Spring Up With Faith
ne of my favorite stories in the New Testament is Bartimaeus' encounter with Jesus. Bartimaeus was a beggar who was also blind and was forced by the Hebrew idea that blindness was a sign of demon possession to sit pitifully by the roadside day after day. Matthew 20: 29-34, and Luke 18: 35-43, also contain stories concerning this or some similar incident. Matthew has two blind men. Only Mark gives a name to Bartimaeus.
All three Gospels have him crying out to Jesus, "Son of David!” This familiar Jewish term for the long expected Messiah indicates that Bartimaeus hoped that the increasingly popular Carpenter from Nazareth, and a descendant of King David, was indeed their "Messiah." Since Bartimaeus knew enough about Jesus popular preaching and miracles, we can assume that someone had told him about Jesus and that he was hoping that Jesus was the Messiah. Bart was one of the first persons to hear, and to respond as a result of hearing, which is the same pattern that brought us into the Church.
The three Gospels all 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 longed for the Messiah, and the promised salvation. In the Messianic age the hope was for a dispelling of myths, and thus Bartimaeus might be able to re-enter society, despite his blindness. Because of all of the miracle stories surrounding Jesus, there was hope that he might even see again. So, our friend Bart seized his chance. He did not allow the once in a 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.
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. 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, that we open our hearts 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, there are folks just continue to sit by the roadside.
I followed this year's World Series closely. I "kind of" pulled for the Marlins against the Yankees, but neither team really had my heart. I would have gone to every game if it was 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 baseball heart. I am a 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, Bible study, volunteer commitment, 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 into our lives.
America’s “Number One Baseball Fan,” was our church member at Atlanta First. I have visited her statue in the “Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, N.Y., which records that she never missed an Atlanta Crackers or Braves game for over fifty years. At age 102 she still watches every game on TV in her nursing home room. She is also a big fan of Jesus, having joined Atlanta First on Pierce Harris’ first Sunday as Pastor there. Her brother had played professional baseball with Pierce. Pearl and her brother never missed a Sunday morning service. They would sit in the back row on game day so that they could slip out after the sermon.
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. Jesus changed his life, totally.
Luke 18: 43 adds another part 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)
Finally, we don’t want to miss the fact that in, “Throwing aside his cloak…” Bartimaeus was giving up everything to follow Jesus. You see, his cloak was his only possession. It was his garment, his beggars mat, his tent when it rained, and his warmth in cold weather. It was something like a Monk’s heavy robe. Bartimaeus was willing to forsake all in order to follow Jesus. However, our “Rich Young Ruler,” from several Sundays ago, was unwilling to sell everything before following Jesus. All of the Twelve Apostles had left their businesses and careers to follow Jesus.
Likewise, our feelings of gratitude to God bring a desire to seek His purpose. All of us are called to be willing to commit our all to Jesus. He has showered us with blessings and we feel inside that we need to express our thanks to Him. This is the reason that our Christian nation uniquely sets aside “Thanksgiving Day,” each year as a day of gratitude. It is only natural that our church would use the word “gratitude,” as the theme of our Annual Pledge Campaign. Polls show that the number on reason Christians give to their churches is out of “gratitude” to God for blessings. We are blessed more than any people who have ever lived or who are now alive and our church is the vehicle through which we say thanks! We give to the Lord out of gratitude!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor