22nd Sunday after Pentecost “Asking for Help”
October 24, 2021 Mark 10:46-52
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Clarence was dying. There was nothing the physicians could do. As the grim reaper approached, he turned to his wife with labored breath & said, “You know, Mildred, you have always been with me. Do you remember the time I was unexpectedly fired from my job?
You were right there, you never left my side. Do you recall the time that I was cleaning the gutters and I fell off the roof? Once again, you were right there to call the ambulance; you were there with me during that long convalescence as my broken hip healed. Then there were the terrible days of the depression. We didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Way back then, you were there. And now, here I am lying at death’s door. Can I say that I’m not surprised to find that you are still here by my side? I have to say, Mildred, … you are bad luck!”
Now, God does not teach us to believe in ‘bad luck’. And yet, we’ve known people who have had more than their fair share of —hmm– ‘negative blessings’(?). If there is a nail on the road, their tire will find it. If there is a table in the darkness, their toe will get stubbed on it. In Mark 10 we hear of blind Bartimaeus; one of those folks who lived with 3-strikes against him. Strike 1: Bartimaeus lived in the city of Jericho; one of the oldest cities in the world. It has a nice warm climate, a very rich spring-fed water supply, and a curse. Recall when Joshua led the Children of Israel into the Promised Land, the first obstacle was Jericho. After God caused it’s mighty walls to ‘come a tumblin’ down’, Joshua pronounced a curse on the city.
In the book of Joshua chpt.6, he says, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.” Hundreds of years later, Jericho was rebuilt, and Joshua’s curse was fulfilled = that’s in 1Kings 16. Since then, Jericho’s Chamber of Commerce had made great strides in restoring the city’s reputation. Thru history, it’s been an important cross-roads place for merchants & armies.
The same King Herod who ordered the murder of Bethlehem’s baby boys when Jesus was born, had the temple high priest murdered = that happened in Jericho.
And, as his death drew near, King Herod made a plan to guarantee that all Israel would mourn at his passing. He rounded up all the important leaders and locked them away in Jericho, with the order that -at his death- they would be slaughtered, and the whole nation would weep & wail. Even tho the kings order was never carried out, that threat would’ve reminded people of the curse spoken by Joshua against this city == the city where a certain blind man lived.
Strike 2: Apparently, Bartimaeus was also not very lucky with his family-of-origin. You remember that Jesus referred to Peter as ‘Simon bar-Jonah’? ‘bar’ means ‘son of’ = ‘Simon, son of Jonah.’ We see this in our own culture of ‘last names’, such as Johnson, ‘John’s son’ or ‘Erik’s son’. So, Bar-Timaeus means ‘son of Timaeus’. But before you give the name Timaeus to one of your sons, that term means ‘defiled, unclean, corrupt.’
That makes Bar-timaeus the ‘son of a corrupt man.’ So, Bartimaeus lives in a cursed town, with a rather cursed name. Two strikes.
The 3rd strike is more obvious: he’s blind. This is not the same man whom Jesus healed who was born blind, & we don’t know how poor Bartimaeus got this way. We do know that in that time & culture, the blind & lame & other-handicapped had no regular assistance.
If they didn’t have family or friends, they were forced to beg to survive. 3 strikes & you’re out. So, this man takes his daily position at the city gate where people would be passing by, and he is counting on small coins of charity, hoping that those who can see might see him & his outstretched hand.
Now that you’ve met the blind man with 3 strikes against him, let’s pause a moment
so I can ask this: ‘How are you doing? Is your life filled with ‘home-runs’? Or do you feel that you have been thrown a curve ball and made a strike, … or two? Would you say that your money situation is doing ‘okay’, but a few relationships are strained?== or maybe it’s the other way around. Your health is okay, but your house is falling apart. (or the other way around)
When we say ‘bad luck’ we often don’t mean that superstitiously; we’re just talking about ‘misfortune.’ We’re thinking about the negative events of life; times of trouble, economic downturns, a piling up of ordinary hardships. We get one broken thing fixed, & immediately something else breaks. We think we’ve finally found the right person for our life, and then it turns out they’re not a good person.
Sometimes it does seem that one person has more trouble than the average, & we say they’re unlucky. But we shouldn’t forget that all of us are affected by ‘sin’; the sins of anger, greed, or hate; or just the wickedness of the world. Do you consider yourself more or less fortunate than others? There are times we can relate to poor Bartimaeus.
So, there he is at the city gate where he is each day; and the day began as it always did. But then, altho he can’t see it, he can hear a different commotion today. Either he, or someone around him, asks, ‘what’s going on?’ Well, it’s that Jesus-bar-Joseph, from Nazareth; He & His disciples are passing thru Jericho. According to St.Mark, this is no pleasure trip for the Savior; Jesus is at the end of His pubic ministry. From Jericho He is on His way to Jerusalem & His Palm Sunday procession as He is making His way to the cross.
It’s been 3 times now in this gospel that Jesus has explained to His disciples what will happen in Jerusalem during this Passover time. In the coming days, Jesus knows He will shoulder the sins of every person who has ever lived. He will be sold out by one of His own inner circle, denied by a trusted friend, and deserted by the others. The sinless Son of God will be falsely accused & found guilty, badly beaten, crowned with thorns, whipped, and crucified = a guaranteed death by Roman soldiers. And altho it was short, Jesus is completing history’s most purposeful life. He is fulfilling God’s mission to save the souls of all who believe that He is the Redeemer & God. Jesus is buying back the world from its death sentence at the cost of His life.
