7:30 am service sermon on October 25, 2015 by The Rev. Karen Cuffie
Proper 25, Year B
Job 42:1-6, 10-17, Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22, Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10: 46-52
There are a lot of miracle stories in the gospels, many of which are healing miracles. There are actually 6 or 7 accounts of healing the blind but I think today’s story might be the one most easily remembered because the blind man has a name – Bartimaeus. His alliterative name -Blind Bartimaeus -just sticks in our head, like Doctor Doolittle or Tiny Tim or even Mighty Mouse. As a child, you might have even learned a song about Blind Bartimaeus. While the name might be ingrained in your memory, what do you remember about the story itself?
Well, I’ve thought of three more alliterative words to add to his name that might make this encounter between Jesus and Bartimaeus even more memorable. I think we can describe Bartimaeus as not only blind, but also as a brave and bold believer. Blind, brave, bold, believing Bartimaeus – that’s more like it! You see, Bartimaeus was brave enough to persist in getting Jesus’ attention in spite of the fact that others were telling him to be quiet. He was bold enough to answer Jesus’ questions with honesty, and he truly believed that Jesus could deliver a miracle. Bartimaeus knew what he wanted more than anything, so he asked for it and got it. It sounds so easy doesn’t it? Well, that strategy certainly didn’t work for Zebedee’s sons James and John.
Do you remember last week when James and John came up to Jesus and said that they wanted him to do whatever they asked? Jesus asked them “What do you want me to do for you?” James and John told Jesus that they wanted to sit at his right and left hands, in positions of power, before all the others. It was a ridiculous request that showed they weren’t paying attention to what Jesus had been trying to teach them. They had no clue that what they were demanding was not at all in line with what Jesus had been trying to teach them. As was typical for the disciples in Mark’s gospel, they didn’t “get it”.
Jesus asked Bartimaeus the same question, but the response was completely different. You see, Bartimaeus, “got it.” He’d heard about Jesus and knew that if anyone could help him it would be Jesus.. So he called out – “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Son of David, have mercy on me!” He didn’t care that people were shushing him. He just yelled louder. Jesus heard him but didn’t move. He wanted Bartimaeus to come to him. What I love is that Bartimaeus threw off his cloak before approaching Jesus as if he didn’t need anything else but to be with Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Without a pause, Bartimaeus told Jesus that he wanted to let him see again. Apparently he wasn’t born blind. At one point in time, he went blind so he knew what living with and without sight was like. It didn’t come as a surprise to anyone that he wanted to see again. But to actually say it – that was a gutsy move. He’d been miserable for so long, maybe he thought he had nothing to lose, or maybe he truly believed that Jesus had the power to heal him. He asked for a miracle and Jesus gave him one. What do you think about miracles? Do you believe in them? Have you ever asked for a miracle? Have you ever experienced a miracle?
I believe in miracles and in fact have experienced them but I don’t necessarily believe that they’re always as cut and dry as Bartimaeus’ healing miracle.
As some of you know, I have an adult daughter who has autism, as well as other developmental disabilities. Tessa is a beautiful young women who can be funny and charming one minute,
and angry and aggressive the next. She is 23 years old and functions at about a 3-5 year old level. She can’t dress herself, or brush her teeth but she read just about anything you put in front of her. She’s incredibly computer savvy (more than many adults I know) and yet rarely speaks in sentences. So just imagine a 5’10’ woman hugging her much shorter mother in the middle of Safeway saying “I love you Mommy” We get looks – oh boy do we looks. It’s actually very sweet and even kind of funny – until she falls on the floor and starts yelling because she wants Cocoa Puffs.
Raising Tessa has been a tremendous blessing and at the same time very challenging. By the time she was 15 or 16, I was exhausted and frankly, miserable. I prayed faithfully for the strength and courage to get through the each day. I knew without a doubt that God was with me in my pain, but I felt alone. One particularly difficult day, it occurred to me that I could ask God for a miracle. I don’t know why it took me so long to come to that conclusion. I believed in miracles but I guess I thought they were for other people. So I asked God to heal Tessa. I decided that Tessa felt trapped inside a body that kept her from expressing her frustrations, fears, anger and so she needed healing. I summoned the courage to just ask point blank- “God, please take away Tessa’s autism. Heal her and make her whole. Let her be the child she was meant to be.
And I waited. There were mornings I would wake up thinking, maybe today’s the day. But it never happened. I didn’t get the miracle I asked for. But – I did get a miracle!
In a way that I can’t explain, I had an epiphany. I woke up in the middle of the night and realized that it was not Tessa who needed healing – it was me! I went up to her room and hugged her while she was sleeping . Tessa was fine. She was beautiful. She was created in God’s image just like everyone else. No – I was the one who was desperate and needed healing. I had begun to lose hope of anything getting better. But once I asked for a miracle, albeit the wrong one, the transformation began and it wasn’t her transformation, it was mine. This dark veil of hopelessness was lifted and I began to see things differently. I had a renewed sense of hope that gave me energy and strengthened my faith. The transformation I experienced was a big step in my call to ordained ministry. I truly believe that if I’d never asked for that healing miracle, I might have never have acted on Gods call. I might have never experienced the JOY of answering God’s call. Even more importantly, Tessa might not have fully experienced the deep love I have for her.
What stands out for me in the story about blind Bartimaeus is not the miracle itself, but his request for the miracle. Bartimaeus was a blind beggar – the bottom of the bottom so when he reached out to Jesus, he was desperate. Jesus called him to come. When Bartimaeus made his plea, Jesus’ response was “Go, your faith has made you well.” His faith would not have made him well if he didn’t go to Jesus and tell him what he needed.
Jesus calls us to him and wants us to tell him what we need, but we have to be audacious enough to answer.
We need to be brave, bold and believing miracle seekers like Bartimaeus was the day he met Jesus. We need to bravely call out for mercy and when Jesus asks us, “What do you want me to do for you?” we have to be bold enough to ask for what might seem like too much to ask. And then we have to believe. We have to believe in the power of Jesus’ love to heal and transform.
Then. . .we have to step back and watch the miracle unfold.