The Message, October 24, 2021, "I Can See!"

The Message, October 24, 2021, "I Can See!"

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
October 26, 2021

“I Can See!”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Mark 10:46-52

Sing: “I love a parade!”
            Well … not really, but that is how the song goes. And I am not aware of a song that goes:
Sing:   “I really do not care for parades … but I preach about them every once and a while!”
            Of course, what we have here this morning is not really a parade. It is a pilgrimage. However, it is the beginning of the parade that we hear about on Palm Sunday.
            [This is one of those occasions when the framers of the lectionary make our brains hurt by putting an event that happens right before Easter on our calendars leading up to Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Think of it as one of those flash forward moments that we enjoy in movies and television shows.]
            Since we are here, let us set the scene. Jesus and the disciples make the pivot and begin their journey to Jerusalem. It was what Jesus had been telling the disciples for weeks. It was the dreaded event that had to happen. Jesus would be handed over to the authorities, be beaten, mocked, and put to death.
            It was just before the festival of Passover, and according to Jewish Law, all men twelve years old and above that lived within fifteen miles of Jerusalem were required to make the pilgrimage to the Temple. Jericho just happens to be fifteen miles from Jerusalem.
            Therefore, the streets were filled with people that were making their way to the holy city. Of course, it was not possible for everyone to comply with the law. So those who could not make the trek to Jerusalem would line the streets and wish ‘Godspeed’ to those who were. They blessed them on their way.
            Jericho also had a special connection with the Temple. Thousands of priests and Levites were employed in the service of the Temple, but not all of them lived in Jerusalem. Many of them lived in Jericho.
            Even though I just admitted that I do not LOVE parades, I have walked in several of them over the years. When I served the church in Norfolk, Massachusetts, I walked in the Memorial Day parade every year. As the pastor of the church, I also served as the chaplain for the police and fire departments. It was not a huge parade. There would be small groups of people lining the streets as we walked by.
            It was a much larger scene in Jericho that day. I was not walking by with the town officials; JESUS was walking by with his disciples! That was very exciting! By now, news of the dynamic preacher and teacher from Galilee had spread through the land, and people were eager to catch a glimpse of him. Just as they will do on Palm Sunday, they would line the streets to see what the buzz is all about.
            Of course, there were those who were there for another reason. No doubt some of those Temple priests and Levites wanted to get a look at that rebel, that heretic that had been preaching against their orthodoxy. Who knows … maybe some of them were excited and curious too!
            But that is the scene into which we enter this morning. Enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the Passover festival amplified by the news that Jesus of Nazareth … THE Jesus of Nazareth … was passing through.
            Then suddenly, a voice cried out over the din … “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
            Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, called out to Jesus as he passed. The crowd around him rebuked him and tried to silence him. But Bartimaeus called out that much more … “Jesus, Son of David, have pity upon me!”
            Bartimaeus was desperate.
            Did you ever sing the song, ‘Blind Man,’ in Sunday school or summer camp?
            Blind man sat by the road, and he cried.
            Blind man sat by the road, and he cried.
            Blind man sat by the road, and he cried.
            He cried, ‘oh, oh, oh!’
            He did not cry, “Yippee! I am so happy being blind! I love groveling and begging for sheckels on the side of the road! It is so uplifting debasing myself to scratch out an existence!”
            Bartimaeus cried out of his pain and his struggle. He cried out of his desperation and misery. And Jesus heard his cry. Jesus said, “Call him over to me.”
            Once Bartimaeus made his way to Jesus, Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
            The question is familiar. We just heard it last week when James and John said to Jesus: “We would like you to do exactly what we ask of you.”
            And as we heard, Jesus asked them the same question that he asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”
            The exact same question received two very different responses.
            James and John said: ‘We want status, power and prestige.’
            Bartimaeus said: ‘I want to see again.’
            James and John said: ‘We want to sit in the places of honor, at your right and left sides.’
            Bartimaeus said: ‘I just want to return to my life. I want to be productive and support my family.’
            James and John did not know what they were asking of Jesus.
            Bartimaeus was certain that Jesus could make him well.
            Bartimaeus had a powerful reaction to the presence of Jesus. He had a reaction of love and faith. He may not have fully understood all of the things that there was to know about Jesus, but Bartimaeus knew enough to reach out to him.
            And his faith made him well. Bartimaeus received his sight, even as the disciples continued to struggle to see and understand Jesus truly was. Bartimaeus called him ‘Son of David’ … the first time that name was used for Jesus in Mark’s Gospel … hinting at the possibility of Jesus being the Messiah.
            Bartimaeus was already a man of faith. He called out to Jesus out of his faith that he could help him, and his faith made him well. Unlike others that Jesus healed, who ran away to tell everyone, Bartimaeus picked up his cloak and followed Jesus on his way to Jerusalem.
            This is a powerful and compelling story that speak to us on many different levels today. This passage calls our attention to those persons who might be lost in the crowd. It calls us to look for those who may be searching for something, searching for connection and community. It calls us to watch for those who may be eager and ready for some contact with Jesus Christ.
            We may also see ourselves in this passage. We may see ourselves in Bartimaeus. Some of us may be searching. We may also feel as though we are experiencing a sort of “blindness” in our spiritual lives and in our faith. We try to see but we just cannot understand or comprehend. We may begin to believe that our blindness is what we deserve or accept it as normal.
            What we learn in this story is that Jesus is faithful. Jesus is listening for our call. Jesus calls us to him and asks, “What can I do for you?”’
            What we learn in the story is that faith is available to all people.
            Faith is not restricted to those of a certain social status.
            Faith is not restricted to people of a certain age or gender.
            Faith is not restricted to those who wear the nicest clothing or drive the most expensive cars.
            This passage also asks us to consider those who were trying to silence Bartimaeus when he called out to Jesus and see how they may be being made manifest in today’s world and churches.
            It asks us to consider those who seek to close the doors of the church to those that they deem as undesirable.
            It asks us to see if there are ways that we may be restricting access to Jesus to those who are “acceptable.”
            It asks us to have the faith of the blind man who experienced the love and compassion of Jesus Christ and followed him on his way.

            Let us pray:
Great and loving God, we thank you for the teachings and life of Jesus Christ through whom we come to know you. We acknowledge that sometimes what we learn from him is difficult. We humbly ask for faith and courage to follow in the ways of Jesus. Give us a bolder vision of who we can be in you. Grant us deeper compassion for others and inspire us to love and give to others as a thankful response to your love and gifts for us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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