- Job 42:1-6, 10-17 and Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22) •
- Jeremiah 31:7-9 and Psalm 126 •
- Hebrews 7:23-28 •
- Mark 10:46-52
Thoughts on the Word:
Firstly I apologise that this is late! Due to the technical difficulties we have encountered I post for you a sermon by a Lutheran pastor and scholar for this past Sunday. The technical difficulties should be all sorted to enable me to annoy you with my own ramblings again this coming week.
Sermon on Mark 10:46-52 (RCL), by David ZersenMOVING ON FROM YOUR JERICHO
The Christian life is a journey to an exciting new frontier. As we travel, we follow a leader and we leave old worlds behind. The texts that we consider in our Sunday sermons are often travel narratives, giving clear indications about the road less traveled. As Jesus leads his disciples on, we too respond to his summons. Today we are leaving Jericho with him. We need to pay attention to the stops along the way. Little by little we will discover that an old world is collapsing behind us and a new one, filled with joy and possibility, is summoning us. Let's join in the journey.
"Jericho, Jericho, Jericho"
Many of us are used to jiving rhythmically to the words "Jé..ri..cho" in the Negro Spiritual, "Joshua fit de battle of Jericho." The story of the battle when the walls of Jericho fall as told in the Book of Joshua is meant to demonstrate the power of God to destroy human barriers. Although the New Testament has references to Jericho in the story of the Good Samaritan as well as that of Zacchaeus, it is the Old Testament drama that is called to mind when the city name is mentioned, and it is that drama that forms the basis for the story in today's Gospel lesson.
An outcast with a name
Most cultures have outcasts, people who live on the margins of a society and seem to belong to no one. We know of the Dalits of India who are born into their caste and cannot leave it. Outcasts sometimes had diseases that were assumed to be infectious, requiring such people to live outside the city. In Jesus' day, outcasts were those who didn't measure up to the expectations of purity laws set by the religiously righteous. Extremes among the outcasts are well known to us from the Essene writings. They make it clear that people with imperfections held by the blind, deaf, mute, lame, disabled, and ill were not allowed in the community of the righteous. Normally, these people were excluded from families and society in general. They lived outside the city, begged for donations and generally had no names. The man in our story is unusual. We even know his father's name, Timaeus. Bar-timaeus, the son of Timaeus was blind. Jesus and his disciples are heading out of town and Bartimaeus is sitting at the roadside. One wonders, as we try to imagine this situation, how often we encounter unfortunates whose names we know. Who are the Bartimaeuses in your world? Where to you typically see them?
Blind who need to see
This is an interesting story because along with another story about a blind man in Mark 8 it frames a section in which Jesus is teaching his disciples, but they don't seem to get the point. They don't seem to see what he is showing them. They don't see what the Transfiguration is about; they don't see why they couldn't drive out evil spirits as Jesus did; they don't see what he means about his betrayal and they're afraid to ask about it; they don't see why children should be brought to Jesus; they don't see why a rich man can't enter the Kingdom; James and John don't see why they can't be first in the Kingdom. There are all too many things that his disciples don't see because they are spiritually blind. It seems to make good sense to the author of Mark to put the two stories of the healing of the blind men as bookmarks around the section on spiritual blindness. We should be willing to ask ourselves as well what those things are that seeing, we do not see. When do we fail to see what is truly important in our relationships and in our priorities? When do we fail to see someone when it is perfectly obvious that he or she has been there all along?
Seeking to be first along the way
It's interesting that crowds were following Jesus, listening, but not hearing; watching, but not seeing, speaking but saying nothing. They pressed all around him as he left the city, leaving Bartimaeus in the weeds in a ditch by the side of the road. But he shouts, "Jesus, have mercy on me." Those who want to, at first tell him to shut up. After all, they want to be first in line, ahead of this beggar. At dinner with our grandchildren this week, I asked, "Who would like the first dish of ice cream?" "I would," shouted the four-year-old, because she is just a child. She hasn't yet learned how to let others go ahead. Yet, those on the roadside with Jesus were not children. They were pushy, self-centered adults who made their way aggressively into the first spot.
Those of us who have discovered the joy in serving others understand what's happening here. Once you know that it's possible to be fulfilled by allowing others to be first in line know that those we seek to push to the front are not acting out of arrogance or self-righteousness. Bartimaeus was asking for mercy. Like all those heralded by Jesus for their humility, the publican, the prodigal and the widow at the mite box, Bartimaeus had nothing to present. When along with such we recognize that we have nothing to present either, then we hear and see that Jesus is calling us as well.
Jesus is calling us
Bartimaeus discovered that Jesus was summoning him. He was calling him to come through the crowd and share his need. I heard this week about a woman whose marriage and family life were collapsing and she didn't know which way to turn. She felt that God had abandoned her. Not so. Jesus is calling her. He knows her by name, just as he knew Bartimaeus. In the presidential debates in the U.S., candidates love to say, "This week I met a man in New Jersey, Bill Simmons, who has been out of work for 12 months. I told him that I'm working on getting a job for him." Audiences love to hear that candidates know people by name. Long before politicians called citizens by name, God had claimed us. In baptism, he called us by name and said "You are mine." When we feel abandoned and alone, God knows our name. When we struggle to make ends meet for our family and try to reclaim a family from troubled dead-ends, we can know that our names are written in heaven. We belong to God for time and eternity. When is it most important for you to hear God calling your name? How would you like him to assure you that you are his own?
Throwing your cloak aside
When you really hear him calling, when the cross and the empty tomb shout that you are loved and that you belong to God, then you can do what Bartimaeus did. He threw his cloak aside and ran to Jesus. His cloak was his sole possession. It kept him warm. It was his blanket. It was his protection against the heat and cold. But when a new assurance, a greater protection approached, there was no longer a need for it. With what joy and confidence he ran when he knew that Jesus was calling! What is the cloak you would be willing to throw aside when you hear Jesus calling your name? What dependencies can you relinquish when you know that God has your best interests at heart, your future in the palm of his hand?
Letting a new world begin
As we leave Jericho with Jesus and his disciples, it's powerful to reflect on what the author of Mark's Gospel is telling us. Bartimaeus "shouts" as the entourage leaves the city. Do we remember when this last happened? When the shouting brought about the collapse of an old way of life at Jericho and a new beginning led to a land of promise? When the walls came tumbling down? And did not that old Joshua at Jericho pre-figure a new Yeshua, who would give sight to the blind and hope to the despondent? This was an important moment in salvation history, this stop at the ditch outside of Jericho. For Bartimaeus, his blindness ended, the walls of a restrictive and isolated world came to an end. More than that, however, he entered an emancipating and open-ended community led by the Son of David.
And you may as well. Jesus is calling you at this crossroads in life to move on from your Jericho--- to throw your encumbering baggage aside and to let the walls of a world that restricts and confines you collapse behind you. He points you to the future he has secured for you by dying to dead-end living and rising to a life that finds itself fulfilled in service to others. Jesus is calling you by name. The road before you is open and he's way up ahead.
The above sermon was sourced HERE