Read Mark 10:32-52
There are some stories of Jesus which are more engaging than others, and the story for today is an engaging one. That is, there are lots of details so we can easily see this story in the imagination of our minds.
See the location of Jericho, the scene of today’s story. On this picture from space, we clearly see the location of Jericho. We clearly see the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Those two bodies of water are connected by the Jordan River Valley, and in that valley is Jericho.
We can easily imagine that Jesus had been up north near the Sea of Galilee, and traveled south using paths near the Jordan River. Jesus would have taken a road from the Sea of Galilee, along the valley of the Jordan River, to Jericho, the scene for our story.
You may not realize it but Jericho is the lowest city on Earth in terms of elevation. Jericho is some 750 feet below sea level.
The gospel story for today is very specific.
Like most Bible stories, these stories from the gospel of Mark are told from the perspective of an eyewitness. We know that Mark received these stories from the disciple Peter, who saw this things first hand.
Jesus had already come to Jericho and then we are told that Jesus was leaving town. We read, “He and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho.” (10:46) Great numbers of people are following Jesus. They are heading west to Jerusalem, about a 25 mile walk. If this story was in Waseca, they would be just heading past the Chrysler and Ford dealerships, with several hundred people walking, leaving town.
On the roadside, as they leave town, there is a blind beggar, sitting on the side of the road. The storyteller tells us his name is Bartimaeus, and he is the son of Timaeus.
Blind Bartimaeus hears all the commotion of the crowd going by. He can’t see them, but he can hear their voices, the movements of their bodies, the rustling of their clothes, the laughter, and the conversation.
Blind Bartimaeus then asks what all the commotion is about. He is told that the famous Jesus from Nazareth was passing by.
In his heart, it happened in a moment, in an instant. An inner impulse erupts from within him. Blind Bart shouts at the top of his lungs. He bellows out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!!!” (10:47)
Blind Bart shouts out so loud that everybody could hear him – Jesus, the crowd, everyone at the Ford and Chrysler dealerships, maybe everyone at Quad Graphics and Vista Villa court, too.
Many people didn’t like the blind beggar calling out so loud and rudely at the top of his lungs and so they tell him to “be quiet.” (10:48) In other words, Bart, we can’t even hear ourselves think, keep your mouth shut.
What did Blind Bart do? We read, “But he cried out even more loudly, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!!!” (10:48)
That’s the way we sometimes pray when we’re desperate, don’t we? We shout to God in the middle of our pain, “Lord God, have mercy on me, on us, on my kid, my wife, my husband.” Yes, sometimes our prayers are like the desperate prayer of Blind Bart, “Lord God, have mercy on me.”
But here’s the really amazing part. Jesus stops in his tracks.
We read, “Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’” (10:49) Jesus looks right at Blind Bart and says, “Bring him to me.”
Some folks from the crowd say to the blind beggar…read this with me: “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” (10:49)
Let’s stop right here in the story and hear those sacred words, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” This is what we want in life. We want Jesus to stop in front of our lives. We want Jesus to notice us in this big world of ours. We want Jesus to say to us, “Take heart; get up, I am calling you.” We want Jesus to come to us and help us when we are discouraged and down in the dumps, like blind Bartimaeus must have been. There are times when we are overloaded, overwhelmed by life. Jesus knows that. Jesus knows what you’re going through.
That’s why we need to hear those precious words. “Take heart; get up, the Lord is calling you.”
That is the gospel.
The story teller continues with the details, “So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.” (10:50) Again, notice the detail. “He threw off …his coat … and sprang up.” We can feel Bart’s energy as he jumped up and came to Jesus. This is definitely an eye-witness account. A reader can feel the action in Bart’s legs and in his spirit.
Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (10:51) This is the big question that Jesus asks of us as well. “What do we want Jesus to do for us? What do you want Jesus to do for you?”
Jesus had asked the identical question with the identical words in the previous story when he asked what he could do for James and John. In that story, James and John wanted greatness, power, and authority. They wanted Jesus to make them famous. Jesus reminds them that true greatness is in serving others.
How would you answer that question from Jesus today. “What do you want me to do for you?” Blind Bart wanted his sight, his physical sight, eyes that could see. The Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus said to Bartimaeus, “Go; your faith has made you well.” (10:52)
And then the story ends with these words: “Immediately he regained his sight and followed Jesus on the way.” (10:52)
So, what did this story mean to us? Where in this story can we hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us?
For the gospel of Mark, Jesus has come to heal our blindness. Jesus’ healing of Bartimaeus’ physical blindness has a deeper meaning. This is the last story of Jesus’ ministry before his entry into Jerusalem, and his journey to the cross. In the context of Jesus’ approaching death and resurrection, this story of the Blind Bartimaeus functions like a parable, telling us that we all needing healing, we all need a new way of seeing. This is will be our theme for the Sundays in Lent – A New Way of Seeing.
Our Old Testament reading from the prophet Isaiah says, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.” (Isaiah 42:1)
Those words are about Jesus, who came to serve. But our Lord also wants us to see ourselves as servants.
Jesus came to heal our spiritual blindness. We are often blind:
• to the power and goodness of God all around us in every moment of every day,
• to the immense human misery that is a significant part of most people who live on this planet Earth.
• to a neighbor or coworker or someone else in need.
There was an old song, way back in the 1960’s that said, “how many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”
How many times do we simply turn our heads away from the pain of the human race, from the immense misery that is part of our world?
How many times do we simply turn our heads away from the pain of this planet Earth, with its receding glaciers and gapping holes in the ozone layers above each polar cap, pretending we just don’t see that the Planet Earth is in enormous trouble?
Jesus came to heal the blind – blind disciples, blind Pharisees, blind religious leaders, blind everyone, the blind me, the blind you.
If Jesus were to touch your eyes, what kind of blindness would Jesus heal in your life? Blind Bartimaeus had faith in Jesus to heal him, to make him well. What part of your life does Jesus need to heal in order for you to become well? THAT is a big question, an important question. For you. For me.
I like this story. On a road on the outskirts of Jericho. A blind beggar by the name Bartimaeus. I can hear him shouting at the top of his lungs, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!!!” I also hear the words spoken to Blind Bartimaeus by God’s unknown messenger, “Take heart; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
How I need those words. The one who can heal me is here.
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