January 29, 2017
The Apostle John tells us at the end of his gospel that there were many other signs or miracles that Jesus performed which were not written in his book. In fact, he says in the last verse of his gospel there were many others things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, he supposed even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.
Hyperbole? I suppose. And yet we do understand there were many other miracles which Jesus performed we know nothing about. Scholars suggest Jesus almost eliminated sickness in Galilee during His three year ministry there. Can you imagine – no more lepers, no more lame or deaf or blind people. No cripples, no paralytics, no doctors, no insurance. No cancer, no heart disease, no Alzheimer’s. For some, like the widow’s son and Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus, no death. For a couple large crowds, no hunger. He gave a taste of how things were supposed to be. There were some amazing miracles.
But for a minute, what do you suppose some of those unrecorded miracles might have been? The ones that didn’t make it into John’s book? Speculations, myths and legends have arisen through the years as to what they were. Supposed lost gospels have appeared, citing some before, unknown miracles and teachings. Unknown teachings – that’s a fun one. The lost Gospel of the Holy Twelve discovered in 1870 suggests the reason Jesus cleared the Temple, which we’ll look at in a couple of weeks, is that He was a strict vegetarian, opposed to blood sacrifices. There is the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of St. Thomas (I doubt it), the Gospel of Judas which I understands leaves you hanging, the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. In these and others, you can read the things John left out – probably not. Most of these are Gnostic gospels that weren’t even written until the second or third centuries.
Let me give you one example of a lost miracle. According to the Gospel of Peter, not in your Bibles, when the nails were removed from Jesus’ hands and dropped to the ground, they caused an earthquake.
There’s a more important question than, what did Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leave out. The more important question is, why did they choose to include the ones they included, leaving out others? If there were hundreds, maybe thousands of miracles and healings, why record the ones we have? Were they personal favorites? Were they the most memorable – the ones they talked about later around the dinner table? Remember the time that Jesus…? And not only that, why did Mark, for example, record the miracles in the place he recorded them – why did he position certain miracles with certain stories.
For example – Mark 10. Turn there, our text this morning. Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen Jesus has wrapped up His Galilean ministry. He’s made His way south to Judea. He’s on His way to Jerusalem – we know that. Three times, He’s told His disciples, I’m going to Jerusalem, where I’ll suffer many things. I’ll be handed over to the chief priests and scribes – and then to the Gentiles. I’ll be tried and condemned to die. I’ll be mocked, scourged, spit upon and killed – crucified – we saw that last week for the first time. But on the third day, I’ll be raised from the dead.
It’s where He’s headed. He’s walking on ahead of them, with a purpose. The next chapter, which we’ll get to next week, starts with the story of the Triumphal Entry. It’ll kick off His passion week – the week which will result in His crucifixion, but end with His resurrection. But, we’re not quite there yet.
Right after His third passion prediction, and right before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we have two stories, side by side. Why not just proceed to the triumphal entry – why these two stories? One of them we looked at last week. You remember – it was the story James and John coming to Jesus and asking for a favor. “What do want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” Give us the most honored seats in the kingdom. It was an audacious request. Jesus assured them they would drink of the cup He was about to drink, be baptized with the baptism He was about to receive – that is, they would suffer – but to receive those seats of honor was not His to give.
From there, Jesus launched into yet another lesson on the nature of the kingdom. They obviously weren’t getting it yet. These two stories are placed side by side on purpose. You see, greatness in the kingdom is not found the way greatness is found on earth – not the way it’s found among unbelievers. Greatness is not found in authority, in giving orders, in commanding a lot of people, having a lot of people under you, serve you, report to you. Greatness in the kingdom is found in serving – more than that, in being a slave to others. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.
Greatness is found in service – in meeting the needs of people – no matter what those needs might be – no matter what your schedule might be – no matter what your time constraints might be – no matter what they can do or not do for you – no matter how great or small the act of service – no matter how dignified or demeaning – no matter what other people think of you – no matter what the people might expect from you. Greatness is found in service.
We saw that last week. But before we get to the Triumphal Entry, Mark gives us yet another story – this one a healing miracle. In fact, it’s the last healing miracle he records in his gospel. Sure, chapter 11 tells us He cursed a fig tree – but that was taking life. This was giving it – life to dead eyes. But, why this story – the healing of a blind man, Bartimaeus – why here? Read it with me – and as we read, it will appear a little routine by now. Mark 10:46-52.
