Sermon by the Rev. Caela Simmons Wood
at First Congregational UCC, Manhattan, KS
at First Congregational UCC, Manhattan, KS
October 25, 2015
Sermon Text: Mark 10: 46-52
|Image by Jesus Mafa|
Apparently, when we get to Jerusalem we’re going to be greeted by a parade. Jesus pulled me aside after dinner and said something about a colt and palm branches and that Bart was going to need a cloak. He left his behind earlier today on the side of the road here in Jericho. So guess who gets to go out at dusk, knocking on doors to see if they can find the new guy a coat? Me, that’s who.
The new guy really likes to talk. When I left them a few minutes ago they were chat, chat, chatting by the fire. I dunno why he can’t go find his own cloak. I mean, he can see now and everything. But I get it. Jesus wants to visit with him. He’s new. And everybody wants to have a little one-on-one time with Jesus.
Bart has a loud voice. It’s one of those voices that really carries, you know? Kind of gets under your skin? Which I guess is good for him because when he heard us walking down the street in Jericho this morning, he yelled out in that big voice, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” You couldn’t miss it.
The people around him tried to shush him. I mean, really. Did they really think a guy as famous as Jesus would want to stop and talk to a blind beggar on the side of the road?
Of course, they don’t know Jesus like I do. I could have told you he was going to stop. That’s what he does. I mean, what else was he going to do, anyway? Because Bartimaeus just kept yelling louder (“Son of David, have mercy on me!” ) and LOUDER (“SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!”).
It was awkward, you know? He wasn’t polite like so many of the others who come asking for help. Like that guy from earlier this week, the rich guy. I never caught his name. He was polite. Walked up to Jesus quietly and knelt before him. Called him Good Teacher.
Bartimaeus? Not so much. He was brazen. He didn’t even kneel when he came over. And he called Jesus by an odd name – one I’ve never heard anyone use before. “Son of David.” I think that caught Jesus’s attention. Because he’s always talking about how he’s about to die and then be raised again. I don’t fully understand it. But I do understand that he’s special somehow. That’s he’s somehow come to set us free. To provide relief to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
I guess Son of David – that messianic name – makes sense. I wonder if it’ll catch on.
So, anyway, Bartimaeus is yelling and we go get him and he jumps up and leaves his cloak behind on the side of the road. I mean, come on. It’s the only thing you own, dude. You couldn’t bring it with you?
Funny. That makes me think about the rich guy earlier this week. The one who called Jesus Good Teacher and asked him how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus told him he needed to sell everything he owned, give the money to the poor, and follow him. He couldn’t do it though. Can’t say that I blame him. I mean, most of us that are here following Jesus didn’t leave a lot behind, if you know what I’m saying. Not anything much that we wanted, at least. Most of us were running from something. If I had had a perfect life with all kinds of nice stuff….I dunno if I would have left it all behind.
But Bart left everything he owned behind! Kind of on accident, I guess. Ha! He did it without even being asked. And so now I’m out here knocking on doors at dusk because Jesus says he’s gonna need a cloak tomorrow. (As per usual, Jesus’s great ideas are more glamorous in theory than in practice.)
So Bartimaeus jumps up and leaves the cloak behind. And unlike the rich dude, Bart’s question wasn’t all esoteric. It was practical. He wasn’t worried about eternal life. He was worried about the next five minutes and then the five after that and the five after that. He asked Jesus to restore his sight.
Now, I knew he’s do it. Jesus is really good at this trick. I’ve seen him do it tons of times. And not to get too philosophical on you, but Jesus is really good with sight in general, you know? I mean, not just the actual eyeball stuff, but the other kinds of sight….helping us see what’s important, helping us focus on what matters, helping us see God in every person we encounter….even the beggar on the side of the road sometimes.
And speaking of philosophy – does anyone else think it’s interesting that the new guy’s name is Bartimaeus? Bar Timaeus. Son of Timaeus? Come on – tell me you’ve heard of Timaeus? It’s that really famous bit by Plato….all about the meaning of life and seeing what really matters. An apt name is all I’m saying.
