The Blindness of Those Who See
Preparing for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: One Day before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 119:97-104
Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:15-26
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
Psalter: Psalm 121
Old Testament: Genesis 32:3-21
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
God of salvation, who sent your Son to seek out and save what is lost, hear our prayers on behalf of those who are lost in our day, receiving these petitions and thanksgivings
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. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 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.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 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.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way (Mark 10:46-52).
In order to understand the healing of blind Bartimaeus, we have to look earlier in Mark 10. After blessing some children and rebuking his disciples for turning them away, Jesus is once again questioned on legal details, this time by a young man in reference to the inheritance of eternal life. Jesus mines beneath the surface of the question. It is not only a matter of keeping the Ten Commandments, it is about embodying the ways of God in one’s life, which can only be done as those things that separate women and men from God are removed from their desires. What separated this man from his eternity was his great wealth, and Jesus knew it. Jesus’ love for the man led Jesus to speak the truth to him. “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
It must not be overlooked, as it sometimes is, that Jesus is not demanding that the rich man rid himself of all his earthly possessions to live destitute on the street; in actuality Jesus is inviting the young man to begin a different journey. For so long his journey had been focused on the pursuit of wealth, but Jesus invites the man to join him on a journey in the pursuit of God. The rich man turns away, unwilling to part with what he obviously loved more than God. Commitment is serious business.
But for those who make such a commitment, God will surely reward them. In God’s Great Reversal, the first will be last and the last will be first. The rich will become poor and the poor will become rich. Jesus once again reminds the disciples that the way to resurrection will come through the cross; the road to victory will be paved with Jesus’ suffering.
And as a reminder that Jesus’ words, though difficult to accept, do indeed depict the true nature of his Kingdom, Jesus gives sight to blind Bartimaeus. And unlike the rich young man who turns away from Jesus, Bartimaeus follows immediately along the way. Having been healed, he realizes that there are truly no other options for him. Whatever this journey will require of him, he must follow. Commitment is serious business.
Even after all this, in typical fashion the disciples continue not to get it. James and John approach with a request along the old order of things. They ask for the two most prestigious positions in Jesus’ Kingdom—the secretary of State and the secretary of the Treasury. The other ten disciples are angry with James and John, not because they had the audacity to ask Jesus for these high offices, but because James and John had trumped the rest of them by asking first. Jesus must have been quite irritated in having, once again, to instruct them on the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God, as opposed to the ways of the kingdoms of the world. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
Bartimaeus understands the way of Jesus while his disciples who have followed him every day do not, as well as the religious leaders who are supposed to know the ways of God’s kingdom.
PRAYER: Redeeming Sustainer, visit your people and pour out your strength and courage upon us, that we may hurry to make you welcome not only in our concern for others, but by serving them generously and faithfully in your name. Amen.
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Very well done. Learning to thread the needles eye is a journey each must take on their own.