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What a Blind Man Sees

The sermon from October 11, 2015, at The Patterson Avenue Baptist Church is included in this blog post (both the video and the manuscript).   The sermon is titled:  “What A Blind Man Sees” and is based on Jesus words recorded in Mark 10:45-52.

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The sermon video and manuscript is below.

What a Blind Man Sees

Mark 10:45-52

 

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

 

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

 

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

 

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

 

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

 

 

I want to talk to you today about “What a blind man can see.”

 

In 1933, Helen Keller wrote an article for The Atlantic Monthly, titled: “Three days to see.”  For those unfamiliar with Keller, she was a popular American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was also the first deaf and blind person to earn the Bachelor of Arts degree.

 

The Miracle Worker is a wonderful film which tells the story of how Anne Sullivan, Keller’s teacher, manage to break through the isolation imposed on her by a near complete lack of language.

 

In her Atlantic Monthly article, Keller writes of what she would want to see if she were granted three days of site.

 

On the first day she said she wanted to see her loved ones – all the family members, teacher, and friends, who had meant so much to her throughout her life.

 

On her second day, she says she would look at nature – the sky, the trees, and the collections of plants and animals which she had only experienced through scent and touch.

 

On her third day of sight, Keller said she would want to watch the hustle and bustle of daily life in her hometown, New York City.

 

In her article, Keller advised all sighted people to look, see, and enjoy the blessings of life.   She once wrote:  “Don’t feel sorry for those who are blind, but for those who have their eyesight and still cannot see.”

 

Keller was a woman who was completely blind, yet she had tremendous insight into the human condition.  There were some things she could see that many with healthy eyesight often miss.

 

I want to talk to you today about “What a blind man can see.”

 

That’s what today’s scripture lesson is all about.  But before we look at what the blind man could see, let’s glance at what those with healthy eyesight were missing.

 

A few chapters earlier, Jesus worked to give sight to another blind man.  At first, however, that miracle didn’t take.  It took two attempts for Jesus to restore that blind man’s eyesight.  Sandwiched between that story and today’s narrative about  Bartimaeus, we see Jesus working to help his disciples see, even though they had perfect eyesight.

 

At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus says that “the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the religious authorities, and be killed.”   When Peter hears this statement, he rebukes Jesus.  He does not see what Jesus was all about.

 

Next, in Galilee, Jesus tells the disciples that he will be betrayed and murdered.  To that, Mark’s gospel simply says that the disciples “did not understand and were afraid to ask.” In other words, they could not see.

 

Just prior to the encounter with Bartimaeus, Jesus and his entourage approach Jerusalem.  The road they traveled was continually littered with the crosses of criminals, rebels, and malcontents. Jesus aims to prepare his disciples for the inevitable, saying, “The Son of Man will be handed over and killed.”

 

James and John respond, but it seems like they did not even hear what Jesus had just said.  “Lord, when you come into your glory, may we have a seat on your right and left hand.”  Jesus must have been frustrated.  James and John had perfect eyesight, but they could not see.

 

Verse 45 serves as a connection between these stories and Jesus’ healing of Bartimaeus.  It also states, in no uncertain terms, the intent of Jesus mission and ministry.  Jesus says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

Jesus is speaking about sacrifice – the sacrifice of love; the sacrifice of redemption, the sacrifice of being servant. But the disciples could not see.

 

It’s easy to be critical of the disciples,  It’s easy to stand back and wag our fingers in dismay, and say:  “They just didn’t get it.  They didn’t see what Jesus was all about!” What’s difficult to admit is how often we miss out.  We have perfect vision, but we can’t see what’s really happening around us.  We can’t see how Jesus would have us respond.

 

We sit behind the stained glass, under the copula, and lament the changes taking place in our world.

 

We stand back and wag our fingers at a sinful and broken world, moaning in dismay that people aren’t coming to church anymore.

 

We complain that folks are not believing what we think they should believe, nor acting the way we think they should act.

 

We lament that is seem that folks just don’t “get it,” and we miss out on the reality that we often do not  see nor comprehend the call of Christ.

 

We are not called to sit in judgment and announce condemnation.  Rather, we are called to join Jesus declaring Father’s grace.  We are called to join Jesus on the path of sacrificial love.

