“What Do You Want Me to Do for You?”
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches
Mark 10:46-52 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=407299484)
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.
Like a shot down fighter pilot whose plane had yet to crash,
The disciples of Jesus were losing situational awareness.
Consciousness was slipping away.
Darkness was coming.
They were nearly blind.
Thus, it was, and downward they fell
Ever since Jesus and his followers
Had begun to journey
On the Sea of Galilee in the North,
Traveling due South to his final destination:
Passion, cross, and death in Jerusalem.
Three times Jesus had taught his disciples “on the way”
About his forthcoming passion, death, and resurrection.
Three times the disoriented disciples
Ignored their instruments, stalled, and spun flat,
Out of control
Deeper into the abyss,
Blinded by their
Self-serving grabs for power, emboldened claims, and shameless denials.
Blindness gradually set in to their ranks
Replacing the clarity of their youth and call.
Darkness would turn to black.
Hindsight informs us
The tombs of Golgatha was their destination.
For three days his grave
Would hold his disciples in fright, anxiety, disappointment;
Locked away in an upper room in fear for their lives.
Darkness was coming.
Blindness was setting in.
It was an awkward start;
The beginning bookend of this final phase of our Lord’s life
As recorded in St. Mark.
It involved Jesus healing an earlier blind man. (8:22-26)
That man was dependent on “some people” to bring him to Jesus.
They begged Jesus to touch him.
Jesus took the man by the hand and led him outside of Bethsaida
To a private place.
Jesus spit on the blind man’s eyes and laid his hands on him.
Imagine these events coming from the blind man’s point of view.
He was spit in the face.
Startled. Disgusted. Repulsed.
The man’s vision only partially returned.
“I can see people, but they look like trees, walking,” he reports.
That’s called “mission failure.”
Time to reboot and start over.
Jesus laid his hands on his eye again.
Finally, his sight was restored.
Success is followed quickly with a
Jesus quiets him,
Say nothing to no one.
“Do not even go into the village.”
Pretend like it never happened.
I can’t help but wonder about the unintended consequences of this miracle.
The cure would have resulted in a man
Untrained, unemployed, hidden away, and silenced to secrecy.
Miraculously cured? Yes.
But it wasn’t the start that Jesus had hoped.
Since that awkward beginning,
Jesus’ star had been rising!
“On the way”
Jesus was transfigured right before the eyes of his closest disciples.
He cast out demons,
Healed a boy with an evil spirit,
Taught about divorce,
Tangled with a rich man who wouldn’t part with his riches.
His popularity had been soaring like a shooting star.
Jesus was coming down the home stretch,
To fulfill his Father’s will
And his light could not burn any brighter.
Conversely, his disciples had been plunging
The crowds waited to see him.
Passing “on the way”
The crowds lined the roadside;
Growing, surging, whipped into a circus-like ecstasy.
Beggars, bankers, and bar maids alike lined the route.
This was the one final stop before Jerusalem;
The city of Jericho.
It was a parade down Main Street!
The concluding bookend to this defined section of Mark
Is Jesus’ encounter
With blind Bartimaeus.
It started with the healing of a blind man.
And it ends with the healing of a blind man.
Oh, how Jesus had changed.
Unlike his early attempt to give sight to an un-named man,
Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus was anything but private.
The whole world watched Bartimaeus get his sight back,
Not in a herky-jerky, mission failure, reboot sort of way.
This time, Jesus got it right the first time.
Jesus is at the top of his career trajectory.
He’s close enough to the finish line
To taste his Father’s will.
The whole world witnessed our Lord’s
Complete attention turned to a fully dependent and disabled man
Who had nothing to offer,
Nothing to claim,
Who was expected to passively sit quiet as a child …
And just take it.
At this point in my life,
I love to witness a disabled individual
Self-advocate for what they want and what they need to be successful.
But, I haven’t always been this way.
It’s been a journey, and continues to be.
I know the feeling of being one of the feckless members of the crowd
Who try to hush the blind Bartimaeus up,
Who turns on a dime with public opinion,
And flip-flops when Jesus
Disrupts the social fabric of the world.
That same crowd that tried to hush up Bartimaeus
Turned a 180 when Jesus gave him his complete attention.
That same crowd would welcome Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna” at the beginning of the week
And flip on a dime to shouts of “Crucify Him” by week’s end.
Have you ever been a part of that crowd?
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks,
Strangely reminiscent of his earlier offer to the arguing James and John.
“What do you want” is a recognition of
a recognition that Bartimaeus is fully human.
No one else had ever treated Bartimaeus like this before.
Jesus lets Bartimaeus make his own decision.
Jesus sees beyond the dependency issue
People living with disabilities often encounter.
He recognizes the value of life lived that is inter-dependent.
We are in this together
Dependent upon each other
And living dependent upon our God.
Disability isn’t punishment for sin,
As Jesus demonstrates here
And clearly states elsewhere (John 9:3),
It’s an opportunity for the entire community
To leave the partisan crowds behind,
To follow the role model played by Jesus himself;
Treating everyone with respect,
Serving those in need,
Loving our neighbors.
I love formerly blind Bartimaeus.
Someday I hope to grow up and be just like him.
He speaks with the same tenacity as the Syrophoenician woman
Who wouldn’t take no for an answer from Jesus. (7:24-30)
He acts with the same persistence as the woman with the flow of blood. (5:30-32)
He is same determination of those who attempted to bring children to Jesus
Only to have the disciples attempt to turn them away. (10:13-16)
Tenacious. Persistent. Determined.
There’s nothing passive about Bartimaeus,
He becomes an active participant in his own healing
And in his own self-determination.
While the other disciples disappoint Jesus with their blindness,
The sight afforded Bartimaeus leads him to join Jesus “on the way. “
From worthless by the side of the road
To following Jesus “on the way,”
The restoration of sight to Bartimaeus
Is as much a story of discipleship as it is a miracle of Jesus.
Let Bartimaeus be a lesson to us today;
A testimony to whom God calls to follow Jesus
“on the way.”
Bartimaeus is cast as the prototype of the true disciple,
Who would have to carry the responsibility himself
After Jesus’ ascension.
Tenacious. Persistent. Determined.
That’s the kind of disciple of Jesus Christ I aspire to be.
Take heart, dearly beloved:
God can take anyone who is nothing, and make them into someone.
God can take someone who was nothing, who had nothing, and give them everything.
God calls the nothings of this world.
He heals and equips the nothings of this world to do great things.
God uses the formerly blind of this world
To build out and complete his kingdom.
If Jesus can do this for Bartimaeus,
He can do it for you and me, too.
In fact, he already has.