Lectionary 30B [Pr 25]
Grace Lutheran Church
October 24, 2021
Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please pray with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
For the past several weeks we have been on a journey with Jesus as he and his followers travel from Gallilee to Jerusalem. And it seems that everywhere they stop, we hear another story about how Jesus is bringing about God’s kingdom here on earth, the people he meets and touches and heals, and what it means to be a follower, a disciple of Jesus.
And today we hear another story about life with Jesus. Jesus and his disciples were continuing on their journey to Jerusalem where, as he told his disciples, he would be handed over to the authorities, suffer, die and be raised three days later. Outside of Jericho they encounter a blind man, Bartimaeus, who was begging on the side of the road. There were lots of people traveling back and forth – families, farmers, merchants selling their wares. And it seems that Bartimaeus was a regular fixture. Every morning he would go out and spread his cloak on the street infront of him and beg for whatever the people might be willing to give. He would sit and shout, begging for a few coins, maybe a little food. And at the end of the day he would pick up his cloak and however little the people had given him and he would find his way back to wherever he lived. He was poor and disabled, and he lived on the fringes of society.
One day, Bartimaeus was begging just as he aways did, when he heard that Jesus was near by. By this time, Jesus was well known throughout the countryside as a healer. So Bartimaeus starts to call out to Jesus, shouting in the same loud voice that he used when he called out to the people passing by. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” “JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!”
Many of the people around Bartimaeus tried to get him to be quiet. After all, who did he think he was, shouting at Jesus like that? He was nothing but a beggar. But Jesus stopped; he listened; and he told the people around him to call the blind man to come forward. And then he asked this blind beggar, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Now there are a lot of ways we can learn from this story. We can learn about the power of persistance and prayer – of “praying without ceasing” as St. Paul called it. For that is what Bartimaeus really does: he prays. You might even say that he is a professional pray-er because that’s how he makes his living. For what else is begging for mercy from God but a form of prayer – prayer for food, prayer for shelter, prayer for forgiveness, deliverance and mercy. Maybe the biggest difference between the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, and the disciples, James and John, is that Bartimaeus comes to Jesus in humility, praying for mercy, while James and John sought glory for themselves. When our prayers are grounded in our weakness and dependence on God, then we can hear the still small voice of God whispering in our hearts.
The second thing we learn from this story is that no matter how lost we are, Jesus always finds us. The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was very busy with lots of people traveling every day. And to hear the cry of a beggar, even a loud beggar, is no small feat. Yet Jesus not only hears our cry, he listens and invites us to speak our deepest desires out loud, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Rabbi, let me see again.”
In expressing his heart’s desire, Bartimaeus revealed that he could see something that many others could not – that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Bartimaeus and Jesus saw each other – they saw past all the noise and clamor of the street, saw past the Roman forces of the Empire. Bartimaeus saw that in his regal authority, Jesus put a human face on divine love and deliverance. And Jesus saw past all of Bartimaeus disability and infirmities, his brokeness and rejection, into the eyes of a fellow human being, worthy of dignity and respect.
The third thing we learn from this story is that God’s transforming love is showered on us all. When Bartimaeus first called out to Jesus, the crowd tried to silence him. How often do we who know Jesus the best, discourage others from seeking him the most? How often do we let our stigmatization of those who are poor or disabled, drive them away from becoming disciples of Jesus Christ? How often does our own rejection of those who look different or love differently turn people away from the love of God. But Bartimaeus is not disuaded. He persisted until he is heard – and seen - by Jesus. And he is restored to honor, dignity, and wholeness by the mercy of God – not because he earned it, but simply because God loves us all. He is transformed by the all redeeming love of God in Jesus Christ.
But wait, there’s more! Because the persistence of Bartimaeus not only transforms him, it sets into motion a wave of transformation within the crowd. As Jesus presses them into service, inviting them to call Bartimaeus, they turn from trying to restrict his approach to Jesus, to encouraging him to go to him. “Take heart,” they say. “He his calling you.”
Jesus is calling us, too. He is calling us out of our brokeness and isolation. He is calling us out of our attitudes of pride and superiority. He is calling us all – those who are far off and those who are near – to journey together in what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church calls the “Way of Love” that is Jesus Christ. A journey that begins in the waters of baptism in which we are bound with Christ. It passes from the altar, where we are strengthed by his body and blood and made one with Christ and each other. It carries us out of the doors of this church where we are called to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus in the world, feeding as he fed, healing has he healed, loving as he loved.
My brothers and sisters, know this. Just as the crowd said to Bartimeus, “take heart, get up; he is calling you!” so Jesus is calling to us to live into our mission to share God’s love with each other, our community and the world. He is calling us to pray without ceasing for healing and wholeness for our ourselves, our friends and neighbors, our nation, and the world. He is calling us to live in newness of life in the abundance and love of God.
Thanks be to God.