By Pastor Don Pieper
APRIL 7th, 2019 PASTOR DON PIEPER
Right On the Mark MARK 10:17-27; 46-52
“I WANT TO SEE!”
When I was growing up my cousins from Wisconsin would often come to visit and we’d ask my Dad to do a slide show... No, not that kind of slide show...! I'm talking old school! We'd all plop down in the living room and my Dad would narrate:“So here’s Joyce in front of the house; and here’s a photo of her at the side of the house. And here’s a shot of her after she walked to other side of the house…”
“Um, Dad,” one of us would say, “that’s just a picture of the house.”
“Yes, I know, but if you look real close you can almost make out the shadow of her shoe...”
Actually, my Dad did a great job. Once, he treated us to a series of our two families sledding, set to the tune of 'Wipeout'. Inevitably little Becky would be so memorized that she’d wind up in front of the projector! First it was: “Oh, how cute.” Then it would be: “Okay, Becky, move out of the way!” And then: “Down in front! I can’t see! You make a better wall than a window! Becky - Move!”
“I want to see!” Who doesn’t, right? Who hasn't been in a situation in which you desperately wanted to see what was happening, but couldn't? Ever get seats at a concert directly behind a pillar, or have the DVD malfunction in the middle of a movie, or sit behind Goliath in the movie theatre?
But can you imagine never being able to see? In the final, pre-passion narrative in his gospel, Mark introduces us to a blind beggar, who longs to see. As he blurts out: “My rabbi, I want to see!”
As Mark helps us track the story of this blind beggar there is a progression that is both subtle and sublime - a progression from longing to seeking to seeing to following. Mark tells us that after telling his disciples why he came, that is, “to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many”, that “Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho, and a large crowd followed him. And there, sitting beside the road was a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.” (Mark 10:45-46)
Here is a man who people constantly walk by. Occasionally someone drops some extra change in his cup, but not very much, and not very often. Even those who do, rarely, if ever, pause to offer a kind word or any expression of interest in his well being. He is a beggar, hoping for help and longing for a sense of belonging, for some meaningful human connection, and finding none.
Ever been there? Ever experience that – a longing to be noticed, hoping that someone will care enough to show interest, maybe even offer help where help is needed? Ever long for someone to really get you, understand you, instead of sizing you up based on your appearance or your failings.
If so, then you get Bartimaeus. He had longings not unlike many of us. Mark notes that his longing turned to seeking: “When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, 'Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!' ” (Mark 10:47)
He hears that Jesus of Nazareth is nearby. No doubt Bartimaeus has heard the sound of the crowds following Jesus and asked someone and this is how Jesus was identified. This is significant because that's NOT how Bartimaeus addresses Jesus. Instead, he refers to him as the Son of David, a title that means he is identifying him as the messiah. Though the blind beggar from Jericho has never met or seen Jesus, he believes that he is the promised one. He believes!
And so he cries out for help: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47) He isn't satisfied to stay proverbially stuck. He converts his longing into active seeking like so many of you did when you came to Alpha, or showed up the first time for worship here. The story of Bart reveals that God honors that! As the Apostle Paul later proclaimed to the seekers in Athens: “God's plan is that everyone would seek after God and feel their way toward him and find him – though he is not far from any one of us!” (Acts 17:27) So it was for Bart – he blindly began feeling his way...
And even though those around him find him annoying, and his hope and faith unrealistic, Bartimaeus is relentless in his pursuit, and only gets more louder: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
So it is that this blind beggar, this lonely man with a deep sense of longing, goes seeking after Jesus in the hope Jesus might be all that he's heard he is and more. He may not know the Bible very well, if at all, but he knows that this Jesus causes quite a stir wherever his name is mentioned and wherever his path crosses those who come to him in honest earnestness of their need for him. Can you imagine how Bart's heart leaped when he heard the words, “Cheer up! Come on, he's calling you!”
My friends, I'm here today to tell you that the same can be said of you. I believe that's why not only I was called to serve here but why you're here as well. We're like those in the crowd who see those around us who're hurting and disconnected, and are sitting by the wayside, blind to all that Jesus is and came to do and is doing around them. We may, too, find ourselves at times being annoyed by those who are loud in their need, but Jesus sends us as he did them: “Tell him to come here; to come and see!”
And look what happens when those with deep longings come seeking! They encounter the one who never gets annoyed. “'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked.” (Mark 10:51)
Here again, we glimpse Jesus' heart. Here, again, Jesus reveals why he came – to serve others. He loves to help those who are hurting, to fill our longing for belonging by empowering us to truly see with the eyes of our hearts, with the crystal clear vision of faith in the one who wants to do for you what cannot be done without him! Like Bartimaeus, there's a longing in all of us to truly see!
