Every Sunday, whenever the priest says the words: A reading from the holy Gospel according to; each one of us should sit up and pay particular attention because what the priest will read out after those words will be all about us. And today is no exception. It will be about us as individuals and about us as a community.
As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd .... Jesus was going away from Jericho. He was leaving. His work there was complete for the moment. He had dug the ground and sowed the seeds and now he was off again.
Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road.
This is a picture of a sad individual. He is blind, he is a beggar, and he is sitting at the side of the road. He is in a rather desperate situation.
Do you recognise yourself, or any part of yourself in the predicament of Bartimaeus? Are we able as a community to recognise ourselves in his sad situation; a blind beggar sitting at the side of the road?
From Jesus’ point of view which, would you say, is the worst of these three afflictions?
- Being blind?
- Being a beggar?
- Sitting at the side of the road?
From the perspective of the kingdom the last of his three afflictions is the worst.
Why? Because the road is the road to the kingdom and Bartimaeus is sitting beside it rather than travelling it. And again, immediately we have to ask, ‘Am I? Am I a blind beggar sitting by the side of the road? Am I moving ahead, am I growing closer to Jesus, more like him?’ And we have to ask ourselves as a community, ‘Are we growing? Are we becoming holier? Or are we sitting by the side of the road?’
When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, `Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me'.
Jesus reveals his presence to blind Bartimaeus through his sense of hearing. Jesus always reveals his presence somehow to those who seek him.
Bartimaeus begins to shout. Do you notice that?
Bartimaeus knows that he is a blind beggar who cannot travel the road. He knows he is being left behind and so he does what he can. He does what he can. He makes a beginning. He cries out.
This is a great lesson to me and I hope you see it as a great lesson to you as well. Bartimaeus shows me I don’t have to use fine words in prayer, I just have to call out. I just have to let my desire for the healing of Jesus manifest itself in a heartfelt plea for help.
And if we as a parish feel that Jesus is so to speak, leaving us, we, too, need to do what we can, to make a beginning. We must do what Bartimaeus does, we must, as a community, begin to call on Jesus to help us.
And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, 'Son of David, have pity on me'.
You can almost hear them: 'Pull your head in, mate! Give it a rest.' Yes, there are always some who resist, who know better, who prefer the status quo.
Jesus stopped and said, `Call him here.' Jesus stopped. Jesus always hears our call.
But why did he not go over to the man himself? Why did he send others to bring the man to him? This is a big question. There is an important principle involved here.
- When we get sick why does God not heal us himself? Why does he send us to a doctor?
- Why did God not just part the waters of the Red Sea? Why did he ask Moses to raise his staff over it first?
- Why does God not just forgive our sins? Why does he send us to the priest?
So they called the blind man. `Courage,' they said `get up; he is calling you.' Ah! Now they are evangelising! Now they are participating in the mission of Jesus. Now they are truly co-operating with him. They are going out to the needy person, encouraging him, and telling him that Jesus is calling him. Wonderful! That’s how we should all be. That’s how we should be as a community.
So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus.
When we begin to go to Jesus we always have to leave something behind. That is why Mark includes this detail. The cloak stands for that thing we wrap ourselves in to keep us warm. He wants us to ask ourselves: What is my cloak?
We have to throw our cloak aside and jump up and go to Jesus because he is calling.
Then Jesus spoke, `What do you want me to do for you?'
'Rabbuni,' the blind man said to him `Master, let me see again.' Jesus said to him, `Go; your faith has saved you'. What saved him? His faith! What faith?
The blind beggar believed that if he called out to Jesus and asked for something that would help him follow Jesus along the road to the kingdom he would get it. And Jesus did not let him down.
And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.
What is the lesson for us in all this? I believe that we, as a community, are like Bartimaeus. We don’t know where the road is anymore. We are slowly growing smaller and weaker. We can't see the way ahead, we are blind. The future is dark for us.
Bartimaeus knew he was blind and he called out to Jesus. This is the beginning of all renewal. Jesus answered Bartimaeus and he will answer us.So, does all this give you any ideas for our parish?