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MIRACULOUS MOMENTS IN MARK: Eye-Opening Experience: Blind Bartimaeus

Mark 10:46-52

Jesus was on the way to the cross.

He was traveling toward Jerusalem, and as He did so, He passed through the city of Jericho. The Bible notes that Jesus and the disciples and a large crowd of people were at the intersection where the road turned right toward Jerusalem, when suddenly the life of Jesus was intersected by the life of a man named Bartimaeus. Now Bartimaeus was blind and Bartimaeus was doing what he did everyday—sitting by the roadside in Jericho begging money from anyone who happened to be passing by. Quite clearly, Bartimaeus had heard about Jesus previously, for he was aware that Jesus possessed healing power. As a result, the crowd passed him by and he heard the name of Jesus sprinkled through the conversation of the people in the crowd. Bartimaeus sensed that this might be a moment of opportunity. Since he couldn’t see precisely where Jesus was, he did the only thing he could think to do—he yelled: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Immediately the crowd tried to shut him up. They believed that Jesus was way too busy and too important to be bothered with the likes of a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. But Bartimaeus would not be silenced. He would not be stopped. He cried out all the more desperately: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

Suddenly Jesus stopped. Over the noise and the bustle of the crowd, He had heard the poignant cry of Bartimaeus. And Jesus said: “Bring the man to me.” The people in the crowd then said to Bartimaeus: “Take heart, Bartimaeus, get up quickly. The Master is calling for you.” At that point Bartimaeus sprang to his feet, cast aside his cloak, and feeling his way with his hands, made his way to Jesus.

Notice something, please. Jesus never forced Himself on people. Jesus never ran roughshod over people’s thoughts, feelings or needs. He was never presumptuous or arrogant or possessive. You see that so clearly here. He did not pompously pronounce what Bartimaeus needed in his life. No. Exactly the opposite. He asked Bartimaeus the question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus answered: “I want to be able to see. Master, let me receive my sight.” Immediately, the Bible says, Jesus opened his eyes and gave him sight. At that point, Mark adds a fascinating line to the story. He says that Bartimaeus then “followed Jesus on the way.”

I would like to suggest now that the eye-opening experience of Bartimaeus can be an eye-opening experience for us as well. Remember, please, that Jesus did not work miracles just to work miracles. There was a meaning and a message behind every miracle, and such is the case here. What happened between Jesus and Bartimaeus demonstrates that the miracle was not Jesus’ major work, but only the by-product of His loving power. In fact, this Miraculous Moment in Mark teaches us a marvelous lesson on the power and purpose of Christ’s kind of love.

In the first place, Christ’s kind of love is individual.

It is personal. It values each individual. Here we have affirmed better than anywhere else in the Bible the fact that the great God of the universe cares about us individually no matter who we are, no matter how dark our existence might be, no matter how blind our eyes or our hearts. Look at what happened here. Jesus was on His way to the cross to die and He knew it and yet, He stopped for Bartimaeus. It was His way of saying: “Bartimaeus, you matter to me. You count. You are valuable. You’re important to me. No matter what anyone else might think, no matter what anyone else in this crowd may think, I care about you personally.” Jesus’ love is always intensely personal and intentionally individual. His love always respects and values other people. Let me say that again. To love is to respect and value other people. If you think that the word love today is overly used or casually used, then try for awhile putting the word respect or value in its place. It works pretty well. To love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength is to value God more than anything else in all the world. To love your neighbor more than you love yourself is to respect and value your neighbor’s life as you respect and value your own. Tonight when you tuck your children into bed or later on when you are concluding a telephone conversation with a friend or tomorrow when you’re talking to a prized co-worker or a fellow student, instead of saying “I love you” say “I value you so much” and just see what kind of response you get.

You see, real Christian love demands that we get up close and personal with other people. Do you remember in the “Peanuts” cartoon strip where Linus announces that he is going to be a doctor when he grows up? Lucy scoffs at this saying: “You, Linus, a doctor? Don’t be ridiculous! You could never be a doctor, Linus. You don’t love humankind.” And Linus replies, “I do love humankind. It’s people that I can’t stand!” Well, Jesus shows us in this Miraculous Moment that it is not enough just to love humankind. Our task, our calling, indeed our privilege is to love specific persons, to respect and value other people as individuals. Christ’s love is individual.

Also, Christ’s kind of love is unconditional.

