In the Lectionary

October 24, Ordinary 30B (Mark 10:46-52)

More than a miracle story, this is a story of a call.

Jericho is a logical stop on the road to Jerusalem. Fifteen miles northeast of the Holy City, it was a convenient stop on the pilgrim’s path that Jesus took to the cross. In Jesus’ day Jericho was a rich and flourishing town, host to a considerable amount of trade and celebrated for the palm trees that adorned the surrounding plain.

But I imagine that for many of us, our acquaintance with Jericho has more to do with its mention in Joshua 6, in the famed story of the walls of this great city tumbling down at the shout of God’s army. In that story, victory is found because of the people’s willingness to shout—that is, to go against the typi­cal war strategy and to obediently cry out for triumph. In a way, the encounter chronicled in our passage for this week is similar: victory is found by one’s willingness to go against the typical strategy and cry out for help.

All of the usual healing story elements are present here. Someone has an identifiable ailment, this person has been unable to find a solution, and Jesus provides the cure. But in this instance, the mechanism through which Jesus is summoned stands out. Earlier in Mark (8:22–26), another blind man is healed, but that man is passive and unnamed. Here, we have both a name, Bartimaeus, and a man who is shouting for Jesus’ attention.