28 October 2012
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Church
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 it 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.
Growing up, I loved the Bob Newhart shows;
Both the early series where Bob is a Psychiatrist
And the later series where Bob and his wife own and operate a bed and breakfast in Vermont.
Three characters in the second series have left an indelible impression on my memory:
Larry, and his brother Daryl, and his other brother Daryl.
It was absurdly funny to think that two brothers would be named the same.
Neither spoke; they didn’t have to.
Their introduction each week kept the laughs rolling.
If they could have spoken, what would they say?
Were they silent due to an intellectual challenge?
Or were they quiet because of an overbearing older brother?
Maybe they were just the quiet sort?
Two brothers with the same first names;
Now that’s funny.
In a similar funny way, we are introduced to our main character in today’s Gospel:
Bartimaeus son of Timaeus.
Now that’s funny!
Did you catch the joke? It was meant for you.
The Gospel author named this blind beggar twice:
Bartimaeus, would have been Bar, or, son of, Timaeus.
In the translation from Hebrew to Arabic
Every New Testament scribe would have burst out laughing and slapping their knee in delight
When they copied the Gospel from one sheep skin to another:
This man is redundantly named: Son of Timaeus son of Timaeus.
Every town has it’s character
And our Gospel author is painting a portrait of the Jericho’s.
Jericho was an Arab settlement at the time of Jesus (and still is today),
So unlike Jewish towns,
The beggars would be right downtown.
Everyone knows the son of Timaeus;
Such a shame that he lost his sight in his younger days.
Now he sits on Main Street (Jericho really only has a Main Street) all day long,
Rattling his tin cup and shouting out to anyone he hears passing by.
The unknowing traveler gets the Bartimaeus treatment;
The loud, bombastic appeal of a persistent, blind ragamuffin.
At the same time,
Distinguished guests would be quietly snuck past on the other side of the road
Hoping the brash and obnoxious son of Timaeus with two first names
Wouldn’t hear them.
Those who know the son of Timaeus son of Timaeus
They go out of their way to not deal with him.
They marginalize him.
They keep him contained.
Take a moment to reflect on the people in your life that you attempt to avoid.
Who do you marginalize?
“Life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to deal with ____________”
Who are the people in your life with two first names?
The crowd of enthusiastic people were taking his spot;
Encroaching on his turf.
That made son of Timaeus son of Timaeus particularly cranky.
If he was going to be heard, he had to amplify his message a bit,
Add some spice,
Stretch the truth.
The crowd expected Jesus to become king,
“So why not stretch it out a bit and give him a royal title,”
The son of Timaeus probably thought to himself.
“Attention to me
Puts coins in my cup.”
“Jesus, son of David!”
A king has money to spare,
“Have mercy on me”
He says as he rolls his diseased eyes and extended his cup.
Members of the Chamber of Commerce probably had a conniption.
“Can someone please shut that man up!”
That’s just asking
To poke the hornets nest twice,
To pour more gasoline on the fire.
When people stop attempting to mussel the son of Timaeus
And they say to him,
“Take heart; get up, he is calling you”
Something profound begins to take place in his soul.
The hint comes in him throwing off his cloak.
Blind, begging, homeless ragamuffins
Don’t just jettison clothing, even if they are just rags.
Throwing off his cloak means
The son of Timaeus knew his life as he knew it
Faith throws a cloak.
Jesus doesn’t make spit.
Jesus doesn’t touch his eyes.
Jesus simply commands him to be healed:
“Go; your faith has made you well.”
The one person the crowd wanted to marginalize in the worst sort of way
Ends up having more faith than all of them put together.
And that faith is sufficient to restore a blind man’s sight.
Those people in your life I had you reflect upon just a few moments ago?
Those who you’d like to forget, avoid, or just wish they’d go away?
What faith might they have? …
That causes Jesus to stop,
Call them close,
And heal them?
Faith is contagious.
Allowing yourself to be exposed to their faith
Can, and will, deepen your faith
And grow your life towards God.
Following Him on the Way
With the immediacy of Mark
Son of Timaeus son of Timaeus regains his sight
And follows Jesus on the way.
Like Google, who leaves special Easter Eggs on its search page to celebrate special days,
Our Gospel author
- The same one whose humor is given voice by the naming redundancy -
Leaves us another delightful Easter Egg;
Here, then, is a deeper hidden message for Christians to hear.
“The Way” was a coded phrase,
Often repeated in the Aramaic oral tradition with a wink and a nod,
Meaning the journey with Jesus that leads to suffering, death, and resurrection.
To follow Jesus in “The Way” means
You are willing to join with Jesus as your companion;
You’re willing to suffer with him in his humiliation, whips, scorn, and crown of thorns;
You’re willing to die with him on a cross;
And You expect, simply by shear faith,
To be resurrected with him into eternal life.
Son of Timeaus,
Who had sight and lost it,
Only to have his sight miraculously restored by Jesus,
Now leaves his begging cup and cloak behind
And joins the journey with Jesus that leads to his Passion, death, and resurrection.
The son of Timeaus will suffer like Jesus,
Will die like Jesus,
And will live again in the resurrection of Jesus.
Many of us hope “the Way” for us
Is suffering and death LITE,
With a special second helping of that whole eternal life bit.
“I’d like to have a sharp mind and healthy body, die in my sleep, and have those pearly gates swing wide open for me to enter.”
Isn’t that what we hope for?
To live is to suffer.
To die is universal.
To be resurrected is our Christian expectation.
If we want to follow in “The Way”
We must follow the divine One who was marginalized
And is largely relegated to the sidelines as irrelevant by today’s society.
If we want to follow in “The Way”
We must join a crowd
Of those we’ve previously marginalized, avoided, and treated with contempt.
If we are going to journey with Jesus together
We better start building bridges with each other,
Especially with those who cause us to shrug our shoulders
And we’d rather not even think about.
Following in “The Way”
Causes us to confront our own prejudices
And invites each of us to a deeper spiritual life.
Life’s journey is easy with friends;
But there is not much growth with such shared experiences.
Jesus didn’t come to heal the healthy!
He came to heal the sick and save the sinner!
Life’s journey along “The Way” of Jesus
Is where faith is nurtured and grown.
It is where healing pours into the vessel of faith.
It is where lions lay down with lambs,
And disagreements are put aside.
Following in “The Way”
Makes us One with Christ
And One with each other.
Let us join together
On “The Way.”