Why is this here, at this point, in Mark’s gospel? I would suggest two very important reasons. First, Mark and Jesus want to illustrate what Jesus has just taught – namely, that kingdom greatness is found in service, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. He is on His way to Jerusalem, to do something really big, don’t you think? Nothing less than the culmination of redemptive history, and He takes time out to heal, by societal standards as we listen to the crowd, a no-count blind beggar. Second, I would suggest this story is intentionally recorded right after the story of James and John’s request, to draw a contrast. A contrast between the way the boys came, and the way this blind beggar came. And to encourage us to come the way of the beggar. You see, when you come as broken a beggar, poor in spirit, you get what you ask for. Notice something. Jesus asked both James and John and Bartimaeus the same question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” To James and John’s request, His disciples, He said no. To Bartimaeus, He said yes. What was the difference? We’re supposed to notice. Let me give you outline of the text:
- First, we see Bartimaeus’ Obnoxious Request (46-48)
- Second, Jesus’ Compassionate Response (49-52)
Jesus and His disciples were leaving Jericho, apparently making their way to Jerusalem, about 17 miles away. Luke tells us that following this particular healing, Jesus spent some time in Jericho with Zaccheus. John also tells us Jesus stops on the way in Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. But, it’s safe to say at this point, we’re only a few days from the Triumphal Entry. The trip from Jericho to Jerusalem was a day’s arduous journey – from 800 feet below sea level to 2700 feet above sea level. But remember, Jesus was walking with a purpose.
He’s accompanied by His disciples and a large crowd. As I mentioned last week, either a larger group of His followers, or just pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. They would have their lambs for sacrifice – not realizing they were with the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for the sins of the world.
Now, there were lots of blind people during this time. There were a number of causes which led to blindness – to include the birth process itself, which is why today doctors put an antiseptic in a newborn baby’s eyes. At this time, Jericho had an abundance of the balsam bush, from which a medicine came used to treat blindness. As a result, many blind people congregated in Jericho – to include Bartimaeus. Some things to note about him. First, he was a beggar. That’s what blind or disabled people did. It was their only hope for survival. Second, he was sitting by the road. That’s all he could do. He couldn’t walk to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Third, Mark notes his name was Bartimaeus, and he was the son of Timaeus. That’s actually redundant – Bar-timaeus in Aramaic means, son of Timaeus. But we remember Mark was likely writing to a Roman, non-Aramaic speaking people. His name was Bartimaeus. Did you know this is the only person in all the Synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – where the one healed is named? Oh, we know about Peter’s mother-in-law, Jairus’ daughter, but we don’t know their names. We know them as the leper, the paralytic, the blind, the deaf, the lame. But this one – we know his name. We’ll come back to that.
Now, while there were a lot of blind people, they were still considered part of the riff-raff, the broken people of society. There wasn’t a lot for them to do – most made their living on the paltry alms they might receive from begging. So see him – ragged, poverty-stricken, blind, broken beggar who simply made it from day to day as people took pity on him and threw him a few coins. And if the crowds, obviously compassionate as this story clearly demonstrates – if they didn’t show pity, he’d go hungry – as no doubt he had many days before. But really, what difference does it make – he’s just a beggar.
Today, beggars position themselves at traffic lights. In Jesus’ day, they most often positioned themselves near the gates of the cities, hoping to beg from travelers who were more likely to have some money with them. At this particular time, the Passover was approaching. There would have been thousands of travelers on the road that day. This blind beggar had sat there for who knows how many days, how long that day, eking out a pitiful existence. Hoping that since these pilgrims were going to a religious festival, maybe they’d be generous.
