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 is 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.
Bartimaeus takes me home. This past summer we read the Gospel of Mark at Confirmation Camp. One of the customs of Confirmation Camp is to read the assigned gospel for the year. With the goal of familiarizing the campers with the gospel that is being read in church when they return in the middle of the long Season After Pentecost. How important is this? Well the next time you are likely to hear this text in worship is on Sunday, October 24, 2021. Our campers took a particular interest in this story this summer.
Today I was asked to do several things I was not prepared to do today. When I woke up this morning I had a list of the things I was going to do and then the life of the church happened and I ended up spending most of the day doing things I did not expect to do. Perhaps you've had days like this? One of the things I was asked to do was to record a video for a school project sharing my experience in working with and supporting the homeless. I suppose the key word here is home-less. I'm writing a devotion on what "takes me home," after recording a video about the homeless. The story of Bartimaeus is not a story specifically about a homeless man, but I imagine he probably was, because the story refers to him as a blind beggar. He's the son of Timaeus, but his father is not in the story. If there's something in his name, it might mean "son of honor" or "son of dishonor", both of which could produce some interesting conversation at a Bible study. People argue about these things. But what becomes clear is that this son of Timaeus is calling out to the Son of David by name, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" He does this not once but twice and against the protest of the crowd trying to keep him quiet.
What happens next is the thing that calls me home and back to the conversations at Caroline Furnace this summer. The people say to the man, "Take heart; get up, Jesus is calling you." Now I've heard it said that Jesus requires Bartimaeus to act on his faith, to get up and come to him as some sort of requisite to his healing. But that is not what I believe at all. A long time ago, I listened to someone speak passionately about this story and they described Jesus calling Bartimaeus off the sidelines of life, out of the blind eye of society that ignores him and indeed keeps him relegated to the curb. Jesus calls him away from those telling him to, "shut up". Jesus calls him off the dirty sidewalk of life- out into the middle of the street where the action takes place, where life has been passing him by day after day, ignoring him or worse, and Jesus parades this man in front of the very people who probably despise him, in order to give him exactly what he asks for,
"Let me see again."
Before I get all warm and fuzzy about Jesus, I'm reminded of how, try as I might, sometimes intentionally avoid the Bartimaeus's on the sidelines of life. I'm reminded of how I can be blind and how I've also quieted my ears to the cries that Jesus not only hears but honors. God, I love Jesus! I need God to be like this for me too! I love how he brings us home, calling us out into the middle of the road with him on his journey to bring salvation and new life to the world. I often say that the reason why I'm so prone to help beggars - like the guy who caught me in the parking lot today, "Can you help a homeless man?," is because I'd never want to trade lives with them. I can do something to help. But who do I want to be in this story? Well, I definitely want to be one who hears this story and doesn't remain on the curb of life. I don't want to remain in my own blindness. I don't want to be one of the shush-ers! I want to throw off my cloak and my old way of life and spring up and follow Jesus. The good news makes us spring up because the gospel is about Jesus making his journey to and for me. So this time, it's not because of what I want Jesus to do for me, but because of what Jesus has already done for me. I've seen the rising of the Easter Son. I know that my redeemer lives and he is bringing me home. I may not be there yet, but I'm on the road - leaping for JOY.
See you in June Caroline Furnace, Alleluia!