Posts Tagged ‘Bartimeaus’

Lord Have Mercy 10-28-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 10:46-52, I explore the healing of Blind Bartimaeus. This is Jesus’ final ministry act prior to his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem which marks the final week of his life. Jesus asks the same question that he posed to his disciples in the previous story. What do you want me to do for you?

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

The grace and peace of the Triune God is yours, now and forever. Amen

I have to say that I am a huge fan of spellcheck…because my spelling is horrendous.  When I’m typing quickly, its super common for me to look up at the screen and see those little red squiggly lines under all kinds of words…because I often tend to spell something phonetically, even when that’s not correct.

This even catches us in today’s lesson…do you think I’m in anyway capable of spelling Bartimaeus correctly?  Its funny though…because the opposite side of things is also true at different times…because sometimes English is hard.  There are some words that I’ve discovered over the years, that trip me up.  Words that I might even use in regular conversation…but when I encounter them on the page…I don’t know what it is.

Now this has happened a lot…but two in particular come to mind.  I was way too old…probably about 7 or 8th grade…before I stopped pronouncing the written word chaos as “chose,” and I was also very sheepish when someone pointed out to me…in my 20’s…that the written word segue was not some random word “seg-you.”

Interestingly enough, we’ve even got one of these words that used to trip me up within our liturgy…most of you are familiar with our flow of worship…how we feature the Brief Order on page 56…but then, typically we move back out of the order of worship found in the hymnal…but the very next thing listed within the traditional liturgy is something called the Kyrie…a call and response, often chanted, portion that sounds like (sing) “In peace let us pray to the Lord…Lord have mercy.”

I grew up with this Liturgy…and the name…kyrie is printed right at the start of this portion…but for many years I looked at it and pronounced it “kie-ree.” And I’m embarrassed to announce that I didn’t learn the correct pronunciation until I was in Seminary.

Now, since we’re talking about this, maybe you’re wondering where the name Kyrie actually comes from…and its from the original language. We sing it in English…but the phrase Lord have mercy comes from the Greek Kyrie Elieson…Kyrie means Lord, and Elieson means have mercy.

Admittedly…this is some of the fancy seminary type stuff that they taught us in school…and I’ve shared before that I’m not overly fond of the big fancy terminology and 50-cent words…so this is one of those things that I learned…but then sorta just tucked in the back of my mind and forgot about.

But then this week I was working with the translation of the gospel text, as I usually do during my background sermon prep work…and I started focusing in on the word for mercy that we hear pop up a couple times…and in looking at that specific word…I realized, once again…my tendency to not connect the phonetics of how a word sounds with how a word looks on the page…until I’d been working with “elieson” for a few minutes…and in another instance of healing from Mark’s gospel…I found a time when Jesus talks about showing mercy…and sharing with others what the Lord has done…and with that, since I have the tendency to think out loud when I’m alone in the office, I said to myself “mercy from the Lord…Lord have mercy…like Kyrie Elieson.” And then the next thought that came spilling out was “duh Scott…you’re a pastor…you really should have known that.” (pause)

Now…all of these thoughts about my personal difficulties with the English language aside…this is an idea that we find within the gospel today…the healing of Blind Bartimaeus. An outcast…a beggar…cast aside to the fringe of society because of his disability…a man who must sit by the roadside…utterly dependent upon the pity of others to throw him a coin or two, in order to survive. But for whatever reason…call it luck or happenstance or serendipity…he happens to be along the way that Jesus is traveling in this last moment before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the final week of his life.

This story concludes the middle section of Mark’s gospel…one that we’ve been in for the past several weeks…a time of transition when Jesus has moved away from his early itinerant ministry around the region…and he’s moving towards the inevitable conclusion in Jerusalem that will culminate on the cross and in the tomb…this central part of the gospel features his teaching and miracles and encounters along the way.

Now interestingly enough…that whole section started off with the healing of another blind man…who the crowds bring to Jesus…and Jesus heals him as well…though that was a bit of an odd situation as Jesus seemingly has to try twice in order to get the healing done correctly…as the first attempt results in the man seeing people walking around looking like trees.

But before we get to the Bartimaeus here at the end of the section…several chapters go by that include events we continue to talk about, even as recently as a week ago…the predictions that Jesus makes about his betrayal and arrest…his torture and execution on the cross, but also the fact that on the third day he will be raised.

We’ve talked about these as we’ve encountered them…and the strange responses that the disciples have had each time Jesus makes the prediction…how their expectations are on display…or their bickering and jockeying for positions of authority and prestige, particularly with James and John a week ago.

Admittedly, I had that moment in mind as I approached this week’s gospel…because there’s a pretty stark overlap between the two stories.  In both stories…the interested party…James and John last week, and Bartimaeus this week…approach Jesus wanting something. And Jesus poses the exact same question both times, because it would seem that he wants them to admit just what it is they want.

