22nd Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 25) LSB #979
Text – Mark 10:52
And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight & followed Him on the way.
WHAT TO DO WITH SIGHT?
Does that strike you as a Mr. Obvious question? You might notice something else obviously different this Sunday that also has to do with sight. Eyesight is one of those blessings we totally take for granted until we begin to lose it. Even though these glasses help my vision, they don’t do the job anywhere near as well as my eyes did without them just five years ago.
It’s been getting more & more difficult to read, first the fine print, then even the regular print once it gets late into the evening. When I wear these glasses, I’m having to re-learn how to use my sight, because they aren’t nearly as effective an instrument as my eyes used to be.
To see clearly, I have to move my head around a lot more so the lenses are pointing directly at what I want to see. Yet, even when my eyes did work very well on their own, I still didn’t always know what to do with sight. Here’s an illustration of what I mean by that.
It was spring drama season & Jan was in full frantic mode just days before the opening night of the production. That meant working late into the evening. On this particular night we were headed to the Meijer store around 11:15 PM, in order to pick up some last minute drama supplies. When we got to the main entrance the sliding doors did not open.
As if on cue, we turned to look at each other at the same moment, with the same question in mind, “How come these doors aren’t opening?” Then, at the same time, we turned & looked back at doors, finally noticing the bright red sign, 12 inches in front of our noses, that read – “EXIT ONLY.”
Our eyes had been working fine all along, but apparently we didn’t know what to do
with sight. We failed to pay attention to what our eyes were seeing. There are times when that failure just makes for a funny story. There are other times when it’s downright dangerous to not pay attention to what your eyes are seeing. That’s true physically if you’re driving a car. It’s also true in a spiritual sense if you’re alive in this world.
Two Sunday’s ago, the sermon title was – What does unbelief look like? I mentioned that even if we know what it looks like, there are times we still have to pay attention & actually look – you know – open our eyes, focus on & think about what we’re seeing. We should process the information that our eyes are taking in, because unbelief is hell – literally.
Sometimes, we need to intentionally process the information our eyes take in because those of us who still are able to see tend to take that blessing for granted. Though we are able to see, we don’t always know what to do with sight. However, the example Jesus gives us to ponder, in today’s Gospel reading, is quite the opposite of unbelief.
Listen again to the Word of God concerning the blind beggar named Bartimaeus, “…immediately he recovered his sight & followed [Jesus] on the way.” Bartimaeus is an example of someone who did know what to do with sight – he followed Jesus. How about you? Do you know what to do with sight?
How many hours of the week do you dedicate to following your Lord? If that’s uncomfortable to think about, you could throw out there that Bartimaeus was a beggar so he had nothing to leave behind. Certainly, he could just pack up his mat & follow. You have a life. You have responsibilities, commitments, maybe even a job.
If you’re feeling the Holy Spirit tugging at you though, you might suspect that answer isn’t going to stand up to scrutiny. So here’s a Bible verse for you: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, & leave the dead to bury their own dead.’” (Matthew 8:22 ESV) There isn’t much leeway there to say it was easy for Bartimaeus to follow Jesus, but it’s much more difficult for me. You see, a man wanted to follow Jesus, but his father had died & he said, “Lord, let me first go & bury my father.” (Matthew 8:20 ESV) Jesus’ response is like a sledge hammer – hard & unyielding: “Follow me, & leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
Jesus is God, after all, & no human being, not even a child of God, should think that we have the right to qualify or demote, in any way, the priority of Jesus’ authority. Yet, Jesus knows that His followers will not always fully acknowledge the priority of His will.
Like all sins, our failures in that regard need to be confessed. It is through repentance alone that God’s Holy Spirit turns us back to the loving relationship we have with our heavenly Father. Through repentance, God’s Spirit restores the proper priorities in our lives. As you may guess, repentance is extremely painful for our sinful nature to endure.
That is precisely why the questions we ask at confirmation include the following, which reaffirm & renew the promise that, by God’s grace, we will follow Jesus to the end:
“Do you renounce the devil & all his works & all his ways? Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession & Church & to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” The child of God replies in the power of the Holy Spirit: “I do so intend with the help of God.” That’s what it means to follow Jesus – following is not only for the easy or for the good times.
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately [Bartimaeus] recovered his sight & followed Him on the way.” So how come Bartimaeus was able to follow, yet we often fail? How was it that Bartimaeus, unlike you & me, so quickly knew what to do with sight?
God has continued to bless most of us with sight. How are we serving our Lord with it? There are a lot of opportunities here on Sunday mornings to serve. There are many more opportunities at the school & childcare, during the week. Whether you need glasses or not, are you doing anything with your sight that counts as loving your neighbor? Is your sight being used to drive someone to appointments or events they could not otherwise attend without your help? Could you say that you spend even ten minutes a day in reading the Word of God?
