I’m a big fan of crime procedurals, shows like NCIS or Longmire, in which the heroes, usually law enforcement of some type, work to solve whichever deep mystery confronts them that week. These shows work because of the cast and the story line; the latter almost always touches to nerves: fear and disgust.
“Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell.”1 There’s always something to fear, real or imagined, on a crime procedural.
“Disgust is an emotional response of revulsion to something considered offensive or unpleasant. In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin wrote that disgust is a sensation that refers to something revolting. Disgust is experienced primarily in relation to the sense of taste (either perceived or imagined), and secondarily to anything which causes a similar feeling by sense of smell, touch, or vision.”2
Not unlike my favorite shows, Biblical stories often touch on fear and disgust. Poor Bartimaeus, he was subject to both. People would fear running into him, many wouldn’t touch him, lest they end up like him. Jesus, when He was rejected, was rejected primarily out of fear. Many didn’t know what to make of the man, what with His great powers yet humble ways. He could have been feared for who He was or feared as a charlatan, maybe trying to convince people He was something He was not.
Bartimaeus was a blind beggar, a man who, if he was constantly afraid, no one would blame him. ““Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” (His) is a prayer of last resort, the kind that supplies … words when there is nothing left to groan or claim.
“Bartimaeus summoned a courage that many of us lack. To make matters worse, the people around him scolded him. They tried to shut him up. But he yelled out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”
“This persistent, bold trust must have stopped Jesus, who ordered his people to call the blind man over. Then the crowd changed its tone: “You have nothing whatever to fear from him. Get up. He is calling you.”
“The best instincts of history’s Christian crowd echo the refrain. There is nothing to fear from him. And yet we halt. We had better wait. What will he ask of us? How might we be properly prepared to enter his presence? How can we be worthy to approach him?
“The great, sweet punchline of this story is given to Jesus. He does not ask for fear or virtue. He does not demand righteousness or rectitude. He simply asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Now, what do you make of this God-man we worship, the savior we drink and nourish ourselves by? He loves our faith—he cherishes our trust—more than all our quivering fear.”3
People sell calendars that claim that “fear not” or “do not be afraid” occurs 365 times in the Bible, one for each day. That would be very inspiring if it were true, but the real number, in the King James, at least, is 103 times. But wait, 103 times! Imagine a world in which the Lord told you 103 times to not be afraid, to trust Him, to call out to Him like Bartimaeus did, knowing that even though you’re blind, you know Jesus is there, willing to give you sight, to make you whole.
That is the Jesus we proclaim, the Son of David, the Messiah, the God who turns aside to everyone who calls His Name. Have you called upon Jesus? What is it that you would ask Him for?
3John Kavanaugh, SJ http://liturgy.slu.edu/30OrdB102515/theword_embodied.html