Reading: Mark 10:46-52
Preached at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, June 28th, 2015
When things go wrong most people cry out for help. 'God, help us!’ When everything else has failed, a desperate prayer, often little more than wishful thinking, is offered. 'God help me!' When there’s nothing left to lose, only then will some people start yelling into the unknown.
The gospel of Mark gives us a story of a man at rock bottom who meets Jesus and is transformed. Our kids will be learning more about him during Vacation Bible School. His name is Bartimaeus, a blind beggar man sitting by the road, pushed aside by the crowd. I sense that there is a bit of the Spirit of Bartimaeus in us all.
Blind . . . well maybe not in a physical sense, but we can be blind to the things that really count in life. Endlessly pursuing unreachable ideals. Hoping something good will happen next time, or maybe the time after. But are our ideals worth pursuing? What if nothing good happens next time? What of such things as love, beauty, and truth? What place in our lives have they--how much do they matter?
Beggars… again not in a material sense, but spiritually speaking we can be living in total poverty. We can talk a lot about God but know God very little. We can talk a lot about prayer, yet often our prayers boil down to little more than cries for help and we can find praying an empty, desperate, and desolate task.
Sitting by the road . . . sometimes we feel life is passing us by. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, just being left out of it all are common amongst most people. Pushed aside by the crowd . . . who wants to know our problems? Who cares about us, everyone’s too busy getting on with their own lives . . . our cries are drowned out amongst the crowd.
The situation of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar man sitting at the side of the road, pushed aside by the crowd. Bartimaeus came to Jesus and was healed
The story starts out with an act of recognition. At the lowest level, Bartimaeus sees his only hope in the person of Christ. He persists in his request for help in spite of what others around him suggest. Secondly there is response … he hears the call of Jesus to come to Him and he makes known to Jesus exactly what is on his mind. Finally, there’s reception. He receives from Jesus new vision and resolves to follow Him.
It starts out with an act of recognition
'When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, Bartimaeus began to shout, ‘Jesus! Son of David! Take pity on met’ Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted even more loudly. ‘Son of David, take pity on me! ‘'
Can you imagine the scene if some famous person were visiting today. A reception would be laid on. Important people would be informed. The police would be out in force. Crowds would line the roadside.
Imagine the embarrassment if among the crowd there was an old blind beggar who insisted on shouting at the top of his voice 'Take pity on me.' No doubt people would say 'Sh . . don’t make a fuss.' There would be an air of embarrassment. No one likes a scene.
Such a situation would be similar to that of Bartimaeus when Jesus came to town. He shouted out 'Jesus, have mercy on me!' and the crowd told him to be quiet. But he kept shouting. He knew that Jesus was the only one who could meet his need. The doctors had failed him. The crowd were embarrassed by him and pushed him aside. What had he to lose? If only he could get through to Jesus then he’d be fine.
As we gather together to worship God, God’s promise is that He will be present in the power of the Holy Spirit. Bartimaeus was blind. He couldn’t see Jesus, but he sensed something was happening! He’d heard enough about Him to think that Jesus was worth seeking out and worth shouting about.
The voices of the crowd come to him, scolding him, telling him to be quiet. So today may voices come to us. 'Don’t take this too serious. Even if you shout it out, nobody’s going to hear you! Jesus hasn’t got time to deal with your problems. He has more important things to do.'
The gospel proclaims Jesus is interested and that He’s already dealt with our problems. When over 2000 years ago, they nailed Him to a cross, the cry came from His lips—'It is finished' . . . His work was complete. In a once-and-for-all act, he took the penalty of sin, bore the burden upon Himself, and broke its power for eternity.
The first thing we see in Bartimaeus’ story is recognition of Christ. Bartirmaeus recognized his need of Christ and was persistent in shouting out for that need to be met in spite of what the crowds said. What happened next? Response.
V49 - 'Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Cheer up,’ they said. ‘Get up; He is calling you.’ He threw off his cloak, jumped up, and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. ‘Teacher,’ said the blind man, ‘ I want to see again.
Prayer is one of the greatest privileges of Christian life. We are called to persevere in prayer--as Paul wrote to the Ephesians (6:18) 'Pray on every occasion as the Spirit leads--for this reason keep alert and never give up. Pray always for all God’s people.'