Why does Jesus take the time to go thru Jericho? It could be just another stop along the road to Jerusalem. OR, maybe it was a sign that Joshua’s curse is now lifted, and that the very Messiah that Moses & Joshua foreshadowed has arrived, and is the promised Savior for all people = regardless what city you’re from, what your name means, or how many strikes life have against you. OR since we don’t hear that Jesus did anything else there, it could be that he only went to Jericho because had a divine appointment with one poor blind man.
Of course, I’m sure He did His teaching about the kingdom of God, & some believed Him and others didn’t. We don’t hear about them. But we do hear what that one blind beggar thought, because he spoke his mind = he spoke his faith. This man with 3-strikes against him thinks the God of Abraham/Isaac/Jacob has given him another chance at-bat; and so he takes out the ‘loui’ville slugger’. He cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
He didn’t make that up himself; that’s the title the prophets reserved for the Messiah, who was to come and save the world. The crowd told him to pipe-down; ‘be quiet you ol fool.’ But he kept swinging, shouting: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Even with all the commotion, & no matter how much noise, we should take note that Jesus is able to hear that prayer. That’s just one of many things to learn from this Bible event. Jesus hears your voice over all the noise of the world around you.
Another lesson here is that despite everyone around him telling him to be quiet or to give it up, Bartimaeus continues. He didn’t know if Jesus would grant him a miracle, but he could ask; there was no one else to ask for this kind of help. We read in the Bible of others who ignored Jesus when he came among them, and they passed up their golden opportunity to ask. Like when Jesus went to His hometown of Nazareth & the people chased Him away;
we never hear of Him going back. They really blew that opportunity.
Here’s another lesson. Think of those people that day clamoring to be with Jesus, and notice how they are treating the poor blind man; /rebuking him, /ignoring him, /treating him like he deserves his life of 3-strikes. Sometimes WE can be like that, we give a cold shoulder toward the less-fortunate, rather than giving some help or attention. I’m not saying we can work a miracle for them; but if they just want to ‘see’ Jesus, we can help them = because by God’s grace & thru faith, we have seen Him, and believe in Him. That kind of help is the greatest help a blind soul can receive.
When we encounter a person who feels like they’ve struck-out in life, we can share with them the good news that they’re still in the game, and -along with us- they can call on the Son of David, who is the One who has a plan of mercy for ALL of us = /rich or poor, /young or old, /lucky or unlucky. His plan includes a complete forgiveness of all our sin & guilt; and a place for us in His own kingdom when this game is done. I know we’ve all passed up those opportunities to bring that good news to those who are spiritually handicapped, but we shouldn’t; it may be the opportunity of their lifetime.
The Lutheran Hour speaker tells of a little news story he heard. It was about a supermarket worker. He was in the parking lot collecting stray carts, when he saw a woman going to her car, with her arms & cart overflowing with groceries. He decided he’d move in her direction and see if he could help.
She put a package on top of the car as she hurried to get everything else in the back seat & trunk. And then she got in the car and started to drive away, having left the one package on the top. The worker ran and reached her just as she started to make the turn onto the street, and he caught the package as it slipped off the roof headed to the pavement. That’s when she saw him & stopped. Fortunate, too. Because the package was her baby. They were both glad that the worker didn’t pass up an opportunity to help.
The day Bartimaeus called out for Jesus, St.Mark says there were ‘many’ who rebuked him. But then there were some who said to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” We know which group we should be in. Jesus is always calling out to meet with those who are /troubled, /poor, /unlucky, /guilty, /& are blind to God’s hope. We hear our Lord call to us each week. He calls us to repent of our sins = whether they’re accidental, or on purpose.
He calls us to take heart & get up & return to Him, and to see again how His mercy for us took him to the cross, and has paid the price. Some people have turned a blind-eye to that Savior for a long time; but then something happens. Jesus comes near and calls to them,
and WE get to help deliver that message, ‘Take heart. Get up; He is calling you.’
Our Lord has planned to use our help in that way.
There’s another lesson in just two words from vs.49: ‘Jesus stopped.’ Bartimaeus is part of that long line of people for whom Jesus ‘stopped.’ +We recall that Jesus met a widow from Nain on the way to bury her son. He stopped the funeral procession, and brought the young man back to life. +When a Roman centurion pleaded with Jesus to ‘say the word’ and heal his servant, Jesus stopped & headed toward his home. +One time, Jesus stopped in the middle of a sermon to forgive & heal a paralyzed man because 4 of his friends lowered him down thru the roof of the house. +Jesus stopped to heal that suffering woman who touched the hem of his robe; and he stopped to heal those 10 lepers. As God, Jesus has time to stop for each of US; and as God, He has gifts to give that no one else can give.
The rest of the blind beggar’s story unfolds quickly. Bartimaeus is brought to Jesus, and the Savior takes away that one strike, giving back his sight; bringing him out of darkness & into the light. Not only that, Jesus is on his way out of Jericho, and Bartimaeus decides to follow him ‘on the way’ – out of the cursed city. That’s another strike gone.
It makes me wonder if Bartimaeus later decided to change his name as well. Instead of ‘son of a corrupt man’, he has been born-again into faith as ‘a son of God’, with the name of Christ put upon him. ‘Christian’ was his new name; and it’s OUR new name = a family name.
For in following Jesus, you & I & Bartimaeus have been joined to another family, a family united in God’s grace, made holy in God’s forgiveness, and headed for a heavenly home, where our names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. By the mercy of God, and in the name of Jesus, that poor ol ex-blind beggar just made a homerun.
No matter how many strikes you have against you, today Jesus has come to our town. This morning, again, He has come near & stopped to be with us. He calls for us, and asks us: ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ Take heart! He brings to us His gifts of mercy, of forgiveness, and the gift of -one day- making a home run.