Sometimes (maybe most of the time?) it is easy to see all the stories of Scripture and read them all (or listen to them read to you as you lounge in a pew) and think no more about what was said. It is easy to become ‘linear’ and only see the lessons from which faith can be gained as a cardboard picture book, with none of the depth and width of real life becoming a time and place your soul can be transported to, so one can live with the characters who seem so one-time, two dimensional. That is why I want to tell you about Sidonius, the man born blind, who was healed by Jesus. Sidonius was a real man, who lived in real times, just like the real times we live in today. However, few know his name; and, less know his history.
So, allow me to fill you in with some background.
In the early spread of Christianity into France, there is the story of The Three Marys (see section “Legend in France”), who were Mary Magdalene, Mary of Clopas (or Cleopas), and Mary Jacobe. Those three women, along with others: Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea, Maximus, Sidonius, and a child (possibly an infant) named Sarah, were all set adrift on a rudderless raft (possibly without a sail also) in the Mediterranean Sea, off Egypt, expected to sink and drown. Instead, the raft miraculous landed in the Camargue region (swamp area between the Rhone and Petite Rhone rivers) of Gaul. Where they landed was originally called Oppidum-Râ, which means “enclosed space of the raft,” or read as “our lady of the raft.” That place later became named Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, or Saints-Marys-of-the-Sea.
I believe anyone who is interested in the spread of Christianity beyond Italy and Greece should read more on this topic. It is at the root of the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail. I believe the child Sarah – also called the “Black Madonna,” presumably because she was of Egyptian blood and dark complexed – was the daughter of John the Beloved, who was the son of Jesus. So, I do believe in a holy bloodline, from which royal lines sprang [the last of which cling to significance in modern times, like the Windsor’s of England].
My interest in this history, which is strongly believed and revered by man, led me to investigate who Maximus and Sidonius (a.k.a. Celidonius) were. Everyone of those on the raft, who landed in Gaul, became saints, known for miracles; but each went to different places to settle. They were not saints that saw a need to hang out together and shun the pagan people.
They were not like clergy is today, where one prominent priest once said in my presence, “Being a priest puts a fence between the clergy and the great unwashed, which nary a one shall cross and intermingle.” [I paraphrase, greatly.]
Those of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer were spreading out true Christianity among the people, well before the Roman Emperor Constantine decided to call his diminished empire “holy.” I believe the advent of the Cathars came from both this spread of saints and pilgrims who came to offer support and stayed.
Maximus is said to be one of the seventy who were sent out in ministry by Jesus. This is called the “seventy-two” by some, but I believe the number is “seventy” in pairs (“two” each). It can be seventy-two; but here is what Scripture says (below). I’ll leave it up to you to decide why “dyo” is in parentheses.
With a name like Maximus, this sounds like he could have been Roman. Jesus healed the “servant” of a Centurion – sight unseen, therefore no name was given. It could be the Centurion returned home and found his slave healed; so, out of respect for Jesus, he could have freed the slave, whose name could well have been Maximus. Most likely, the slave would have been told his healing was the result of an order given by Jesus; so, it would be likely that Maximus would seek Jesus and serve him. In that service, he would then be paired with another such servant and sent into ministry as an intern who was touched by the Spirit.
As to Sidonius, he is said to have been the man born blind, who Jesus healed on a Sabbath, causing the Pharisees to get their panties in a wad. From my research on Sidonius (and I cannot locate that source at this moment), after Jesus healed him, he was said to have committed himself to serving in the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, in Bethany. As a man who had only known begging as a profession, being a volunteer servant or slave would have been a way to be useful. When I read that, it made sense to me that when Lazarus became ill, the one (or one of those) sent to tell Jesus would have been Sidonius. This becomes important to realize, as the only way to get from Bethany to Bethany Beyond the Jordan was through Jericho.
In John 11 we read that Lazarus became ill and his sisters sent word to Jesus. That was written by John as a child who was not ‘on the road’ with Jesus, so he stayed with his mother in Bethany. It is possible that John accompanied Sidonius in making that message of the urgency of Lazarus’ illness be known to Jesus (thus John was an eye witness who wrote of that event). That was prior to Mark, Matthew, and Luke writing about Jesus passing through Jericho. As Jesus waited two days before leaving, Sidonius and John would have returned to Bethany prior to Jesus and the other followers beyond the Jordan.
When returning through Jericho, it would have been heartfelt to have been blind at birth and healed in his adult life (I imagine he was between twenty and thirty years of age when Jesus healed him) to hear the pleas of other blind beggars in Jericho. This would have been when Sidonius (not a man of wealth) would have stopped and sat with the blind men, telling them his story of healing. He would have been the one who told of Jesus the son of David, who had the abilities to cure blindness … and many other ailments. One of the blind men Sidonius would have told that to would have been Bartimaeus.
The blind man Bartimaeus had been born with sight. The loss of his eyesight was either from an accident, disease, or cataracts. Knowing Jesus would be coming through Jericho soon, it would have been Sidonius who told the blind men to be listening for a large group of people coming through town, one of whom was named Jesus of Nazareth.
That explains the scene described by Mark and Matthew, where Bartimaeus (named by Mark, meaning Peter would come to know him later) would hear the name Jesus of Nazareth and begin shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then, after Jesus told Bartimaeus, “You faith has healed you,” and “immediately he received his sight,” the important (often forgotten) thing to read next is: “[Bartimaeus] followed Jesus along the road.”
Just like Sidonius became a servant of Jesus … and just like Maximus would follow and become one of the seventy (or 72) … so too would Bartimaeus become a devout servant of Jesus. Because Peter knew his name [Mark wrote Peter’s Gospel account], the two developed a friendship as “brothers in Christ.” Because Sidonius served Lazarus and knew Maximus as another who had been touched by the Spirit of Yahweh, through the presence of Jesus of Nazareth, Sidonius stayed with Mary Magdalene and Lazarus when they were sentenced to death by drowning at sea, to serve them to the end. They all became known as saints, posthumously.
I thought I would tell this story because it is the missing “3-D” reality of Scripture that is too often overlooked. It says Christianity was not just a bunch of wealthy people wanting to get into heaven, looking for a church organization that takes donations and not only gives absolution of sins for cash … they also mail out official donation accounting papers to use when filing income tax returns. True Christianity is about having been touched by Yahweh … because of your faith.