Remember how in the story this crowd, in their spiritual blindness, tried to silence Bartimaeus. “Be quiet” they said to him. “Don’t bother Jesus. He doesn’t have time for a blind beggar like you, so hush up now.” They were so wrong. Makes you wonder whose blindness was more tragic, the physical blindness of Bartimaeus, or the spiritual blindness of the crowd. When Jesus stopped to help and heal Bartimaeus, a poor, blind beggar no one else cared about, Jesus underscored the beauty of an unconditional love—the beauty of seeing everyone we meet as being worthy of that love. Light a candle and it will give light to all in the room. It is not selective. It shines for all. It embraces all.

That’s the way the love of Jesus Christ works. The love of Christ reaches out to do good to all people—even those whom some regard as unlovable. His love is unconditional.

Just recently I ran across a powerful little parable which captures what I am trying to say. It goes like this: “A holy man was engaged by one of his followers. The follower asked the holy man: ‘How can I know when the dawn has broken, when the darkness has fled? Is it the moment when I can tell a sheep from a dog?’ The holy man answered: ‘No. That is not the moment.’ The follower then said: ‘Then is it the moment when I can tell a peach from a pomegranate?’ The holy man answered: ‘No, it is not that moment either.’ The follower cried: ‘Then when is the moment?’ The holy man said: ‘Until the moment when you can gaze into the face of a man or a woman and say you are my brother, you are my sister—until that moment there is no dawn. There is only darkness.’”

We learn from this Miraculous Moment in Mark that the love of Jesus Christ means seeing and responding to every person we meet as a sister or brother for whom Christ came and for whom Christ died. His love is unconditional.

Something else. Christ’s kind of love is sacrificial.

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die and He knew it. Therefore you just know that His thoughts and His attention had to be focused upon Himself and what His immediate future would hold. And yet, when He heard Bartimaeus crying out for help, He put aside His own personal concerns and gave all of His attention to this blind beggar. It’s a beautiful picture of sacrificial love.

Anyone who has ever heard Tony Campolo speak loves to hear his romping, stomping presentations of the Gospel. Tony Campolo belongs to a predominantly African-American Baptist church in Philadelphia. He tells a wonderful story about something that happened at his church one Sunday. It was “Student Recognition Day” and one by one the students came forward to share their dreams and plans for the future. “I’m going to be an attorney”… “I’m going to be a physician”… “I’m going to be a professor”…“I’m going to be a business executive.” Campolo says that while this was going on, the old pastor, who had been at that church for thirty years, was growing visibly impatient. Finally, when the students finished, the old pastor got up and said: “Now, my little children, before we go home, there are a few things I need to say to you.” He said: “Young people, you have lots of dreams and goals for your life and that’s nice. But there’s something I need to tell you so listen closely. One of these days you’re going to die… and they’re going to take you out to the cemetery and they’re going to drop you into a six-foot hole…and they’re going to throw dirt in your face…and then they’re all going to go back up to the church house and eat potato salad!”

He said: “Listen to me. When you came into the world, everybody was laughing and you were the only one crying. Now when you go out of this world, the question is whether everybody else is going to be crying and you are going to be laughing.”

He said: “The whole thing hinges on this—on whether or not you are going to live your life for titles or for testimonies. So young people, don’t live your life for titles. That’s small stuff, live your life to be a testimony. Make a difference in this world!”

He said: “Pharaoh had the title, but Moses had the testimony. Nebuchadnezzar had the title, but Daniel had the testimony. Jezebel and the title, but Elijah had the testimony. Pontius Pilate had the title, but King Jesus had the testimony. Young people, it’s so important. Make up your mind right now to live for testimony, not for a title!”

What was the old pastor saying? Simply this. “Don’t be a prima donna in life. Instead, be a servant of Jesus Christ. Love sacrificially and live unselfishly just as Jesus did. Jesus was on the way to the cross to die, yet he turned aside from his own concerns to open the eyes of a blind beggar in Jericho whose name was Bartimaeus. Jesus’ love was sacrificial.

Well…

I don’t know that there is anything else I want to say at this point except to ask you to look again at that last line of the story. After Bartimaeus received his sight, look at what he did. Mark tells us: “He followed Jesus on the way.” Bartimaeus was so moved, so touched, so inspired, so changed by the love of Jesus Christ that he wanted to be a part of it all. He was so moved, so touched, so inspired, so changed by the love of Jesus Christ that he wanted to give that same love to other people in the same way. Dear friends, may our own eyes be opened in these moments today so that we may see in those around us opportunities to love as Jesus loved. Amen.

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