Sermon for October 24th

First Reading Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Second Reading Hebrews 7:23-28

Gospel Reading Mark 10:46-52

Sermon “What do YOU want?”

What do you want? Its a rather common question isn’t it? It might mean something routine – like a choice between Tater-Tots or French Fries with your lunch or … it might point to something intensely important like a living will or anything in between. In the 10th chapter of Mark, the question gets asked twice. The first one was in our reading last week when James and John come up to Jesus and said “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” and Jesus replied “What do you want me to do for you?” They go on to ask Jesus for seats of honor and prestige in the kingdom to come – one on his right and the other on his left.

Do you remember Jesus reply? He had to tell them that they didn’t understand what they were asking – asking them “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” [39] “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, [40] but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” Jesus then reminds all of the disciples that they are different than the Roman officials they were used to seeing. “Not so with you”, Jesus said. “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, [44] and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. [45] For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus disciples had a vision problem. They were beginning to figure out – 3yrs into Jesus’ ministry – That indeed he was the Messiah, but they saw that title in a very different way than Jesus did. They saw a triumphal national hero – he saw the cross. They saw prestige and honor, he saw the role of a servant – even a slave. Very different visions. Many in the crowds that swarmed around saw even less. They saw a curiosity, a miracle worker or perhaps even a trouble maker. All of this makes the story that follows all the more remarkable. Mark tells us that Jesus and his disciples were just outside the city of Jericho, beginning up the road to Jerusalem with a large crowd of people. As would have been very common in that time and place, there were beggars along the side of the road asking for alms to sustain themselves.

Mark immediately lets us know that there was something very different about one of them. First off, he is a blind man named – Bartimaeus. That in itself is very unusual. We know the names of almost none of the people that Jesus healed – this man must have indeed been very special. We see that for ourselves when we hear how he calls out to Jesus. Most people apparently referred to as him as Jesus of Nazareth – the city where he grew up. But Bartimaeus shouts out “Jesus! Son of David, Have mercy on me!” Now that phrase – son of David was a loaded one – it was one of the titles of the Messiah! and this is the only time in the whole gospel of Mark that anyone calls Jesus by that name. No the crowd doesn’t see it that way at all and they angrily tell him to be quiet. But not our guy Bartimaeus! He shouts all the louder “Son of David, Have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus is blind but already he sees more than the people around him.

How does he know? Mark doesn’t tell us, but by whatever means and the influence of the Holy Spirit, he not only knew but was willing to shout it our in the street. Notice yet another name however after Jesus calls him over – Now he calls him Teacher, as he asks to receive his sight. In the original Greek it is Rabboni – my teacher – personal and intimate. The same word that Mary used to Jesus on easter morning as a matter of fact. The abandon that Bartimaeus displays when answering Jesus’ summons is also noteworthy – Mark tells us he throws aside his cloak – maybe one of the few things he owned. It was what he he sitting on and collecting his meager offerings on. But when Jesus said come – he literally threw it aside. Getting to Jesus was that important to him.

Now Jesus asks him that same question he had asked James and John earlier “What do you want me to do for you?” We might wonder why Jesus asked him that question. I was likely pretty obvious that the man was blind. Perhaps Jesus wanted to see if he were asking him for what he usually asked for – money. Perhaps after the exchange with James and John he wanted them to hear a good and honorable request. SO jesus asked and Bartimaeus had the answer – My teacher, I want to see!

Now there are two ways of seeing at work here and both are granted. First the man was blind, and suddenly he no longer is. Not only that, but he is willing and now able to follow Jesus along the road on his way to Jerusalem. Jesus tells him that his faith has healed him and that he can go, but that same faith that brought him to Jesus then propels him on to walk with him as well.

Seeing and understanding are often used synonymously. I remember many times working on some problem at school or later at work and being frustrated that I just couldn’t find a solution, and then while some poor teacher or colleague patiently explained a different approach, suddenly the solution becomes clear – O now I see, I would exclaim. It really helps to know the right place to get help doesn’t it.

Bartimaeus called to Jesus and would not be quiet. He was disabled and marginalized, but dispirited. He threw aside his cloak and went straight to Jesus as fast as he could – a pretty good feat for a blind man by the way. He knew his need and he had the absolute conviction that Jesus was the one would could give him what he needed. As a result, he was healed and began to walk with his Savior. The story doesn’t say, but I imagine that cloak stayed right there beside the road, forgotten in the joy of seeing and following Jesus.

So now, what about you? What do you want? Jesus simply poses the question: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ This is not an occasion to succumb to material desires or inappropriate requests, as if you had found some magic lamp with a Genie. No, it’s the place – along with Bartimaeus – to share with Jesus the deepest needs that you have. Far too many people go through life carrying burdens with a stubborn independence that leaves little if any room for God. To cry out to God, to beg for Mercy for the sake of his son Jesus is not weakness, but wisdom. To see our need for relationship with God is the greatest viewpoint there is, because we can see genuine healing in body and mind from there.

Also, like that cloak that Bartimaeus threw aside, there are things that we need to put aside too. His long cloak was likely to trip him up on his way to Jesus, so it had to go. Jesus was his sole focus and once he was called, he stayed. He did not go back to begging, he followed Jesus.

Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Steven Garnaas-Holmes writes a daily blog entitled “Unfolding Light” often centered on the lectionary passages for the week. This week he offers us a guided meditation on this story that I would like to share with you:

Tarry over this story. Let it seep into your imagination. Pray your way through it.
Like Bartimaeus you sit on the edge of your Way, your life.
Jesus shares the road with you: walks on your Way, your life.
He’s been there all along. Imagine that….

Something in you yearns for his presence and his grace. Let it cry out….

Voices tell you to be quiet, that your yearning is unwelcome.
But Jesus stops. He stands still. Imagine Jesus, in no hurry….

Jesus calls to you. He wants to hear you.
Note how Jesus’ invitation overrules those discouraging voices, and take heart….

Bartimaeus threw off his cloak to come to Jesus.
What do you need to throw off?…

You stand before Jesus. He looks at you calmly.
He says, “What do you want me to do for you?”
How does your heart respond?….

Jesus says “You faith has made you well.”
Your faith is not your beliefs: it’s your reaching out.
Jesus meets it. Give thanks…

Jesus tells Bartimaeus to go his way, but instead he follows Jesus on the Way.
What Way does God’s grace invite you to follow?….

Steve Garnass-Holmes, Unfolding Light, October 19, 2021

So what do you want Jesus to do for you? Give Him those concerns which burden your life and shadow your dreams. Just the sharing is helpful in itself, but in the act of casting our cares upon Jesus, we recognize that by the power of his intercession there can be genuine healing and changed lives and redeemed situations by the power of God’s grace. Jesus stands near, what is your deepest need? what do you want? Are you brave enough to approach and be filled with grace?