Sunday October 28 2018

Mark 10:46-52

The Rev’d Jenny Wilson


In the name of God, creating, redeeming, sanctifying, … Amen.

We are in Mark’s Gospel, the gospel of this liturgical year, and Jesus and his disciples are approaching Jerusalem. Over recent months, we have seen Jesus, at the village of Caesarea Philippi, asking his disciples who people say he is, who they say that he is. And when Peter answers that he is the Messiah, Jesus bluntly tells these disciples what his Messiahship means. Jesus 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. As the disciples journey to Jerusalem, Jesus performs many healings, teaches those who come to him about the way of God, gathers children to him, deals with the rich young man who wonders how he can belong in the kingdom of God, and speaks with the disciples who ask for the positions of honour about what it is to be great in this kingdom, God’s kingdom. Just before Jesus asks his disciples to find the donkey on whose back he will ride into Jerusalem, in the story we know so well from Palm Sunday, Jesus meets one more person who reaches out to him for help.

As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd are leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, is sitting by the roadside. 47When he hears that it is Jesus of Nazareth, he begins to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (Mark 10:46-7)

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus says.

In this, our gospel reading from the 10th Chapter of Mark’s Gospel, some fascinating things happen. Firstly, the blind man, Bartimaeus, cries out, and, when he is told by the disciples not to bother Jesus, he cries out again. This passage highlights one of the key themes of scripture– themes of God – the theme of exodus. In the story of the Exodus, God freed the people of Israel who were in slavery in Egypt. God heard the cry of the people and God acted in response to their cry. We might think of every one of Jesus’ healings as an exodus story. Bartemaeus comes to Jesus enslaved by his blindness. In every story of Jesus’ healing we find a cry. It may be the cry of the one who is in need of healing, as in the case of Blind Bartimaeus; it may be the cry or the prayer of one who loves them. God heals in response to an expression of the truth. The truth of the struggle of the illness whatever it may be, for Bartimaeus the truth of the diminished life that blindness gives.

Jesus stands still and says, ‘Call him here.’ And they call the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he springs up and comes to Jesus. Then Jesus says to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (Mark 10:49-51)

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus says to this blind man. This seems an extraordinary question. Jesus, who has deep insight into the needs of those with whom he keeps company, surely knows what this man needs. Jesus gives Bilnd Bartemaeus great integrity when he asks him to name what it is he longs for. Bartemaeus names not only his pain but also his heart’s desire. Jesus’ presence just helps him to speak the truth. And so Jesus names the source of the healing as the man’s own faith. “Your faith has made you well.” Immediately the man regained his sight and followed him on the way. (10:52) What seems fascinating is that Jesus says that Bartemaeus is well before he gains his sight. It is as if the wellness is in the cry of the pain of blindness and the voicing of the desire for sight. For Jesus that is what it is to be well. The regaining of sight comes after.

Blind Bartamaeus cried and all Jesus seemed to need to heal was this cry. There is a problem, though. We know that not everyone with whom we come into contact, with whom Jesus came into contact, has the strength to make that cry. In many of the gospel stories someone cries on another’s behalf. In our time and place, we need to keep an eye open for those who need us to cry on their behalf. The Godly work of Anglicare and many other organisations who help those in need in different ways, is so often with those who are vulnerable, frail, homeless, hungry, the young whose parents cannot care for them, those who do not always have the strength to cry.

Each year, AnglicareSA provides Christmas gift hampers to hundreds of disadvantaged individuals and families.

This Christmas, AnglicareSA is aiming to hand out over 1,000 Christmas gift hampers to support families, adults and individuals who need support at Christmas. We in our Cathedral community have pledged to give at least 20 hampers in response to this appeal. I hope that we might respond to that pledge, not just with goods, though they matter greatly, but also with our prayers. Might we imagine a family who will receive one of the hampers and might we pray for them?

As we gather together to respond to this appeal, in the context of the story of the healing of Blind Bartimaeus, I wonder whose eyes it is that will be opened. As we buy the things that we feel called to give, might we ponder the fact that many in our well off city are not well off, many in the midst of a thriving economy are not thriving and may we do our part. We can only make a small offering, most probably, we might only help one family and we are vulnerable in that. It might be nice to think that we can solve a big problem but we cannot do that. We can only play our small part. I wonder if knowing that, feeling the helplessness of that, is an opening of our eyes.

Last Sunday night at Choral Evensong, we remembered Oscar Romero, the El Salvadorian bishop who was assassinated when celebrating mass on March 24, 1980. Oscar Romero was canonised just two weeks ago in the Vatican and, at Evensong last week, we heard some of his words about playing a small part.

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us….

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. 

Can we glimpse this truth? Can we be comfortable with it? It would be nice to solve the whole problem and feel some pride in that, but when it comes to feeding the hungry even in a well off city like ours, we cannot do it all. We can only play a small part.

Might we imagine one family, perhaps read about one family in the Anglicare literature, and pray for them as we give our goods?

And then whose eyes will be opened? Will we see a little more clearly what God sees, who God loves, where God longs to bring abundance and peace and joy? Will we find ourselves knowing a little more that we belong with those who will not have enough to celebrate Christmas if we do not help? That we are all God’s children. That, there but for the grace of God, as they say, go we? Will we be a little more grateful for the abundance in our lives? Will we see, hear God calling us to play a little part in the great work that is God’s kingdom? Will we find ourselves more blessed than those we had imagined we might bless?

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus says. Would we like a little more faith? Faith that God will bring healing to a world where so many are still hungry? Would we like to see a little more clearly our part in that? Would we like to be given the peace, the liberation that Oscar Romero speaks of, the liberation that comes from knowing that we are workers and not master builders. But that God is the master builder. Would we like to see that a little more clearly? The God view.

Are we the ones who are blind really? Might we ask God to give us our sight? Might reaching out to those in need be God’s way of helping us see a little more clearly the kingdom of God that God holds and in which our world is blessed?