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Do You Really Want to Be Healed?

by Greg Howell

He was always an easy target, which made things all the more miserable for me in years to come. His name was Bob, and frankly I don’t even remember his last name because he only lasted at our school till Christmas break. Bob was a big guy, easily bigger than the rest of his puny peers in the freshman class. But I don’t mean big as in tall, or in muscles, just big as in much heavier than the rest of us. This made him a target of the normal name calling, but on top of it Bob was an obsessive video gamer. Normally this would’ve set him up nicely within his peer group, but unfortunately for him, he came into lunch one day with a wild claim.

“I got more than a million points yesterday on Mario!” he exclaimed to the entire table of lunch-munching guys. “It was so awesome!”

We looked at one another with half smirks, knowing full well that such a thing was completely impossible. “No way, man. You can’t go above 999,999; the counter on the screen doesn’t even have room for it.”

“But I did it. It went over; I swear it did!” Bob whined on.

“Yeah, right—you were probably hung over in some kind of Twinkie coma. You should cut back on those,” one of my buddies jabbed.

“But I can prove it. I’ll take a picture of it tonight!” And Bob wandered off to another table, muttering to himself.

The next day Bob proudly showed up with a photo in hand, waving it at all of us. Sure enough, there in living color was the image of a TV screen, a little jumping plumber in overalls, and a score of 1,000,716 points. Bob was vindicated! Or he should have been.

We just laughed at him. Someone took the picture and looked at it real closely. “Looks fake to me,” they said; and as more insults floated his way, Bob slumped to the floor and leaned against the wall—a defeated man.

Sometimes when there’s a crowd of people, it can get nasty. Luke 18 showcases a pretty nasty crowd of people who turn on a blind man at a moment’s notice, for hardly any reason at all. “As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ ” (Luke 18:35-39, NIV).1 In Greek, the phrase “rebuked him and told him to be quiet” is much stronger than that. It actually means “they threatened him and warned him to be silent, or else!” The man was taking a risk, because as a blind man he couldn’t defend himself against a single man, much less a crowd. The parallel story found in the Gospel of Mark actually gives his name: Bartimaeus, which means “son of filth.” So this guy has already been labeled as dirt, and been tossed to the curb. And the crowd lets him know that if he wants to stay alive, he needs to shut up and stay away from Jesus.

But Jesus doesn’t let it end there, and in fact, He orders the crowd to bring the man to stand before him. “And when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ” (Luke 18:40, 41, ESV).2 The question comes across as weird, because frankly, what else would he want? But we know Jesus isn’t stupid, so His question must have had a deeper meaning to it.

For this “son of filth” the only way he could make a living was to beg money from the people who passed by. In fact, he didn’t have to beg, he just had to exist, because it was seen as a holy act to give money to the poor and destitute. If Jesus were to heal the man, all of a sudden his livelihood and his only means of making money would be gone, and with “son of filth” for a name, who would want to hire him? His family and the rest of society had already abandoned him; if he wasn’t blind, how would he survive in this world? Jesus’ question was really asking something more along the lines of “Are you sure you want to let go of the only thing you have to support you in life?”

Without a doubt, Bartimaeus responds that he wants Jesus to restore his vision. With only a word Jesus gives him his wish, and suddenly the crowd shifts in their attitude toward the beggar. No longer threatening, the scene ends with “And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God” (Luke 18:43, ESV). The “son of filth” has been cleaned, the miracle is acknowledged as divine, and Bartimaeus is suddenly accepted back into the society he had been on the fringes of for so long.

That’s how Jesus treats the oppressed—the people who live on the edge of the crowd. He doesn’t simply walk by. He protects those that the world would throw away. He reaches out and rescues the people the world underestimates and mistreats. And in the end He elevates them higher than they could ever have done for themselves.

I want to become the kind of person who sees people this way. I want to stand up for people when the world shuts them down. I want to reach out and give a helping hand in moments of crisis. And more than anything, I wish I would have reached out to Bob and said, “I’m sorry. For all of it. For the awful words, the unfair rejection, and for refusing to believe that you can get more than 1,000,000 points playing Mario . . .

“Because I was wrong!”

Scripture quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2 Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Greg Howell is a pastor in Washington, and with his wife has coauthored a teen devotional titled Fusion. He prefers to spend his time snowboarding, behind a camera, or running around like a crazy person chasing his four kids.

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