"Conditions of a Miracle"
Mark 10:46-52 1/29/17 Pastor Larry Lineberger For Jesus the end of the road was not far away. He is passing through Jericho which is only 15 miles from Jerusalem. He and his disciples are on the way to celebrate the Passover. It would be his last. The cross loomed on the horizon. Theoretically, all the Jews were required to go to Jerusalem for Passover, but that was not realistic. Those that could not go would stand along the way and urge on the faithful. And now a famous, itinerant rabbi and his entourage were coming. The crowds were huge. They had heard about this audacious young Galilean who had pitted himself against the scribes and Pharisees. He was also a miracle worker. What would they see? Perhaps they could overhear a word of wisdom from this renowned teacher. I can envision the disciples keeping rather close to their man, much like the Secret Service protecting a politician.., making wedges through the crowd, with a wary eye out any possible trouble. Then suddenly a piercing voice cuts through the clamor. All eyes turn toward it. "What's all that about? Who is making all the racket? Oh, it's just old blind Bartimaeus. He's always been one of the pushiest beggars in town. What does he want now?" He cries out again and again, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! " The people around tell him to be quiet. They find him offensive. You can almost see the disciples closing their ranks, protecting their man, not wanting things to get out of hand. But no one was going quiet Bartimaeus. No one was going to take from him his one chance to escape his world of darkness. He didn't care what people thought. He was going to shout and holler until he got attention. As we know, his persistent, noisy, obtrusive prayer paid off. He captured the attention of Jesus who stopped the procession and called for him. The people are now a bit more sympathetic. They tell him, "Cheer up! Get up and go. He's going to listen to you." Bartimaeus didn't waste any time. He jumped so fast that he left his cloak lying on the ground and in the clumsy way that a blind man would run, stumbling, bumbling, groping, he finds his way to the feet of Jesus. When Jesus asks, he knows exactly what he wants. " Rabbi, I want to see!" Jesus tells him that his faith has made him whole. In one remarkable moment his whole life is changed. A wide-eyed, worshipful, thankful Bartimaeus now follows Jesus on the path to Jerusalem. The central point of this text, of course, is the healing mercy of Jesus. He is the one who stops the multitude, breaks out of the protective circle of his friends, encounters the blind man, and miraculously, out of sheer grace, heals him. It is another illustration of the compassion and love of Jesus. It is a miracle. The challenge for us, I think, it is try to get inside this story, to get beyond looking at it from the outside. It is easy for us to simply be one of the crowd who observes this remarkable thing that has taken place. Wow! A blind man now sees. That Jesus, he's really something! We have to ask ourselves, "What do I want from Jesus? " " Åm I looking for any miracles in my life?" Where do I hurt? What are my needs? Is there a kind of blindness in my
life? Can we identify at all with Bartimaeus? Or are we just one of the crowd. Looking on from the outside. Impressed, but not likely to change much of anything about our lives. ..and not likely to have much of anything exciting happen in our lives. Isn't this why we church-going folk often find our worship life somewhat routine? bland and unexciting? Just another Sunday...just another sermon. Same song, 32nd verse. Just another little taste of bread and wine. Did I like the hymns today? The choir was really outstanding today, not like the last time. These people aren't very friendly. They always seem to talk just with their friends. We are looking at it from the outside. We are not so much worshipers as observers, and critics. Did the experience meet my expectations? And nothing is likely to change unless we get inside the story, identify our hurts and needs, acknowledge the blind places in our lives, and ask for help. What do I want from Jesus? Dealing with this question is, I think the first condition of a miracle. From a spiritual perspective, nothing significant is likely to happen in your life until you answer that question. Our worship will remain bland and unexciting until you answer that question. Too often our admiration for Jesus is a vague, unfocused and sentimental attraction. When you go to the dentist you don't say, " pick a tooth.. any tooth." No, you want attention given to the tooth that hurts." What do you want from Jesus? What do you need from Jesus? Answering that question requires real self-examination, humble soul-searching, something we not inclined to do. Should we be surprised then that there is nothing very meaningful or impressive or exciting about our faith journey? That our walk with Jesus is more like running laps (remember P.E.?, how we hated running laps.. boring, tiring) or marching in an exciting parade? This is another way of saying that those who are not sick have no need of a physician. Bartimaeus was not in denial. He knew exactly what he needed and wanted, and he would not keep quiet until he got attention from Jesus. You have to be impressed by the sheer persistence of this blind man. I think it is rather obvious that there would have been no miracle that day if he had consented to the social pressure and kept quiet after a first tentative shout...or should I say a first tentative prayer? Is this not a commentary on the inadequacy of our prayer life? How feeble and unfocused, how tentative and inconsistent are so many of our prayers. How quick we are to resign ourselves to our difficult conditions, not really trusting that God knows or cares about our needs. Would I be too bold to suggest that this idea of persistent, heartfelt prayer is the second condition of a miracle? Too often we have not because we ask not. And we can't help but be impressed with the manner in which Bartimaeus responded when Jesus called to him. There was no hesitation. With excitement and eagerness he leaped at this opportunity, leaving behind his cloak. I don't want to read too much into this text, but there is an unavoidable truth in the fact that when we make a whole-hearted commitment to come to Jesus we often have to leave something behind. Is it an attitude? An action? Discipleship is costly! Well, it's a good thing for us to try to get inside this text a bit, to identify with Bartimaeus, to learn from Bartimaeus, to stop looking at this miracle story from the outside as a mere observer. We must consciously struggle with the question of our need, our sinsickness, our blindness. What do we want from Jesus? What do we need from Jesus?
It's a good thing for us to reflect on the hesitant, weak-voiced, on-again, off-again, character of our prayer life, and the hard truth that responding to the call of Jesus may require leaving something behind, making sacrifices. But as we said at the outset, the core and center of this text, the primary actor in this little drama is not Bartimaeus, but Jesus. Jesus calls to Bartimaeus. Jesus heals Bartimaeus. Jesus is the source of light and life. Bartimaeus didn't get healed because he was so vividly and desperately aware of his blindness, or because he cried out so persistently to get the attention of Jesus, or because he was so commited and trusting that he left his cloak behind. He was healed because Jesus had mercy on him. Jesus was on the road to Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives, to the Upper Room, to experience the cruelty of soldiers and the bitterness of Calvary's cross. And this is where Bartimaeus, and everyone of us, was finally healed, where our eyes were truly opened, and our hearts cleansed. Every miracle story in the New Testament is intended to point to the ultimate miracle, the incarnation of the Son of God and the miracle of divine grace and mercy, Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me... lost but now I'm found... blind, but now I see! Ultimately, it's always about Jesus! Allow Bartimaeus to teach us one final lesson... the text says: The blind man said, Rabbi, I want to see! ˝Go, said Jesus, your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight, and then he went back home. No, that's not what it says. "Immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road." Who else would we follow? Amen.