That list can go on & on. The point is, “Where is Jesus on your priority list?” The choices we make, on how to spend our time, make it perfectly clear. You’ve heard that saying, haven’t you, “You can fool some people all of the time, & you can fool all people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people, all of the time.” People do see our priorities.
Sinful human beings that we are, none of us can ever fool Jesus. Are we truly following this Jesus whom we claim to be our Savior? If we’re honest, in a sense, we are as helpless as the blind beggar named Bartimaeus. I am completely unable to help myself, let alone heal myself. What about you? Maybe we are more like the Pharisees than like Bartimaeus.
Jesus said, in the Gospel of John: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, & those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near Him heard these things, & said to Him, ‘Are we also blind?’ Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” (John 9:39-41 ESV)
Jesus is stating that the Pharisees had refused to confess their sin, & repent. In that spiritual state, they truly are blind. They have no idea what to do with sight. Do we live our lives like the Pharisees? They were self-help experts.
Bartimaeus was done with that. He admitted, not only that he was physically blind, but spiritually blind as well. He confessed that he could not follow Jesus without God’s help. So he asked Jesus to have mercy on him. When is the last time, in a heartfelt way, you confessed that you are totally unable to follow Jesus without His help? If you’re still wondering how Jesus can expect you to just pack up & leave, to follow Him, the words of James 4:2 might help. They’re pretty direct though, so hang on & don’t jump to conclusions: “You desire & do not have, so you murder. You covet & cannot obtain, so you fight & quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:2 ESV) I warned you it was direct.
If you’re still wondering how Jesus can expect you to just up & follow Him, the reason you fail, or don’t even desire to follow in the 1st place, is that you don’t ask. You’re probably afraid to ask, because who knows where Jesus might lead you. The years of blindness took away any fear of asking that Bartimaeus might have had: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
In this morning’s Prayer of the Day, there are these words: “O God, the helper of all who call on You, have mercy on us & give us eyes of faith to see Your Son that we may follow Him on the way that leads to eternal life…” If there are trials & suffering in our lives, our heavenly Father fully intends to work through them to humble us & take away our fear of following Him.
Whatever our sin may be, & there are many to choose from, we too can seek His mercy & receive healing for our troubled heart & soul. Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” This healing Jesus performed on Bartimaeus was a direct fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah:
“Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come & save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened…” (Isaiah 35:4-5 ESV)
To stay close, Bartimaeus has to follow Jesus, because our Savior isn’t standing around. He’s on a mission. He’s going to Jerusalem to suffer & die & be raised up again. To truly see, or understand the healing of Bartimaeus in all its saving glory, we have to know where Jesus is going. And with this one miracle, Jesus sums up His entire serving & saving ministry.
The Son of God opens the eyes of the blind man in order that the new, ‘seeing man’ may
follow Him on the way. To put things into context for our self-help & ‘I know my rights’ culture, the return of sight to Bartimaeus is not the real issue. It’s not the big deal. Bartimaeus’ restored sight is but a symptom of the real healing that occurred in his heart & soul – the gift of faith, life & salvation. How could Bartimaeus not follow Jesus?
The heart & soul of the formerly blind beggar has now been restored & reconciled to His almighty Creator. In fact, Jesus came to earth to renew all of His creation, which sin had broken after the Holy Trinity finished creating it. Bartimaeus was able to follow Jesus in this instance, because he surrendered his heart, soul & will, to his loving Creator.
If you & I are not following Jesus, it’s because we are refusing to. Whenever that is true there’s no way we can know what to do with sight. Golfing has a lot to do with sight, & with blocking out distractions, so listen to a golfer named Linda Ballard. She writes for a group that sends daily devotionals to people who really like golfing. Someone else sent this to me:
“In my own experience as a Christian, I have found that I can only refocus when I redirect where I am looking. If I look at the distraction – the illness, the fear, the hopelessness – I am overcome by it. If I look to the one who made me & focus on Him, I gain strength & a clear vision of His purposes for me. God’s greatest desire for each of us is for us to acknowledge our inability to do anything in our own strength & to lean on him every minute of every day. Let’s say it again: We overcome distraction by narrowing our focus toward the only One who can save us. Remember, ‘…they that wait upon the LORD will renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run & not be weary, they shall walk & not faint.’” (Isaiah 40:31)
The story of Bartimaeus is a story of sight being given to the blind. You & I struggle with unbelief & that means we need Jesus to restore our sight. To which we cry, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Amen.
Lord, who once came to bring, on Your redeeming wing, healing & sight, health to the sick in mind, sight to the inly blind: Oh, now to humankind let there be light! Spirit of truth & love, life-giving, holy dove, speed forth Your flight; move on the water’s face, bearing the lamp of grace, & in earth’s darkest place let there be light! Amen. (LSB 979 v. 2 & 3)