The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Mark 9:30-37

 


OF ALL THE PEOPLE HEALED BY JESUS, WE KNOW THE NAME OF JUST ONE; BARTIMAEUS. WHEN WE READ OR HEAR BARTIMAEUS SON OF TIMAEUS IT SOUNDS A BIT STRANGE TO US, SINCE WE, BY NOW, KNOW THAT BAR IN HEBREW OR ARAMAIC MEANS ‘SON OF.’ THE READERS OF MARK’S GOSPEL WERE MORE THAN LIKELY NOT EXPOSED TO ARAMAIC, SO WHEN MARK USES AN ARAMAIC WORD OR VERSE, HE IMMEDIATELY TRANSLATES IT INTO GREEK. THE FACT THAT MARK TELLS US THE NAME OF THE BLIND BEGGAR IS SIGNIFICANT, SINCE IT TELLS US THAT SOMETHING IMPORTANT IS GOING ON HERE. AS JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES, ALONG WITH A GREAT CROWD, WALK OUT OF JERICHO ON THEIR WAY TO JERUSALEM, THEY PASS A BLIND BEGGAR SITTING ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. HE WAS SITTING ON HIS CLOAK, PROBABLY HIS ONLY POSSESSION, WITH IT SPREAD OUT IN FRONT OF HIM TO CATCH WHAT FEW COINS THE COMPASSIONATE PASSERS MIGHT TOSS IN TO KEEP HIM ALIVE. SINCE PEOPLE THOUGHT THAT PHYSICAL HANDICAPS WERE A SIGN OF BEING CURSED BY GOD FOR SIN, HE WAS THE LOWEST OF THE LOW. YET THIS BLIND BEGGAR SAW BETTER THAN ANYONE.

WHEN HE HEARS THAT IT IS JESUS PASSING BY, BARTIMAEUS SHOUTED OUT, “JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!” MANY TRIED TO SHUT HIM UP; AFTER ALL, WHY SHOULD SUCH A LOWLY SINNER BOTHER JESUS. HERE IS A MAN WHO HAD NOTHING TO LOOSE, SO INSTEAD OF SHUTTING UP, HE SHOUTED ALL THE MORE LOUDLY, “SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!” THIS IS THE FIRST TIME ANYONE HAS CALLED JESUS THE SON OF DAVID. THIS IS CLEARLY A ROYAL TITLE HARKENING BACK TO KING DAVID, AND JUST AS CLEARLY A STATEMENT THAT BARTIMAEUS SEES JESUS AS THE PROMISED MESSIAH. REMEMBER THAT JESUS IS ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM AND THE CROSS, AND WHEN HE ENTERS THE CITY HE WILL DO SO IN A ROYAL MANNER CHEERED ON WITH CRIES OF HOSANNA. WHEN JESUS HEARS THE SHOUTS OF BARTIMAEUS, HE STOPS AND SAYS, “CALL HIM HERE.” THOSE WHO HAD TRIED TO SHUT HIM UP, NOW SAY, “TAKE HEART; GET UP, HE IS CALLING YOU.” WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IS SO SIMPLE IN THE TELLING YET SO PROFOUND IN ITS IMPLICATIONS. HE THROWS OFF HIS CLOAK, SPRINGS UP, AND COMES TO JESUS.

HIS CLOAK WAS HIS ONLY POSSESSION, ALONG WITH WHAT FEW COINS MAY HAVE BEEN ON IT. HERE IS A MAN SO CERTAIN THAT JESUS CAN HELP HIM THAT HE CASTS AWAY EVERYTHING TO COME TO JESUS. BARTIMAEUS IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THE RICH YOUNG MAN WHO COULD NOT GIVE UP EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW JESUS. CONSIDER ALSO THAT BARTIMAEUS ONLY HEARD ABOUT JESUS AND NEVER SAW ANYTHING THAT JESUS DID. HIS FAITH IN JESUS IS BASED SOLELY ON HIS HEARING ABOUT JESUS FROM OTHERS. PERHAPS WE MIGHT THINK OF HIM AS ONE OF THOSE WHO ARE BLESSED BECAUSE THEY DID NOT SEE YET BELIEVED.

