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Aug 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 10, 2014 – Mark 10:46-52

Does Anyone Care?

Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David have mercy on me!”
And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.” Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus.
And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. Mark 10:46-52

Intro: I cannot imagine being blind in Jericho

When it got hot–and in Jericho everyday was hot–how would a blind person find a cup of water
– or suitable shade where they were not in the way or on someone’s private property?
• without people looking after him, the blind man had slim chance of survival
○ and survival was as much as one could hope
○ on a good day, blind beggars might be able to scrounge up one meal
– it’s one thing to leisurely sit on a corner and watch people go by
• it’s another to be fixed in place and helpless
○ travelers pass on the road going this way and that, doing important things
○ meanwhile the blind sit by, begging for a bit of their life, of their happiness

This is where we meet Bartimaeus
– Neither Matthew or Luke mentions his name, but Mark makes a point of explaining it
bar is the Aramaic word for “son” — “son of Timaeus”
• in biblical cultures we don’t see the individualism of our own culture
○ people are identified by their relation to others or place of origin
○ “Simon son of Jonas” (relation), “Joseph of Arimathea” (place)
– the “of” that was added to a person’s name told who he was, where he was “connected”

Jesus was leaving Jericho “with His disciples and a large crowd”
– hearing the commotion, Bartimaeus asked what was going on
• someone told him it was “Jesus of Nazareth,” identifying Jesus by place
• when Bartimaeus cried out, “Son of David,” he identified Jesus by relation
○ “Son of David” is a Messianic reference (cf. Mk. 12:25)
– now it’s clear why Mark emphasized Bartimaeus’ name
• he drew our attention to Bartimaeus’ name to stir thoughts regarding Jesus’ title
○ he sets this up as an encounter between “the son of Timaeus” and “the Son of David”
• this was important to Mark – in fact, it is the big point of his whole book

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mk. 1:1)

• Mark is moving through the layers of Jesus’ identity, bringing us to the truth of God in Jesus (cf. Mk. 14:61 & 15:39-40)

Bartimaeus asked others for money; from Jesus he requested mercy

Why ask for money, when mercy gives so much more?
– spare change could give him a loaf of bread
• mercy could give him his sight – give him his life back
– mercy totally side-steps the issue of what I deserve
• mercy responds to need, to suffering
○ what qualifies people for mercy is not their merit, but their misery
○ not their accomplishments, but their losses

Like last week, the crowd around Jesus proved to be more hindrance than help
– growing up, their were adults in my life that I respected, but who misrepresented God
• Sunday school teachers, youth ministers, elders and pastors
• the god they showed me was always upset about something and hard to win over
○ when I met God for myself, I went through a season of resentment
○ it took time to heal before I could forgive those people
– Jesus taught that there were fierce consequences for misrepresenting him (Mk. 9:42)
• I know I’ve done it too – and I deeply regret it

Bartimaeus is my hero because of what he did next
– “but he kept crying out all the more” — he continued on and he got louder!
• he knew no one was going to advocate for him
○ a blind beggar had to be aggressive or else ignored
○ the beggar who looks into our eyes, gets to us — we think we can sneak by the blind
– why did he keep it up and yell louder? In one word, Hope!
• Paul divulged his overwhelming troubles to the Corinthians, despairing “even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8)
○ but more than once, he told them “we do not lose heart”
○ there is a hope that cannot be quenched

Joan Chittister, “When I say that I am in despair, I am really saying that I have given up on God. Despair says that I am God and if I can’t do anything about this situation, then nothing and nobody can.”
Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange, “If we demand too little of ourselves, this is because we do not count sufficiently on grace, because we do not sufficiently ask for it. If our spiritual life declines to a lower level and if we are satisfied with an entirely natural life, this is a consequence of our believing we are alone in acting, forgetting that God is in us and with us.”

• the man who cried for mercy had undaunted hope
– what does healthy hope look like?
persistence and spunk
○ spunk is one of my favorite words
○ the first time it made sense to me was watching a Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Steamboat Willie”
• spunk is more than courage and determination
○ it is bouncing back with a smile
○ it is a sparkle of mischief in your eyes when people try to shush you

At this point the scene abruptly shifts to Jesus

He’s on the final leg of his journey that will bring him to the outskirts of Jerusalem
– and then the cross
• earlier Jesus was apparently quiet and moody–“pensive” may be a better word (v. 32)
○ but on the day he met Bartimaeus, the crowd was swarming around him again

What do I notice when I observe Jesus?
– my first observation is the conspicuous absence of things he did not do
• he did not exploit his authority or push a political agenda
○ he did not work up crowd to raise funds or promote himself
• what he did was take time to care for one insignificant person
• “sitting by the road” is the perfect description of Bartimaeus
○ he lived on the margin of society — his contribution to the community amounted to zero
○ to most people he may have been pathetic, but he was also a throw-away life
– Mark packs a lot into two short statements
“He stopped” – voice that annoyed everyone else caught Jesus’ attention
• Jesus was leading a movement and at that moment he was out in front of a parade
• but he could be stopped, by one desperate voice
“He said, ‘Call him’” – imagine Bartimaeus’ excitement when told, “He is calling for you”
• Jesus was willing to hear him out, give him an audience, and take his request
• I want you to think of your conversation with Jesus going something like this:

“Lord, I know You are very busy, but I am desperate. I cannot give You any good reason for why You should help me, but I know You are merciful, so that is all I ask. I owe You an apology for barging in like this and I am sorry for interrupting Your work.”
“Nonsense! You have not interrupted My work, you are My work. Please, come close and tell me what is on your heart. What do you want Me to do for you?”

