First Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-9
7Thus says the Lord:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
“Save, O Lord, your people,
the remnant of Israel.”
8See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
9With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Psalm: Psalm 126
1When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
then were we like | those who dream.
2Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.
Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
3The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are glad indeed.
4Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses of the Negeb.
5Those who sowed with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.
Second Reading: Hebrews 7:23-28
23The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; 24but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
26For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
46As [Jesus] and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
CHILDREN’S SERMON: Turn to your neighbor and share about your last “fast food” ordering experience. If you are not into “fast foods” then reflect on your last restaurant experience.
PRAYER: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
How many of you have heard of the sandwich principle? One version goes like this, if you are going to give a criticism, always sandwich it between complements: complement or point to a strength, critique, then compliment and affirm relationship. Our text today is an interesting Burger King Super Whopper. Lots of meat between two buns with lots of condiments. Let’s see if we can bite into it. Theologians have titled this whopper story, “Blind Bartimaeus.” We are going to look at three “Rs”: Road, Reason and Robe. I think we pray before we eat so let’s us say a quick prayer in this drive thru. “Lord, for the food we are about to receive, may we be thankful. May it strengthen our bodies, minds and souls to serve you. Amen.”
Jesus and disciples have been on a journey to Jerusalem. If we go back to chapter 8 of Mark, we find Jesus healing a blind man at the beginning of the journey and today we have a healing of a blind man, Bartimaeus, as we near the end of the journey. Between these two miracles dealing with blindness, three times Jesus tries to tell the disciples what they are about to encounter when they reach Jerusalem. Enroute we meet various people wanting to be part of the coming kingdom and their perception that Jesus is the coming Messiah, about to usher in this kingdom. Last week we heard James and John quibbling about their positions in the kingdom they think is about to arrive.
Jesus has been “on the way” but today’s text places the group leaving Jericho. The road to Jericho should shake up our memories as we pick up the bun, the context of this episode. Remember Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho? Jericho was on the other side of the Jordon the Israelites crossed from wandering in the wilderness. It was the entrance to the Promised Land. Could we be coming to the Promised Land, the fulfillment of promise? Jericho “was commonly known as the ‘oldest city in the world.’ It was called “The City of Palm Trees.” Perhaps it is like arriving at Palm Springs when traveling to Los Angeles. We are getting close but have not arrived. We are all “on the way” with Jesus and drawing closer to the Promised Land.
Leaving Jericho, we find a blind beggar sitting by the side of the road. Jesus has used this road in a parable telling about the Good Samaritan who encountered a man beaten up by thieves and left to die. In the parable, the “good guys” walk past this victim of life but the Good Samaritan stops and helps the person. “Who is the neighbor?” Jesus asked. Today we meet another man beaten up by life and left to beg for the leftovers of life from whomever might notice or hear his plea. The crowds are trying to hush him and erase him, trying to walk by. But Jesus notices and calls Bartimaeus forth. By the end of the text, Bartimaeus is walking beside Jesus to enter Jerusalem. This healing is sandwiched between being discarded by the side of the road and being on the road with Jesus, between blindness and sight.
Before we hurry to the “meat” let us reflect a moment. Where are we in this story? Perhaps some of you today feel sidelined by life, by age, by illness, by language, by disabilities or even finances. So many things push us to the side of the faith road, begging for help. It seems like the “crowd” blocks us from accessing Jesus as he passes by and we cry out, “help.” Perhaps we think Jesus only cares about those successful churches that attract the crowds and we are discouraged wondering if Jesus even notices the ministry and struggles of Bethany. It is possible to feel that way some days. You need a “Blind Bartimaeus” sandwich today!
We are about to reach the ordering box that speaks to us and asks what we want. Blindness that has created a tremendous hunger within Bartimaeus, drives him to yell out when he hears Jesus is passing. Our struggles drive us to cry out for “food.” Unlike anyone else in the Gospel of Mark, including the disciples, Bartimaeus addresses Jesus as “Son of David.” Note, we are not in Israel yet but crossing the border. I think we must assume Bartimaeus is uneducated, not a priest or theologian, not the rich man who knew the law and had kept it from his youth, and certainly not a disciple worrying about out position in the new kingdom. It is likely he was not an Israelite. Nope, this is someone living at the bottom of the social ladder, a blind man who sees with the eyes of his heart a truth. Jesus is Son of David. Bartimaeus calls to the compassion of a Messiah that is true humanity and understands his pain. He calls to the heart of Jesus, over the crowd that is trying to hush him and erase him. His hunger drives him to yell out and persist in seeking Jesus.
