22 Pentecost, Proper 25 – October 24, 2021
Mark 10:46-52

          A question to ponder for today and maybe for the week….what gives you hope?  What gives you hope?  I ask this question from the perspective that we are living in a time where we can make more of a difference than ever before, much of the future is in our hands. In other words, our choices matter, what we do matters. Krista Tippett refers to this as “muscular hope” That this isn’t about optimism; it’s not about wishful thinking. It’s about insisting that we can be agents of change; that what is doesn’t have to be.

So, let’s look at our gospel story. Jesus was leaving Jericho and there was a blind beggar sitting by the roadside named Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is a liminal character – he’s outside of the city, outside of the path, outside of the light and outside of the economy. Bartimaeus, like many beneficiaries of Jesus’ healing, embodies the effects of social exclusion.

Notice that the crowd is an obstacle of communication between Jesus the healer and Bartimaeus the healed. “Many sternly ordered him to be quiet”.  Although Bartimaeus is literally the blind man in the story, it’s the crowd — his peers, his culture, his society — that renders him unseen. To their seeing eyes, the blind man by the roadside is invisible, and therefore expendable.  His shouts and cries are not worthy of attention.  His suffering is not important enough to warrant tenderness, patience, or even curiosity.  So, when this invisible man dares to speak out, the only reasonable thing to do is to shut him up. The only priority is to restore order, re-establish the social hierarchy, and maintain a status quo that keeps the privileged comfortable.

But that comfort is exactly what Jesus renders impossible.  Once the crowd sees Bartimaeus, they can’t unsee him.  Once Jesus opens their eyes to his full humanity, they respond with compassion: “Take heart; get up; he is calling you.”

And Bartimaeus was the only one to truly see Jesus for who his is, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This is one of the rare times in the gospel where Jesus himself is truly seen.

And then Bartimaeus throws off his cloak. That’s a big deal. To a beggar the cloak is a valuable piece that provides warmth, that would allow him to sleep at night or use it to place it in front of him to collect money. Throwing off the cloak meant radical trust in who Jesus is.

And then Jesus asks him “What do you want me to do for you?”  This is the same question Jesus asked of James and John in last week’s story. They answered unwisely, not comprehending, not seeing…asking for honor and glory.  Bartimaeus, on the other hand, asks to see again. He asks for sight.

It might be the case that most of Jesus’s followers are too busy seeing what they want to see — a magician, a political and military leader, a carpenter’s son, a wise man — to notice what the blind man — free of all such filters — discerns so quickly: Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of God.

Bartimaeus had a trust in Jesus so deep that he was able to let go of what was most familiar and safe – his cloak – in exchange for a way that was new and different, mostly unknown. There must have been some fear involved because the way our human psychology is built, psychologists have shown that we, as humans, are much more averse to losing what we have than gaining something new. But he took the risk and threw off his cloak.

And then Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”  In other words, do you really want to take the risk?  What gives you hope?  What do you want to see changed? How can you be a part of making that change happen?

We had our Diocesan convention yesterday with the opening eucharist on Friday evening. The Bishop was inspiring in his messages on both days of trusting in Jesus, having the faith that we can get up and make a difference.  We can color outside the lines in bold, bright, different colors, even though others may be telling us to stop, stay in the lines, use the traditional colors, we can color outside the lines, because Jesus is here, walking the road with us.

We know the name of the man who sits beside the Jericho road. It is Bartimaeus, a name that means the son of Timaeus. Timaeus in turn means “honor.”  Therefore, the beggar in this story is a son of honor, someone deserving of honor.

We are all, all of us, each and every one, someone deserving of honor.  And Jesus is close at hand, and he responds to our outcries for mercy. Ask for the gift of sight. Ask for the insight that it brings. You’ll be able to look on the ordinary world and find it extraordinary. You’ll have your own cross and resurrection and encounter the kingdom in unexpected places. You won’t care any more about a place of honor, but you will be a person of honor

Ask for the gift of sight, and you’ll become a disciple willing to get up and journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and beyond. Lord, have mercy.  In you, Lord, is my hope. Amen.