The Rev. Robert P. Travis
Pentecost 22nd Sunday Sermon – 8:00am and 10:30am Church of the Ascension, Knoxville TN
RCL Proper 25 Year B 10/28/2012
Scripture Text: Job: 42:1-6, 10-17, Psalm 34:1-8, Hebrews 7:23-28, Mark 10:46-52
Last week many of us with children were having fall break
because of the Knox County School schedule.
I was blessed to be able to take my kids
down to my parents’ house in Florida,
while Jackie stayed home to work at her new job.
On the beach one afternoon I had an interesting experience.
I was standing there, talking to my dad,
while watching my three kids in their various places.
Jack was playing in the sand just a few steps away.
Annalise was playing in the waves nearby.
Eva Jane, my oldest,
was playing in the waves where they had pushed her,
a little further down the shore.
The sun was bright, the waves fun, but not too high.
There was a soft breeze.
It seemed things couldn't get much better.
As I listened to my dad talking to me,
I kept my eye on Eva Jane as she came out of the water,
and started walking away from us down the beach.
I kind of wondered what she was doing,
but was not really concerned,
thinking “maybe she's looking for shells,”
as she got further and further away.
When I realized she was too far to hear me call her back,
I excused myself, asked my dad to watch the other two,
while I went down the beach to get her.
At first I just walked casually,
but then she started to run,
and I started walking faster.
I realized that she was pretty far away from me,
further than I had thought,
and as she passed other people
the only way I really still knew it was her was
her red body board dangling behind her,
still attached to her wrist.
I started to run to catch up to her,
and she started to run faster.
That made me angry.
I thought, “oh she's in trouble now,
why is she running down the beach
away from us?
She knows she's not supposed
to go out of our sight.”
I ran faster, and gradually caught up to her,
though at nearly 8 years old,
as she will tell you, she's the fastest girl in her class,
a pretty fast runner.
As I got closer, the thought suddenly dawned on me,
“what if she's lost? What if she doesn't know where we are?”
My anger immediately dissipated and was replaced with
parental concern, with sadness for her.
And I started to run faster.
I started yelling to her, calling her name.
As I got close enough and she heard me and stopped,
I could see the tears streaming down her face.
I hugged her and asked her why
she was running away from me?
She told me that she came up out of the water
and didn't see us;
she thought we had left her alone on the beach,
and she went down in the direction
she thought we had been.
As we walked back,
I reassured her that I had been watching her the whole time,
that I would never leave her alone somewhere,
and that if she did get lost,
if she would just stay where she was,
I would find her.
She couldn't believe that,
“How would you find me?” she said.
I said just trust me, if you're lost,
stay where you are and I will find you.
Bartimaeus, the blind man sitting beside the road
in Jericho, probably thought he was lost.
He probably thought there was really no hope for him,
and that his lot in life was to sit alone,
and beg for mercy because he was blind,
and could not function in society.
He might have even thought that God the father
had abandoned him.
In spite of being lost to the society around him,
Bartimaeus was hopeful
when he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was approaching.
He must have heard of Jesus before,
to shout out “Jesus, Son of David,
have mercy on me!”
The crowd tried to quiet him.
Surely such a great man
shouldn't be bothered by someone so insignificant.
But when his one hope came within reach,
Bartimaeus would not be silenced,
“he cried out even more loudly,
'Son of David, have mercy on me!'”
By acknowledging Jesus as the Son of David,
here recorded for the first time in the Gospel of Mark,
Bartimaeus was making a statement not just about
Jesus' power to help him,
but declaring that Jesus was the messiah,
the one who would save all of the people of Israel.
Bartimaeus knew who Jesus really ways,
and he cried out for mercy because of it.
Jesus stood still,
a compassionate gesture in itself,
something that would allow the blind man,
to find him by his voice,
and said “Call him here.”
When blind Bartimaeus approached Jesus,
Jesus did not assume that he knew what the man wanted,
even if he knew what was obvious,
Jesus respected the man as a person,
and asked Bartimaeus what he wanted Jesus to do for him?
I think Jesus could have been relatively sure,
that he was not inviting a self-aggrandizing request
like James and John had given him
when they said “we want you to do for us
what we ask of you”,
which turned out to be a request for glory with Jesus.
He knew this man knew who Jesus really was,
and was asking him for mercy.
Jesus, in his mercy, asks what Bartimaeus wants.
What seems obvious to us,
was not obvious enough for Jesus to disregard.
That’s what people who really want
to be in relationship with us do after all.
They don’t disregard our concerns,
or assume they know what we’re needing without asking.
Even on his way to Jerusalem,
for the great purpose he knew he would accomplish there,
Jesus wanted to be in relationship with this man,
and for him to share his deepest desire
before Jesus would do anything.
Bartimaeus' request for Jesus to let him see
showed that he had faith that Jesus could heal him,
and so Jesus responded that faith
made Jesus' restoring his sight possible.
Bartimaeus' response to being healed
is very interesting to me,
maybe more interesting than the healing itself,
because it indicates the nature of that relationship,
and how Bartimaeus understood his place in it.
The passage says that Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the way.
He did not run off and tell people,
he did not go away and take care of things,
or reorganize his life now that he could see.
He did not figure out what this new sight could do for him.
His response to receiving sight was to follow Jesus.
His response was to engage further
in that relationship with Jesus,
that he was offered when Jesus asked him what he wanted.
He knew who Jesus really was,
and when he actually saw him,
the best response, the only response,
was one of humility.
Leaving everything he knew
and following him.
In our Old Testament passage,
as we heard the ending of the tragic story of Job,
Job's response to God speaking to him
from out of the whirlwind is similar.
Job says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Another translation I read of this verse,
by a scholar named Mitchell reads like this:
“I had heard of you with my ears, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I will be quiet, comforted that I am dust.”1
In other words, now that I know you as a person,
for who you really are.
I don't think so highly of my own interests,
and I don’t even want to pursue them,
or be distant from you,
but I turn around fully into this relationship with you.
So often we find ourselves going our own way,
sometimes we have walked away from God inadvertently,
seeking our own path,
or running the other direction
in search of something that will save us,
when we feel abandoned and alone.
All the while God has us in his sight,
and is even pursuing us.
If we would just stop,
and turn to him,
we would see him asking what we need,
what we want from our relationship with Him.
He will never abandon us,
or leave us alone.
Do you want to see God for who he really is,
what will your response be?
1 Mitchell quoted in Thomas Long, What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith. Eerdmans 2011. Pg. 109.