Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (October 2&28th, 2018)
Text: Mark 10: 46-52
Title: The BARTIMAEUS Effect: Seeing Again for the First Time!!
Annie Dillard, in her powerful and provocative book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, describes a group of people who had been born blind and, as a result of experimental surgery were able to see for the first time in their lives. Surprisingly, being able to see was a “mixed blessing” for most of them. Most complained of the almost painful brightness of the sun light when they experienced it for the first time. These people had grown accustomed to living in a dark world…blindness provided their identity in the community…it defined who they were and what they did. Suddenly, everything changed for them, now that they were able to see…the old rules and their old way of life no longer applied. A few (not all, but a significant minority) requested that the surgery be reversed, so they could return to the dark world they knew so well!
I have often wondered what would be worse…to be “Born Blind” like the folks in Dillard’s story or the man in John chapter 9 whose blindness caused the disciples to ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind”. I wonder if it would be worse to be born blind, or, at some point in your life, to lose your sight as the result of an injury or illness…I wonder??
Bartimeaus (the blind beggar who is the central character in our Gospel for this 213rd Sundat after Pentecost) was not “Born Blind”…we know this because, in response to Jesus penetrating question, “What do you want me to do for you” Bartimaeus says, “Rabbi, restore my sight…let me see AGAIN”. Bartimaeus was not born blind but, by some circumstance (Mark doesn’t tell us what happened) Bartimaeus lost his sight…he became blind and because he was blind, he was unable to work…and because he was unable to work, he was helpless…absolutely dependent upon the generosity of other people, and, when he heard that the Rabbi from Nazareth: was passing by…the one who had established a reputation for healing the sick, raising the dead and restoring sight to the blind…when Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by he cried out in a loud voice: ”Son of David… Have Mercy on Me”. And when the crowd tried to silence him he cried even more loudly, “Son of David…Messiah…Christ Have Mercy on Me”.
But it is not blind Bartimaeus’ cry…his passionate appeal for mercy which has captured my attention this week…what has captured my attention is Jesus’ surprising and, for me, rather puzzling response to Bartimaeus’ cry. The Evangelist Mark tells us (in verse #49) that Jesus “Stood Still”…that Bartimaeus’ passionate appeal for MERCY stopped Jesus in his tracks and then Jesus says, What is it that you want me to do for you”…WHAT IS IT YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU”.
There is a very interesting (and I think a very important) contrast between this story and the Gospel for last Sunday (also taken from the 10thchapter of the Gospel of Mark)…a
contrast that the Evangelist Mark uses to increase our understanding of the spiritual significance of the story of blind Bartimaeus. Did you notice that Jesus’ response to Batimaeus’ cry for help (“Son of David Have Mercy on Me”) in this Sunday’s Gospel is the same response that he made to James and John’s request (“Lord, we want you to do for us whatever we ask”) in last Sunday’s Gospel! Jesus’ response to both requests is exactly the same: What do you want me to do for you?!
James and John (the Sons of Thunder) wanted prestige, power and glory in the Kingdom that was coming and their response to Jesus’ question (“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left in your glory) revealed this truth, and it exposed the truth that they still didn’t understand the kind of Messiah that Jesus was destined to be. But blind Bartimaeus had a much simplier…much less gradiose request…it was exactly what you might expect from a blind beggar. “Rabbi LET ME SEE AGAIN”.
What Do you want me to do for you?
James and John asked for GLORY…blind Bartimaeus asked for MERCY. But what about you? Could it be that Jesus-thru the words of the Holy Gospel- is asking those of us who are listening this evening that same provocative/probing and penetrating question: “What is it that you want me to do for YOU?”. What is the deepest desire of your heart and your life this evening/morning? What is robbing you of the joy and peace and freedom that you desire and deserve? What is broken in your life…and needs to be repaired by the healing touch of the Great Physician? What part of the Christian Vision of Kingdom life…of life in its fullness has been marred and distorted and needs to be restored? ?
What do you want me to do for you?
This evening/this morning, thru the words of the Holy Gospel, Jesus’ provocative question reverberates in our ears once again. And, friends I am convinced (absolutely convinced) that your response to that question…that penetrating question…that probing question…that disturbing question…that essential question…your response to Jesus’ question (pause)…will make all the difference in the world!
What do you want me to do for you?