Scripture: Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52
Was blind but now I see - the well-known line from our hymn of the day - Amazing Grace. Blindness as metaphor; I did not understand; then, after this transformative experience, I do, at least in part.
Now, those with cataracts surgery or Lasik have experienced literally losing sight and then regaining it. Yet not all who were born without sight will gain it. For those who have lost their sight through illness, macular degeneration, etc. can learn to live well without it, even when it is scary. Jesus walks with us through those troubles, toils and snares. And someone who is blind doesn’t need to be healed. It's not true to think that someone is disabled because of something they did wrong, or a punishment by God or something. Your initial reaction might be, “oh, I don’t think that.” But it sneaks into our thoughts & words more than you might think.
“Why am I being tested this way?” “What did I do?” “Why won’t God heal me, my child, my spouse, my parent?” Disability is NOT a sign of God’s faithlessness. How we live, flourish, welcome all abilities, is a sign of God’s faithfulness in our midst.
In scripture, all healings and miracles reveal something about God. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus is about gathering followers in the way of discipleship - service, challenge, sacrifice. In this gospel story, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, sees and understands who Jesus is - perhaps more than his closest disciples. The words “Son of David” is a title - means he understands Jesus comes from the line of king & Savior. This healing comes at a time of more urgency in Jesus’ journey. Jesus is more directly on his way to Jerusalem, his messianic secret is out, and the urgency of his arrest and death was coming up.
When Bartimaeus is called to go to Jesus, he flings off his likely only possession - his cloak - leaves it all, to come to Jesus. Jesus asks Bartimaeus the same question he asked James and John last week when they demanded he give them what they asked of him. Jesus asks: “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus used to be able to see - he asks to be able to see again. Bartimaeus had something that he lost and, with that loss, his whole life changed. He didn’t just want his sight back. He wanted his life back. He wanted his community back.
What have we lost that we want restored? Civility? Community? Relationships? The wilderness or the environment? Jesus heals Bartimaeus - via words only - “your faith has made you well.” And, then when Jesus says, “Go” - Bartimaeus starts to follow. He follows Jesus - on the road that leads to Jerusalem - to Jesus’ last days on earth.
Bartimaeus practiced what we sometimes need to be reminded of - we can and should call out to Jesus - there is no one between us, not even when it feels like there is a crowd getting in the way. This direct line to Jesus is one of the gifts of the reading from Hebrews. There is no one who separates us from Jesus. We can approach God through the person of Jesus because Jesus has shown us the face of God.
It takes reading a few chapters in Hebrews to get at this high priest imagery used. The basic gist is that in the Jewish practices at Jesus’ time, there were many rituals and sacrifices to atone for sin – to restore being at one with God and one another. The writer of Hebrews takes this system seriously and thoroughly and explains how Jesus has fulfilled the ultimate goals of these practices.
I think it matters a lot for us to hear that there is no one who stands between you and God in Christ. There is no mediator. No priest. No pastor whose prayer is holier or better than yours. Again, this has come up in comments I've heard - “Pastor, God hears you - you have a direct line.” Yeah, it’s not just me. ALL OF US have a direct line, like Bartimaeus crying out to Jesus. We have a priesthood of all believers. My job/call is to help you pray; to connect with one another, connect with God.
Back to the story from Mark - thinking about taking faith home: Where do you see yourself in this story? Who do you identify with in the story? What do you think Jesus wants you to do?
CROWD: At first, they kept Bartimaeus away. Then, they were part of extending the invitation. They learned to hear and respond and welcome.
● Call out - Lord have mercy
● To ask in faith & hope
● Reflect on how God has answered my prayers - keep a prayer journal
● And then, Bartimaeus follows
Listen to the cries of others - participate in restoring them to community
● Anyone not like us - whether that’s geography - live in city, other countries; race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, politics, ability/disability, survivors of abuse/trauma - what they, all of us, want is: hear us, listen to us; let us live, love, and flourish - even if that looks different from what it looks like for you.
● You know the golden rule - treat others as you want to be treated. Jesus is living out the platinum rule here - treat others as they ask/want to be treated.
● Jesus asked - what do you want me to do for you? What do you want? And then believe the answer. Dialogue to understand truth. Each of us wants to be seen, heard, believed, to live, flourish, provided access, have others see their full humanity.
● See similarities AND differences. We are not all alike or the same. We are different. And yet, we are all created in the image of God. We are created to be in relationship and community with one another. We are one in the Spirit; and we are one body with many members, different gifts.
We have been saved by Jesus the Christ, the way, the truth and the life; and live with access to that amazing grace that walks with us through danger, toil and snares; this grace that brings us safely home. Amen.
Rev. Elizabeth Bier is the pastor of ONE in Christ Parish, a three-point parish in Greenwood, Longwood, and Withee. She is ordained with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and has served the ONE in Christ Parish since February of 2019.Profile
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.