Sunday, 31 January 2016

Blind Bartimaeus - Mark 10:46 - 52

The crowd is celebrating, Bartimaeus is calling. Jesus is in town which gives the crowd reason to be glad, and Bartimaeus to hope for mercy. The crowd are not interested in Bartimaeus and his interruptions. They rudely tell him to be quiet. They have no respect for him - his name means 'Son of Filth' after all. Yet he calls all the more, using the royal title 'Son of David' - recognising Jesus as the Messiah. The son of filth calls to the anointed royalty of David's line!

Amongst the noisy crowd Jesus Jesus does some special things. First he stops for the one, singling Bartimaeus out for attention. Secondly he instructs the crowd to bring him over. In a stroke Jesus turns the tables and gets the disapproving crowd to be like foot soldiers escorting the person into his royal presence. With Jesus around every episode is a potential teaching episode, and here he teaches the crowd (and quite possibly the disciples too) who is important in Kingdom terms.

With Bartimaeus in front of him Jesus asks a simple question, "What do you want me to do for you?". It might seem a stupid question, but in fact it is clever for two reasons. Firstly Jesus meets the person in their space and by asking them empowers them. This is a golden rule of community development, the 'work with' instead of 'do to' principle - help people to have and articulate their dream or vision.

Secondly a fact of the culture of the time was that there were professional beggars, people who 'helped' richer people do their religious duty by giving to the poor. A blind person would have no skills or training, but made a perfect recipient for one's obligation to give! Yes it would mean sitting in the dirt most days, but you could make a living. Jesus' question implicitly asks if the person wants to take responsibility for their life going forward - another good community development principle. When confronted by someone with various needs, an empowering question is to ask the one thing they really want?

Bartimaeus stuns with his reply: 'Rabbi' (or 'Lord' in the Luke 18 account) 'I want to see'. He has moved from the royal/messiah title to asserting Jesus as his master teacher, his Lord. He wants his physical sight, yet it seems he can already 'see' more than most others in the crowd - that Jesus is Lord and has the power to restore his sight! We should ask ourselves why cannot we see that on so many occasions?

Jesus responds simply and directly - 'Go, receive your sight, your faith has healed you' (Mark & Luke combined). Jesus speaks this new reality into being. Again we can learn ... positively declare what the healing should entail.

Bartimaeus is healed and starts following Jesus on the road. From a glimmer of faith he is now in fledgling discipleship. Kingdom signs can have the effect of rapidly propelling someone onto the road of Jesus-following. We desire to see Kingdom Life across the city, and with that we look/pray/hope for Kingdom signs too.

The bottom line though is to be like Bartimaeus: to see Jesus for who he really is.

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