 

Too often, however, we do not see that as our stance in the world.

 

But let’s not be too hard on ourselves, either!  There is a good reason we choose not to see, even though we have perfectly healthy vision.  It’s because we’ve discovered that seeing can be dangerous.

 

I read a story this week about a photojournalist named Kevin Carter.  In 1993, while on assignment covering the famine that ravaged the Sudan, Carter took a photograph of a small girl who collapsed dead in front of him while approaching a mission to find food.

 

In May of 1994, Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for the photograph.  Two months later, he committed suicide. A friend said that after shooting the photo, Kevin “sat under a tree and cried and chain-smoked.”  He could not distance himself from the horror of what he saw.  He could not unsee what he had seen.

 

That’s one of the reason we do not see, even with perfect eyesight.  We are afraid of the impact that sight might have on us.  Seeing things the way they are – seeing how Christ calls us to respond – could be dangerous.  It might call into question everything we’ve ever believed.  It might dismantle our theology, our worldview, our version of faith.  It might challenge everything we have ever thought, been taught, and believed.  Seeing could devastate us.

 

I imagine at one level the disciples knew exactly what Jesus was talking about.  It’s hard to miss the meaning of his words.  Listen again:

 

“I will be betrayed.”

“I will be taken into custody.”

“I will be put to death.”

 

There is no mistaking the meaning of these words.  But seeing what these words really meant would be dangerous.  So Peter rebuked Jesus and James and John pretended they didn’t even hear what Jesus had said. Seeing can be dangerous.   Better off to just cover our eyes – to have perfect eyesight, and yet refuse to see.  The only problem is that this is not an option for people of faith.

 

You see, Jesus intends for us to SEE.  When Jesus announced the purpose of his ministry in the Gospel of Luke, he quoted Isaiah, and said:  “The spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has sent me to recover sight to the blind.” 

 

Jesus gave sight to many blind people.  It was the number one, most often performed MIRACLE in his ministry.  And giving sight to the blind was one of the signs predicting the advent of the Messiah.

 

So Jesus gives sight to the blind – and he calls us to be people sight.  He wants us to recognize our blindness and to be open to his grace giving us sight.  “I am the light of the world,” Jesus once said.

 

In the midst  of this world darkness, we are to be reflections of his light, and love, and mercy.   He calls us to the cross.  He teaches us to take up the cross and follow him as servants of his grace.

 

But that’s not easy.  Seeing the world’s darkness (and recognizing that such darkness often clouds our own vision) can devastate us.  That’s what it did for photojournalist Kevin Carter.  That’s why we need to see what blind Bartimaeus saw.   Even before the miracle, Bartimaeus could see something that is absolutely essential to being a disciple in today’s kind of world.

 

Hearing that Jesus was about to pass by his spot on the Jericho road, Bartimaeus cries out:  “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 

Here was a man who was not content to wallow in the misery of what life had dealt him.  Here was a man who saw life as it was—but BUT HE ALSO saw how it could be when Jesus got involved. He saw in Jesus the gift of hope.

 

How different that is from the blindness of so many.  Every day we meet people who assume that things are the way they are suppose to be.  So they just wallow in sadness and self-pity; or they murmur and complain with bitterness and loathing, but they never reach our in faith.   They never grasp the new, fresh, and different opportunities that faith provides.

 

Lots of churches are like that!

 

They think assume that they can’t make a redemptive impact on the world.  “We have no money!”  “We have no resources!”  “We are too old, too small, and are in a bad location.” Would these congregations like things to be different?  Absolutely!  They would love to be a vibrant, active, living, growing, mission-minded, and evangelistic community of faith.  They’d love to make a real difference in people’s lives.  But wishing for something is not the same thing as reaching out to grasping it by faith.

 

That’s why so many churches seem content to just get by.

 

Look and see what the blind man could saw.  The Messiah was near, so Bartimaeus said:  “Enough with the status quo.  I want my life to have purpose and meaning.  I want God to use me to make a difference in this world.  Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”

 

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “Teacher, I want to see!”

 

“Jesus, have mercy on me!”

 

Noticed that everyone else (the disciples and the crowd of onlookers) had all rebuked Bartimaeus.  They told him to keep quiet and stay out of the way.

