The tale of blind Bartimaeus is one of my favourite gospel stories. It’s because it tells the story of a down and outer who, in his need, encounters Jesus in a most fascinating way.
But let’s look at a bit of background. This story occurs near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In fact, Jesus and his disciples, faithful Jews all, are on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover which was a huge festival. In Mark 11, in the very next story after this one, Jesus and his followers will enter into Jerusalem during the Triumphal Entry which marks the beginning of the last week of his life. They have been up in the region of Galilee but are now making their way down toward Jerusalem probably traveling the road the edges the western bank of the Jordan River. As the story begins, they are passing through Jericho on their way to Jerusalem.
Given that background, let’s find out what happens as we begin the story in Mark 10:46 (NIV): “Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging.”
So, we find out about Bartimaeus. He’s blind. That’s a problem because blind people back in those days did have supports like the Canadian National Institute of the Blind. They didn’t have seeing eye dogs or specialized employment training opportunities. They had no way to support themselves and so, usually, what would happen as that they would be taken in by a family member. Then every day, they would be taken someplace where there were lots of people passing by – like the town market or, in this case, the city gate, where they would beg for whatever they could get from the passers by. The proceeds of this begging would go to the family to help offset the cost of their care. That is why Bartimaeus is begging at the city gate. It’s his only way to contribute to his upkeep for the family that has taken him in. This is very typical of what happened in those days with anyone who was special needs in any way. It’s just the way things were done.
BARTIMAEUS CALLS TO JESUS
So we know that Bartimaeus is blind and that he is begging at the city gate. Let’s find out what happens next in Mark 10:47-49a (NIV): “When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
“Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’
“Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’”
Here is have man who has problem. He’s blind. He’s begging and I suspect that he’s not very happy with his life as it is and if he could wish upon a star, he’d wish that life could be different. But then he hears that Jesus is coming along. And he’s heard about Jesus. After all, everyone has heard about Jesus. He’s been travelling throughout the countryside for the past three years. Jesus is a rock star. He’s famous and he’s coming down the street now with this huge crowd following along.
Bartimaeus is faced with a quandary. What will he do? He has heard that Jesus is a preacher and a teacher. He’s also heard that he’s something else as well. He’s a healing and that’s what Bartimaeus needs. If ever his life is going to change for the better, he needs his sight to be healed. So this is an opportunity. Will he let it slip by or will he seize it? And so, in a moment of desperation and hope, he calls out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”
And what happens? Those around him try to silence him. “Shhh. Quiet. What are you doing? Jesus doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. You’re blind. You’re a beggar. He has more important things to do. He has more important people to see. He’s off to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and we’re going with him so sit there by the side of the road where you belong and put a lid on it.”
I want you to keep something in mind. These people who are trying to silence Bartimaeus are what? They are Jesus’ followers. They aren’t some rabble marching along the road. They are Jesus’ followers. They have heard him preach and they have heard him teach. But somehow they’ve missed something, haven’t they. They missed it when Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall in inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5 (NIV)). They missed it what Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3 (NIV)). And they certainly missed it when Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthews 25:40 (NIV)). Somehow they missed that part of Jesus’ message.
I think there’s a lesson here for the Church. In fact, I think it’s more than a lesson. It’s a warning. As followers of Jesus, we are warned not to shut people up who want to come to him. I got to wondering why Jesus’ followers tried to silence Bartimaeus and I think there is only one answer. They didn’t think he was good enough. They didn’t think he had anything to offer. Remember who he was. He was a blind beggar. He had no skills. He had no money and no influence. He couldn’t do anything useful as far as the rest of the people were concerned. All he was was a blind beggar. He was not an asset to their cause. All they saw was a liability.
But Bartimaeus is not going to be put off. When they tried to silence him, it says that he calls out all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” I love the way he doubles down. Clearly, he really wants to meet Jesus and he is not going to be dissuaded from this goal. And so even though the followers try to keep him quiet, when Jesus hears him does he ignore him? Does he try to silence him? No. He says, “Call him.” And they do.
What’s interesting here is that while Jesus’ followers saw in this blind beggar someone of no value, with no talents and nothing to offer their ministry, all Jesus saw was child of God. End of story. It doesn’t say that Jesus knew who was calling to him. For all we know, he had no idea who Bartimaeus was. After all, there was a huge crowd on the street and Bartimaeus was sitting on the side of the road. It’s quite conceivable that Jesus never saw him at all.
