
Jesus asked what do you want me to do for you? It is not out of ignorance that Jesus asks the question, the Venerable Bede tells us, rather he desires that prayer be made2. He desires to build faith and prayer into the life of Bartimaeus.
Not only does Jesus teach Bartimaeus to pray, but “He will save assuredly; yet he will do so just in the way he promised. But in what way has he promised? On our willing, and on our hearing him.3” We see in the different miracles of Jesus, that there were often different actions required for healing to take place. The ten lepers were to go show themselves to the priests. The man born blind was to go and wash. The paralytic was to rise and to pick up his mat. Bartimaeus was told Go your way. He is appreciative and grateful to the point that he began following Jesus.
As we have mentioned before, the Fathers often see not only a literal but also an allegorical or spiritual view of the text. This passage is no different. We have spiritual blindness until Christ opens our eyes through his commandment, just as Bartimaeus was not healed until he heard and followed the direction given to him. In the words of St. Clement of Alexandria,
“The Commandment of the Lord shines clearly, enlightening the eyes. Receive Christ, receive power to see, receive your light, that you plainly recognise both God and man. More delightful than gold and precious stones, more desirable than honey and the honeycomb is the Word that has enlightened us.4”
Bartimaeus did not only follow the command, but he desired more and followed him, so must we. In the words of the Venerable Bede,
“Therefore let us also imitate him, let us not seek for riches, earthly goods, or honours from the Lord, but for that Light, which we alone with the Angels can see, the way to which is faith; wherefore also Christ answers to the blind man, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” But he sees and follows who works what his understanding tells him is good; for he follow Jesus, who understands and executes what is good, who imitates Him, who had no wish to prosper in this world, and bore reproach and derision.5”
As I wrote at the beginning these passages have to do with God’s restoration, which is the theme in our Believers Eastern Church Lectionary. Let us now take a look at how God restored Job. In the first six verses Job we see Job’s repentance. This was needed before the splendour of restoration could take place in the final bit of the chapter.
The restoration also could not take place until Job had prayed for his friends. In the words of St. Gregory the Great,
“The merciful Judge more favourably receives the sacrifice of prayer when it is accompanied by the love of neighbour, and one enriches it even more truthfully when he offers it for his enemies as well.6”
Again, the Fathers look beyond the physical restoration to a much greater restoration. To give a sense of what they saw I will read from one of the Fathers,
“When the text says “they came” this means that they were incorporated with him through faith, so that they might be gathered into the Church in a single spirit, as all who believe in God are the limbs of the Church. “Brothers and sisters” denote the entire family of the Jews, from whom Christ was born. But we can also interpret “brothers and sisters” as the multitude of all nations, because [Christ] assumed the flesh from the mass of humankind and through it deigned to make all human beings his brothers and sisters.7
God’s purpose was not simply to restore Job for the sake of restoring him. He restored him to be a benefit to his family. In the same way, Christ did not restore us and give us salvation that we might just enjoy those benefits, but that we would see a greater picture. Salvation is given to some that all might have Salvation. Jesus’ desire was that all of mankind be his brothers and sisters. St. Paul testifies of this in his first epistle to St. Timothy,
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
I remember watching a Keith Green video a few years ago and one statement has stuck with me. “I have seen the world folks and I have seen that it is lost and that there are billions of people out there that don’t know God and it is either his fault or ours.” God’s vision is for all the world to be reconciled to him. Does our vision match this? Are we serving, praying, labouring etc. to see this as a reality? Our restoration and reconciliation are for the sake of the world. Are we being faithful to this purpose?
I may have mentioned this before, but the Fathers often see Christ as the one speaking in the psalms, even in the ones we do not consider Messianic. I ran across this a bit in this psalm especially in what St. Augustin wrote. Even in the introductory phrase, which we typically skip, he saw it speaking of Christ coming as Melchizedek to the Gentiles8.
