Sometimes in turning to the stories of faith, we put on blinders. We read the stories with certain expectations and tend to forget that the transformative power of Jesus was not just found in who he is but also in the people he interacted with.
October 24, 2021
What Do You Want Me to Do for You?
Pastor Heather McColl
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
What Do You Want Me to Do for You? Mark 10:46-52
In our text today, we hear about Bartimaeus who is a blind beggar whom Jesus heals. There really isn’t anything unusual about this story. It holds a lot of the same elements as other healing stories do in the Gospel of Mark. Like the other stories, we hear about someone who needs healing. We hear about Jesus seeing this person or hearing this person calling out his name. Like all the other healing stories, we hear about Jesus healing this person. There really isn’t anything unusual about the story of Bartimaeus.
So why did Mark think he needed to add this story to his Gospel, especially since at first glance, it is like all the other healing stories which Mark has already shared with us up to this point ? What is the reason behind adding just one more healing story?
To help us understand the reason why there is just one more healing story in this Gospel, first we need to understand that for Mark the focus of this healing is not Jesus. The focus of this healing is Bartimaeus. I know this sounds crazy. As people of faith, we turn to the Gospels to learn more about Jesus and now the preacher is telling us this story is not about Jesus but about some blind beggar.
Well, yes. Because sometimes in turning to the stories of faith, we put on blinders. We read the stories with certain expectations which blind us to what is really going on in the text. Most of the time, in reading our stories of faith, we tend to forget that the transformative power of Jesus was not just found in who he is as the Son of God. It was and is also experienced in the people he interacted with, broke bread with, talked with and yes even healed. Jesus was more than just power to calm the storms. He could and did see everyone as a child of God. And for us as people of faith, that is what makes all the difference.
Let me explain: Usually in the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus heals someone, the healing is done in private with no chance of anyone finding out about it. And then when the healing is complete, Jesus tells the person, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen. Don’t tell anyone about what happened here!”
Which usually didn’t happen because one of the first things people did after being healed by Jesus was go and tell everyone they met. And who could blame them? Just imagine after being healed from a disease that plagued you for years, after being healed from a disorder that kept you from your family and friends…Just imagine after being healed from an illness that because of it, you had been pushed to the margins and ignored for years, now finally you were healed, what’s the first thing you would do?
We all know that when it comes to really good news, none of us can wait to share it with everyone we meet. Just look at social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are filled each and every day with people telling everything about their day. Whether it is what they ate for breakfast that morning or what milestone they just achieved, people share good news. And no matter how small that news may be, we can’t wait to make it Facebook official. Can you just imagine what your social media’s newsfeed would look like if you had just been given back your life because now you are healed? Everyone’s phones and computer screens would be dinging, tweeting, whistling or binging so much that you might just start to wonder if you were trending that day.
However, notice in this particular healing, Jesus doesn’t ask Bartimaeus to be silent after he heals him. Jesus never tells Bartimaeus to not tell anyone what happened here today. In fact, Jesus does the complete opposite. Jesus lifts Bartimaeus from the midst of the crowd, brings him center stage where everyone can see what is going on, and then he heals Bartimaeus. No commands. No requests. No admonitions to keep quiet. This is what sets this healing apart.
This is Jesus’ last miracle before he triumphantly enters into Jerusalem. In the very next chapter, Jesus will be riding in on a donkey, surrounded by the crowd, shouting Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord. Jesus will be going through the gates of Jerusalem while the crowd surrounds him and celebrates the coming of the Kingdom of God. As soon as Jesus enters the gates, things will be different. The mighty will fall. The people will be restored. At least that is what the crowd expects. Or should I say, that is what the crowd wanted or hoped would happen.
But that is not what happens. Once in Jerusalem, after Jesus enters the gates, he rides around for a little bit. Jesus takes a look around, and then leaves. Jesus leaves without doing really anything. The crowd is so disappointed. Where is the Kingdom of God? They missed it.
That’s right. They missed it. The crowds missed what was right in front of their faces because they could not see. They were blind and could not see that the Kingdom of God was already there in their midst. The Kingdom of God didn’t come when Jesus entered the gates of Jerusalem. The Kingdom of God was already there in their midst when Jesus healed Bartimaeus and restored his sight.
What the disciples miss, what the crowd misses, and what we continue to miss still today is that Jesus had been telling his disciples all along that the Kingdom of God was already there. Jesus had told them over and over again that the Kingdom of God was not a kingdom of privileges or riches. Rather it was and is a kingdom where the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the lame would walk and the outsider would be welcomed. And that is exactly what happened. The Kingdom of God came and no one noticed. Well, almost no one noticed. Bartimaeus noticed and his life was forever transformed.
The Kingdom of God was there in the crowd’s midst and they missed it, all because it came in the form of a blind beggar no one noticed, a blind beggar no one cared about. The Kingdom of God came in the form of a blind beggar whom the crowd had tried to silence.
You see, the life giving thing about the Kingdom of God is that it never does what we expect it to do. It has the power to open our eyes, to open our hearts, to open our ears to the wonderful grace and love of God that is already there in our midst, if we let it.
Or let me say it this way: in November 2013 Mormon bishop David Musselman posed as a homeless man and interacted with congregants outside a Taylorsville, Utah, church before services one Sunday:
.At least five people asked David Musselman to leave the church property in Taylorsville, some gave him money but most were indifferent.
He said he disguised himself as a homeless man to teach his congregation a lesson about compassion. “Many actually went out of their way to purposefully ignore me, and they wouldn’t even make eye contact,” he said. Many of them I wouldn’t ask for anything…no food or any kind of money, yet their inability to even acknowledge me being there was very surprising.”
In our text today, no one saw Bartimaeus, well, no one except one person-the one who came to bring the Kingdom of God to earth, to usher in a kingdom where the blind would see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk and the outsider will be welcomed, who came to show us that the same Kingdom of God is in our midst day in and day out.
Now is the time to open our eyes. Now is the time to listen to the cries for justice and peace. Now is the time to practice our faith by raising our voices and saying that hate and hurt must stop. By saying no longer can we just ignore the issues. By saying God in your mercy, restore our sights. Because maybe just maybe by doing these things, we too can bring healing and wholeness to our world. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for for Sunday, October 24, 2021 – What Do You Want Me to Do for You? Mark 10:46-52.