October 28, 2012
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
I want us to think about the difference between the response that Bartimaeus gets from Jesus compared with the reaction he got from the disciples and the crowd. The disciples rebuke him. The crowd tells him to hush up. The teacher is walking by, quit trying to bother him. We want to hear him, not you. (It would make an interesting study to look at all the instances of a crowd in the Gospels. It might tell us something about ourselves, especially during an election season.)
Compare that with Jesus. Jesus calls him over and asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” In this question we find the deep humanity of Jesus, treating a blind beggar like he is a real person, not someone to dismiss or to rebuke or to keep from talking. In this we find the deep divinity of Jesus, hearing the cry of the one in need.
In the question, we hear echoes of last week’s reading. When the Apostles James and John sidle up to Jesus and say, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you,” Jesus responds, “What do you want me to do for you?”
When Bartimaeus cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus responds, “What do you want me to do for you?”
To the Apostles, with their request for power and status and authority and honor, Jesus reminds them that have yet to figure out the job description, which is humility and service and to the eyes of the world, it may often mean dishonor and shame.
To Bartimaeus, with his cry for help and healing, Jesus does just that. He helps and he heals.
None of which would have happened had Bartimaeus not spoken up. He could have sat by the road, holding out his bowl, hoping that with a crowd passing by maybe someone would drop a few alms in. But instead, he cried out. Alms would have fed him for the night, but what he really needed was to find wholeness, to be healed.
How often do our prayers feel like this? We pray and pray and pray, and like Bartimaeus, we think something is going on, but we cannot see it. And there are voices that tell us that praying is a waste of time, or to quit bothering Jesus with our problems, or why do we make such a fuss about this stuff anyway, can’t we just “get over it?”
And then something happens. Jesus stops. Which means the whole crowd stops as well. Bartimaeus can tell something is going on, but cannot see it. And Jesus says, “Call him.” And Bartimaeus stands before Jesus and Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Maybe it takes us a while before our prayers turn to what is really on our hearts. It takes a while to get past the smaller stuff and sink in to what is really needed, what is really going on in our souls. And Bartimaeus tells Jesus, “Master, let me receive my sight.”
Alms are okay. Help is good. People who care for us are wonderful. But healing is what is needed. Wholeness is the desire of our souls.
And when Jesus heals Bartimaeus, there are no strings attached. The gift comes with no invoice. “Go your way, your faith has made you well.”
What gets us to the point where we can confess our sins, speak the truth about our hurts, cry out for healing, give voice to the conditions of our souls?
I don’t know about you, but I want to jump to the words this morning from Jeremiah, without having to go through the exile and the lamentations and the repentance that the prophet preaches. My heart is stirred by these words:
Behold, I will bring them from the north country,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
the woman with child and her who is in travail, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I am a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my first-born.
To be honest, I would love to have the consolations without the weeping. But that isn’t how life works. We know about weeping. We know about being scattered. We can each tell our own stories of exile, of lostness, of stumbling.
And if we can speak the truth of our lives, there is a faithful community that gathers us in and says, “Here you can be who God calls you to be. Here you can be you.” And when we speak the truth of our lives, Jesus stops, and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Trusting in Jesus, we find our voice. Loving God and one another, we find our freedom. In the Holy Spirit, we hear the words echoing through the centuries: “Go your way, your faith has made you well.”
Thanks be to God.