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Lenten Devotional: Mar 27

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Today’s Texts: Exodus 10:21-11:8; 2 Corinthians 4:13-18; Mark 10:46-52

“What’s in a name?” Mark 10:46-52 (NRSV)

As a person who has and is navigating my hybrid identity, the healing narrative of Bartimaeus has always intrigued me because of the sense of identity attributed to this man.

The blind shouts out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This man desperately desires the mercy of Jesus so he cries even louder when the large crowd tries to silence him. So loud was his cry that Jesus stands still; calls him over; asks him what he wanted; listens to him; heals him; and says to him, “Go, your faith has made you well” (52).

Of all the stories of blind men who encounter Jesus in the Gospels, this man is the only one that is named. It strikes me that he too possessed a hybrid identity of sorts: blind, beggar, Jerichoan (either temporary or permanent), and son of Timaeus. But of these markers that defined his hybrid identity, the socially constructed parts of his identity radically change after his encounter with Jesus. He no longer is blind – the label that identified his limitations. He no longer begs as he throws off his cloak of beggary along with the shame of being blind [1] – the label that identified his occupation in relationship to his limitations. He no longer resides in Jericho – the label that identified his narrow confinement. Rather, the author of Mark tells us that he “followed [Jesus] on the way”… still his name remains intact Bartimaeus – the son of Timaeus. “What’s in a name?” you ask. Much:  In this case, it has his family background, a Semitic-Greek hybrid.

Questions to ponder:
1. What constitutes my hybrid identity?
2. Of those, what are socially constructed labels that have the potential to change?
3. What are parts of my identity that do not change?
4. How does encountering Jesus change my identity?
5. Who am I and who am I becoming?

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[1] Blindness was commonly seen as a result of divine judgment or punishment for sin (John 9) although there were some persons of influence who were blind in antiquity like Tobit. See Felix Just, “From Tobit to Bartimaeus, from Qumran to Siloam: The Social Role of Blind People and Attitudes toward the Blind in New Testament Times” (Dissertation, Yale University, 1997).

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Kirsten Oh
Kirsten Sonkyo Oh is Korean-American who lives in Southern California with her husband Scott. She is a PhD candidate in practical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, and as a Commissioned Elder in the United Methodist Church, she serves as the Dean of Student Life at Claremont School of Theology.

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