I find the miracle (sign) in the ministry of Jesus this week (Mark 10.46-52), both encouraging and befuddling all at the same time. It is encouraging because even though he is this close to the cross and all that is going to happen, Jesus is still true to who he is and that gives me hope for what is still to come to me in my own life and ministry. It is befuddling because nothing happens that causes more to happen and for problems to ensue, like people running off and proclaiming what Jesus has done for them when Jesus has asked them not to.
First let me say a word about faith and believing. We seem to think in our modern, Western culture that these are different things. Where Jesus and the Scriptures – Mark in particular – are concerned they are not. In order to believe, one must both trust and participate in order to know that you do believe and are expressing it. Thereby one demonstrates his or her faith. Believing in Jesus is something that everyone can do, including the devil – and he shudders at the thought of Christ. Faith is an action of the body not just a memory of the mind.
See it in the actions and life of Bartimaeus. When he heard of Jesus passing him by and knowing that he was on his way to Jerusalem, to confrontation and probably to his death, the son of Timaeus started calling out to Jesus, by name. People were trying to listen to Jesus as they walked and talked. This fool, this ungrateful blind beggar was disrupting that, making it impossible for them to participate. They tried without success to ‘shhh’ and in fact the harder they tried, the louder Bartimaeus shouted and carried on. So much so, that Jesus heard and said to them – you call him to me. There was both relief and shame that hey had tried to silence this man and now had to do what they should have done in the first place. And why should Bartimaeus have been quiet – he needed mercy, and this might be his last chance in this life to get it. It means he is going to hang on to this moment with all that he worth that he might receive what he needs: mercy.
This is more than just for one man to receive his eyesight back – this for a person of God to be made whole that he might know God better and be drawn into eternal life. Bartimaeus did all he could to get Jesus’ attention and then “sprang up” to get to Jesus, leaving what little he had behind to get to him so that he could receive mercy. He needed to be drawn out his situation – his blindness. This is completely different from the rich young ruler wanted to be done with rule keeping and with the necessity of giving to those in need. This is also completely different from the power and glory seeking of James and John, who wanted to be given seats of honour, power and authority in the kingdom, even above those who they have learned and served with. Members of the community had to help this man get to Jesus so tht they could have their conversation. They had to participate in the miracle and put aside what they think is right and righteous. They needed to stop worrying about having their needs and demands met and consider another – that the other could be restored and made whole.
What did this man do with the mercy, grace and healing he received? He left his old life behind and followed Jesus up the hill and out of Jericho, towards Jerusalem and the cross. He went without anything but himself/ So if lack of a road map and a mission statement did not stop Abraham, if the sea could not stop Moses, if a wall would not stop Joshua, if a giant couldn’t stop David, Bartimaeus had no clothes or bank account, and if death cannot stop Jesus, then what’s stopping you from becoming the child of God you are called to become?