 

“We’re on our way to the Holy City.” “We have no time for a blind beggar!”

 

“Jesus has more important things to do than to deal with you!”

 

“Shut up!”  “Pipe down!”  “Put a sock in it!”

 

“No way,” Bartimaeus must have thought.  “I am just going to have to shout louder.  I am just going to have to be more persistent.  I am going to have to ignore the naysayers.  My faith is going to have to rise about the doubt that is trying to squelch my belief.”

 

What did Bartimaeus see that he needed to survive?  He saw that he needed what God was offering in Jesus the Messiah.

 

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 

He knew he needed Jesus to be healed.  Before looking at anything else, Bartimaeus makes Jesus the context for everything he will see.  After being healed, Bartimaeus won’t see anything outside the optics of the one who healed him:  Jesus.

 

The God who is revealed in Jesus Christ becomes the framework through which Bartimaeus sees everything.  That’s why everything (even the broken and dark places of the world) has a glimmer of hope and light.  That’s why our stance in the world is one that sees possibility.  That’s why our relationships with all people is based on love and grace.

 

What does it mean to see everything in the context of Jesus?

 

Yes, through the seeing the world through the context of Jesus will mean that look suffering, betrayal, and even death straight in the eye.  But we are persuaded, as Paul writes to the Romans, that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When we look at the world – even at its darkest, hardest, and ugliest time – we never let it get the best of us, because seeing the world through the lens of Christ Jesus also means that we see resurrection.

 

How do we people of faith survive seeing?  We follow the example of Bartimaeus:  We begin with Jesus.

 

All Jesus said to Bartimaeus was “Go, your faith has healed you!”  In that moment, Bartimaeus was given eyesight.  He could have done anything with that eyesight.  He could have ran home and gazed into the eyes of his family.  He could have looked at the beauty of the world around him.  He could have explored the hustle and bustle of his hometown of Jerusalem.

 

So, what did he do?  The text tells us that he followed Jesus on the road – the road into Jerusalem, the road that led to the cross.   Bartimaeus could see that Jesus was MORE than a miracle worker.  He saw Jesus as the Messiah.  He saw in Jesus what God was like.  He gave Jesus his total devotion.

 

I guess that leads us to a question.  In light of all Jesus has done for you, do you see Him as a person worthy of your total devotion?

 

Are you willing to follow him wherever he leads?

 

Now it is easy to say: “Yes!”  while we are all sitting around in a sanctuary surrounded by all the niceties of our Sunday morning religion.

 

But what about the rest of the week?  What about when things go badly?  What about those moments when you are confronted by the world’s darkness and brokenness?  Are you willing to see the world through the optics of Jesus Christ?  Are you willing to take up the cross in those moments and follow him wherever he leads?

 

Matthew Parris, an Atlanta journalist and a man, who by his own confession, is not a Christian, once wrote these amazing words.  He said:

“The New Testament offers a picture of God, who does not sound at all vague.

 

“He has sent His Son to earth. He has distinct plans for each of us personally and can communicate directly with us.

 

“We are capable of forming a direct relationship, individually with Him.

 

“We are told that this can be done only through his son. And we are offered the prospect of eternal life – an afterlife in happy, blissful or glorious circumstances if we trust him and follow him.

 

“Friends, if I believed that, or even a tenth of that, I would drop my job, sell my house, throw away all my possessions, leave my acquaintances and set out into the world burning with desire to know more and, when I had found more, to act upon it and tell others.

 

“I am unable to understand how anyone who believed that (which) is written in the Bible could choose to spend their waking hours in any other endeavor.’

 

Those are amazing words.  Now if a supposed spiritually blind man can see this, why are so many of us blind to it?

 

Praying Dangerously: The Cry of Blind Bartimaeus
by: Shola Balogun
publisher: Soladem Printers Limited, published: 2011-06-15
ASIN: B00LONQ66Y
sales rank: 2150636

The cry of blind Bartimaeus is an ordinary cry of an ordinary blind beggar.But in it there is a secret key that unlocks the deep and secret things in the place of prayer.There are mysteries attached to the cry of blind Bartimaeus.These mysteries have practical steps you can apply to get results.

 

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