Names Matter

Living God's LoveNames Matter

by Ray Tetz
Where are their names? It is a surprise to me that so few of the names of the people who were healed by Jesus are known by their names.
Jesus cured the nobleman’s son; cured Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever; healed a leper; healed the centurion’s servant; raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead; cured two demoniacs; cured the paralytic; and raised the ruler’s daughter from the dead. No names.
He loosened the tongue of a man who couldn’t speak; healed an invalid at the pool called Bethesda; restored a withered hand; cured a demon-possessed man; healed a woman of Canaan; cured a boy who was plagued by a demon; opened the eyes of a man born blind; cured a woman afflicted 18 years with an issue of blood; cured a man of dropsy; and cleansed 10 lepers, of which only one came back to thank him. No names.
Person after person, in situation after situation, “healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35, KJV). Yet we don’t know the names of all these who were healed, raised from the dead, and restored to health.
And it isn’t just the miracles. We don’t know the name of the Rich Young Ruler, but perhaps that was to save him embarrassment. We don’t know the names of the Good Samaritan, the man he helped, or those who passed him by—but that was a parable, so it gets a pass. We don’t know who got married at Cana or the name of the little boy with a big lunch.
I miss the names. We know the names of the disciples—and even their nicknames. The “begats” are a list of people whose names alone tell us they were important. The story of the man who climbed the tree wouldn’t be near as much fun without his name—Zacchaeus.
The fact that the man who helped carry the cross was named Simon of Cyrene, and that he was the father of two boys—Alexander and Rufus—makes me long to know their story. Not only that, it convinces me that they were people just like me, with families and histories and places to safely go when the world is full of chaos. Lives behind the life stories.
But rather than asking why we don’t know very many names, perhaps we should ask why it is so important that we DO know some names. The disciples we know, for they were the ones closest to Jesus. Pilate we know because he was a coward. Nicodemus we know for his insightful queries and the resulting conversation when he sought Jesus out by night.
And we know the name of Bartimaeus, literally, Son of Timaeus. Bartimaeus was the man who was healed of blindness as Jesus was coming into Jericho (Mark 10:46-52). Bartimaeus was the first man who publicly called Jesus by a name reserved for the Messiah. Bartimaeus, when told to pipe down, turned the volume up even louder and shouted all the more! Bartimaeus, when asked by Jesus what he wanted, knew exactly the right answer: “Lord, I want to see,” which was clearly a reference to his physical condition because he saw and understood so much already.
Bartimaeus refused to be designated as beggar, blind man, troublemaker, protester, or annoying distractor. In the end we know his name: Bartimaeus. And we know that Christ commended him for his faith. We know that it was his voice and clarity that made the naysayers in authority fall silent. It was his faith, his voice, and his courage that Jesus responded to so completely and in such dramatic fashion.
Bartimaeus is memorable because he shouted and wouldn’t be quieted when others were silent. Following his healing, the Bible says he “followed Jesus along the road” (Mark 10:52). He took up the journey that Christ was on—and something tells me he wasn’t silent then either. After he was healed, I think that Bartimaeus told his story to anyone who would listen. And his witness was memorable, unforgettable. His very name became synonymous with the grace and healing that Jesus embodied.
Of course, this is just speculation, but I think it has the ring of truth: Bartimaeus told his story because he knew that his experience mattered. He knew that his story could be important to others who might be fearful. He knew that the story of how he was healed might bring courage and hope to someone who had been abused or ignored. He knew that even his name could evoke hope.
Across the centuries, when his story is told, it is not just about his blindness, his begging, his shouting, or that Jesus was passing. We put a name to this story—and names are important. They were then, and they are now, too. It’s not just “one who is blind,” not just “a beggar”—it is a man: Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, and, now and forever, disciple of Jesus Christ. A life (and a name) that matters.
Ray Tetz is the director of Communication and Community Engagement for the Pacific Union Conference.

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