King Solomon offers us many wonderful proverbs to live by. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). As with the Word of God, when our focus is on the Lord God he is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). But nowhere are we promised a trouble or problem free life! Many devoted Christians, beginning with the first martyr Stephen, have died because of their profession of faith in the resurrection of Christ. And then, there are those who have died at the hands of religious deceivers like David Koresh, whose delusional stubbornness led to the deaths of 76 people in Waco, Texas in 1993. While Koresh believed that the Davidians’ religious followers would be “zapped” into heaven, others have believed their leaders by drinking poison in trust that God would protect them from harm.
There is something to be said about Solomon who teaches us to “listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20). Take the story of the good Christian man who walked into Walmart and was offered a mask by the greeter. The man politely declined saying God would protect him from Covid. A few weeks later, the man went to his doctor for a routine check up. The doctor told him everything is okay and offered him the Covid vaccine if he would like one. Again, the man politely declined saying God would protect him from Covid. Later that week, the man felt very sick. He went back to his doctor and to his disbelief he was diagnosed with Covid and admitted to the hospital. Sadly, the man died and when he reached the gates of heaven God was there waiting for him. The man asked God why he didn't protect him from Covid? God looked at him and said, I had people offer you free masks and vaccines and you refused. Also, you're going to need to quarantine in hell for a few weeks.
It has been estimated that the average adult makes more than 35,000 choices each day. Sometimes, we even step into another person’s dilemma and make decisions for them. Often, we might find ourselves moving between decisions for the same problem unsure of which one we should do. Some will simply burn-out after making decisions, over decisions, upon decisions. Sometimes it’s best to first ask ourselves if I’m the best person to be making such and such a decision and when we are unsure of ourselves – it’s best to wait, even until the next day before rendering our choice. For the Christian, it’s best to consult God’s Word and God’s people.
This was not the case in the Stephen Spielberg epic movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. In this movie, Professor Jones and his father are on a quest to find the Holy Grail, believed to be the cup which Jesus had used during the Last Supper. As we reach the climax, the good and bad guys all arrive, at the same time, in the cave where the Grail has been kept safe by an ageless knight since the last Crusade of the thirteenth century. According to medieval mythology anyone who drinks from the Grail would receive eternal life. There are several cups of varying types laid out on a table in front of the eager seekers to choose from. “But,” the knight warns, “choose wisely!” With gun in hand, the bad guy insists on being the first one to choose. He picks the beautifully adorned golden goblet and of course, dies. The aged knight responds - “He chose poorly.” Choosing wisely or choosing poorly is what today’s gospel is all about.
Let’s review the events surrounding Jesus’s final journey towards Jerusalem and the fulfilment of His Father’s will. First, we encounter the rich young man who asked Jesus “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17)? He believed he had chosen the right road, as he responds to Jesus’s inquiry saying, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth” (Mark 10:20). Now, Jesus asks him to chose between his earthly possessions and riches and the promise of treasures in heaven. “He chose poorly.” Next, we hear about the request by the sons of Zebedee who asked Jesus for the seats of honour in the coming kingdom. “What do you want me to do for you” (Mark 10:36) asked Jesus. Again, the disciples’ chose poorly. “As [Jesus] was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside” (Mark 10:46). Again, we hear that familiar question from Jesus who asks Bartimaeus “What do you want me to do for you” (Mark 10:51)?
Let’s back the clock up a few minutes. Jesus had set his sight on Jerusalem. “They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of [the disciples] them” (Mark 10:32) as Jesus tells them for the third time that the chief priests will condemn him to death. In order to reach his God-ordained destiny in Jerusalem he had to pass through the old town of Jericho.
