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Order Of Worship (Liturgy)Note: all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise
Hymn 82:3 (after the law)
Reading: Psalm 86
Text: Mark 10:46-52
Beloved congregation of Christ,
This passage we’re looking at this morning is not the first time that our Lord Jesus has healed a blind person. In Mark, back in chapter 8, at Bethsaida our Saviour spit on a man’s eyes and put his hands on him. He asked him if he saw anything and he said that he saw people and they looked like trees walking around. Then Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes a second time and his sight was restored and he saw clearly.
Now in this passage we encounter another blind man. Mark has a love for sandwiches. Not sandwiches made with bread, but sandwiches made of stories regarding our Lord Jesus. He often frames things with stories that are similar to one another. The story of the blind man in chapter 8 signals the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Shortly after that story, Jesus makes the first of three predictions about his suffering, death, and resurrection. Then he travels, travels to Jerusalem where it will all take place.
So the story of the blind man in chapter 8 is the bottom slice of bread in this literary sandwich. The story of the blind man in chapter 10 is the top slice of bread in this sandwich. Jesus is nearing the end of his journey to Jerusalem. At the beginning of chapter 11, he will enter the city to the shout of “Hosanna!” The story of the second blind man is partly placed here to signal that the end of the journey is at hand.
But there are also some significant differences between the two stories. It’s not just a matter of Jesus healing a blind man. In the first story, the blind man says and does little. The only thing we hear from him was the statement about what he saw after the first stage of his healing. In this second healing of a blind man we see him as an active participant in the story. We learn his name. We learn his status in life. We hear him saying things, far more things than the first blind man. So while at first glance one might think that this passage basically means the same thing as the previous one in chapter 8, a closer look reveals a lot more. This morning we’ll see that our Lord Jesus brings sight to Bartimaeus. We’ll see how:
1. Bartimaeus sees what no one else sees
2. Bartimaeus sees what everyone else sees
The road Jesus took led him, his disciples, and their broader entourage of followers to the city of Jericho. We shouldn’t read anything into the fact that this episode takes place in Jericho. There’s nothing of any discernible significance here. Yes, this was the city that God destroyed when Joshua led Israel into the promised land. Yes, this was the city that Hillel rebuilt at the cost of two of his sons, just as Joshua had prophesied would happen. But there’s no obvious connection between any of that and what happens here with the blind man.
The only significance in the fact that it takes place in Jericho is that Jericho is near Jerusalem. It’s 24 kilometres northeast of Jerusalem. It lay on the road that many people took when they travelled from Galilee to Jerusalem for the Passover or whatever else. From Jericho, it was about a day’s walk yet. That journey took place over a long winding road that was uphill all the way.
As Jesus and his disciples and the crowd are leaving the city, there on the side of the road was a blind beggar. Here right away we meet one of the differences from the previous blind man. The other blind man back in chapter 8 had friends. They brought the blind man to Jesus. He was connected with other people who cared for him. The first blind man in Mark was not an outcast in any way. He wasn’t a beggar. This man is. He’s poor and he’s obviously been alienated somehow from family and friends. He doesn’t have people who are looking out for him. In a way, he’s been dehumanized.
But Mark brings us to see his humanity. This is a child of the covenant, not only circumcised on the eighth day, but also made in the image of God. He’s not just a blind beggar. This is Bartimaeus. He had a father named Timaeus. He is someone’s son, even if that someone is somehow now out of the picture. By giving us the man’s name, Mark is telling us that this is a real flesh and blood human being. He might be a panhandler. He might be a social outcast at the side of the road. But he is no less human than you or me. How easy it is to dehumanize the down and out. It’s so easy to see the homeless and drug addicts and prostitutes and whoever else and forget that you’re looking at someone’s son, someone’s daughter. They all have a name. They all have a story. They’re human beings, created in the image of God. They’re lost sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Remembering those things will help us to have compassion and to be patient. To have grace. To be respectful and not to be condescending or patronizing. Mark is opening our eyes so that we see with the eyes of our Lord Jesus.