But on this particular day, something special, something extraordinary happened which would change the rest of his life. As he sat there that day, he noticed an unusual stir, an unusual excitement in the air. He overheard someone say, Jesus is passing by. Jesus – why, He’s the guy from Galilee known all over the country for healing people. Causing the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the lepers to be whole, the dead to rise, and yes, even the blind to see. He’d heard the stories, could it be He would show him mercy? He began crying out – the word is crazo and speaks of loud screams – it was used of the screams of insane people and women giving birth – no connection there. He began crying out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
His words were very significant. He’s the first one to use this title in the gospels. It paves the way for the crowds to use it next chapter. You see, by this time, Son of David was a Messianic title. He realized Jesus was more than just a healer. The Son of David would sit on David’s throne – the Son of David would be the Messiah. Maybe this blind guy could see after all. “Jesus,” he was saying, “I’ve heard what you have done, what you can do, and I know who you are. Have mercy on me, too.” Bartimaeus realized Jesus was his last hope, his only hope to meet his desperate need for healing. So he cried out – loudly – obnoxiously for help.
I’m sure it wasn’t pretty. A blind, motley beggar, ignoring any sense of decorum, crying out for mercy. Stumbling, stammering, crying, flailing his arms about. Dirty, unsightly, unseemly, unrespectable. The crowd thought so. Get the drama unfolding here. This man was in desperate straits – he needed the help only Jesus could give. This broken man began crying out for mercy. And the crowd – those enamored with Jesus but without a similar need – without a similar brokenness – told the beggar sternly to be quiet. See that – they told them to shut up.
Why? Because beggars were just an interruption. They were needy. They couldn’t add to the festive procession – to all the good things going on – if anything, he was taking away from the celebration. We’re on our way to Jerusalem, the Passover, with Jesus, sit there and shut up – you’re taking away from the movement – Jesus doesn’t have time for you – we don’t have time for you – we’re busy following Jesus.
And I wonder how many people in churches across this town, around the world, don’t have time for broken people. They’re too busy with their programs. Blind people get in the way of all the good things God is doing – the wonderful worship, the great teaching, the wonderful church life we’ve come to experience. We don’t have time for blind beggars, for drunks and prostitutes and sinners and needy people. We’ve got a movement going on here. Shut up – we don’t want to hear about your pathetic needs. Is it possible, when you walk through those doors, there’s only one answer to the question, “how are you doing?” And the answer is “Fine,” and if isn’t, we don’t want to hear it.
I wonder, into how many churches can broken people come, and find grace and healing? Find a place where people will care for them, pray for their healing – their emotional, spiritual, and even physical healing. I want us to be that kind of place. Not where needy people come and we tell them to shut up. Oh, we would never be so crass as to say those words – but are we just as effective when we turn away from the less desirables – when we ask, how’s it going, and they start to give us an answer besides fine, and we don’t care. When people take off their masks at the door, and we turn away from the messiness, from the unsightliness. When we fail to go after broken people or straying sheep. I don’t have time for that.
If we don’t have time, if we don’t take time, then we don’t have time for the work of the kingdom. We don’t have time to be Christ’s followers, because that’s what He did – it’s what He’s called us to. He didn’t come, you see, to be served, but to serve broken, blind beggars.
They told him sternly to be quiet. Which caused Bartimaeus to cry out all the more – that is, all the louder, all the more irritating. You see, when desperate people sense Jesus is their only hope, they will not be turned away.
Which brings us to our second point – Jesus’ Compassionate Response. Jesus stopped. Don’t miss that. In the midst of the clamor of the crowds, the important trip to Jerusalem to fulfill His purpose, He stopped. While the crowds were saying shut up, Jesus stopped…and called him. I love the way Mark says it – “So they [that is, the crowds] called the blind man saying, ‘Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.” While everyone else ignored him, in fact, abused him, Jesus called for him.
If you don’t hear anything else today, hear this – even though the crowd may not give a rip about you, even though they may tell you to be quiet – we don’t care about your needs – there is One who cares. Sometimes, the crowd is the church. And maybe you’ve been in a place where you haven’t felt cared for – in fact, when you shared your problems, you felt shunned. I want to say to you – not here. We are not, we will not be that kind of church. And I want to say there is One who always hears, and always responds. It may not be a response we want to hear – but Jesus always hears – and always has our best in mind. Always. And we want to be a church, a crowd of followers of Jesus, that is safe – where you can come and share your hurts, your pains, your struggles, and you’ll find not condemnation, but grace. And you’ll find people willing to bind up your wounds and care for you. In fact, we want to do that for you this morning.
