Trust God-with-us to give you and the world mercy and healing.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, Lect. 30 B
Texts: Mark 10:46-52; Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Trust doesn’t automatically come with time.
Peter, James, and John have been with Jesus for three years, and in this last journey on the way to Jerusalem have witnessed Jesus’ glorious transfiguration and Jesus’ wondrous healings, have been taught and urged to follow the self-giving way of Christ, and yet, as we’ve seen, still don’t trust Jesus with their lives.
But this beggar, whose real name we don’t know, who hasn’t met Jesus before, only heard of him, finds a trust in Jesus that not only brings him healing, it sets him on the way of Christ.
Trust, for Bartimaeus, came in no time at all.
When he hears a big commotion and learns Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, he focuses on getting to Jesus if he can. This blind man sees more clearly than most in this Gospel.
He shouts over the crowd, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” He gives Jesus a Messianic title, saying “have mercy on me, Messiah.” Show me empathy and compassion and help me.
Others try to tell him to be quiet, maybe to protect Jesus from bother, or maybe they’re just mean, but Bartimaeus refuses to stop. He shouts more loudly.
That’s trust. To know that somehow God is working in this Jesus and can help. And to do whatever he can to get Jesus’ attention. To receive mercy.
Bartimaeus trusted God-with-us would listen.
And Jesus honored his trust. In the chaos of a noisy crowd traipsing down the road, he heard the cry for mercy and stood still. Listened. Jesus has a lot on his mind and heart, heading to his death in Jerusalem. But here, he stops and is still so he can hear a cry for help.
As it happens, God-with-us listens even if our questions are the wrong ones. James and John wanted Jesus to do them a favor, and he listened. In fact, as we heard last week, he asked them the same question he asked Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?”
They wanted privileged roles. They received a call to lose everything and serve others. Bartimaeus wanted mercy. Healing. That’s the blessing he received. God gives what you truly need.
We don’t need to knock down the others to admire Bartimaeus.
But at this point in Mark’s Gospel, it’s only this outsider who’d only ever heard of Jesus, who trusts Jesus with his life, not the long-time followers.
Peter, James, and John are trusted followers, even leaders. But they’re distracted. Maybe by that privileged position inside Jesus’ circle. Peter doesn’t trust Jesus’ plan to suffer and die. James and John don’t trust that they’re honored and want proof. We know what it is to be distracted by our privilege and status and find the path of Christ hard to follow.
Bartimaeus just knows his need, trusts in the One God sent, and asks for mercy. And he receives healing, and – this is really important – then goes “on the way” with Jesus after this. For the early Church, “the way” meant the path of Christ. Newly-healed Bartimaeus trusts enough to walk it with Jesus.
Now, Peter, James, and John will learn to trust Jesus with their lives. Will learn to ask for mercy themselves, and, healed, will walk faithfully with Christ in their healing. But for now, Bartimaeus is the one to model yourself after.
So, can you find his honesty inside? Look into your heart and see what you need?
What would mercy from the Triune God look like in your life? Can you let go of whatever façade you want to put between you and God and be honest with God and yourself? And trust God’s Messiah to have mercy on you?
You might need to keep asking God for mercy even when others tell you to stop. Folks will tell you God doesn’t care, or that your problems aren’t as bad as someone else’s so you shouldn’t bother God. It takes a little trust to shout over that, “have mercy on me, O God.”
But know this: just as Jesus, God-with-us, stood still to listen to Bartimaeus’ cry and called him to his side, so the Triune God will stop and stand still to hear your cry and call to you. If you trust enough to let go of yourself and call out.
Be ready for the question, though: What do you want me to do for you?
Bartimaeus knew exactly what to answer: “Let me see again.” If you have prayed and thought about what mercy and healing you need from God, name it when God asks. Speak it aloud. Trust God will hear and answer.
But don’t forget that God-with-us is in this world for all creation, not just you. You can ask mercy for yourself and find the trust to ask for more. Today Jeremiah promises that God will heal a whole nation, bring back the scattered exiles to their home, on a straight, safe path. The psalmist sings that God’s whole people went out planting with tears, but are harvesting in joy because God restored them.
All the suffering that fills our world, the structural sins and systems we decry and want dismantled but also participate in because we live in this world, all this God will heal, too. God will work in us to bring all people home and end all the things that cause us and so many to fear and despair.
What do you want me to do for you? God asks. Bartimaeus says: don’t be afraid to answer. Jeremiah says, “and don’t be afraid to think big, too.”
Do you doubt that God will heal you? Heal this world?
That’s fair. It’s a big ask. But, before he met Jesus, in all the years he sat by the roadside, how confident was Bartimaeus that he would see again? How confident were the Jewish exiles, decades after being ripped from all they knew and dragged into bondage in Babylon, that they’d ever see home again?
But Bartimaeus got his sight. And the exiles were gathered and brought home. God-with-us brings healing and mercy. Trust that. And you, too, will be made well. Along with the whole creation. So all may join Bartimaeus on the way with Christ, and know abundant life.
In the name of Jesus. Amen