Bartimaeus was sitting at the side of the road leading out of Jericho, begging as he did every day. Through all the commotion, he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was leading the way. When he heard that, he started shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This is the first time in Mark that someone calls Jesus, “Son of David.” What it means is that he recognizes that Jesus is the promised Messianic king. He recognizes that Jesus is the one who has come to fulfill the promises God made to David in passages like 2 Samuel 7. Then he goes the next step and says, “Have mercy on me!” That language comes from the Old Testament. For instance, we read from Psalm 86. That psalm addresses God and calls out to him, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.” Other psalms are similar. In the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) the words are the same as in our text, “Have mercy on me.” “Eleison me.” From what I can tell those words are always addressed to God.
We sang Hymn 82:3 after the reading of the law. I picked that for a very deliberate reason. At the end of that verse it says, “Thou Lamb of God, to Thee on high out of the depth we sinners cry: Have mercy on us, Jesus!” “Have mercy on us” is a reference to a frequent refrain from the Bible and from the historic liturgy of the early church. As part of their confession of sin, the people would sing out, “Kyrie eleison” which means “Lord, have mercy.” These are biblical words and they appear in our passage too. What it means is that Bartimaeus sees that Jesus is the Son of David AND he sees that Jesus is God come in the flesh. He may not understand fully the implications of what he’s saying. He doesn’t have a fully worked out theology of Jesus as God and man. But he gets it that he should cry out to Jesus as he might cry out to God. He gets that. The blind beggar sees what no one else does. As I said, this is the first time in Mark that someone calls Jesus the Son of David. This is the first time that someone has called out for mercy from him as they would call out for mercy from God. Bartimaeus sees what no one else has up to this point. His physical eyes may be blind, but his heart sees and his mouth speaks accordingly.
Loved ones, we too can call out to Jesus for mercy, just as we do when we sing Hymn 82:3. Don’t be afraid to call out to your Saviour when you’re in a mess. You need to see him as Almighty God who promises to listen and help. Remember Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever. The Bible gives you the freedom to call to the Son of David to beg for him to look on you with kindness and to help you. Jesus didn’t turn to Bartimaeus and say, “Hey, listen I’d really like to help, but you really should be addressing my Father on this.” Jesus didn’t rebuke Bartimaeus for calling out to him and he will not rebuke you either. Your Saviour stands ready with a sympathetic ear. He stands with a heart open to you in love. He has the will to intercede for you and to act on your behalf. The gospel promises you that he will not ever turn you away.
In our passage, though, there were people who tried to turn Bartimaeus away. They rebuked him and tried to shut him up. Who these people were (the disciples? The crowd? Pharisees?) and why they did this, we don’t know. We could only speculate. One observation here, though. Mark tells us that they rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to shut up. I’m not sure if this is intentional, but exactly the same words are used as in Mark 4:39 when Jesus rebukes the wind and tells the waves to shut up. He displays his sovereign power over the elements of creation there. Here one of his creatures sees the truth and acclaims him as God, and other creatures are rebuking him and telling him to keep quiet. If nothing else, this reveals a broken and fallen world. The ugliness of sin is staring at us here.
Think about it: these people are all God’s covenant people and yet for some reason they don’t want Bartimaeus crying out like this. These special people should have been encouraging and supportive. They should have been reflecting the image of their God with grace and mercy, but instead they were bullying Bartimaeus and preventing him from getting help from the Saviour. Sad. It’s sad when people who call themselves Christians do the same today. Rebuking and discouraging and crushing people (especially the weak and vulnerable) when we should be gracious and kind and patient. That doesn’t portray the image of God. That doesn’t testify to one’s union with Christ. It’s sin and it needs to be repented of. James 2:13 warns us, “Judgement is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.”
The rebukes of the bullying mob had no effect on Bartimaeus. Or better: they had the opposite effect. Instead of shutting up, Bartimaeus started shouting even more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He is persistent and tenacious. He’s not going to let the rebukers get to him. They can keep on rebuking, but he’ll just keep on shouting as long as Jesus is within earshot. Do you remember the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18? Jesus told his disciples that parable “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Or in Mark 7 there was the Syrophoenician woman, that Gentile lady who just didn’t give up with Jesus. Here too Bartimaeus is not letting people dictate to him what he’ll do. He’ll just keep on keeping on. Shouting and shouting until he gets what he wants or Jesus moves on.