Why? Because as fully devoted followers of Jesus – we want to be like Christ. What did He say? “What do you want Me to do for you?” Again, it’s the same question He asked James and John when they came to Jesus a few verses ago. He told them no, because their eyes were simply on their own greatness.
But here? What do you want Me to do for you? Bartimaeus simply asked for mercy. His blind eyes were on Jesus, and His greatness to heal. “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight.” Rabboni is a intensified form or Rabbi. Think of it as great teacher. It only appears one other time in the NT – when Mary Magdalene sees Jesus in the garden after the resurrection. Maybe this blind guy could see more than the rest. Well, he says, I want to see. He had a need only Jesus could meet. Only Jesus. I wonder if we have anyone like that here this morning? Someone who desperately needs a touch from Jesus.
Now stop and think about Jesus’ question. What do you want Me to do for you? Bartimaeus had a decision. He could ask for money. That’s what he’s done perhaps his whole life. Jesus, give me enough money so I don’t have to beg anymore. But in the end…leave me in my miserable life. I wonder how many people approach Jesus that way today. Jesus, give me what I want. Not even necessarily prosperity – but meet this want, even need I have, and leave me in my misery. Bartimaeus didn’t ask for temporary relief. For something that would have made him like the rich young ruler – clinging to riches, but losing life. No, he asked for sight. The same thing we ask Jesus for today. Spiritual life, spiritual sight, spiritual healing.
Matthew tells us Jesus was moved with compassion – that’s a Christ-like quality – not turning away from needs, but turning toward needs, moved with compassion, Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has made you well.” That’s why Jesus asked the question, by the way. He knew Bartimaeus’ need – He was drawing out faith. And immediately he regained his sight and notice, followed Him. Jesus said go, but Bartimaeus followed.
Broken people, having received grace and healing, follow Jesus. He went from the side of the road to the middle of the road, with joy, following Jesus. We’ve seen it time and time again in Mark, when Jesus makes you whole, your only response is to become a devoted follower.
As we close this morning, I want to address briefly the second reason I believe this story is placed right here in Mark. Remember, I suggested, first, it was here to illustrate what Jesus had just taught, namely, He came not to be served, but to serve. He was on His way to be crucified – He was on His way to the climax of history, and He took time to stop, and serve a blind beggar. The fact is, Jesus, the God of this universe, takes time for broken people who realize their need and ask for help.
The second reason I believe the story is here is to serve as a contrast between James and John, and a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. They were His disciples. They’d been following Him. And Jesus said to them, just like the blind man, what do you want? And that’s where the similarity ends. Their request did not come from a position of brokenness, but rather, from one of greatness. Grant that we may sit on your right and left. We’ve done a good job, don’t you think? We deserve it. Give us what we’ve earned. And all they got was a subtle rebuke and some more teaching on service.
When the blind man came, as I said before, it probably wasn’t very pretty. It wasn’t attended with the pomp and circumstance. Filthy, dirty, broken beggar. He likely bowed – but in brokenness and true worship. Jesus, Son of David, Messiah, God, have mercy on me – I want to see.
I want to say to you this morning that Jesus is in the business of meeting the needs of broken, humble people. Of providing grace and healing for people with physical, spiritual and emotional needs – for people who are willing to admit their need, their brokenness, and come in faith to Christ. Let me ask you a question – do you ever feel in a crowd this large, in a universe so big where God is taking care of planets and stars – that you’re too insignificant for Him to notice? I want to tell you from this story, Jesus will stop for you. Just like He knows the names of all the stars, He knows your name. He cares for you, and wants to meet your needs.
This morning, we want to provide an opportunity for you to be heard. I’ve asked the elders to come prepared, once again, to pray for you. To pray that Jesus, not elders, but Jesus, will meet your needs. But in order for that to happen, you’ve got to come, like Bartimaeus came. Not caring what others thought. Not caring what the crowd said – come on, we’ve got Sunday School, another program, to go to (we’ve got to beat the crowds to the restaurants). No, you must come.
I believe this morning God wants to meet your needs. Would you let us pray for you; pray that God will hear your desperate cries, and heal your need? Maybe you just want to come and pray by yourself. You can do that – the front is open. Maybe you want to bring someone to pray with you – you can do that too. We’re going into a time of worship – while we sing, you come.