He was now only fifteen miles from the great city of David. “As he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside” (Mark 10:46). As Jesus hurried by, the beggar called out from his place at the side of the road, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47)! Without a doubt, Bartimaeus, had claimed and established his place along the side of the road from where he would beg for alms from anyone who passed by. There isn’t anything unusual about the scene. It wasn’t unusual for beggars to position themselves where there is heavy people traffic anymore than our modern day beggars will situate themselves near store exits, near the coffee drive thru or at busy intersections – anywhere there are sufficient people to get some money from begging.
But this blind beggar wanted something more than just alms. Bartimaeus must have heard about Jesus from people who had passed by him on their way up to Jerusalem. This poor beggar might have also heard about the miracles Jesus had done. He was determined to get the Rabbi’s attention should he ever pass by his way. We can almost surmise that Bartimaeus was desperate, and he knew that Jesus was his only hope of changing the miserable circumstances of his life. He would not give up. Even though the people tried to shut him up, he called out even louder.
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47-48)! Surprisingly, this is the first time anyone had called Jesus the “Son of David.” In the first century, the term “Son of David” was a title reserved only for the Messiah. Earlier in the Gospel, Peter had declared that Jesus was the Christ (the Messiah) after which and Jesus “strictly charged [the Twelve] them to tell no one about him” (Mark 8:30). But today, when Bartimaeus yells out this messianic title, Jesus doesn’t attempt to stop him. Whereas “many rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (Mark 10:48) Jesus affirms the beggar’s proclamation that Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah. Jesus no longer keeps his messianic identity a secret. Instead, he stops and invites the desperate beggar to come to him. “They called the blind man, saying to him, Take heart. Get up; he is calling you. And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:49-50). Having heard the invitation, Bartimaeus abandoned his place of begging. Mark adds one further comment which can be easily overlooked. “He threw his coat aside” (Mark 10:50). Like other beggars, Bartimaeus spread his cloak on the ground in front of himself to catch the coins that might be tossed his way. Catching the alms that were tossed into his coat was the beggar’s sole means of income and support. When Jesus called him to come, his coat and his money no longer meant anything to him as he leaves them behind to came forward to meet his Saviour.
Now, we get to the interesting part of the story. Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you” (Mark 10:51)? Now remember, Bartimaeus has never met Jesus. He begins to answer by saying “Rabbi”. This is truly a very profound beginning since the beggar and the rabbi have never met. Rabbouni is the same word Mary Magdalene used to address Jesus when he had been raised from the dead in John’s Gospel “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabbouni” (John 20:16)! It means more than just teacher. “My Rabbi” is a term of affection and of commitment to the teacher. Bartimaeus is already demonstrating evidence of having a radical faith in recognizing Jesus as the “Son of David” along with his answer to Jesus’s question saying, “let me recover my sight” (Mark 10:51) or simply “I want to see!” Recognizing his great faith, Jesus heals the man, saying, “your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:52). Unlike the previous two stories - a blind beggar named Bartimaeus appears to have chosen wisely.
Based on these three stories, what can we learn today about choosing wisely and choosing badly. It’s interesting how three similar and slightly different account of the blind beggar from Jericho can be found in all three of the synoptic gospels. Matthew speaks of two blind men sitting by the roadside, whereas Luke recounts how a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging and Mark puts a name to the blind beggar. The one thing that all three stories have in common takes place after Jesus heals the man. “Immediately they recovered their sight and followed him” (Matthew 20:34) recounts Matthew. After Bartimaeus encountered Jesus, his life was radically changed. Not only could he see, but he left his former life and followed Jesus.
It’s important for us to now look at the context in which we find the story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus. Jesus tells him to go on his way and instead Bartimaeus leaves his old life behind him and “followed [Jesus] him on the way” (Mark 10:52) as they continued towards Jerusalem. The healing occurs just prior to Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Remember that Jesus did not refute the blind beggar for calling him “Son of David” which sets up the messianic significance underlying the triumphal entry. “They brought the colt to Jesus … many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches … those who went before and those who followed were shouting … ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David” (Mark 11:7,8,9,10)! Again, Jesus does not silence the crowd nor refute the Messianic title.