What do you want me to do for you?  Now the brothers…they were looking for status…namely an increase for them at the expense of others…but Bartimaeus…well, as we hear from the get-go…he’s looking for something entirely different.

Jesus, Son of David…have mercy on me…and as the people in the crowd try to hush him up…making a quick judgement that he’s not worthy of Jesus’ time or attention…he cries out all the louder…JESUS SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME. (pause)

Mercy…He’s putting it right there on front street…and he’s appealing to one that he believes is able to offer it.  Now with this, Jesus turns his attention to the man…and despite the grumbling going on in the crowd around him…Jesus calls him…here’s another thing we hear multiple times…three times, the “call” of the Lord is offered to Bartimaeus…who jumps up and comes to him.
What do you want me to do for you? Teacher, let me see.  Your faith has made you well…and instantly his eyes are opened…and Bartimaes can see…he’s freed of the thing that has kept him pushed to the margins…the thing that has kept him hindered on the outside…and as we hear…this blind man, follows Jesus along the way.

That’s an important final statement…that Bartimaeus becomes a follower…in fact in Mark’s gospel there’s no more important command that Jesus makes…than the one that we hear over and over again from the Savior…Follow me. Discipleship here in Mark’s gospel means following the one who has called us…following the one who offers mercy to those who are seeking it.

I can’t help but think that’s why Mark placed those two stories right next to each other….especially with the exact same question being asked by Jesus. The repetition to should make us perk up and pay attention. The disciples wanted prestige and didn’t get it…because prestige is not for Jesus to bestow.  But Bart asked for mercy…and it is given to him.

Now as I think about this particular call to follow Jesus…which we can also say is a call into discipleship…I can’t help but think that the Lord calls those seeking mercy…and mercy is received…and maybe Jesus’ final statement to Bart is also telling…your faith has made you well.  Faith…believing that the mercy of the Lord IS offered to you freely…that the promises of the Lord are real and that they are for you.

Now maybe you see where I’m going with this…because as I look down at this font, I’m reminded that in the waters of baptism, we are given a physical representation of this promise of God’s mercy offered to us freely.  In baptism the promises are spoken over us that we have already been claimed by God as beloved children…and that it is made possible the through the action of God in the life death and resurrection of Jesus…that whatever it was that Jesus was accomplishing…its already done.

Baptism is not something that we are doing…its not something that I’m accomplishing as pastor…or the individual is earning or that their parents are achieving on their behalf…the action that happens in Baptism is God’s claim upon the individual, which was made through Christ 2000 years ago…this just gives us something tangible to hold on to in our moments of doubt or fear that we experience at different times in our lives.

And in a few moments, Breckin is going to share in that promise…one made freely by God for all people…as we cry out Lord have mercy…and thanks be to God that the mercy of the Lord is already given. Amen.

Lenten Monologue-Blind Bartimaeus

Wednesday night’s Lenten monologue was the character of Blind Bartimeaus and came from Mark 10:46-52 and was based on the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

This is the fourth in Underwood Lutheran’s series of Lenten worship services held on Wednesday evenings through the season. The overarching theme for Lent is the questions of Jesus. Each week we will hear a reading by a different Biblical character who was questioned by Jesus in their encounter.

My name is Bartimeaus…which is Aramaic for Son of Timeaus, and this is the only clue I have to my past…just my father’s name. Since the time that I was born, I was blind…completely unable to see and therefore…completely unable to care for myself.

I don’t know anything about my parents or my family, other than the man that I was named after. Like many other’s like me, I was abandoned when I was very small…and the only thing that I could do was beg.

It was easier when I was small. People take pity on children, and so I could usually count on someone helping me every day…giving me a crust of bread or a drink of water…but as I grew older, that became less common…and so I had to get smarter about things.

I learned to use my ears since my eyes were worthless to me…I would listen…all the time…I’d listen for the sounds of water as I stumbled around…so that I could get a drink…I listened for the creaking of doors, so that I might be able to find shelter…but most importantly I listened for the sounds of people.

Because I was completely dependent on others…and so I had to be around others. If I could find a town, I had better chances…but often times I was driven out of the towns…because people didn’t really want me around…to them, I was a nuisance…an eye sore…and so I was never allowed to stay in one place very long.

But when I was driven out of a town, I did my best to stay close to the roads…and again, I did that with my ears…I listened…I listened for the sounds of footsteps walking by…or the sounds of animals pulling carts up and down the road…these were the sounds that I depended on…and when I would hear them, I would cry out…That’s what I had to do to get their attention.