So Jesus restores his sight and everyone oohs and ahhs and then Jesus tells him, “Go! Your faith has made you well.” Only Bart doesn’t go. He stays.
Again, I probably shouldn’t be surprised because people are often doing the exact opposite of what Jesus tells them to do. Like the rich guy. Jesus told him to follow and he went away, grieving. And Bart, he stayed with us, even though Jesus told him to go.
I dunno, maybe Jesus secretly finds this amusing. I mean, he’s always celebrating opposites. It’s like opposite-day all the time around here. “The first will be last, the last will be first….Those who want to be the greatest must become least and servants of all….And a little child will lead them….” That kind of stuff. He’s into opposites. I tell ya, you never know what to expect. It never gets dull with this guy.
So Bartimaeus is sticking with us, it seems. And all I can think is this: does he really know what he’s getting into?
I mean, why is he doing this? He could just as easily stay here in Jericho and start a new life now that he can see and everything. He’s putting himself at considerable risk coming to Jerusalem. According to Jesus, some pretty intense stuff is gonna go down there this week. And I’m not going to lie to you….I’m a little nervous about it. I’m not entirely sure I’ll make it out the other side.
And yet, the thing is – if Bart is right about this “Son of David” stuff – I don’t want to miss it, you know? Because if Jesus is really the Chosen One, the Anointed, the Messiah, the One We’ve Been Waiting For….I mean, how could I miss that? Everyone needs someone to follow. And if you’re really lucky, you find that one person or idea or whatever that gives meaning to your life, helps you really understand all the pain and agony of this world…the person or idea or whatever who makes each day a little more bearable, and helps guide your decisions.
Anyway, there I go getting all philosophical again. But that’s what Jesus is to me, I suppose. Not just a friend – not just a guy. But an idea. A way of life. A revelation.
So, yeah. It seems like Bart is sticking with us and Jesus says I gotta go find him a cloak. Where’s the rich guy when you need him? I bet he has several extra cloaks laying around. Maybe Jesus could have taken it a little easier on him, “If you want to find eternal life, go and give away 10% of your cloaks and then come and follow me.” Ha.
Oh, Jesus. Why do you have to make everything so darn hard? I mean, you kind of pushed that rich guy away with your big demands. If you could have just convinced him to stick with us and give us a little, we’d be better off. I probably wouldn’t be wandering around looking for a cloak for Bartimaeus.
Jesus. He really pushes my buttons sometimes.
But then I think about what he looked like just before I left a few minutes ago. Sitting there by the fire with Bart. They were joking around a bit and Bart laughed at one of Jesus’s jokes. It’s probably one I’ve already heard a hundred times…but they’ll all be new to Bart.
So Bart laughs and then looks down at the fire. I bet that’s really cool – seeing the flames dance when you’ve maybe never seen a fire before.
And Jesus looks down, too. And I can kind of – I dunno – sense that he’s thinking about the rich guy. Just sort of wishing he was here with us. Maybe even wondering if he was too hard on him.
It’s getting dark out now. The stars are coming out a bit. “God took Abraham outside and said to him, ‘Look toward the heavens. Number the stars, if you are able. I will make your descendants as many as those stars in the heavens.”
Abraham, the old guy. Who would have thought he could have children at all? And yet I am reminded of what Jesus keeps telling us. What he told us right after the rich dude walked away. “For mortals it is impossible, but for God, all things are possible.”
And…I dunno, on this perfect night just before we head into whatever the week holds in Jerusalem, I find myself thinking, maybe Jesus is right this time, too. After all, if I can start over again and if Bart can see again and if a nobody-of-no-account from a dingy little town like Bethlehem can threaten the Roman Empire enough that they sit up and take notice….well, maybe there’s hope for all of us.
Maybe I’ll even find this stupid cloak before it gets really dark.