“What do you want me to do for you” (Mark 10:51)? The same question is being asked of you today. The same question was asked of blind Bartimaeus, asked of the sons of Zebedee and a similar dynamic was found in Jesus’ dialogue with the rich young man. In the previous stories, we noticed how James and John wanted Jesus to fulfill their selfish request. Instead, Jesus challenges them to reorient and refocus their lives towards service “for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). The rich young man also wanted something from Jesus. “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17) he asked. When all was said and done the sons of Zebedee and the rich young man went away with their requests unfulfilled while the request of blind Bartimaeus was fully granted on the spot.
The first thing that you will notice is that Bartimaeus was desperate. “When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out” (Mark 10:47). He knew that his condition was hopeless. He was destined to be a blind beggar for the rest of his life. One of the problems with our society today is that many don’t know how helpless and lost we are without the grace of God. As sinners, we are destined to eternal death and there is absolutely nothing we can do to change this. Our separation from God because of sin is a hopeless situation for all of humanity. Whereas sin is at the root of all our spiritual problems, when we deny that we are not sinful we make ourselves out to be self-righteous. We want to be in control of our own lives. We want eternal life, and we want to know what we have to do to get it. We want to sit in the seats of honour and authority and be served – rather than serve. We fail to or don’t want to recognize our real need. We are simply too independent, and we believe that we can solve our own issues without God. Instead, we need to listen to the Word of God directing us as Peter writes “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). It’s when we humble ourselves before the Lord, like Bartimaeus, and when we recognize our desperate need for him in our lives that God hears and responds to our cries.
The second thing we can learn from Bartimaeus is that he didn’t care what others thought about his passion for Jesus. “Many rebuked him [Bartimaeus] telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more” (Mark 10:48). He would not allow the world to shut him up. He even cried all the louder. Today, our society frowns upon words and language and expressions that are considered offensive to minorities or to certain groups of people. The Lord’s Prayer was removed from our schools because it was offensive to those who did not believe in it. Speaking about Jesus is not socially acceptable in our world unless we are using his name in vain. One thing is apparent in this reading, if Bartimaeus had listened to those who told him to shut up – he would have never got to Jesus.
Finally, Bartimaeus knew what he needed. The sons of Zebedee and the rich young man failed because they ask for what they wanted. There is a big difference between wanting and needing and Bartimaeus called to Jesus with what he needed. Some will call to Jesus, but they will refuse to hear him calling back to them to come if they don’t get what they want, and how they want it. Some may even hear the good news of salvation being offered to them and refuse to acknowledge the free gift of grace because they are too stubborn to change the direction of their lives to follow Jesus. Notice that “immediately he [Bartimaeus] recovered his sight and followed him [Jesus] on the way” (Mark 10:52).
“What do you want me to do for you” (Mark 10:51)? Whenever we call to Jesus in prayer, we are challenged by the same question which was asked of the rich young man, the sons of Zebedee and the blind beggar Bartimaeus. We can choose poorly, or we can choose wisely. Jesus told his disciples, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). But does this necessarily mean that we can ask for anything? I believe that Bartimaeus’ response demonstrates to us how to choose wisely. No doubt, approaching God with the right motives in our heart is a good start. Asking for those things we need ‘in Jesus’ name’ shows our dependence of God and brings glory to the Father who gives us our daily bread. One thing is clear from the Word of God is that the Father is not a reluctant giver. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11) not even withholding his one and only Son for the salvation of the world. Our reaction to God says it all. “Immediately he recovered his sight and followed him [Jesus]” (Mark 10:52).
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We are a family of followers of Christ, who learn and share the Good News of Salvation, making disciples of Jesus Christ.
We hold weekly Sunday morning services at 10:30 am. We also host a Bible Study each Sunday morning at 09:30 am and on Tuesday afternoon at 1:00 pm. Please join us.
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