The point is that Jesus didn’t care who was calling to him. All he knew was that someone was calling to him and if someone really wanted to meet him, Jesus would reach out the hand of friendship to him.
Jesus did not show favouritism to anyone. Rich or poor, male or female, Jew or Gentile, Jesus never turned anyone away. In James 2:1-4 (NIV) we read, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
This is pretty clear. This story of Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus illustrates that he did not show favouritism to anyone. And neither should we. It doesn’t matter who someone is, what they have or don’t have, what they offer or don’t offer, if we think they can help our ministry or not, the Church needs to be open to anyone who is calling Jesus’ name.
JESUS CALLS TO BARTIMAEUS
The story continues in Mark 10:49b-50 (NIV) which says, “So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.”
This is great. They go over and get Bartimaeus, “Cheer up. He’s calling you!” And Bartimaeus’ reaction is priceless. He doesn’t just get up and stumble over to Jesus. It says that he throws off his cloak. He jumps to his feet and goes to Jesus just about as fast as a blind man can.
I love his enthusiasm. Don’t you? Don’t we all wish we had that level of enthusiasm when Jesus calls to us? Sometimes, I still see that type of enthusiasm in people. They hear Jesus calling to them or they discern the Holy Spirit moving in their hearts calling them to a particular task or ministry and they just get all excited because they are so on fire for the Lord.
Sometimes that happens. Sometimes we’re like Bartimaeus. But sometimes we’re more like Moses when God called him. Do you remember the story of Moses? It’s in Exodus 3-4. In that story, Moses is tending the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro when he hears God’s call. This is the scene with the burning bush on Mount Sinai. And God calls Moses to a very specific ministry. He’s supposed to be back to Egypt to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go.
How does Moses react? Is it with enthusiasm? Does he, like Bartimaeus, throw off his cloak, jump to his feet and say, “When do I start?” Hardly. The first thing Moses says is that, “I’m a nobody. Why would Pharaoh listen to me?” And God says, “It doesn’t matter who you are, I will be with you.”
And then Moses says, “I don’t even know who you are. Who are you anyway?” And God says, “I am who I am.” That is, “I’m God and that’s just about all you need to know.”
And then Moses says, “But I can’t go. I’m a horrible public speaker. My brother Aaron, on the other hand, he’s a great speaker. Why don’t you sent him?” And God says, “I have a better idea. I’m going to send both of you.” And God does.
The point is, when God calls to us, do we respond like Bartimaeus or do we react like Moses? That’s a challenge for us. I think that if you were to ask Jesus, it’s poor blind old Bartimaeus who got it right. He threw off his cloak, jumped up and answered God’s call just as soon as he could.
But I do want to add one caveat to this. And that is this. In the church, God calls to all of us to do something because God has called us each to the church with our own individual skills and talents. God has a purpose for each of us to be here. But like a lot of organizations, much of the work is done by a relatively few people. And those few people are in danger of being burnt out because they do too much. That’s why we all have to do our part.
Remember that Moses too, was reluctant to follow God’s call but eventually he did and God equipped him and strengthened him to become the greatest prophet in the Old Testament. He did lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and through his leadership God established the nation of Israel which continues to this very day. So if you’ve had a slow start in your ministry, just remember that there’s still time. God isn’t finished with you yet. Maybe now is the time for you to answer Jesus’ call.
BARTIMAEUS IS HEALED
So Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, jumps to his feet and goes to meet Jesus. Then in Mark 10:51-52 (NIV) we read, “‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him.”
“‘The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’
“‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”
Bartimaeus is rewarded for his efforts. Jesus asks him what he wants. And to no one’s surprise Bartimaeus wants to see. He does not want to be blind. He does not want to be a beggar by the side of the road. He does not want to be a burden to his family. Being able to see would change all of that. Jesus heals him by giving him the gift of sight.
And what does Bartimaeus do? He follows him down the road. Ultimately, isn’t that all that Jesus asks of us, to follow him? I don’t think Jesus ever does an inventory of our gifts and talents before deciding that we are worthy to be his followers. He doesn’t assess what we can do for the church. He doesn’t look at how much time we can contribute or how much money we can put in the offering plate. All he asks is that we follow him not knowing where he will lead us, how we will get there or what we will do. He asks only one question: Will you follow me? And to that question, Bartimaeus said yes.
