a Homily for Proper 25B
Text: Mark 10:46-52
A Healing Story
Jesus heals people. At this point this seems like old news. Remember several chapters ago when Jesus healed the man of leprosy? Jesus urges the man to tell no one and instead, the blabbermouth runs into town and tells everybody about Jesus. It seems so long ago now. Routine. A blind begger is given his sight. Just another story of healing. No urging to tell no one. Maybe Jesus has given up on that idea. It wasn’t a secret anybody could keep, anyway. No blabbing to everyone in town. To us, this story might seem pretty mundane.
We could be excused then if we just jumped to that powerful line toward the end. Jesus urges the man “Go; your faith has made you well.” Many are going to hear this morning about faith and about the rewards of faith. Many other people are going to hear that Jesus isn’t the healer; GOD is. That this is just like the woman that touched Jesus’s cloak. Many preachers will preach about GOD’s healing, restorative power.
I am not. That’s not what I’m preaching today. Because this isn’t any old healing. This isn’t just a story of redemption. This is the capstone of the journey. This is the end of the line. And this is the moment in which we anticipate how everything will be revealed.
Not Such a Simple Story
We must hold in our minds for a moment that we have read through three straight chapters of Jesus talking about discipleship, turning his attention to Jerusalem, and preparing for his death. He has warned his followers of what is to come and they have failed to understand Him. He described a worldview that they are to use to replace the dominant worldview; to start not just a paradigm shift, but a paradigm overhaul.
Our own response to these chapters was to have our assumptions challenged. We have heard difficult things about how we treat children and minorities, divorce, and wealth. This has been a really tough sequence. So we might be tempted to read this morning’s gospel story as a respite: a simple healing story like all of the others.
This is no simple healing story.
There are many reasons why, but we need to speak of only one. This blind begger has a name. Let’s let that sink in.
He isn’t The Blind Begger. He is Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is a blind begger. The recipients of Jesus’s healing ministry aren’t named in any of the gospels. The only other is Lazarus, who was already one of Jesus’s buddies. So this man is the only one who is healed and is named in the text.
What’s In a Name?
There’s an obvious reason he is named. He becomes a disciple. While others are focusing on Jesus’s statement at the end of this morning’s text, the important sentence is the one immediately after that, which concludes chapter 10:
Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
The man had lost his ability to see the world and Jesus helped him retrieve it. But more importantly, the man sprang up from the ground, threw off his cloak and in that moment got in line behind Jesus.
Greater than his physical blindness was his spiritual blindness.
Bartimaeus is named because he’s a disciple. Therefore being a disciple is way more important to this story than the healing or the faith. It was all in the action. It was in his declaration that Jesus is the Son of David, in the shedding of his garments, in his leaping to his feet, and especially, in the act of getting behind Jesus and following Him. That day the new walls of Jericho fell down.
We Are St. Paul’s
We receive this story because to the early church becoming a disciple is more important than receiving GOD’s redemption or the healing touch of Jesus. Perhaps because we are all freely given such miraculous grace; that this is the part that is on us. What is different for us today is in Bartimaeus’ participation in the Jesus event; in his response to Jesus. That our response to Jesus is more important than what He has done for us. That we shed our cloaks, spring up, and embrace our own calling to this world.
The good news is that we already are. We are already hearing the call to discipleship. We are already hearing the call to generous giving and faithful devotion. We have ministries at home and abroad we are beginning to tackle with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit. We are embracing the challenges before us. In all of this, St. Paul’s is embracing its future powerfully.
Many of us are taking up new expressions of our discipleship; baking bread for the Bishop’s visit next week; heading up our fundraising effort for Nets for Life; meeting to worship in new ways.
We must not forget, however, that our journey with Jesus inevitably leads to Jerusalem; that death is around the corner. That we, for all of that grace given to us, will die. But through death, we find new life. For all our struggles and all that we have going for us, we are assured of a future, even when our present is over. Jesus invites us to follow Him through it all.
I am sure that we are so called. Because we have a name.