Seeing Your Way Clear Mark 10:46-52

We see Bartimaeus because Mark points him out.  Though, we probably wouldn’t have seen him if we had been walking with Jesus that day through Jericho.  We tend or pretend not to see people like Bartimaeus.  Mark says a large crowd followed as Jesus and disciples were leaving this ancient city on their way up to Jerusalem.  That would have been good news for a blind beggar stationed by the road.  He could call out and perhaps someone would give him something to shut him up.  So he shouts, “Can you see your way clear, good sir, for a shekel or two for a blind man?”

We want to think folk were nicer in biblical times, blind beggars didn’t scam, so they didn’t have to work.  But, people are people; there were people back then who took advantage of others good will.  There were also people back then who tried not to notice those who were down and out.  Mark doesn’t even know the beggar well enough to call him by his real name.  He says, Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, like saying Johnson, son of John.

The story makes me want to blindfold myself and see if I can walk from the pulpit to lectern.  It’s a little unfair, since I know this area well.  Anyone wants to see what kind of crippling experience that may be-bruised by flower stands jumping out into my path.  I might need one of you to take my hand and guide me, or at least to tell me where to go.  Perhaps, I should just sit down, like Bartimaeus who was sitting by the side of the road, the safest place for a blind beggar.  Yet, he didn’t have the luxury of doing nothing; he had to beg to stay alive.  His life was not an experiment.

Our lives are not experiments.  Some of us may feel like we are walking in the dark, having a hard time finding our way.  We may feel a bit invisible, off to the side of the road, unable to join the crowd, immobilized by our circumstances.  Here’s the good news: the same Jesus that opened the eyes of blind Bartimaeus is walking our way today.  Jesus can open your eyes so you can see your way clear to a new day.

Mark says the blind man was told by those in the crowd Jesus of Nazareth was leading the parade.  So upon learning Jesus of Nazareth was coming, something in Bart came to life.  The voice that begged for money cried out for something else.  Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.  Mark’s gospel draws a contrast between the disciples who are most privileged in their knowledge of Jesus and those who are strangers and social outcasts.  The disciples ought to know who Jesus is and put their trust in him; but they are continually confused.  Women, children, and blind beggars seem to know and simply place their trust in Jesus.  Bartimaeus the blind beggar, without a real name, shouts for mercy to Jesus, Son of David.

This is a confession of faith in Jesus as messiah.  It would have been remarkable to confess this Jewish man was the Son of God.  Frankly, it would dangerous to say anything positive about a Jew in a city under Palestinian control to this very day.  Then again, when we have nothing to lose, why not speak the truth and hope it helps?  Eventually it did.

At first the crowd tries quiets him, the way we do with inconvenient people who need Jesus; thinking we need to protect Jesus.  It is not just the destitute and desperate who need Jesus; we are all blind beggars in one way or another.  All of us in our own way have a need to shout for mercy.  Bartimaeus will not be denied.  He shouts louder and gets Jesus’ attention. 

Jesus calls the persistent blind man to him.  Bartimaeus throws off his dirty robe, bolts upright and runs to Jesus, no doubt bumping into lots of people along the way.  What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asks.  The question reminds us of the question he had just asked James and John when they came to him asking for a favor.  They asked for the prestige to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus.  Jesus said he couldn’t give them that power, but that they ought to follow him anyway.  See contrast again?

Bartimaeus implies he wants to follow Jesus.  My teacher, Rabbouni, in the Aramaic he says.  It is a term of endearment and respect, used only in Mark.  To call Jesus teacher is saying he wishes to be his disciple.

Go, Jesus says, your faith has made you well.  Immediately Bartimaeus’s eyes are opened; he sees Jesus.  This blind man with the eyes of faith had already seen Jesus as the Son of God.  Now he wants to be able to follow him without his handicap.  Again the contrast: those with eyes to see do not follow; others follow because they see with their hearts.

There is a passage in Isak Dinesan’s book Out of Africa: “Once, when Denys and I had been up flying, and were landing on the plain of the farm, a very old native tribesman came up and said to us: ‘You were up very high today, we could not see you, only hear the aero plane sing like a bee.’  ‘I agreed that we had been up high.’  He asked, “Did you see God?”  ‘No, Ndwetti, we did not see God’, I said.  He says “Aha, then you were not up high enough; but now tell me: do you think that you will be able to get up high enough to see him?”  ‘I do not know, Ndwetti,’ I said.  “And you, sir,” he said turning to Denys, “what do you think?  Will you get up high enough in your aero plane to see God?”  ‘Really I do not know’, said Denys.  “Then”, said Ndwetti, “I do not know at all why you two go on flying.

Many are like Ndwetti, who think the only way to see God is to get up high enough in our lives to catch glimpse of the divine.  Bartimaeus did not desire a lofty experience; he wanted to see God in a real and practical way.  Jesus always offers concrete ways to encounter God, so even the simplest could experience the greatness and goodness of all that heaven offers.

In this same chapter, a rich man comes to Jesus asking how to receive eternal life.  Jesus told him in order to see God he would have to see poor around him, sell his goods and give it away to them.  The text says he didn’t follow Jesus on his way, but went his own way, but sad-the contrast.

One writer called persons who were so heavenly minded that they were no earthly good, recreational Christians; they love the thrill of spiritually flying high, probing thoughts that don’t require anything of them in the flesh.  They are interested in eternal life and in the sweet bye and bye.  While their heads are up in the clouds; they look right past the people Jesus stops to talk with on the road.  Jesus is down on the ground asking us to do simple things in following him: like loving people as they are, noticing the poor, making friends with strangers, or giving our money generously away.

Don’t spend life waiting on a Jesus miracle of sight before you fully follow.  We are not to wait on Jesus to do a magic trick before we believe.  Miracles come after faith, not before; Jesus said the man’s faith made him well.  The adventure that opens our eyes comes after faith.  The fact we can exercise faith is a gift of God that happens in the quietness of our otherwise blind life, when we don’t know the future and are not sure of anything, except that we need to follow Jesus where he takes us.  So rise up in your blindness, throw off all that binds you, and place faith in the ways of Jesus.  Things will happen; don’t know what, but you’re going to like the ending.

Novelist, E. J. Doctorow says “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  The headlights only let you see so far down the road.  You can’t see around the corners until you get there.  You don’t know all the turns the road will take.  The characters are going to surprise you even as you write their parts.  That’s the fun of writing a novel.”  It’s the fun of following Christ.

Faith is walking to the edge of all the light you have and taking one more step!  Mark says when Bartimaeus received his sight; he followed Jesus on the way.  He didn’t know any more than any of the rest of us knows where Jesus way is headed.  This is the way it works: you see your way clear to follow Jesus and you start to see the way clear as you go.  Do you see?

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Published in: on October 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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