Mark 10:46-52 46 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. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 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.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 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.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
A warm welcome to Grace Memorial- those of you online and those of you in church this morning.
Thank you for allowing me to give the homily today. Thank you to each one of you who has welcomed me as your new deacon here at Grace Memorial.
Take a big breath in. Let the spirit run through you……We are so blessed to have this sacred time to dwell in God’s word, the Good News. I pray that we would allow this Good News to dwell in our hearts and minds so we too can have faith and be made well. So, we too, can be transformed to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
We just heard a familiar reading from Mark. Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, believes in Jesus, and is healed and follows Jesus.
There are so many details in this story to think about, pray about and talk about. Mark is a book about God’s shattering of human expectations. As the temple lay in ruins, Christ followers wondered constantly about how long they would have to wait for Jesus’ return. They were trying to understand the words of Jesus that were so counter intuitive for their time. Fascinating how Jesus’ words and actions still go against many of the beliefs that people hold strongly today.
There are many stories of healing in the Bible, and I admit that some seem nearly impossible to believe. I stand before you and tell you that I have witnessed and experienced many miracles in my life, as a child and as a family doctor and now as a clergy person.
It started when I was 6 years old. My mother decided to give her blood for my aunt, who was quite ill. My mom loaded all 4 of us kids in the old station wagon, and drove us to Tulare County Hospital,
where she was to give blood for my aunt. I was really worried because I thought that if they took her blood, she would die. I sat in the back of the car and prayed to God, all the way there, that they would not take her blood. They did not take her blood because she was anemic. I did not understand anemia, but I did believe in the power of prayer and still remember my elation that God had answered my prayer and my mom would live. I have been a prayerful person, who believes in God and miracles, ever since.
Over my life, I have wondered why it was so easy for me to have faith and believe in God as a child and why is it harder sometimes to believe and have faith as an adult.
This story about Bartimaeus invites us to consider how faith is manifested, nurtured, and stunted within each one of us and in our community.
I want us to consider what role we each play in this story.
1) Bartimaeus, who is blind and poor, believes in Jesus. Bartimaeus understands and grasps who Jesus is. Despite his blindness, he discerns that Jesus is specifically able to heal people and heal him. I wonder how he became so faithful.
Bartimaeus persists, in spite of people reprimanding him and telling to be silent.
But Bartimaeus knows better and yells, “even more loudly” until Jesus hears him.
Bartimaeus expects a transformation. Presumably Jesus could have walked to Bartimaeus to talk with him. Instead, he tells the onlookers to summon Bartimaeus to him. Now those who sought to inhibit the beggar must assist in Jesus’ ministry to him. Then Mark adds one more delicious detail: Bartimaeus tosses aside his cloak. Obviously, he expects to regain his sight, for a blind beggar would ordinarily do well to keep his possessions close at hand. When Bartimaeus casts off his cloak, he confidently prefigures that he will no longer sit on his garment dependent upon begging and handouts from others. I marvel at such faith, perhaps you do too.
Bartimaeus asks for the right thing. When Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” his reply is a simple request voiced with the confidence that Jesus can deliver. “That I would see again,” Poor blind Bartimaeus believes in Jesus’s compassion to bring him wholeness and deliverance.
Remember the Gospel from last week where James and John ask Jesus for something. They asked to sit in glory at Jesus’ right and left. When it comes to understanding what Jesus has come to do, the disciples James and John are more “blind” than Bartimaeus.
Jesus said to Bartimaeus, “Your faith has saved you”. Bartimaeus has faith in Jesus and believes in Jesus’ love and compassion for him.
2) There is another role in this story. There are some in the crowd, who ordered Bartimaeus to be quiet. They were determined to keep Bartimaeus blind and invisible. I wonder why they yelled at him to be quiet. Is it because Bartimaeus is a blind beggar and probably near the bottom of social privilege in their society? Do they think that their needs should be addressed first? Or do they shout at Bartimaeus because they think he deserves to be who he is? Do we encourage or discourage people to pray and be faithful and believe in God’s healing power? Do we sometimes think we are better or more deserving of God’s love and healing than others?
3) And the third role are the others in the crowd, who took the opportunity to guide Bartimaeus to Jesus with hopeful words, “Get up, He’s calling you!! They believed in Jesus’ healing power. Do you believe in Jesus’ healing love for each one of us? Do you encourage others to believe in God’s ability to heal us?
What role do you play in this story? And how can we be more like Bartimaeus and believe that Jesus wants us to be healed and whole and follow him?
Jesus preached and died for a God who was known for kindness and generosity and compassion and healing. No one was deemed outside the love of the Holy One whom Jesus called “Father.” No one was excluded from fellowship, not the rich or poor, male or female, slave or free, sighted or blind. Jesus’s compassion changes everything. Compassion heals. Compassion mends the broken and restores what
has been lost. Compassion draws together those who have been estranged.
Just this week, I sat with a Grace Memorial parishioner in her home, and we celebrated Communion together. She had not received communion since March 2020. She has cancer that has spread in her body, but she is at peace. She spoke of knowing that each day was a sacred gift, unexpected and treasured. She is so thankful to God for each day. Her faith in a loving God encouraged me. I have been thinking about her faith and her peace ever since. She gave me permission to share her experience with all of you.
How can we grow our faith to be more like this, to be more like Bartimaeus? How can we grow our faith in God’s love and healing for each one? I wonder if we can help each other grow our faith by telling our stories of how we experience God’s love and healing.
I have discovered that many here at Grace Memorial believe in God’s love and compassion for each person. I see you setting up sack lunches for the unhoused, visiting those who are isolated and caring for those in our community. How have you experienced God’s love and healing? Will you tell your story of God’s love and healing this week?