All too often, I was ignored, though that’s not the worst thing that happened. Many times I was berated…screamed at by whoever was passing by…I’ve been called so many bad names I’ve lost track of the insults…or sometimes, if I stumbled into the road and blocked their way, they would strike me or push me…or they’d kick me as I laid along the road…so few cared.

In truth, I would rather hide my head and crawl away to safety when I heard the sounds of people coming by…but I had no choice…this was the only way for me to survive…to try over and over again to plead to complete strangers…to beg for my life…and eventually, someone would take pity on me and give me a scrap of food or a splash of water…that was how I survived, day after day.

And so I listened…using my ears to survive…and by listening I also heard conversation…people talked about different things…sometimes I’d hear something important, like people talking about the clouds building in the west, and I would know that I needed to try and find shelter from a coming storm…or other times I would hear of a battalion of Roman soldiers that were coming my way and I’d know to crawl off the road and hide myself from them…but one of the things that I remember hearing about was this holy man traveling around the countryside with a batch of followers…I’d heard rumors of him while people were passing by…how he was some sort of teacher…and that he was working miracles…and how some people thought he was the Son of David…one of the names that we Jews would call the coming Messiah…I heard these rumors a lot…and I’m glad I did.

Because one day, everything changed for me. I was laying alongside the road outside of Jericho. How I came to be there, I’ll never know, it was just where I ended up that day…and I thought this was a day like any other. I laid there along the road, listening like I always did…listening for the footsteps or the sounds of a cart being pulled.

As the day wore on, I did begin to hear footsteps…and not just an isolated person or two…but at one point I heard a large crowd stepping past me. As usual, I tried to appeal to the people as they walked by, but to no avail. After the first few in the group ignored me, and then one threw a kick at me, I just cowered…thinking that these people wouldn’t help me, and I would wait for the next group to come by on the road…but as I cowered there, I began to hear their voices…and my ears perked up when I heard someone say the name Jesus.

Could it be? Could this really be the one that so many had spoken of? I had nothing to lose so when I heard the name one more time…Jesus of Nazareth…I cried out in a loud voice “JESUS, SON OF DAVID…HAVE MERCY ON ME!!!” Now, it wasn’t surprising that many in the crowd hushed me, their voices gruff and mean. “QUIET YOU FOOL…DON’T DISTURB THE TEACHER!!!”

But I wasn’t going to be cast aside this time…if this really was Jesus, and the rumors were true, then I had to get his attention and I cried out again “SON OF DAVID…HAVE MERCY ON ME.” After this second time of calling out…I heard the crowd get quiet…and suddenly I heard a calm kind voice say “Call him here.” Footsteps came towards me, and the gruff voice said, a little kinder, “Get up, he is calling you.”

I jumped to my feet and stumbled in the direction of the kind voice I had heard. I was afraid…but I was determined…if this was Jesus, perhaps he would have mercy…when I finally came close to him, I heard his kind voice speak again…and this time, he was speaking directly to me. “What do you want me to do for you?”

I have to admit, I didn’t know. What did I want? I could have asked for anything in that moment. I was hungry and thirsty…I could have asked for bread or water. Or I could have asked him to bring me along with his group…perhaps they would have cared for me…or I could have asked for clothes…what I was wearing was tattered and ragged…but somehow, that didn’t seem like the thing to do. Something in his voice told me that this was no simple act of annoyed mercy towards yet another beggar alongside the road.

And so, rather than ask for any of those things, I asked for the one thing that could solve all of my problems…that could end my time as a beggar…I asked him for my sight…something I had never had. “Teacher…let me see.”

I don’t know what made me ask this…perhaps his question had stirred up in my awareness that it was not simple mercy from others that I needed, but that my entire existence could be changed by him. This wasn’t just about receiving care from a stranger…the kindness in his voice as he asked me that simple question helped me realize the truth in the rumors I had heard about him. Jesus was no simple teacher…this was the Son of God standing before me…the miracles that I had heard about were true, because of the power that he possessed.

And I knew that not only could he give me my sight back, but that the mercy that I had asked for…the mercy that I had cried out seeking, was the mercy of God himself…and that this encounter would change me forever. I believed that he could do this for me…I believed it with every atom of my being simply because of the power in his voice.

And then he said the words that I will never forget. “Go, your faith has made you well.” And the instant he said those words, my eyes were opened for the first time and I could see. I could see the world in all its beauty…but more importantly I was looking in the face of the man that had saved me…the man that offered me the mercy of God himself…the man that was God himself.

And so, rather than simply going on my way…I joined the crowd following Jesus. He had given me everything, even when I didn’t know what I was seeking. And so today, if you encounter Jesus and you find yourself crying out to him for mercy, he may just ask you the same question…and help you realize that what he offers goes far beyond what we could ever dream of.