JESUS DOES NOT CALL HIM DIRECTLY, BUT TELLS OTHERS TO CALL HIM; HE ENCOURAGES THE DISCIPLES TO BE ACTIVE AGENTS IN THE CALLING OF OTHERS TO HIM. THE LESSON FOR HIS DISCIPLES IS THAT THEY ARE TO BECOME THE AGENTS OF LEADING PEOPLE TO JESUS, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE YET TO FULLY GRASP WHAT THAT MEANS.

WHEN HE FINALLY STANDS IN FRONT OF JESUS, JESUS ASKS HIM THE SAME QUESTION HE ASKED OF JAMES AND JOHN WHICH WE HEARD ABOUT LAST SUNDAY; “WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU?” JAMES AND JOHN ASKED FOR POSITIONS OF POWER AND AUTHORITY IN THE COMING KINGDOM, NOT YET UNDERSTANDING THAT THE WAY TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS THROUGH THE WAY OF THE CROSS. BARTIMAEUS ASKS SIMPLY, “MY TEACHER, LET ME SEE AGAIN.” WHEN JESUS HEALS HIM WITH THE WORD, AND TELLS HIM TO “GO, YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU WELL,” BARTIMAEUS DOES NOT GO; HE FOLLOWS JESUS ON HIS WAY TO THE CROSS. HE DOES NOT EVEN GO BACK TO GET HIS CLOAK. THIS FORMERLY BLIND BEGGAR SEES BETTER THAN THE DISCIPLES OR THE CROWD WHO JESUS IS AND WHAT HE IS ABOUT TO DO. YET HE FOLLOWS HIS TEACHER AND HIS MASTER TO JERUSALEM.

MARK TELLS US THE NAME OF BARTIMAEUS BECAUSE HE IS SO CENTRAL TO THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE WHOLE GOSPEL. HE IS THE BRIDGE BETWEEN ALL THAT HAS COME BEFORE AND ALL THAT IS TO COME IN JERUSALEM. JESUS CALLS OTHERS TO “COME AND FOLLOW ME”; HE TELLS BARTIMAEUS TO “GO”, AND YET HE FOLLOWS JESUS TO THE CROSS. BARTIMAEUS WAS ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, THE LOWEST OF THE LOW, AND NOW HE IS ON THE WAY WITH JESUS WHO, IN JERUSALEM, WILL BECOME THE LOWEST OF THE LOW ON THE CROSS BETWEEN TWO THIEVES. GOING BECOMES FOLLOWING WHEN THE WAY WE ARE GOING IS THE WAY TO THE CROSS.

THE MEANING OF THIS SHORT PASSAGE IS THAT FAITH, TRUST IN JESUS AND IN WHO HE IS, MUST BE LIKE THAT OF BARTIMAEUS; COMPLETE AND UNEQIVICABLE. FAITH IN JESUS MEANS LIFE AND HEALTH, AND IS WORTH MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THIS LIFE. IT MEANS THE WAY OF THE CROSS MUST BE OUR WAY, AND THAT WAY INCLUDES CALLING AND ENCOURAGING OTHERS TO COME TO JESUS, AND JOIN US ON THAT WAY. IT MEANS THAT THE SALVATION OF GOD IS OPEN TO ALL PEOPLE, EVEN TO THE LOWEST OF THE LOW, BECAUSE GOD IN CHRIST SEES US ALL AS CHILDREN OF THE HEAVENLY FATHER. IT MEANS THAT NO ONE IS BEYOND THE LOVE AND GRACE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS. AS SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTROM ONCE SAID, “IF YOU CAN NOT SEE CHRIST IN THE BLIND BEGGAR AT THE DOOR OF THE CHURCH, YOU WILL NOT SEE HIM IN THE EUCHARIST.” THIS IS WHY WE KNOW THE NAME OF BARTIMAEUS; HE IS THE MODEL FOR ALL OF US.
AMEN