'What do I want?' says Bartimaeus. “I want to see!” Then Jesus said to him, 'Go, for your faith has healed you.' And instantly the man could see...!” (Mark 10:51-52)
Do you see the progression? First there is a longing for belonging and healing, then there is a seeking after Jesus which results in a new, supernatural kind of vision; leading him to joyfully join those who're actively following Jesus. “And instantly the man could see, and he followed him in the way!” (Mark 10:51-52) In Greek, ev tn odw, a phrasing that is found throughout the Book of Acts referring to those who came to believe, were reconciled with the Father thru the Spirit of Christ, and as baptized followers of Jesus lived transformed lives leading others.....in the Way, the Truth and the Life!
This progression brought to mind a scene from the film, Field of Dreams. A farmer is troubled with a deep longing, a regret, over his disconnect with his father. And then, he begins to hear a voice...
“If you build it, he will come”; and then later, “ease his pain.” Throughout the film we’re led to believe that he is being told that if he builds a baseball field in his Iowa cornfield, his baseball hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson will come. But it is not Joe nor his pain that the voice is talking about....
[show DVD clip from the film, Field of Dreams: 1:34:40 – 1:37:30]
The film ends with estranged father and son are reconciled and the farmer's pain is healed. -3-
When Phillip asked Jesus to show him the Father, Jesus answered “How can you ask me to show you the Father? If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
Like Phillip and Bart, there is a longing within each one of us, in some cases, buried way down deep, a desire for someone to ease our pain. We want to know that there is more to life than meets the eye. We want to know that in spite of all the pain and tragedy in life that God actually exists and that God actually cares…about us, about you. We’re so used to being seen for only what is on the surface by those around us, but there’s so much more to us than even we can guess and there’s so many in our midst who need to see, and be seen, just as badly as you and me.
So what's hindering that from happening? Mark offers a glimpse. Bart initially hit a snag that should make each of us stop and take note. After hearing that Jesus is nearby but before the beggar gets the help he desires, he hears something else. He hears discouragement from those following Jesus.
In his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Church, Pastor Rick Warren identifies the crowd today as those who show up for Sunday morning worship. Mark tells us that it is those in the crowd who yell at the blind beggar to be quiet. It would seem that those in crowd far too often, like my cousin Becky, make a far better wall than they do a window! It's both poignant and ironic that the story of Bartimaus takes place in the same city where, centuries before, God brought the walls crashing down!
In his book, Do Greater Things, Robby Dawkins tells how Brian Welch, of the Heavy Metal band, Korn, came to faith and started inviting Robby to join him backstage at his concerts to witness to 30-40 of his selected fans, one of whom was drunk and belligerent. But when this fan saw another guy get healed from a painful back injury, he was suddenly more receptive, so they prayed for him.
He too, had been hurt while in a drunken stupor, and hadn't worked since. He was an atheist but the look of defiance and ridicule suddenly shifted to hope as they laid hands on him, including the man who'd just been healed. Moments later the drunk man touched his toes and twisted his back, pain-free and sober. Robby turned to the first man and said, “Jesus just invited you into a relationship with Him. He just showed you his love for you and how He wants to use you the rest of your life.”
Both men had come that night to see Korn and in the process they met Jesus. “To think that I was healed and accepted Jesus at a Korn concert!' one said. You would think that everyone who wit-nessed this that night would fall to their knees in awe and accept Jesus, but not all of them did. Most responded, but many others stood there like statues. Some even stormed off in anger.
As Brian later commented, “What was wrong with them? It was as if they were blind to it all!”
“I know,” Robby agreed. “Some times people's hearts have to catch up with what their eyes have seen. Their eyes have seen His power, but the reality of it hasn't yet sunk in. Some times people don't respond right away, so all we can do is plant the seeds and wait for them to grow. But it’s vital to remember that, as Jesus taught, even the tiniest seed can grow into a mighty tree where others can take refuge.”
(from Robby Dawkins' Do Greater Things; Mark 4:32)
We, too, need to leave the job of transforming people to the Holy Spirit and instead spend our time loving and accepting them as they are. Perhaps we need to come before Jesus as did the blind beggar and beg him to have mercy on us that we may become, by his rich grace, more windows than walls to those in a world of hurt. There is a desperate need in each one of us to see, and to be seen, and some are only going to see it if they are able to see Jesus' love and grace in us.
Truth is, there's a little bit of Bartimaus in each one of us. I love it that when those in crowd who'd been trying to silence this annoying blind beggar, catch Jesus' vision, they do an abrupt turn-around, and say to the man, in effect, “come and see!”
There is a voice whispering in our ears, “If you build it,…He will come!” If we build a come as you are culture where God's love and grace is visible in us, Jesus will surely come, and he'll give us fresh vision by filling us with His Spirit that those who long to belong, who seek to be set free from the enslavement of the enemy, will also come, responding to our invitation to come and see - to speak hope and life and joy to those around us with the words once uttered to a blind beggar sitting by the roadside, with a message of utterly good news: “Cheer up! Come on and see, it's true; he's calling you!”
(Mark 10:49) It's up to us, to invite Bartimaus; and as for me, all I can say is, “Lord, I want to see...!”