An enigma is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as a mysterious person, event, or thing that is difficult to understand or explain. The Bible readings today are full of themes and images that at first glance appear to be enigmatic. These readings, however, ultimately point to a greater theological truth about God.
In the Old Testament reading, the Prophet Jeremiah was often an enigma that the people around him rarely understood. He often came off as gloomy and usually had messages that few people wanted to hear. God was constantly having Jeremiah preach repentance or face the dire consequences of Divine judgment. This was a message that made Jeremiah extremely unpopular. Jeremiah’s words today were preached in the immediate aftermath of God’s judgment that came in the form of military destruction at the hands of a hostile foreign army. Instead of gloating, however, Jeremiah almost inexplicably changes tones and offers beautifully pastoral words of comfort to captives in the form of a reminder that God is in control and will eventually restore the faithful remnant of His People to their rightful place of honor as His holy people.
The Letter to the Hebrews makes reference to one of the most unusual characters in the whole Bible. Melchizedek appears only briefly in Genesis as Abraham is out wandering. Melchizedek appears to be some sort of king and priest who worships the same God. The Bible even specifically refers to him as “a priest of God Most High.” He offers hospitality to Abraham and gives him a blessing but then completely disappears from the Biblical narrative. Whom Melchizedek was and how God was working through him is a complete enigma. The writer of Hebrews clearly says that Jesus was a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and as such was able to offer Himself as the living sacrifice on the cross to the glory of God the Father.
The Gospel reading from Mark offers yet another mysterious character in the person of Bartimaeus. The literal name itself is a combination of both an Aramaic and a Greek word. “Bar” in Aramaic means “son of” while Timaeus is a Greek word meaning “honorable person.” Timaeus was also a well known character in one of the Greek philosopher Plato’s dialogues. In that writing of Plato, that Timaeus character is discussing with Plato how the universe came into being and suggests that the first cause of creation must have been set into motion by a “father god.” So, it is not without literary irony that a Blind Bartimaeus, whose name means “Son of Honorable Person,” appears in Mark and points out what everyone with physical sight is missing: that Jesus has the power to bring light to his eyes because that is something only a creator god can do. Timaeus was a faceless, no-name person yet in spite of his blindness, he knows exactly who Jesus is: the Son of David, the promised one. By calling out and being healed by Jesus, Bartimaeus becomes an actual son of an honorable person as a child of the Most High God through His Son, Jesus.
All these readings today point to the mystery that Christ opens our eyes. By Christ’s sacrifice, we can put aside the distracting voices and sins that try to take us away from God’s message. Christ helps us put aside the selfish ideas that keep us from the Gospel. Christ makes us what we are created to be, gives us what we need, and makes us lights for the world for the glory of God the Father.