Jesus said to Bartimaeus, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’
Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was a nobody.
He wasn’t just any nobody
he was a “nobody” among the “nobodies”.
People often walked past Bartimaeus,
and at best,
they thought of the blind beggar…as a nuisance.
Day in and day out
Bartimaeus would make his way to his familiar spot.
Feeling his way along the crowded streets of Jericho,
Bartimaeus was invisible to the people
who hustled by
on the way to something glamorous and important.
You see Jericho wasn’t just any city,
Jericho was a city for the important people,
much like our New York or Washington, DC.
Herod had his winter palace there
and all the rich Roman families spent their winters in Jericho.
Jericho was an oasis, a destination city.
You couldn’t get to Jerusalem without passing through Jericho
so, anyone who wanted to be seen
had to have an address in Jericho.
So, every morning,
Bartimaeus made his way to the Jericho Road,
knowing that the rich people,
the military and the important people
had to pass by on their way.
Jericho Road was the place to be
if you were a blind beggar.
But even on the main road Bartimaeus was invisible.
Occasionally someone would drop a
copper penny or two in his bowl
so that he could eat for the day.
But deep down in his heart,
Bartimaeus knew he was someone.
He knew that God’s love for him was deeper than his blindness.
He was certain that even though people tried not to see him,
God saw him and
that was all that mattered.
Then something happened that changed Bartimaeus’ life forever.
He heard that the Rabbi name Jesus was in Jericho.
Rabbi Jesus had been preaching and
large crowds of people gathered to hear him
but Bartimaeus couldn’t get close.
He had heard about Jesus,
whispers here and there
that Jesus could perform miracles,
that he cured the sick and preached about God’s love.
Bartimaeus decided this was his chance, this was his time.
Jesus was passing by and
he mustered every ounce of strength he had
and shouted “Jesus, so of David have mercy on me!”
The good people following Jesus,
even his disciples,
told Bartimaeus to be quiet
but he yelled even louder;
“Son of David, have mercy on me!”
It happened almost too quickly.
The people parted
and someone grabbed Bartimaeus’ hand
and suddenly he was kneeling before Jesus.
This man who for most of his life was invisible,
this man who no one recognized,
this nobody was standing before of Jesus.
The words tumbled out of his mouth
faster than his brain could process them;
“My teacher, let me see again.”
And, with just seven words Bartimaeus could see again!
The story of Bartimaeus is often held up
as one of the great healing miracles of Jesus.
In the gospels
Jesus transforms the lives of those on the margins
and draws them more and more into the center.
But what if we saw this story as from one of the crowd,
the followers of Jesus,
being blind and not Bartimaeus.
The crowd in our gospel saw this blind beggar as an annoyance,
disturbing Jesus as he preached God’s kingdom.
Bartimaeus was a disturbance,
a distraction from the “way things are done”,
and Jesus skillfully moves him from the sidelines,
recognizes his humanity and dignity,
and draws him closer to the center.
You see, Bartimaeus wasn’t blind where it really mattered.
Bartimaeus had perfect vision, 20/20 if you will,
of what it meant to be a beloved child of God.
Not only did he know that he was a beloved child of God,
he insisted on being treated like a beloved child of God.
Not even the crowd could hold him back
and Jesus recognizes him for his bravery.
We as the church can quickly become like the crowd;
blind to the needs of those sitting right outside our doors.
The Bartimaeus’ of our day
do not necessarily sit with a bowl begging and blind,
they are the ones in greatest need
reaching out along the Jericho road leading into our church.
Like in our gospel lesson this morning,
we, the crowd, are the ones in need of
having our sight restored,
our blindness healed,
our vision focused.
If we listen hard enough and look long enough
we hear the cries of Bartimaeus still.
Jesus, son of David have mercy on us….
We are the ones who are blinded by a world
who deems others of no account.
We are those who are blinded by a society
that too often measures worth
by the things we own and the cars we drive.
We are the ones who have been told time and again
that we are of no value
that we are outside the realm of God’s love and peace.
We are the ones blinded by the pain of grief and loss,
broken relationships and failed dreams.
We are the ones blinded by a disease and crippled by a diagnosis.
We are the ones blinded by the word “illegal” and
“immigrant” and “refugee”.
How do we respond to the many Bartimaeus' in our own time?
We show them to Jesus.
Notice in the gospel, the crowd is really the first miracle of healing.
The crowd is given their sight and actually sees Bartimaeus.
And once their blindness is cured
the crowd didn’t pray for Bartimaeus,
they didn’t form a committee,
or call a meeting or
even have a theological discussion on
the merits of Bartimaeus.
The crowd saw him and
showed him to Jesus
and let Jesus do the rest.
The same is true for us.
We are called as followers of Jesus
to first be healed of our blindness
so that we can see clearly to
invite others to share in Christ’s healing.
As Bishop Michael Curry said to the Episcopal Church
gathered in Utah a few years back;
“Put Jesus up front.
Put sharing that good news in front.
Put forming our people as followers of Jesus –
as disciples for real – at the front.
And then put inspiring and enabling them
to serve in their personal lives,
and for us to witness in the public square in the front.
That’s the church; that’s the movement.”
Once we as the church recognize those on the margins,
those sitting on the sidelines,
our faith demands that we show them Jesus
and together be healed.
Because if you notice
at the end of the Gospel story
Bartimaeus didn’t go off and found
“The Society for the Formerly Blind of Jericho”.
Bartimaeus didn’t go dancing through the streets
shouting from the rafters,
he “regained his sight and followed in the way.”
In the end as Christians,
that is all that we can and should do,
once our vision has been restored and blindness cured,
…is to follow in the way of Jesus.
How sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind but now I see.