The Blue Mountains Franciscan Church
Sermon preached by Br Simeon at Springwood on Sunday 25th October 2015:
Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost year B
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
“Master, I want to see.”
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today we find our Lord and his disciples in the village of Jericho, a short fifteen miles from Jerusalem. Jesus has been talking about going to Jerusalem for quite some time; and for him the end of the road is not very far away.
I’ve never been to the Holy Land, but I have seen videos of Israel and its surrounds, and from memory of seeing documentaries or videos, my recollection of Jericho is this; It is a place of springs and palm trees, an oasis town, with rugged hills all around it … the perfect place for travellers to rest. Most people, like Jesus and the disciples, passed through Jericho on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. In fact the very next passage in Mark’s Gospel will record Jesus directing two of his disciples to go ahead and borrow a donkey for his Triumphal Entry into the Holy City.
As was the custom when a famous rabbi travelled anywhere, Jesus was surrounded by people who hoped to learn from him as they walked. So the very task of travelling to Jerusalem became something of a mobile seminar. Since Jericho was so close to Jerusalem, it was home to many religious leaders and priests, all eager to see Jesus and listen to him.
The Jewish law required that anyone who lived within fifteen miles of Jerusalem had an obligation to go there for the Passover, which would mean almost everyone in Jericho. Those who were physically impaired were not required to fill this mandate. The people unable to travel there would generally line the streets in order to capture the excitement as the pilgrims passed by. Such people were particularly eager to see anyone who was famous, and Jesus would have fallen into that category.
Mark’s story of the blind Bartimaeus, which takes place just before Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, is as much a “call” story as a healing story. For Mark, Bartimaeus is a model of faith. The blind beggar calls out to Jesus using the Messianic title “Son of David.”
He must have suffered a loss of his sight at some earlier time. Blindness was a common affliction in the Palestine of Jesus’ day.
We can imagine that this beggar was not very attractive. He would have been like many of the unwanted people that we try to keep out of sight. But though his prospects were limited, his faith and optimistic spirit were strong.
Day after day the world passed this blind man by, rarely noticing him, certainly not caring about him. The blind man heard the sound of caravans, the joyous laughter of children, the nasty gossip, and the business chatter of the men, but he saw nothing. Through the throng of noises and voices, on this particular day, he heard that Jesus was passing his way, and Bartimaeus was determined to grasp this opportunity. He ignored those who told him to be quiet, crying out to Jesus.
You see…Bartimaeus realises, Christ comes to heal our spiritual and moral blindness and open our eyes to recognise the Spirit of God in every person and to discern the way of God in all things; he opens our eyes as well as hearts and spirits to new images of a world made whole by the grace of God, of lives transformed by the love of God.
He first asks, not for his sight, but for compassion: He understands that this Jesus operates out of a spirit of love and compassion for humanity and places his faith in that spirit. Ironically, the blind Bartimaeus “sees” in Jesus the spirit of compassionate service that, until now, his “seeing” disciples have been unable to comprehend.
Mark tells us that Jesus heard Bartimaeus. Despite the roar of the crowds our Lord stopped and listened to the cry from the margin. Jesus then commanded that the blind man be brought to him. Jesus gently gave him a chance to make his request known: What would you have me do for you? Certainly there was no surprise in the answer Bartimaeus gave Jesus: My teacher, let me see again.
Here once again Jesus in His compassion and love answered the cry that came from the heart, Bartimaeus was made new, he was given his sight, but Bartimaeus was given much more.
Not only does he restores to Bartimaeus his physical sight but also a sense of the reality of God’s love for him, Christ comes to restore our “sight” to see God’s sacred presence in our lives, to heal us of our blindness to the sins of selfishness and hatred we too easily explain away.
Our deepest prayer is the cry of the blind Bartimeaus: “Master, I want to see” — to “see” with the human heart, to perceive in the spirit, to comprehend in the wisdom of God. Amen.