31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
March 8, 2020
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Just like in last’s week’s passage from earlier in the 10th chapter of the gospel Mark, in this morning’s scripture passage, Jesus is on the road again, a body in motion.
In last week’s passage, a rich man ran up to Jesus and stopped him, detaining Jesus with questions about righteousness. This week, it is a blind beggar by the side of the road that causes Jesus to pause on his journey.
Bartimaeus doesn’t have questions though. He has a request. Some might even call it a demand. When Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is passing by, he shouts out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Bartimaeus knows Jesus’ given name, Bartimaeus knows who Jesus truly is, and Bartimaeus knows this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for healing. So with a loud, determined voice, he shouts out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
And the crowd rebukes Bartimaeus; they sternly order him to be quiet; they try to shush and shame him into remaining voiceless and invisible as well as blind.
Has someone ever tried to shush and shame you into remaining voiceless and invisible?
Bartimaeus won’t do it though. He won’t be shamed; he won’t be denied; he will not be quiet and invisible – regardless of what people say, regardless of what people do, regardless of how people feel.
Have you ever tried to shush and shame someone because their shouts, their demands for justice, their insistence on being heard and seen, made you uncomfortable?
Despite the crowd’s attempts to quiet Bartimaeus, despite their desire to keep him from bothering Jesus, despite their efforts to maintain the status quo, Jesus stops. Jesus always stops. Jesus stops because he sees Bartimaeus. Jesus sees deep into the heart of him, and knows what Bartimaeus needs.
However instead of inviting Bartimaeus to come to him, instead of inviting him on a journey of healing as Jesus did with the rich man, Jesus instructs the crowds? The disciples? James and John, two brothers who have been asking for glory and not mercy? Jesus instructs “them”, whoever they are, to tell Bartimaeus to come here.
As we all know, direct communication is best. Speaking face to face with people is best – so why doesn’t Jesus speak directly to Bartimaeus?
Jesus has a reason. Jesus always has a reason. Jesus involves the disciples; Jesus involves the crowd; because in order to do as Jesus has asked, they must talk to Bartimaeus; they must acknowledge his existence. They must see him, and see that they cannot limit Jesus’ love and compassion. No one can limit Jesus’ love and compassion.
When they, whoever they are, say ‘cheer up’, ‘take heart’, Bartimaeus goes from being invisible and voiceless to seen and heard. Bartimaeus goes from being a nobody to a child of God, worthy of notice and dignity. Bartimaeus is transformed in the eyes of the crowd, and the crowd is transformed as well – into people, into a society, a bit more open and accepting of all.
Not surprisingly, Bartimaeus jumps up right away and comes to Jesus. Surprisingly, though, Bartimaeus tosses aside his cloak as he does so. It’s significant because if you were forced to beg by the side of the road and be led around by others, would you be so cavalier with your meager possessions? Would you toss aside that which brings you warmth and protects you from the elements as you are forced to sit beside the road and beg for others’ mercy?
Here’s the thing though. Bartimaeus does not expect to be sitting by the side of the road begging for others’ mercy anymore. In calling out to Jesus, in shouting out for Jesus’ mercy, Bartimaeus shows his confidence, his trust, his faith that Jesus can and will heal him.
You might think that the next thing to happen would be Jesus reaching out and healing Bartimaeus. And in the 8th chapter of Mark, we hear a story of Jesus doing exactly that. Without a word, Jesus takes the blind man by the hand, leads him out of town, puts saliva on his eyes, and then lays healing hands upon him, restoring the man’s sight.
Jesus could have done the same thing with Bartimaeus; however as I shared last week, while Jesus’ invitation to healing might be the same for all of us, it does not come in exactly the same form.
When Jesus looked at Bartimaeus, when Jesus looked deep into the heart of Bartimaeus, Jesus knew that for Bartimaeus to be truly healed, it was really important for him to come to Jesus of his own free will and not led by the hand as he had been his whole life.
Jesus knew that for Bartimaeus to be truly healed, it was really important for Bartimaeus to speak up and be heard. So Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Jesus knows what Bartimaeus asks for, and Jesus also knows what Bartimaeus needs – yes healing, however not just physical healing. Bartimaeus also needs emotional healing, spiritual healing, mental healing. Bartimaeus needs to be seen and heard and acknowledged as God’s beloved child with gifts and talents that are valued by his community. Bartimaeus needs to have his eyesight and his dignity restored.
And Jesus and his love have the power to do that. Jesus’ love heals; Jesus’ love frees; Jesus’ love transforms. Transforms people physically and transforms them emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Jesus’ love has the power to heal us individually and to heal the brokenness of our society and world, to heal the hurts we know we have and heal the brokenness we have buried so deep that it’s hidden even from ourselves. Jesus’ love heals.
The story of the rich man and the story of Bartimaeus’ healing are quite different, and yet, they both show us that Jesus sees us. Jesus sees deep into the heart of each one of us, and Jesus invites us to let go of the attachments that strangle and impoverish us. Jesus invites us to speak up about what we need, to even shout out for what we need, even when external or internal voices might try to silence us, and Jesus invites us to trust him. To trust that he knows what we really need and that he can heal that too.
As Jesus heals Bartimaeus, Jesus says “Go; your faith has made you well.” (Mark 10:51). Bartimaeus does not go though. Bartimaeus follows. Bartimaeus has been well and truly healed, inside and out, and in his wholeness, in regaining his sight, Bartimaeus sees that he is meant to follow Jesus.
We are meant to follow Jesus. We want to follow Jesus. Our brokenness, our blindness sometimes gets in the way though. On this journey of Lent, as we deepen our relationships with the God of love we know through Jesus Christ, make room for God; speak up to God; and be open to all of the ways that God is healing you so that you may truly see, truly feel, truly be healed and transformed by God’s unconditional love.