One reason why prayers don’t always seem to be answered is that we give up too easily. We give up too easily because we don’t seriously believe in our hearts that God is listening and prepared to answer. How different was the plea of Bartimaeus. He kept yelling. He wholeheartedly believed Jesus was interested in him and could restore his vision. If something is important, then it will be on our lips in prayer to God. If our prayer is not from the heart, then God will see through the words and hear what our heart’s actually saying.
Bartimaeus yelling in the crowd was his prayer from the heart. It Jesus stopped in His tracks. Jesus said 'Call him.' Jesus calls us. We read God’s Word in the Bible, and it calls us to modify our vision on life. We look at the symbols of faith, the cross, bread and wine, water of baptism, and they are all calls of Jesus for us to come to Him.
When we pray, God calls us to see what Christ has accomplished for us in the cross. He calls us to encounter Him in the risen power of His Spirit. That is God’s response to us. How, then, should we respond to God? Bartimaeus was told to do two things. 'Cheer up' and 'Get up.'
'Cheer up'--if we believe God is calling us then we should respond with joy. The fruits of the Spirit are described as love, joy, and peace. To our shame, formal worship of God can be a joyless experience. 'People fall asleep! Church is boring!' These are accusations laid at our door. Someone has put it rather cynically 'When you’re thinking of heaven, put a smile on your face; when you’re thinking of hell, your normal face will do!' Yet this should be the most joyful place in town today--because Jesus is here and is calling us to cheer up--for He knows all about our worries and problems.
We’ve also got to 'Get up.' In Bartimaeus case, he threw off his cloak, jumped up, and came to Jesus. For a blind man, that really was a leap of faith. Beggars don’t usually have much in the way of possessions. But a cloak was a valuable piece of clothing. You could sleep in it at night, wrap it around to keep out the cold, sit on it during the day. He probably knew the texture of the cloth, rather like a well-worn pair of shoes. There’s nothing as comfortable as that which you’re used to. It was, even though not much of a cloak, worth looking after and protecting. It was all he had.
Responding to the call of Jesus means being prepared to leave our particular cloak behind. It means rethinking our attitudes and values in the light of His teaching. It means casting off those things which are not to the glory of God in our lives. To put it in the words of Scripture--casting off our cloak of unrighteousness and putting on a garment of praise.
When we respond to God by 'cheering up' and 'getting up,' we place ourselves in a position where we can bring Him our requests and needs with the assurance that He is listening and able to meet them. Once Bartimaeus had gone forth in faith, Jesus asked 'What do you want me to do for you? Bartimaeus says, 'Teacher, I want to see again.'
A simple request and an obvious one for a blind man to make, and his need is met. His story ends V52 - '‘Go,’ Jesus told him ‘Your faith has made you well.’ once he was able to see and followed Jesus on the road. ‘'
We all need healing. The love of Christ brings healing to a sick world. We can be spiritually dead. For Bartimaeus, the final step in his healing process was one of reception. He had already shown his faith by recognizing in Christ the answer to his needs and responding to His call. He had made the request. All that he had to do was to receive His healing. Jesus spoke the word, and it was done.
God has shown His love for us in Christ crucified. That death has dealt already with all our problems. If that is to be real in our own lives, we need to receive the Spirit, receive for ourselves the Spirit of the Living God. Only then will we see clearly how we can follow Jesus along roads in our present life that lead to His kingdom.
Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus was a man who recognized his need of Christ’s touch in spite of the voices of the crowd and wouldn’t keep quiet about it, for he knew that only Christ could truly meet his need. He was a man who responded to the call of Christ by launching out in faith, being prepared to leave the old way behind and look for the new. This was his joy... to respond to the call of Christ. He was a man who received. His faith translated into action. His actions meant he was in a position that Christ could say to Him 'What do you want me to do for you.' He made his request and his need was met. A vision restored and new life in Christ’s service.
If we come to Jesus as did Bartimaeus, He will also meet our needs. He has enough love for each one of us. That is the message of the story of Bartimaeus. If we come to Jesus as we are, if we seek Him for we know He alone can meet our need, then we shall not be disappointed. Resolve in your heart today to make time for meeting with Jesus, for He is closer to us than we even dare to imagine.
To His name be all honor, power, and glory. Amen.