That’s a great teaching for today as we share in a baptism, a confirmation and a transfer of membership to this family of faith. Each of you, Hudson’s parents, Lynn and Lindi, God has brought you here for a reason. God has a plan and a purpose for your life. And part of that, according to the Bible, is to be part of his Church and to share in this ministry.
For each of you that will be different because each of you have been blessed with different skills, talents and abilities. I know that some of you are involved already. Some of you are able to be involved in big ways and some of you in small ways but each of you is called to do something. Like good old Bartimaeus, Jesus calls each of you to follow him and when you follow, like Bartimaeus, he will let you see what he wants you to do in his holy name.
Make no mistake. We want you to be
part of this ministry and so does God. In fact, we need you to be part of this
ministry. All of us should take that knowledge and sit with it and pray about
it as we seek and discern what God is calling us to do.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Almighty God, your creative wonder leaves us in awe. Your strength and glory leave us humbled. Your support and love lift us up from the depths of despair into the light of hope and meaning. Fill us anew with your Spirit. Remind us of your presence in our lives that our feet may walk the path of your making.
We give thanks for the tastes of life, for all of our experiences from birth to death. The joys and sorrows, laughter and tears, failures and successes all add to our maturity and growth. You, O God, can work through them all, touching us in special, healing ways.
We thank you this morning for the gift of marriage. Especially, we pray for Maria and Brian, and Judie and Gordon who were married this weekend. Bless them, O God, as they begin their lives together as husband and wife.
We lift up in prayer a world which is experiencing so much pain and hatred. Pipe bombs are being sent because or political sides. People are being shot because of their faith and we wonder why Satan is given such power to spread destruction. And yet, O God, we know that this is partially our fault for we have not been diligent enough in sharing your word of peace but rather have let the forces of this world wreck their havoc. Enable us to be better examples and to do the work of Christ to build his kingdom here and now.
We pray for Linda Driedger and her family after the death of John yesterday morning. Grant them your peace, O God, and help us to support them not just with our prayers but with our actions and our love.
We lift up in prayer those who are sick at home or in hospital. We remember especially Sharon, Lyle, Diane and Drew, that your healing Spirit may be upon them. We remember also the many people whose illnesses are less visible because they are of the mind and spirit. May your blessing be upon all.
Finally, we pray for Canadian
military personnel around the world who defend our freedom and seek the peace
of the world. Surround them with your angels that they may do their jobs with
courage and compassion. Bring them home safely. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
October 28, 2018 / Pentecost 23 / Proper 25
Job 42:1-6, 10-17; Psalm 34:1-8; Mark 10:46-52; Hebrews 9:11-14
CALL TO WORSHIP
The glory of God shines above the heavens and reaches into the depths of our hearts.
We lift up our hands, our minds, and voices to the one who was and is and always will be.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
You call us, O God, your children and we come to you as our Heavenly Father. The mountains shout your praises. The hills echo your strength. The wind whispers greetings of love and acceptance. Come to us now in our time of worship that we may, once again, appreciate the comfort, peace and challenge that you give to us through your gracious Holy Spirit. Reach down into the depths of our souls that we may truly experience the joy of our salvation and the wonder of your love. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Mercy, we thank you that our sins have been forgiven and that you will not remember them again. Seeing that you will not remember them, we also should not remember them. Help us, therefore, to keep the past in the past where it belongs. We desire to take hold of the new life you have given. There is no need for us to feel ashamed or reluctant to come to you because of guilt of our past sins. We want to walk fully in the new covenant of forgiveness and freedom that has been established by your sacrifice. Cleanse us, we pray. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Our guilt has been washed away. Our lives have been cleansed. We are freed to walk in the light of faith of Jesus Christ. He offers us complete assurance of God’s love and acceptance. Let us rejoice in the forgiveness of sins that is ours in Christ Jesus our Saviour.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
There are so many time, O God, when we fail to fully appreciate all that you have done for us. Your gifts are many, your mercies to numerous to count. With these gifts, we attempt to realize our blessings. Enable us to give with generous and willing hearts for there are those who need to have what we can offer. Use us for you purpose. We give you thanks. Amen.
heard the Word, having sang our praises, having lifted our voices in prayer, we
have worshipped the Living God. It is time to go and put what we have
experienced into practice. It is time to be the people of God and touch the
lives of others in Jesus’ name.