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be always in my mouth.” “So speaketh Christ,” St. Augustin writes, “so also let a Christian speak; for a Christian is in the body of Christ; and therefore was Christ made Man, that that Christian might be enabled to be an Angel, who saith, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times.9’” Christ enables us to be thankful.
Going back to the story of Bartimaeus, we remember that after being healed, he followed our Saviour. If we are thankful people, this is what we are doing as well. We have been healed from the blindness of selfishness and looking to ourselves to blessing and thanking the Lord in our every circumstance. St. Augustin further tells us that it requires humility on our part to bless the Lord at all times.
We follow the Lord and we seek him. We do not seek him for what we can get from him, but we seek him in our heart. If we ponder and contemplate his majesty in our heart we will also see it in every place and in every circumstance. We will find him present everywhere and the path to follow will become clearer and clearer.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
“This poor one cried out and the Lord heard, and from all his distress he saved him.” This first of all speaks of our Saviour. “He who, although rich, was made poor: ‘Made obedient event to the cross; so that he could free you from crosses. He shouted, and the Lord heard. He sent his angels to guard the body and removed the stone and snatched him from the tomb.10”
Secondly, it teaches me how I am to cry out to the Lord i.e. as a poor person. Even though you or I were to own all the riches of the world, without Christ we would be the poorest of the poor. It means to cry recognising that in and of ourselves we are destitute. Just like we learned a few weeks ago, riches or poverty don’t matter, but it is our attitude towards them.
As we turn to the passage in Hebrews we see that the work of restoration or reconciliation has been completed. The sacrifice has been offered once for all. What is Jesus, our Saviour doing now? In the words of Origen,
Jesus now stands ‘before the face of God interceding for us.’…As he was about to approach that altar, moreover, he was saying, ‘I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until I drink it anew with you.’ Therefore he expects us to be converted, to imitate his example , to follow his footsteps, that he may rejoice with us and ‘drink wine with us in his father’s kingdom.’ For now because ‘the Lord is merciful and gracious,’ he ‘weeps with those who weep and desires to rejoice with those who rejoice’ with greater feeling than this apostle…And how much more ‘this one mourns over many who sinned before and have not repented.’…This is not to drink the wine of joy ‘when he ascends to the altar’ because he is still bearing the bitterness of our sins. He, therefore, does not want to be the only one to drink wine ‘in the kingdom’ of God. He waits for us, just as he said, ‘Until I shall drink it with you.’ Thus we are those who, neglecting our life, delay his joy.11
This picture that Origen draws for us is so beautiful. Christ gave his life for us, but he doesn’t stop there he intercedes, he weeps for us, waiting in loving patience for the day that we are fully made into his image. When we stop paying attention to this life and put all of our energies into living in his life, in his joy.
Christ became like us in every way, so that not only can he feel our weaknesses as we learned recently but that we can imitate Him in everything. He takes our humanity before the Father and he does not need to go as a slave and even to think that way is a slander and is unjust to God.
Let us, therefore, rejoice in our reconciliation and restoration, but let us not leave it there. We have been reconciled that others, that all might be reconciled to God. After being healed in this way let us follow close behind our Saviour until we become partakers of his divine nature.
Dn. Fr. Matthew
3 Christopher A. Hall and Thomas C. Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament II (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 145
6 Manlio Simonetti and Thomas C. Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament VI (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 220
7 Manlio Simonetti and Thomas C. Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament VI (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 221
8 Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D Editor, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series Volume 8, Augustin: Expositions on the Psalms, originally published in the United States by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1889 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickoson Publishing Marketing, LLC), 72-73
9 Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D Editor, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series Volume 8, Augustin: Expositions on the Psalms, originally published in the United States by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1889 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickoson Publishing Marketing, LLC), 73
10 Craig A. Blaising, Carmen S. Hardin and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament VII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 261
11 Christopher A. Hall and Thomas C. Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament II (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 145
Duccio, di Buoninsegna, d. 1319. Christ Healing the Blind Man, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=49262 [retrieved November 5, 2018]. Original source: www.yorckproject.de.