Now we have several self-reflective questions. Do I see myself as blind, pleading with Jesus for help, or am I one of the “blessed” coming to church as I was taught, looking for a good sermon, seeking to be with friends, a part of the faithful crowd of followers? Ouch. Perhaps the question to ponder is whom Bethany might be trying to hush and subtly blocking from accessing Jesus. That is a painful and hard question. The prayer is then – open our eyes Lord for we are blind to our faults. The only other alternative is that we might be on the wrong road and not even see Jesus passing by. Let’s hope no one is on the wrong road and that those of us on the right road will be willing to tell the lost where “the meat” is.
Friends bring the blind man to Jesus in chapter 8 of Mark and Jesus spits and creates eyes that see. At first the man only sees people like trees and so there is round two when Jesus touches him and he is healed. Sometimes Jesus has to create the eyes to see. This kind of blindness needs the touch of God and so prayers of faithful friends who care. We carry the blind to Jesus because they cannot access him by themselves. They cannot see. Bartimaeus, though, is told to come to Jesus. He is called forth from the sidelines to the center of the road. This time, Jesus only speaks and his word is able to call Baritmaeus forth. The Word of God is able to call us forth from our blindness today to join him on the journey to the Promised Land. We must never be discouraged at the reading of the Word.
The crowd now stops hindering and hushing and calls Bartimaeus forth. Ahhhh, even here is a lesson for often the church acts as an affirmation and identification of spiritual life within others, enabling our youth to claim their walk beside Jesus. Evangelism is not the only gift. Pastors are needed but the crowd, ordinary Christians who faithfully pray, who faithfully escort “the other” to healing are also important. Who are you encouraging to come to Jesus today?
Now our quarter pounder becomes a free upgrade to a half-pounder sandwich. The presenting reason for crying out to Jesus opens the door for our real order. No long is it hunger that is driving us. Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Now there is the million-dollar question. What do we want Jesus to do for us? Think carefully! On Burger King’s menu there are many options. Do we really know what we want from God today?
Solomon asked for wisdom to govern God’s people. His wisdom did not protect him from the harem. Hezekiah asked for 15 more years of life but then got in trouble showing his wealth to the emissaries of the enemy. Namaan wanted to be healed of leprosy but had to bath in the Jordon and had to be encouraged by his servants to humble himself. We often say, “Be careful what you pray for!” If we pray for patience, we may get trials that teach us patience! Jesus asks and does not assume but asks Bartimaeus what he wants. What do we want? Perhaps our song is
“Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Jesus.
Open my ears Lord that I might hear his voice.
Open my heart that I might feel his presence!”
Bartimaeus responds. “My teacher, let me see again.” Prayer answered!
The man is not sent to the temple to satisfy the priests. He is not told to not tell anyone. He is not sent home to tell others. He follows Jesus on the road to Jerusalem and the cross.
There is one more interesting detail we can consider this morning in our text. It’s not the meat to our sandwich but it might be the dressings. The robe. Nope we are not talking about Richard Douglas and the movie, “The Robe.” Mark records for us that when Jesus calls Bartimaeus to come forth, Bartimaeus throws off his robe and jumps up to go to Jesus. Unlike the young man two weeks ago who left Jesus sad because he, the man, had many possessions, this beggar throws away his possession.
The robe is somehow a status symbol. Robes seem to be mentioned in several Biblical scenes: at the cross the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ robe, the woman with bleeding believed if only she could touch Jesus’ robe she would be healed, and people put the sick on the roads Jesus walked on so they could touch his robe and be healed. The robe of Bartimaeus is cast off though. In Kenya, handicapped were placed by the roads to beg. The robe would have protected Bartimaeus from the sun. It could have been used to nap on. Or it could have been laid out like his collection plate for people to throw their gifts on. Bartimaeus threw away his security blanket and went to Jesus. Bartimaeus was anticipating transformation. Jesus confirms by saying, “Go, your faith has made you well.”
With these words, Mark changes this story from just another healing of a blind person with a name, Bartimaeus, to a lesson about faith for disciples. When Jesus finds us, we are sitting blind by the side of the road. It does not matter if we are infants in the arms of our parents or wayward teens lost in modern culture, or little ole elders looking death in the eye. We are blind and helpless, sitting by the side of the road of life. We have no motion and we are dependent on the help of others to survive. The crowds blur our access to Jesus. We are next to the ROAD, not on the ROAD.
We are all sinners and we all have a REASON to call out for help. None of us is an island and we cannot make it through life by ourselves. But when we learn that Jesus is passing, we can cry out. Jesus, son of David, God in the flesh with a heart of compassion and not far off in the clouds observing and judging – have mercy on us. God feels your pain!
When Jesus calls our name we will be burdened and ROBEd in many cares and concerns. As we throw off those robes that surround us and approach Jesus, we hear the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” What do we want Jesus to do for us today, for our family, for our community, for our church and for our world? Jesus calls us into relationship and prayer. Next week you will bow at the altar for communion and receive his body and his blood as symbols that he is in you, on the road with you, and giving you sight. Wow.
The people of God said, “AMEN!!”