An Interview with Bartimaeus

Good morning, this is your cross-millennial correspondent, Deanna Christiansen, coming to you from New Hampshire, and simultaneously from across 2,000 years, give or take, from ancient Jericho, just following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. This morning we have the unprecedented opportunity to converse with Bartimaeus, once blind, healed, as you will remember, by this same Christ as the Lord passed through Jericho.

This unique conversation is brought to you today by way of the Holy Spirit of God, at the impetus of the 21st Century Spiritual Director, Nancy Kellar.

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D:  Brother Bartimaeus, greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  How amazing to be speaking together across millennia!

Tell us what you see around you today, there in Jericho.

B: And blessings to you also from God our Father.  He never ceases to amaze and give joy! Well, if I look around Jericho with the eyes of 2023, I see war, poverty, neglect, great oppressive powers, and the hope for a better day. If I look with my Year 33 new eyes—much of the same, except for the remarkable walking through by Jesus Christ.

 

D: You do not see fundamental changes, then, even since Jesus was there?

B: Recall, if you will, Judas. He lived and traveled with and heard Jesus for three years. Observe your own city. Jesus has walked there, walks there still, though unseen, and only some perceive his presence, his Person, and are changed. In my Jericho, there were many believers made following Jesus’ visit and my healing. Their lives radically changed. Everyone knew they were made new. There are believers here today. In your cities and towns there are those who claim identity with Christ, but they are not known for being made new, in fact quite the opposite. Many hear about Jesus in varying degrees of truth and are not converted. You may sit next to them in your church.

Geographic appearances by Christ were meant by God after Christ’s ascension to be replaced by believers’ appearances, that is, their lives lived, where they live, until he comes again. Where they are invisible to nonbelievers, Christ is invisible to them.

 

D: Describe for us how your own life changed since being face to face with the Lord?

B: Clearly, meeting the Lord was like suddenly entering Heaven. The very Son of David, whom my mother and father had taught me about when I was young! I was radically changed from that moment, I wanted only to follow him.  My fellow blind beggar, who sat with me as Jesus passed by, called out to this Son of David, too, and became a dedicated follower of Jesus. As he had no family, I was the one who told him who the Lord was, and he believed.

Then, receiving my sight again was the most galvanizing. I could walk unaided wherever I wanted to go, I could learn my way around, learn some skills to earn income for myself and help the family. I could worship and learn at the synagogue, even as an older man. I could see my own father’s face! I wept with him and poured out my gratitude for all his years of care. He is with God now, as am I, yet I still praise God for the joy he granted us on earth.

 

D: Bartimaeus, I can barely imagine it.  Your story has been one of the dearest ones since I became a believer. 29 years ago, I was diagnosed with an eye condition that ultimately would blur my sight. At a retreat for spiritual formation shortly afterward, the Scripture for the day was your story. How it impacted me! I prayed, “Lord, that I might see…”  This summer I had two corneal transplant operations. I had excellent medical care, but before each operation they seemed terribly risky to me, frightening, really. I cannot thank you enough, because, once again, the prayers of my heart, Bartimaeus, were your prayers. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. Lord, that I might see. I prayed them over and over, until the Lord gave me assurance that in truth, he was with me, and would bring me through.  Both eyes are healed now.

B: Surely blindness is a great handicap, even with the learning that God has granted doctors. I am pleased for you that your sight has been preserved. My blindness occurred when I fell against a big boulder while I was climbing on rocks, as 5-year-olds will do, hitting the back of my head and permanently damaging the occipital nerve. My family’s and my lives were suddenly completely altered.

D: I have sometimes wondered about your family, and how you knew that Jesus was the Son of David.

B: My father was a hardworking man of God, never very prosperous. It was a heavy burden to have a son blinded at age 5, yet he carried it with love and determination. He told me Jesus had to be who we had heard of so long, recounting to me the prophecies from the Holy Word. My mother taught me continually and was a kind and loving mother. She died when I was a young man. Then, my father, and later his sister as well, my aunt, cared for me daily, and walked me out to the boulevard to beg from passersby, where there was a lot of foot traffic every day. Father would return for me every dusk.  They packed a little food for me each morning, and I had a cloak, a gourd bottle of water, and a stick, and that was about it. I was very lonely, and hungry, for the rest of my childhood. I had no one to play with, or talk to, except my family at night. Most people were kind. Sometimes other boys would mock me, until older men stopped them, reminding them sharply that the Jewish way was to welcome and assist the poor.  I prayed many, many of my hours. I did not understand why God had given me this life: of what use was I? On the contrary, I was a liability for my family., shut out of most of our way of life and worship.