– I know Jesus was all love, but I suspect that he was also amused by Bartimaeus
• that is to say, he enjoyed the persistence and spunk of this blind man

So the scene shifts back to Bartimaeus

Here is where his spunk is clearly seen
– rather dramatically he threw aside his cloak, as if to say, “I won’t need that any more!”
• then, when he was told to “stand up” Bartimaeus “jumped up”
• he persisted until given his opportunity, then he plunged into it headfirst
– when he got to Jesus, the Lord asked him a question
“What do you want Me to do for you?”
• this is a moment of suspense – what could Jesus do for him?
○ a short time earlier Jesus had asked James & John same question (v. 36)
○ but then he was unable to give them what they requested (vv. 37-40)
– Bartimaeus could have answered, “Enough money, never have to beg again”
• but Jesus wasn’t about money
○ “Lord, to regain my sight”
• my prayer most likely to be answered if I do not ask for status or position like James and John
○ but simply ask that Jesus open my eyes

Before leaving Bartimaeus, I want to point out a theme in this chapter: following Jesus
– in verse 21 a wealthy man declined Jesus’ invitation to follow him
• then Peter pointed out that he and the other disciples had followed Jesus
• in verse 32 the disciples were following Jesus fearfully 
– only Bartimaeus volunteered to follow Jesus
• and he did so without asking the Lord’s permission
(why risk having Jesus send him home? Cf. Mk. 5:18-20)

Conc: “Your faith has made you well” (or “saved you,” i.e., brought you to wholeness)

Can our prayer do something similar for us? Can it help us find wholeness in Jesus”
– can this brokenness that we carry within ourselves be mended?
• or must we live a half-life rather than enjoy fullness of life?
– in fact, there is a contemplative prayer that is very effective for addressing our brokenness
• it is a type of prayer the psalmists prayed when they found their way to wholeness

  1. Slowly inhale and place yourself in God’s presence, saying, “Here I am”
  2. Bring to awareness your inner disability, problem, flaw (or allow it to emerge)
    – what ever disturbs or upsets you – fear, anxiety, regret, stress, shame
    • we usually do opposite – mentally push it away (and that gets exhausting)
    ○ the first time I did this, my instant reaction was to think, “If I let myself feel this hollow feeling of despair, it will take over and I’ll slip into depression”
    ○ but I concentrated on controlling my breath and God’s presence
  3. Don’t allow yourself to slip into the usual patterns of analyzing or reliving your injury
  4. Pay attention to any physical sensations associated with your inner condition
    – we feel our worries and fears in our bodies — e.g., “I’m feeling anxious”
    • focus on where the sensation occurs in your body and what it feels like
    ○ I first felt my fear as a tingling sensation in my neck that radiated to my sternum
    ○ it was not at all unpleasant, but I had always interpreted it, “Something’s wrong!”
  5. Speak the name of Jesus – not as a magic word, but call him to you
  6. Allow yourself to feel the warmth and love of his presence
  7. Label your upset or brokeness and in the same breath say the name of Jesus again
    – know that he can heal or else use anything and that he redeems everything
  8. Return your attention to your breath and rest your body and soul in God
    – allowing his peace to enter your whole body, notice how it feels
    • also notice any change in the physical sensations you had felt or in your mood

At first this prayer may seem like a lot of steps to take or requires a lot of time
– but after awhile it will become natural and automatic
• this is your new response to feeling broken, inadequate, overwhelmed
• we are retraining our brains to go to God rather than panic or control mode or despair
– we learned this in our Lectio time this past week from Psalm 56
• the poet taught himself to respond to the wicked behavior of others

When I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,

In God I have put my trust;
I Shall not be afraid. (Ps. 56:4)

Remember Jesus can always be reached — even by those of us who cannot see him

One Comment

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  1. Ingrid Starrs / Aug 14 2014

    Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange, “If we demand too little of ourselves, this is because we do not count sufficiently on grace, because we do not sufficiently ask for it. If our spiritual life declines to a lower level and if we are satisfied with an entirely natural life, this is a consequence of our believing we are alone in acting, forgetting that GOD IS IN US AND WITH US.”

    God is in us and with us simply states the truth. Jesus lives! That makes me a handmaiden of God. That makes ME the light of the world.

    Who is the light of the world except God’s son? This is merely a statement of truth about myself. It is opposite a statement of pride. It does not describe a concept I have made for myself. It refers to me as I was created by God.

    To the ego, ‘I am the light of the world,’ is an idea of self-glorification. But the ego does not understand humility. Humility consists of accepting my role and taking no other. It is not humility to insist, ‘I cannot be the light of the world,’ if that is the function God assigned to me.

    True humility requires that I except, ‘I am light of the world.’ By what authority must I accept this truth? Gods voice tells me it is true. This is the first step to accepting my real function on earth. It is the foundation for meaning and purpose from which all life springs.

    “God is in me and with me. I am the light of the world!” The past nor the future can touch me in this moment. I want to repeat this truth as often as possible. It is my answer to the illusions ego creates. It is the solution to every idea that separates me from the Devine. It brings all images I have made about myself to truth and helps me live in peace, unburdened and certain of my purpose.

    I am light of the world. This is my only function. That is why I am here. I will rejoice and be glad!

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