Our Lord Jesus graciously rewards persistence and tenacity. It happens here too. He finally stops. Jesus says, “Call him.” Bring him here. The odd thing now is that these people who a moment ago were discouraging Bartimaeus are suddenly encouraging him. One minute they’re rebuking him, the next minute they’re saying, “Cheer up!” One minute they’re telling him to stay put and shut up and the next minute, they’re saying, “Get on your feet and get over here!” This bizarre sudden shift would suggest that these people are just acting mindlessly. They’re not careful theologians analyzing every detail of this scenario. They’re just going with their gut, following Jesus on the road, but not really carefully thinking everything through. So when Jesus speaks with authority and tells them to call him, they simply do it.
And what does Bartimaeus do? He throws his cloak to the side, jumps to his feet and comes to the Saviour. If Jesus is willing to have him, he’s going to come. In a few moments, when we get to verse 52, I’ll talk about where that motivation comes from. But for now, just note that Bartimaeus does get up, rather energetically even, and comes to Christ when the opportunity presents itself.
Jesus heard his cries for mercy and now he’s facing Bartimaeus. “What do you want me to do for you?” The answer to that question is not obvious. Perhaps the beggar wants money. Maybe he wants food. Who knows, maybe Bartimaeus is looking for a job. Having mercy on Bartimaeus could take several directions.
Bartimaeus knows what he wants. He addresses Jesus in the most respectful way possible. The NIV says “Rabbi,” but the original has “Rabboni,” the same as in John 20:16 when Mary sees Jesus after his resurrection. The word “Rabboni” is another way of saying “Rabbi” but it does have the nuance of a greater level of respect. By saying “Rabboni,” he recognizes that Jesus is not just your average vanilla Rabbi. He is something more. He is the Son of David. He is the one to whom people should cry out, “Have mercy on me!” He is God. If he is God, then he has created all things. If he has created all things, then he has created the eyes. If he has created the eyes, then he has the power to restore the eyes. If he has called me to him, then he not only has the power but also the willingness to restore my eyes. “Rabboni, I want to see.” He wants to see what everyone else sees.
“Go, your faith has healed you,” Jesus says. Straightaway, blind Bartimaeus was simply Bartimaeus. His eyesight was restored. One of the effects of the fall into sin was instantaneously reversed with a word from Jesus. The Word of our Lord healed him.
Or did it? Jesus says that his faith has healed him. Some might argue that it was the faith of Bartimaeus that provided the healing power. Then it has come from Bartimaeus. He had the power within himself all along to heal himself. So, some might conclude, look at the great healing potential that we all have within ourselves. And if we take it a step further, Jesus literally says that the faith of Bartimaeus saved him. So, Bartimaeus was saved by his faith. Moving the argument along, believers today are saved by the power within. Bartimaeus called out to Jesus. Jesus called him. Bartimaeus responded. Bartimaeus took the first step and he cooperated with Jesus so that he could get his eyesight back. So, some might argue, we too have to cooperate with God for our salvation. He does most of it, but we still have to contribute our part. God builds the bridge 90% of the way, but we still have to make that 10% contribution ourselves. That’s what some might say, that’s how some might read this passage.
You know the saying, “A text without a context is a pretext.” And you know that important principle, “Scripture must interpret Scripture.” So, where does faith come from? Ephesians 2:8 tells us that faith is a gift of God. Verse 9 adds, “not by works, so that no one can boast.” Where did Bartimaeus get his faith? It was worked in him by God the Holy Spirit. God the Spirit opened his eyes so that he could see Jesus for who he really was: the Son of David, the merciful God. Because of the Holy Spirit, Bartimaeus trusted that Jesus could help him. Then when Jesus called him, Bartimaeus came. That too was because the Spirit of God had already been at work in his life. The faith that the Spirit created bore fruit in the enthusiastic response. The Spirit created faith which led Bartimaeus to throw his cloak aside, leap to his feet and run to Jesus for help. Who gets all the credit here? Not Bartimaeus, but God. This passage is not about Bartimaeus and his positive thinking, but about the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. It’s about God who sovereignly grants regeneration and faith so that people trust in the Saviour and are healed and saved. The Word here is designed and given so that we would praise our God and our Saviour!
