10/29/2000, P20, Year B
Leaps With Faith
ne of my favorite stories in the New Testament is that of Bartimaeus' encounter with Jesus. Bartimaeus was a blind beggar who sat pitifully by the roadside day after day. Matthew and Luke also contain similar stories concerning this same incident; however, Matthew 22:30 has two blind men. Only Mark gives a name to Bartimaeus. All three have him calling Jesus, "Son of David," but Matthew adds the term, "Lord," in Bartimaeus pleading for Jesus' attention amid the crowd. This familiar Jewish term for their long expected Messiah indicates that Bartimaeus hoped that the increasingly popular Carpenter from Nazareth, and a descendant of King David and Bathsheba, was indeed their "Lord." All three quote Bartimaeus' plea for "mercy," another indication that he believed Jesus was the Christ.
Only Mark records the part I like best about Bartimaeus' response to Jesus calling him to come: "Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus." (v.50, NLT). This says to me that Bart not only believed, but desperately wanted to come to Jesus. He seized his chance. He did not allow the once in his lifetime opportunity to pass him by. In fact, this was Jesus' last time in Jericho for he was headed up to Jerusalem and to his Cross. The next event in Mark's gospel is Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, just a few days prior to the Cross.
To make Bartimaeus' blindness even worse he probably had at one time been sighted. "Let me see again!" (Mark 10:51, NRSV). Most contemporary translations, following the best Greek texts, include this important fact that Bartimaeus had at one time been sighted. It makes his disability even more unbearable.
A story is running on CNN this weekend about a recently released "Miracle" device that stimulates the brain stem of totally deaf persons and restores some hearing. The woman interviewed had lost her hearing and it seemed even more moving that she could hear again. She tearfully said, "It's like I have been given a new life!"
Bart's friends initially told him to keep quiet, but he had been quiet long enough. His disability was blindness, not hearing, and certainly not speech; so, he shouted louder. I think we all have to want Jesus in our lives before He can enter in. To borrow the familiar metaphor from Revelation 3:20, "Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man (person) hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (KJV). Jesus heard Bartimaeus calling out to him. Luke adds that Jesus was "moved with compassion," (20:34). Mark and Luke both record that Jesus says that it was Bartimaeus' "faith" that brought his healing. (Mark 10:52, Luke 18:42). This tells us that it is by faith, not understanding or logic, that we open our heart's door to Jesus.
"And immediately he (Bartimaeus) regained his sight and followed him (Jesus) on the way." (Mark 10:52). All three stories record these two events occurring in Bartimaeus' life in the same sentence, almost as if it were a natural consequence that once faith touches persons, and meets their needs, whatever their specific needs are, that then those persons have a new life, or calling, and begin to follow Jesus. In fact, there is not a recorded encounter with Jesus in which, having received salvation, that person did not then follow him in discipleship. The natural consequence of being touched by the Son of God is to give our lives to him.
Yet, I have suspicion that there are folks who sometimes visit worship and hear the gospel, and just continue to sit by the roadside. Some refuse to believe. Others seem to believe, somewhat, but never seem to allow faith to envelope their hearts.
I followed this year's World Series closely. I "kind of" pulled for the Yankees against the Mets, but neither team had my heart. I would have gone to every game if it were possible, but I did not even get to watch every game on television. I was not really that much into it. Why? Because the Atlanta Braves have my heart as a baseball fan. As you know, I attend a lot of their games, follow the players' batting averages, and have some caps, shirts and other collectibles. I am what you might call, "a longtime devoted fan." I think that if we are going to be followers of Jesus Christ we have to really get into it, and allow it to get into us. Daily prayer, advanced Bible study, volunteer commitment to help others and witnessing are a basic lifestyle of the true disciple. In other words, we get beyond the immature, baby like, occasional visitor stage, once we allow him to touch our lives.
Bartimaeus became more than just a fan, he became a follower of Jesus "in the way." (Mark 10:52, ASV). And the way led to Calvary. I like to think that my friend Bart saw Jesus hanging there. The Jesus who came through Jericho and changed his life was now the dying Christ on a cruel Cross. Someday I want to ask Bartimaeus how it felt to see the one who meant the world to him, hanging on that tree. It must have been devastating.
Luke 18: 43 adds one more aspect to this fantastic story; not only did the now sighted Bartimaeus glorify and praise God for his healing, but the miracle was used to bring many who saw it also to glorify God. "Instantly the man could see and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too." (NLT).
This is important to us because it means that the witness works in the lives of others. They will know that we are Christians by our love, by our new zeal, by what they see and feel. This may be the most important application of the Bartimaeus' story to us. Through what happened to him we can still experience a witness of grace. Also, through what we see in our friends' lives we can know that the Holy Spirit can still change us.
Yet, seeing it in someone else is not enough, the Spirit wants to enter into every soul. He wants to take us beyond the occasional fan stage to become advanced disciples of Christ. He does this by calling us to Him. We jump up and accept His mercy and become His follower down a new roadway in our lives. Christ is calling each of us today! Will we seize our chance?
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor