This Gospel reminds me of Michael Shona and of how much he disliked Jericho and the Jews. The house where Michael grew up in Jerusalem had plum trees in the yard, and for centuries his family had been known as the Plum Trees Family. Back in the thirties, and again after the war, Michael ran a Ford Agency in Jerusalem, a job that took him touring with customers who wanted to see Jericho, but Michael hated Jericho for all its horse flies.
When I read this story of blind Bartimaeus spending his days in the thick dust of that road with all the horse flies, my memory of what Michael said makes what I read about Bartimaeus seem all the more miserable.
Michael Shona’s reason for hating Jews was that when they took over Jerusalem in 1946 they deprived him of his home, his plum trees, and of the fine livelihood he had with the Ford people. His hatred of the Jews was continuously on his mind the last thirty-five years of his life. His sister Mary, however, over here found generous employment with a Jewish family she came to love.
I imagine that Bartimaeus, there in the dust, batting off the horse flies, had heard about Jesus the wonderworker; and when he heard that Jesus was passing through, Bartimaeus didn’t hesitate. He threw off his robe, then, blind though he was, he thrust his way through the crown, shouting, “Son of David, have pity on me.”
When Jesus asked him what he wanted, he said, “I want to see.”
Jesus gave him his sight, then saying, “Go your way.” But Bartimaeus didn’t go his way, instead he followed Jesus up the road.