Sandwiched between the stories of Jesus’ third prediction of His death and His triumphal entry are two stories that relate to each other. The first is James and John’s request for power and Jesus’ rebuke. This is one of the three times Jesus talks about greatness in the gospels. “To be great you must be a servant of all,” Jesus tells us, and then gives us one of the formative thoughts of our discipleship: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to lay down His life as a ransom for many.” A great memory verse for us, but a stinging rebuke for James and John.
The other story that is related to this one is the story of blind Bartimaus. I say they are related because together they speak to the reality of Jesus’ closest disciples. The story of Barimaus’ healing is impressive in and of itself, but the fact that it comes where it does leads us to the conclusion that (1) James and John were as spiritually blind as Bartimaus was physically blind, and (2) all of the disciples were blind to Jesus’ teachings when they missed (again) His prophecy about His own death and then began it with the Triumphal Entry. Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say, so we can see what they missed from our future vantagepoint. And it is not fair that we judge these poor men as harshly as we do when we ponder just how blind they were.
Yet we are at least as blind in our own discipleship today. We may get Jesus’ predictions of His death, but we don’t give up all we have and are to follow Him. We may see the Triumphal Entry as the first step toward the cross (and the resurrection!) but we regularly miss Jesus’ command to put Him first in every aspect of our lives. Maybe blind Bartimaus is the only one who can truly see after all.