Sermons

"Jesus, Help Me to See": Sermon for the 23rd Sunday After Pentecost, Year B

"Jesus, Help Me to See": Sermon for the 23rd Sunday After Pentecost, Year B

Oct 28, 2018

Passage:Mark 10:46-52

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Pentecost

Category: Discipleship, Faith, Humility

Keywords: anger, discipleship, hope, humility, shame

Summary:

The story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, helps us to understand what our response to Jesus should be. We should ask the question, what blinds us to the gospel--the good news--of God's love for us?

Detail:

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

This morning I want to tell you three quick stories. You'll recognize the people in them.

I don't mean the specific person...

What I mean is, listen for similarities to people you know...

Story #1:

There is a woman. I'll call her "Sarah." She has an idea that she could make a difference in the world. But Sarah does not participate in any of the organizations or groups that pull at her heart strings. She won't join a church. She won't do much other than go to work and go home.

You see, Sarah had a terrible childhood. She was always told she wasn't good enough, smart enough, able enough, or helpful enough to amount to anything in this world. And those "tapes" of shame continue to play in her head over and over again every time she even thinks of joining something. She's sure she'll be found out. People will "know" she's not good enough.

Sarah's shame has blinded her to her true self... the loving, caring, giving child of God she was actually created to be.

Story #2:

There's a man. I'll call him "Sampson."

Sampson has many goals in life. He wants to be a success. He wants to be respected. He wants to be taken seriously by his peers.

Sampson works hard and is a tough negotiator in his business dealings. He prides himself on his ability to make clever arguments and push for the best advantage and big profits.

And there's nothing wrong with anything Sampson is doing. He is a success.

He has a growing portfolio. People do admire his business acumen.

But Sampson also has very few real friends. He doesn't know when to "turn it off." Every encounter he has with others is an opportunity to seek some advantage for himself. His ambition and his deal-making, ultimately, make his relationships shaky at best.

Sampson's ambition has blinded him to his true self... the creative, loving, hard-working child of God, in community, that God created him to be.

Story #3:

There's this woman. I'll call her "Samantha." She enjoys being in Church. She loves to participate in different ministries. She loves the worship, the fellowship, and especially the outreach to the world. She feels connected through her Baptismal vows as a child of God.

But Samantha has also brought in a particular new program at the Church. She believes this program will be a wonderful outreach for the community. She proposes it to the Vestry and to fellow parishioners. The Vestry agrees that the program might be useful, but points out that there are already several ministries that already accomplish some of the same work. The vestry does not commit any money from the church budget right away. 

They suggest to Samantha that if people from the parish start to participate in the program, then in the future money could be allocated to it. Samantha feels hurt and angry. She believes the vestry is undermining this program. She's also angry because few of her fellow parishioners seem interested in this pet project of hers.

Samantha's anger grows. She first stops talking to people on the vestry, hoping they will see that she is angry with them. Then she stops talking with more people from that parish. Eventually, she decides to quit coming to church altogether. People call her to see what's going on. She refuses to take the calls.

Samantha's anger has blinded her to her true self... the loving, forgiving, member of the Body of Christ, that God created her to be.  

...................

Today’s gospel from Mark illuminates more about these three stories for us. But first we need to remember what has just happened in the story in Mark, which we heard about last week. James and John had just asked Jesus if he would do whatever they asked of him. Jesus replies: “What is it you want me to do for you?” They tell him they want to sit at his right and left hand when he comes into his glory. Jesus replies that they would drink the cup that he would drink, but he could not grant who would sit at his right and left. This is when the ten other disciples become angry with James and John. The result is that Jesus explains to all of them that whoever wishes to be great "must be a servant," and whoever wishes to be first, "must be slave of all."

Then we get to today’s reading. The whole group of them arrive at Jericho—only about 15 miles from Jerusalem. There’s now a huge crowd around Jesus. He continues teaching to all as he walks. There at the gate, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus finds out that this is Jesus of Nazareth walking by with this huge crowd.

Bartimaeus yells out, “Jesus, Son of David, have Mercy on Me!”

At first, the crowd tells Bartimaeus to be quiet. But he won’t shut up.

Bartimaeus shouts even louder.

Jesus stands still and says: “Call him here.”

The crowd then changes their tune pretty quickly. It’s exciting. Jesus is calling to the blind man. The crowd tells Bartimaeus: “Take heart; Get up; He’s calling you.”

Bartimaeus throws off his cloak and springs to his feet!

Jesus asks him: “What do you want me to do for you?”

“What do you want me to do for you?”

These are familiar words. Remember? These are the exact same words Jesus had asked James and John earlier.

They had wanted to be allowed to sit in places of honor in his glory.

They had wanted power and prestige.

So, here’s a hint… When Jesus asks you, “What do you want me to do for you?” The answer should not be “give me power and prestige.”

Bartimaeus says “My teacher, let me see again.”

Jesus says to him: “Go, your faith has made you well.” Immediately, Bartimaeus regains his sight and follows Jesus on his way.

He follows Jesus.

Bartimaeus becomes a disciple.

What Bartimaeus shows here is humility.  He demonstrates a desire to serve.

Jesus’ own disciples are still grappling with who is going to be more revered, more powerful.

The irony is that THEY are the ones who are truly blind to what Jesus intends.... Who Jesus is calling us all to be.

Like all of us, Bartimaeus may have begun his quest with a need--a need to be heard; a need to be seen; a need to see--but he quickly moved on to gratitude, and then to loyalty.[1]

Instead of "going" on his way, seeing to his own needs, and being wrapped up in his own troubles once again--as he certainly could have--Bartemeaus followed Jesus to Jerusalem.

 The question we must always ask ourselves is: what blinds us to the gospel? What blinds us to the good news of God's love for us?

Are we blinded by our shame when, instead, we need to see that we are made in God's image?

Are we blinded by our pride and arrogance when, instead, we need to see the path of humility?

Are we blinded by our anger when, instead, we need to see the fruitfulness of forgiveness?

Bartemaeus regained his sight and followed Jesus on the way.

We need to learn from Bartimaeus.

Every day, our response to Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” should also be:

“Teacher, let me see again, so I can follow you.”

Amen.

 

[1] William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark The Daily Study Bible Series, Revised Ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 262.