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Edward F. Markquart

Series B
Blind Bart

Pentecost 21B     Mark 10:46-52

There are Jesus Stories which are more fun than others, and the story for today is a fun one. That is, there is good color in this story, with lots of graphic details so we can easily see this story in the imagination of our minds.

See the location of Jericho, the scene of today’s story.

On this picture from space, we clearly see the location of Jericho. We clearly see the Sea of Galilee and clearly see the Jordan River Valley that connects the Sea of Galilee with the Dead Sea and Jericho.

We can easily imagine that Jesus had been up north near the Sea of Galilee, and traveled down south using paths near the Jordan River. The Jordan River is part of the Rift Valley that cuts through the Earth beginning in Africa. Jesus would haven taken a road from the Sea of Galilee, along the bottom of the valley of the Jordan River, to Jericho, the scene for the story for today. 

You may not realize it but Jericho is the lowest city on Earth in terms of elevation. Yes, the lowest city on Earth. Jericho is some 750 feet below sea level.

The following is a picture of Jericho, the River Jordan and the hills around Jericho. You see the sheep in the foreground and the hills in the background.

The gospel story for today is very specific. Like in most narratives from the Gospel of Mark, a reader feels the story telling ability of an eyewitness. This eyewitness, Simon Peter, had a first hand experience with Jesus in Jericho. Simon Peter saw this event with his own eyes and he is telling us about it.

You see the details in the description. Jesus had already come to Jericho and then we are told that Jesus was leaving town. “As he was leaving Jericho.” That location is very specific.

We got the location. We know where we are on the trip. Just going out of town. You and I know how to read roads and we know when we are “just” going of town.

We also hear in the story that great numbers of people were following Jesus. So were his twelve disciples.

On the roadside, as Jesus was leaving Jericho, there was a blind beggar sitting on the side of the road. The storyteller tells us the specific details of his name and his father’s name.

His name of Bartimaeus and he was the son of Timaeus.

Blind Bartimaeus heard all the commotion of the crowd going by. He could hear their voices, the movements of their bodies, the rustling of their clothes, the laughter, the conversation. He could hear a big crowd going by.

Blind Barimaaus then asked what all the commotion was about. He was told that the famous Jesus from Nazareth was passing by.

In his heart, it happened in a moment, in an instant. An inner impulse erupted from within him. Blind Bart shouted at the top of his lungs. He bellowed out,

“Jesus of Nazareth, Son of David, have mercy on me!!!”

Blind Bart shouted out so loudly that everybody could hear him. Jesus. The crowd. Everybody. 

Many people didn’t like the blind beggar calling out so loud and rudely at the top of his lungs and so they told him to “quiet down, tone it down, keep your mouth shut.”

What did Blind Bart do? He shouted all the more loudly,

“Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy on me.”

We could stop right there. That is the way we often pray when we are desperate. We shout to God in the middle of our pain, “Lord God, have mercy on me. On us. On my kid. My wife. My husband.” Yes, often, our prayers are like the desperate prayer of Blind Bart, “Lord God, have mercy on me.”

Jesus stopped in his tracks. Looked at Blind Bart and say, “Call him. Bring him to me.”

Some folks from the crowd said to the blind beggar, “Take heart. Rise. He is calling you.”

Let’s stop right here in the story and hear those sacred words, “Take heart. Rise. He is calling you.” This is what we want in life. We want Jesus to stop in front of our little lives. We want Jesus to notice us in this big world of ours. We want Jesus to say to us, “Take heart. Get up. I am calling you.” Yes, that is what we all want, those of us who love God and want God to come to us and help us when we are discouraged and down in the dumps, like blind Bartimaeus must have been. That is why we need to hear those precious words. “Take heart, Get up. The Lord is calling you.” Jesus knew Bartimaeus was “down.” When we are “down and out” and life is all messed up and we are in the bottom of our ruts, we want to hear the voice of Jesus directed to us, “Take heart. Get up. I am calling you.” That is the gospel.

The story teller continues with the details, “Throwing off his mantle, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Again, notice the detail. “Bart” threw offhis coat … and jumped up. We can feel Bart’s vigor as he jumped up and came to Jesus. This is definitely an eye-witness account. A reader can feel the action in Bart’s legs and spirit, first in his spirit and then in his legs.

Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” This is the big question that Jesus asks of us as well. “What do we want Jesus to do for us? What do you want Jesus to do for you?” Jesus had asked the identical question with the identical words in the previous story when he asked what he could do for James and John.

How would you answer that question from Jesus today. “What do you want me to do for you?” How would you answer that question?

My answer: Please Lord, would you work peace in the Middle East. Would you help those warring groups in that part of the world find a way to settle their differences peacefully and equitably?

What would you ask for from Jesus? What do you want most from him?

Blind Bart wanted his sight, his physical sight, eyes that could see.

