Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Rich Young Ruler vs. The Blind Old Beggar

In my private study time of the Bible, I came across a familiar story in Mark 10.  It is the story of the rich young ruler.  He is unnamed, but mentioned in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  I'm sure most of us are familiar with this story.  The Lord makes mention that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to Heaven.  This is a powerful statement, prompting the disciples to question, "Who, then, can be saved?"

What I noticed in my study, however, was the contrast between the rich young ruler and the blind beggar outside of Jericho at the end of the chapter.  The beggar is mentioned again in Luke, but not at all in Matthew.  It is only in the Gospel of Mark that he is named: Bartimaeus.

In rereading both of these accounts, we can see the differences between the men right away, and it doesn't take a genius to see why one man is saved and the other is not.

First, let's start with the rich young ruler.  His story is in Mark 10:17-22.



In his account, we see him running to Christ, and kneeling before Him.  He says, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"

Christ responds with, "Why do you call me good?  There is none good but God."

First, I believe this was a subtle hint that if He is truly "good", then He is truly God.  However, in studying this further, I believe the Lord was making a point to this wealthy man, that men are not "good" by their works.  He is reminding him that there is none that are good (Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:3).  With a caveat - except for God.  Why?  I'll get to that.

After the Lord's rebuke, Christ then goes into the Law, and how the young man knows the Ten Commandments.  The man affirms that he has lived by the Law since he was a young lad.  Then, the account says the Lord *loved him*, and told him a very hard truth - to sell all he has and give it to the poor.  Not only that, but take up his cross and follow Him.

The rich man walked away grieved, because he had much wealth.

Notice a few things about this account.  First, he made an assumption that Christ was "good".  He'd heard about the Lord's works, and therefore assumed He was "good".  Christ IS Good.  He's the only man who ever was truly "good", because He is also God.  But in telling the rich man there is none good but God, we can see this person does not believe Jesus is the Son of God.

Next, Christ goes through the Commandments, and the rich man puffs up with pride.  He's kept the Law his whole life!  Surely he, too, is a good man.  Christ's rebuke that no one is "good" but God goes right over his head.  We know this because of his pride, but also because of his original statement to Jesus - "What shall I do...?"  He is probably well-liked.  Loves accolades.  Loves being told how wonderful he is.  Perhaps he's made his wealth single-handedly, being the one who loves to DO things in order to get them done.

Of course, we know in light of the entire Gospel message, it is not by our own works that we are saved, but by the finished work of Christ alone.

In telling this rich man to sell his possessions and take up his cross, Jesus is telling him to become poor, to be looked down upon, and to be a curse - as everyone who hangs upon a tree (a cross) is a curse (Deuteronomy 21:23).  Considering this man's pride, wealth, and love for prestige, this is not an attractive perspective.  Likely the Lord told this man to sell all he had because his wealth had become an idol.  It needed to be cut out of his heart.  Christ isn't saying His followers need to be beggars and dirt poor, but rather, that nothing should remain in our hearts that hinder us from following Christ.  Once this man "cut off his hand" and "gouged out his eye" (figuratively speaking), he would then be freed from his idolatry.  When that idol is gone, he would joyfully take up his cross to follow Christ.

That is why Jesus continued saying it is hard for those who trust in money to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  They are idolaters, and therefore their money is their God.

Now, let's contrast Bartimaeus.  His account is found in Mark 10:46-52.


Bartimaeus was begging on the side of the road outside of Jericho.  When he heard the commotion of the crowds, he asked who was passing by.  The moment he knew it was Jesus, he cried out, "Yeshua, Son of David! Have mercy on me!"  Some told him to be quiet and hold his peace, but he cried out all the louder - "Yeshua!  Son of David!  Have mercy on me!"

Now, notice the difference in what these two men called the Lord?  The rich young ruler called Him "good Master", but Bartimaeus calls Him "Son of David" - he knows Jesus is Messiah.  We also see he cries out for mercy.  He is asking the Lord to be merciful to him, but he does not leave his spot by the side of the road.  Unlike the pomp of the rich man who rudely ran up and intercepted Christ, this blind beggar can do nothing more than cry out for mercy - and wait with hope.

Yeshua stops and calls the man over.  Likely Christ's disciples tell him that the Lord calls to him.  Without hesitation, the man casts away his garment and came to the Lord.

Again, see the difference?  What did this man own?  Likely that garment.  Probably not much else - and he just cast it aside. 

Then, Christ said the very words that first caught my eye.  "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?"

Again, the contrast between this man and the rich man are clearly seen.  The rich man wanted to know what HE could do to gain the Kingdom.  The beggar asks Christ to do a work for him.

The beggar asks not for wealth nor happiness nor revenge on those who've taunted him.  He doesn't ask for any vain thing.  Seriously, what would you ask of the Son of God if you had His rapt attention?  He asks only for his sight.  He does not doubt.  He's likely heard of others who've regained their sight.  I have no doubt old Bartimaeus prayed to Yahweh for the Messiah to come to Jericho.

And so He did.

Christ saw Bartimaeus' great faith, and his faith made him whole.  He says, "Go your way."  Immediately he regained his sight, and the account said he "followed Yeshua in the way."  His way was with Christ!  He had likely become one of the many disciples who followed Him from town to town.  That beggar probably lived by the side of the road.  He had no home to go home to, therefore he would follow the Lord.  Not only did he receive his physical sight, but he gained spiritual sight as well.  He took up his cross and followed Yeshua in the way.

Since he is named in the Gospel of Mark, and not only that, but it is said, "Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus", it is highly likely that the Twelve knew him.  At least Peter did, as Mark followed Peter and wrote down the Apostle's account of the life of Christ.  What a lovely ending for this poor old man who cried out to Jesus and was given mercy.  Since he is specifically named, he was probably well-loved.

The stark contrast between these two men are obvious.  Pride and humility.  Idolatry and belief.  What must I do...what will Christ do?

Mercy was given to Bartimaeus because he recognized Christ as the Messiah.  He called upon the name of the Lord and asked for mercy.  His request wasn't selfish, but it was a request upon which all the Glory would be given to God.  His heart held no idols.  His hope was in God for bringing the Messiah to Jericho.  I think I would have loved to know this Bartimaeus.  One day, I shall meet him in glory.

It is in comparing the rich young ruler with blind Bartimaeus that we come to understand who was truly blind, and who could truly see.

Praise the Lord.  \O/

~~Becka



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