Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Throwing Aside His Garment

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Keraza Magazine issue 35-36, September 20, 2019

St. Mark the Apostle tells us in his gospel that when our Lord Jesus Christ was getting out of Jericho, blind Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus was sitting by the road begging, When he heard that Jesus was passing by, he began to cry out asking Him for mercy. When Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called, he threw aside his garment, rose and came to Jesus (Mark 10:46-50). In fact, St. Mark was very keen to describe the situation in a very precise manner. He recorded to us that blind Bartimaeus threw his garment before he rose and came to Jesus. It is well known that at that time the beggars were characterized by wearing a specific garment that they would spread on the ground to gather alms in it. Therefore, it was not by chance that St. Mark mentioned that Bartimaeus threw his garment aside, but he meant to record it because this movement carried a lot of deep spiritual meanings and lessons.

Bartimaeus was not only a beggar but was blind too. He was dependent on people in two manners: vision and getting his nurture. His garment spread on the ground was a sign of this dependence. When he met Jesus in person, the first thing he did before getting up and coming to Him was to throw his garment. By this gesture, he proclaimed with great faith his transition from the phase of begging and living on what remains from others to the phase of personal enjoyment of the abundance of richness. In fact, all those who walk on the spiritual pass must pass first into an initial phase of their spiritual growth, which is considered to be a spiritual childhood, before they reach the spiritual maturity when their own personal spiritual insight becomes illuminated. In this initial stage, they get their spiritual insight and nurture from others like the infant who suckle the milk formed in his mother's breast. They read spiritual books and listen to sermons containing others' spiritual experiences about God without getting their own personal live experience with Him. This reminds us of the Samaritans who depended initially on the experience of the Samaritan woman with Jesus, then later on, as they met with Him on an individual personal level, they developed their own personal experience and said to her, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world" (John 4:42).

When Bartimaeus was in this stage of spiritual infancy, he was sitting by the road, but when he threw his garment aside, came to Jesus and received his sight, "He followed Jesus on the road" (Mark 10:52). Why it was not enough for St. Mark to say that he followed Jesus? Why did he insist to add on the road? Of course, this sentence emphasize that whoever wants to grow in the spiritual journey, will not move forward from the position of sitting down at the road and begging to the position of walking in the road following Jesus without throwing his garment first and asking fervently to receive his spiritual sight to see the heavenly glory by himself. But those who feel satisfied with what others tell about their personal experiences are deceived thinking that listening about virtue and being pleased with what they listen to mean they already obtained this virtue in themselves!! This is not the kingdom of God!! The rule states, "Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours" (Deuteronomy 11:24). This means that we will not obtain the place on which the feet of others tread, but we must do what Bartimaeus did. We must throw the garment, rise and walk on the road by ourselves. We can therefore get Christ as a good portion for us. This was the reward of the Samaritan woman who left her water-pot, Levi who left the tax office, and Peter and Andrew who left their nets!!

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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