The Gospel of Mathew tells us that Jesus, in pity, touched his eyes. Jesus said to Bart:

“Go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

And immediately and miraculously, Bart received his sight and followed Jesus on the way.

Today’s story is a good story, a fun story, a visual story that is so easy to see and feel.

I like the pictures that capture this story of blind Bartimeaus, the beggar on the outskirts of the small town of Jericho.

The next painting was done by Mafa, a black artist. You can see a black Jesus, dressed in red as Mafa always paints Jesus, touching the eyes of a blind man, about ready to heal him.

I also like the next picture of Jesus healing Blind Bartimaeus as Jesus left the town of Jericho, on his way to Jerusalem.

This story is so simple and yet so graphic. What did this story mean to Simon Peter, the eyewitness on the scene that day in Jericho when Jesus was passing through on the outskirts of town? What does this story mean to us?

What do I personally gain from this story? Which are the words and phrases that speak to me? Where in this story do I hear the voice of Jesus personally speaking to me?

When someone in the crowd said to Blind Bart, “Take heart. Rise. He is calling you.” We all need to hear those words. Sometimes it is Jesus who says these words to me. Sometimes, my wife. Sometimes a good friend. Sometimes my brother. Sometimes my child. But whoever it is, this person is an angel from God, a messenger of God, who speaks the word of the Lord to me. In this instance, it was an unknown messenger from God in the crowd.

“Take heart.” Those words ring in my ear. They echo in my mind. They resonate within the chambers of my heart. Take heart.

There are many times when I have lost my inner desire to get up and go and get things done. I have given up. If I haven’t give up, I am pretty close to quitting. I am somewhat down in the dumps and need an emotional blood transfusion so I can have more emotional energy to face the challenges in front of me.

You are the same way. There are times in your life when you are overloaded, over confronted, over your head with life. Your spouse has been in the hospital. You can’t pay all the bills. You are short of time, short of energy, short of what is needed to face the challenge at hand.

In that moment, Jesus or a messenger from God says to you and me, “Take heart.” Those words are like an infusion of energy to me.

Then the singular word, “rise.” “Get up.” I remember down in Ashland, Oregon, and attending the Shakespearean plays in Ashland. I remember the opening line of the most ancient of all plays, HELEN OF TROY by the Greek playwright Euripedes. “Rise. Get up. Stand on your two feet. Get up.”

Those words have echoed in my mind forever. There are times when you are lying in a hospital bed and think that you will never be able to get up again. And the voice of your angel says to you, “Get up. Stand on your two feet. Get off the bed and get up.”

What words of hope.

Jesus is saying those words to you today, “get up.”

And then we hear the words from our divine messenger, “Jesus is calling you.” Jesus wants to talk with us. Jesus wants us to listen him, to his words, his wisdom, his way of life. Jesus wants us to hear him, to receive his inner healing for our lives, and then to follow him as Blind Bart did at the end of the story for today.

What words do I take from the gospel lesson for today, “Rise. Get up. He is calling you to follow him.”

What else do I take from the gospel lesson for today?

Jesus has come to heal my blindness. Blind Bart was physically blind. I don’t have a problem with physical blindness. I have a significant problem with spiritual blindness. This is not only true of me but the world around me. It is true for you as well.

Spiritual blindness is a much more common and devastating illness today than physical blindness. That is what Mother Teresa used to say often.

Myself, and so many others, including you, are blind to the power and goodness of God all around us in every moment of every day.

Myself, and so many others, including you, are blind to the immense human misery that is a significant part of most people who live on this planet Earth.

Do you recall the words of the folk song, “How many times must a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.”

How many times do we simply turn our heads away from the pain of the human race, from the immense misery that is part of our world?

How many times do we simply turn our heads away from the pain of this planet Earth, with its receding glaciers and gapping holes in the ozone layers above each polar cap, pretending we just don’t see? That the Planet Earth is in enormous trouble?

All I know is that this gospel text is about blindness, that Jesus came to heal the blind, blind disciples, blind Pharisees, blind religious leaders, blind everyone, the blind me, the blind you.

If Jesus were to touch your eyes, what kind of blindness would Jesus heal in your life?

Blind Bartimaeus had faith in Jesus to heal him, to make him well. What part of your life does Jesus need to heal in order for you to become well? THAT is a big question, an important question. For you. For me.

I like the story for today. Jericho. On a road on the outskirts of Jericho. A blind beggar by the name Bartimaeus. I can hear him shouting at the top of his lungs, “Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy on me.” Yes, how all of us need the mercy of Jesus. We cry for his mercy. We need his mercy, every day and at the end of history.

I also hear the words spoken to Blind Bartimaeus by God’s unknown messenger, “Rise. Get up. Jesus is calling you.” How I need those words. Rise, Get up, Jesus is calling.

Yes, I like that picture of the blind man about to be healed. That is what Jesus wants to do for you and me. Heal us.

Amen. (the picture then is also turned off)

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