A sermon preached on October 24, 2021 by Rev. Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
No doubt you have seen one of the many homeless men and women on Broward streets who either carry a backpack with all their l possessions in it or push an old grocery cart that is piled high with clothes, blankets, plastic and the likes. They move from place to place so they don’t get in trouble for trespassing for one thing and they make their way to fresh places to ask passersby for spare change or something to eat. Take a moment and picture one of these people you have recently passed. What did you think when you saw him or her? Did you feel pity? Perhaps you thought to yourself, “If they spent the amount of time walking the streets looking for a job instead, they wouldn’t be in this situation.” Then again, as you walk by him or her on the street and get a whiff of their oder, you might think, “I can’t stand being near this person! Oh, the smell; why don’t you take a bath?”, forgetting at that moment that they are homeless and wouldn’t smell so ripe if they had a safe place to stay to begin with.
This morning’s text introduces us to a man who was looked upon in Jesus’ day in similar ways many in our culture look at the homeless in Broward County. He had a disability which didn’t allow him to work. He had no sense of how he looked and came across to others. He carried his earthly possessions with him for fear others would steal them if he left them someplace. Turn in your Bible to Mark 10:46-52 and let’s hear the Story of blind Bartimaeus.
This section of the Story in Mark’s gospel began all the way back in Mark 8:22 where we were first introduced to another blind man in the village of Bethsaida. In between these two stories of blind men is a series of teaching and events that have highlighted who Jesus was and what his purpose was supposed to accomplish. If you want to know Jesus’ true identity, you read the stories sandwiched between these two blind men healing stories.
Jesus has made it pretty clear what was about to take place and what he came to do. Three times he tells his disciples, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days, rise again.” The first time Jesus reveals his identity and purpose, he gets rebuked by Peter. The second time he reveals his identity and purpose, the disciples immediately began bickering amongst themselves as to which one of the Twelve was the greatest disciple. The third time Jesus reveals his identity and purpose, the Zebedee brothers began talking about which one of them was going to be Jesus’ right-hand man when Jesus took power from the Romans. In each and every instance, those who could plainly see and hear all Jesus did and was doing were totally clueless as to who Jesus was. As New Testament scholar and Episcopal priest, Andrew K. Adam writes, “Mark deploys these healing stories to underline the contrast between outsiders who see Jesus and insiders who remain blind to his true identity.” This brings us to our text this morning. Listen to the Word of the Lord!
46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “Rabbouni, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
There are so many rich subtleties in our Story today. One of the things I encourage those studying the Bible is that when a writer mentions a geographical location or the name of a town or city, pause and ask yourself, “Why?” In our instance, the first words in our text provide a valuable clue. “They came to Jericho.”
If you were Jewish and heard the city of Jericho, what comes to mind? You would remember that Jericho was the first city the Israelites came to as they entered into the Promised Land after Moses died. It was their first military triumph as they began to live into a new phase in their relationship with the Lord. And who led the Israelites over the Jordan river to capture the city of Jericho? God’s appointed leader, Joshua. And who is leading the people in Jericho up to Jerusalem in our Story today? Jesus, whose name in Hebrew is, “Joshua.” Mark is trying to get our attention, my friends. Can you and I make out what is going on in the Story? Do we see it any better than those accompanying Jesus that day centuries ago?
The disciples have been travelling with Jesus three years now and we have wonder if they simply became so overly familiar with Jesus that they missed his distinctiveness and took for granted all they heard, saw, and experienced? Did the disciples get to the point in their relationship with Jesus that would say to others, “Oh, that? Jesus says that kind of stuff all the time. Just hold on a bit and watch what he does with a little bit of water, a few fish and a loaf of bread!” It did, after all, take a blind man in Mark’s Story, to show us what it means to really see Jesus and learn his identity.
Many of us have followed Jesus a long time as well and today’s lesson is a grand reminder to each of us to ask ourselves whether we have become a tad bit too familiar in our thinking and living with Jesus, like the disciples. I say that because it would seem to me that with all the self-proclaimed Christians in Fort Lauderdale and south Florida that we would be making a bigger impact in our community and world if we really took Jesus and his identity more seriously. Maybe Christians today need to stop, close our eyes, and re-envision and restore who this Joshua truly is in the eyes of God. Perhaps like Bartimaeus, we need to become blind in order to really see Jesus again.
Perhaps we need to become blind to the notion that what we have and consume is a result of our efforts and remind ourselves all we have is a gift from the hand of God.
Perhaps we need to become blind to our own sense of self-righteousness and learn humility and the downward way.
Perhaps we need become blind in order to unwrap the flag from around Jesus and let his own sense of ethics and justice become the norm as opposed to what will benefit me.
Perhaps we need to become blind in order that we can see our need to unplug and go analog and actually sit down and have thoughtful conversations with those in our families, friends and co-workers about Jesus and spiritual things.
I love Bartimaeus. He got it. When he heard Jesus’ voice, he bolted up and cried out, “Son of David, have mercy upon me!” Bartimaeus is the only one in Mark’s gospel who calls Jesus, Son of David. It’s a royal title. It’s the title of the predicted coming Messiah. He saw who Jesus really was. He knew Jesus’ identity while his disciples argued about who will be the greatest when Jesus comes into his own. When Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, those around him tried to shut him up and rebuked him. Bartimaeus called even louder to make sure Jesus could hear his profession of faith; we are to remember that’s what calling Jesus the “Son of David” is; it’s a statement that God is saving his beloved through Jesus.
The quiet punchline in our Story this morning is that when Jesus calls Bartimaeus forward, Mark makes sure we know, “That throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.” Remember earlier when I mentioned that Bartimaeus was looked upon as we look upon the broken and lost ones being homeless and surviving on the scraps from others? The punchline is that his cloak was most likely the only thing he owned. His cloak sheltered him from the weather. It provided warmth while he slept. And when Jesus calls, he casts off his only possession in order fully follow Jesus. He threw everything behind to follow Jesus and got his sight back. Wow.
And we are just simply asking folks to fill out an estimate of giving card for next year. Beloved, what are you willing to let go to follow Jesus? Amen.
© 2021 Patrick H. Wrisley, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33301. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 So, Mark 8:31. See also Mark 9.30-32, 10.32-34.
 Article written by A.K.A. Adam in Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 4: Season after Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ) (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume) by David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor. See https://a.co/hYFe3Ot.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Lincoln Galloway writes, “The blind man is portrayed as a model of Christian discipleship. He comes to Jesus and does so by casting aside his cloak. It is quite reasonable to regard his cloak as representing his most treasured possession. It has kept him warm through the cold nights. It may also hold the meager spoils of his begging. In his act of throwing off his cloak, we see the image of one who leaves his former life behind. To those who have always known honor, power, affluence, and prestige, this image reminds us of the transforming effect of the gospel to call forth a life of renunciation and dramatic change.” See, Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 4: Season after Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ) (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume) by David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor at https://a.co/3WtwKgy.