Also so that we would praise him for what he’s done with us. The healing of Bartimaeus is a picture of what God does for all sinners. By nature we are dead in sin and blind to God’s greatness and glory and desirability. By nature we don’t see the need for a Saviour. We don’t see our depravity and inability. But God...but God comes to us on his own gracious initiative and grabs us. What does John 6:44 say? Do you remember? Jesus is speaking, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him...” Literally it says, “unless the Father drags him.” That’s exactly what happens. We don’t come to Jesus on our own steam. The Father drags us to him. The Father brings us to him through the power of the Spirit and the strength of the Word. Our faith is not something we conjure up from within ourselves from our own resources. Faith is a gift of God and a gift to be treasured.
Faith is the instrument by which we receive all the benefits of Christ. That’s the way it was for Bartimaeus as well. Faith was the means by which he came to receive healing. For us, faith is the means by which we receive everything good from our Saviour too. By receiving and resting on him alone, we receive salvation. We come to see him for who he is. We see this world the way that it really is. We see sin as the ugliness and rebellion that it really is. Through faith, we stop living in delusions and deception, and are brought into the light, brought to the real reality in every way. Faith is truly an instrument or means by which we come to see. Your faith is what heals you – but only through the grace and power of God. This is not of yourself. No should ever boast except in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So what do we do with this? Three things. First of all and foremost, loved ones, again hear the call to faith in Jesus Christ. Continue throwing yourself upon him today and everyday. As the Catechism puts it, as often as you hear the gospel, accept it for yourself. Turn from your sin and rest on Christ alone for your salvation and well-being. The day of judgment is coming and if you are without Christ, you will be thrown into a place of blindness, a place of darkness and eternal suffering. With Christ you see the light today already and you will see the light forever and live in it.
Second, with that faith of yours, praise God. I mean that. Praise him for this special gift. Never take it for granted that you believe in Jesus Christ. It’s a miracle. We can live with that miracle every day and soon its shine wears off. But let the Word remind you today how valuable this gift is. When you see people who don’t believe, don’t become prideful and arrogant. This faith you have didn’t well up from within yourself. You can’t wear your faith as a soldier would wear ribbons and medals, demonstrating his great courage and valour. Your faith is a gift, not a merit.
The third thing flows out of the last words of verse 52. We’re told that Bartimaeus followed Jesus along the road. The road was going up to Jerusalem. Now that Bartimaeus could see, he went the Jesus way. This is how Mark tells us that he became a disciple – not one of the twelve, but part of the larger group. He went from blindly sitting along the way, to seeing and travelling along the way. This is why Jesus opens our eyes. So that we would follow him, even when that road leads to a cross and suffering. Our Saviour opens our eyes so that we would be obedient to him because we love him and are thankful to him.
Now it has to be said that there is a post-script to this story. We don’t directly read about Bartimaeus ever again. But when Jesus gets to Golgotha, Bartimaeus is no longer there. Like all the other disciples he abandoned Jesus. He wasn’t a perfect disciple. Neither am I, neither are any of us. Our faith opens our eyes and heals us. It unites us to Christ who bore the penalty for our sin on the cross. He paid for all the sins of Bartimaeus and your sins too. He not only erased all the wrongdoings of believers, he also filled up their accounts with his perfect merits and all his law-keeping. Even though he abandoned him in Jerusalem, Bartimaeus could stand washed and justified before the Father in heaven. So can we. Where does that leave us? Back on the road. Following Jesus. Loving him. Desiring to be obedient to the Word of God so that we demonstrate our love and gratitude.
You see, loved ones, this passage is a sort of portrayal of what being a Christian looks like. We too need to constantly cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us!” That’s what faith says. That faith is the God-given instrument by which we are healed and saved. But this passage also portrays Christ to us. He is the gracious Saviour, the promised Messiah, who does show mercy. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. AMEN.
O Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us. Have mercy, Lord, today and always. Help us with your Spirit to continue resting on you alone for salvation. Help us to keep on trusting in you only for our well-being from day to day. When we suffer, when we have hard times, when trials hit, please give us more faith so that we remain confident of your love. We thank you for your Holy Spirit in our hearts, that he unites us to you through faith. Please never leave us or forsake us. Hear, O Lord, and answer us, for we are poor and needy. Guard our lives, for we are devoted to you. You are our God, save your servants who trust in you. Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servants, for to you, O Lord, we lift up our souls. You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear our prayer, O Lord; listen to our cry for mercy. In the day of trouble we will call to you, for you will answer us...
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service. Thank-you.
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