Answering The Call November 18, 2012Posted by lizp4 in Uncategorized.
We all know how troubling the times have become. Part of the worrisome aspect of this is “what is to become of all we hold dear?” In spiritual terms, this is again a troublesome contemplation, as most of us who have aged well have accumulated material goods we hate to see stripped away. And, yet, we who have, “…along with thy getting, [gotten] wisdom,” understand that we need to be ready to yield it all for the sake of our souls, should we be called to do so.
Mark 10:46-52(RSV) If we are listening with our whole hearts when we hear this passage read, we will probaly meditate off and on throughout the day on the deeper and deeper meanings of this little episode.
In the story, Jesus is surrounded by a great multitude. Have you ever been in a “multitude?” You know that there is a characteristic sound made by large groups of people that drowns out anything that might be specific, except to someone in the immediate vicinity.
Bartimaeus earned what little income he could through his blindness and the charity of passersby. A blind man was of no use in the field, in the shop, or in the pastures, for one had to be able to see one’s surroundings in order to ply any worthwhile trade. So Bartimaeus did what he could with what he had, and begged. He was not part of the multitude, but was sitting by the roadside, hoping to beg something more than usual from the sizeable crowd that was going past his place. He knew, perhaps because someone had told him who the personage was who was passing, that it was Jesus of Nazareth. But, how did he know that Jesus was “Son of David?” This was a specific title given to the Messiah. To call out to the “Son of David” was to call to the One Who Was To Come foretold by the Prophets. This was why those people around him were trying to silence him. Being good Jews of the day, they would believe that for any man to be called “Son of David” was a blasphemy, and wished to spare the blind beggar a trial and execution before the Sanhedrin.
But Jesus stopped when he heard the call of Bartimaeus. He knew who called. “Call him,” he said. “Tell him to come.” The call was made, but it was made through the believers. Bartimaeus was called because he called out. He had prayed to Jesus as He Who Was To Come, the Messiah, the Son of God. Had he kept silent, would Jesus have known of his needs? Of course, but silent prayer is not the teachable kernel of this passage. Jesus knew that Bartimaeus was the perfect illustration of what he wished to teach upon.
The people standing near Bartimaeus, now impressed that Jesus had heard Bartimaeus’ call from afar, are moved to tell the blind man, “Take heart. He is calling you.” This was exciting for them, like having someone standing next to you in a crowd win the big doorprize. Bartimaeus already knew. He didn’t have to be told. He knew in his heart that Jesus had heard his prayer. He knew who Jesus was, and he knew that he wanted what Jesus had to offer him, so he threw off his mantle, jumped up, and ran after Jesus. This is the phrase that is the core of the teaching of this reading. His mantle was all Bartimaeus had. It was his protection from the elements, his cover in the night. It was the rug upon which he sat to ply his lowly trade. It was his only possession, his entire treasure. Yet, it meant nothing to him in the face of Jesus’ specific call. He ran to Jesus. He didn’t walk, or have to be dragged or carried. Blind as he was, he ran. He could have kept silent, kept his blindness, and been content to beg for the rest of his life. But he preferred a life of service to a life of slavery to his affliction. It was his joyous pleasure to hurry to do the Master’s will, and in his mind, he already saw. His blindness made him the perfect servant; humble, willing, and joyful. Jesus could ask for nothing more.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus’ question is a mere formality. He is the reader of hearts, and knew who Bartimaeus was, what he was, and what he would ask for. But he also knew that it was necessary for Bartimaeus to express his request aloud so that the crowd could witness the power of Jesus’ response.
“Master, let me receive my sight.” In some translations this is expressed as, “Lord, that I may see.” Bartimaeus knew as sure as he was standing there that regaining his sight would mean that he would have to go to work for a living. He would not be able to beg any more, and the crowd would be witness to his healing, so that would mean they would not tolerate him continuing to beg for a living when they would all know he had received his sight. But to be able to follow the Messiah would be worth losing all he had and all he had ever known. He was willing to work and serve for the sake of being healed by the Messiah.
No sooner does Jesus finish speaking than Bartimaeus sees the face of his Saviour, and from that moment, follows, bringing the story full circle. The rich young man mentioned earlier clings to his treasure and goes away sad, while Bartimaeus gives up everything and joyfully follows after Jesus. The contrast can’t be more stark.
There are layers of meaning in this passage that invite us more and more deeply into the Scriptures and the real meaning of Christ’s ministry on earth, but suffice it to say that the Call is felt by all of us. Some of us don’t know Who is calling, we just know that we must search until we find the source of the call. Some know, but are reluctant to follow because it will mean, as it did to the rich young man, we have much treasure that we are unable to release. Some of us will be groupies. We will flit around the margins of discipleship, but will never really make the final choice to be all for Jesus. Some will never recognize the call or the Caller, and will continue in their blindness.
Bartimaeus had a “heart for Jesus” before he ever knew him, and was willing to give up everything, including his blindness, and receive the “sight” of knowledge of Jesus as Truth and Salvation. He wanted to SEE JESUS.
We are called. And we no longer have to be satisfied to sit in our blindness beside the road begging for a pittance from our neighbors. We can ask of Jesus that our sight be of him, and with the eyes of faith and trust, we will really get to SEE JESUS.
But it’s up to us to answer the Call.