The day that Jesus passed by, I instantly knew he was the Messiah sent by God. How did I know? I had heard the stories about him, and his Holy Spirit impacted my heart.

D: And look at the perpetual revelation and blessing God made you for millions of people, over millennia! Bartimaeus—may I call you Bart? —were you ever angry with God because you had lost your sight?

B: [laughing] Now I know you are an American, giving me a nickname–Yes, you may call me Bart.

I don’t remember being angry very often. More sorrowful, lonely, possibly abandoned by God without cause. But when I would cry at night, my parents and my aunt prayed with me and put their arms around me, taught me that God does not abandon us, God is not the author of evil in any form. Evil and hardship were from the Fall, and one day would disappear in the marvelous Light of God. They would point out the blessings the Lord had shown me just that day. I think their faith and love preserved my life and my heart, creating that space in which I could recognize Jesus for who he is.

D: [Smiling] I guess it’s very American, certainly very New England, to give nicknames.  I was startled the moment I realized that in the biblical account you are not actually named—that is, you are called only “Son of Timaeus”, Bar Timaeus. Can you talk about that?

B: It was the customary way in those days to refer to a son of a known community member. It was meant as an honor to both, not to just name the boy “Junior”. Beyond that, yes, I do have another name, a secret name given me by the Son of God. You will have one given to you by Jesus also, as you know, and it will have to wait till we are all in eternity together to know what the names are.

D:  You are keeping Jesus’ secrets!

Thinking about customs, I am sharply reminded that were I a contemporary of yours, I would not be permitted to speak with you because I am a woman.  Never mind having a public voice. Women in my time remain overall in second best or worse positions, though it is a more pronounced practice outside my country.

B: Such rivalries have been with human beings since Eve and Adam chose their own preferences and left off their union with God. Really, the only One who can determine who we are and define our worth, is our Lord. Our frustration at delayed justice is part of our faithful following after Christ even in this present fractured world; he gives courage to act for justice and to endure until he makes all things new!

 

D: Brother Bart, I have heard a story—outside of Scripture—that you followed Jesus and the disciples to Jerusalem and were present there for his crucifixion.

B: The story is true! But incomplete. I did go with them following Jesus to his crucifixion. And resurrection! Sometime after his ascension, when the disciples left the Upper Room to teach and work miracles, I returned to Jericho, and lived out my years there. I was able to bury and mourn my father. I visited continuously with other new believers and spoke often of the Good News of Christ on the very boulevard where the Lord healed my sight.

 

D: Did you hear about Joshua and the Battle of Jericho when you were growing up? We have a song…

B: Yes, about Joshua and his great courage and faith in God, of course about Moses, many others from ancient times. I often wished the Lord would visit Jericho with a new miracle, even give me sight again. And look what he did: he came in person!

 

D: Our brother, tell us about the cloak.

B: The cloak?

D: The cloak you threw off your shoulders to go to Jesus when he called you over. There has always seemed to be a great significance to that.

B: Oh! He called me!—after some around me had shushed me and told me to be quiet and not bother him—all that was in my mind was his call to come. It felt like I was suddenly, forcefully, propelled out of my shell where I had lived my whole life, I wanted nothing to obstruct me!

 

D: Bartimaeus, this has been a remarkable conversation with you—and a bit mind-bending. It wasn’t clear beforehand what to expect. I can see you sitting under a leafy tree in ancient Jericho, yet a peaceful Jericho, redeemed, at the same time you are speaking to me alive in my present time.

B: We the Redeemed in Eternity are not permitted to speak with those still on earth very often, for clear reasons—God does not act by miracle alone. He also will not lead us into temptation to be discouraged by conditions on earth. Our being beyond your reach strengthens your trust in God, not in us. Worship only God.  Occasions like today are a great joy, however, keeping alive the Cloud of Witnesses for you, and by their rarity can bind you more nearly to Christ.

D: Now I see clearly that you are visiting us not only from Jericho but from Eternity! You converse as one who has the knowledge and illumination of these intervening centuries, simultaneously with deep insight into your earthly years. Thanks to our God for making this miracle time travel easy! Thanks again to Nancy Kellar for sending me on this interview.  I thank you for your kindness in conversing in English with me. Thank you for opening the eyes of understanding and faith of many millions by your living faith in the Son of David, and by his opening your physical eyes. I thank the Gospel writers, and their scribes and translators through time for recording your story so we could read it.

 

I can’t wait to SEE you face to face!

 

 

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