Sermon for October 24
Let the words my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen
I believe it was Jerry Clower who told a story about Marsell Ledbetter concerning a saw. It seems Marsell was cutting wood with a bow saw and selling the wood to make money. He had been doing this for quite some time and had worn out the blade. So, he went down to the hardware store, told them he need a new saw and the salesman told him he had one that would really increase his production probably ten times. Marsell wasn’t sure about that so the salesman told him to try it out for a week. Sure enough, he brought it back after a week and told the salesman that, if anything, it slowed him down. The salesman took it in the back room, made a few adjustments, and told Marsell to try it for another week. Okay, but he still had his doubts. After another week, he came back with the same complaint. This time the salesman took the saw out of his hand, pulled the cord, and it immediately went VAROOOOOM! Marsell jumped up and yelled, “What’s that!” Poor Marsell. He just didn’t know what he didn’t know.
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He was about 25 miles from away on the outskirts of Jericho. With him and all his disciples, it caused a commotion as they were passing through. There was a group there, one of which was Bartimaeus, a blind beggar. He heard all the noise and was told it was Jesus and his disciples leaving Jericho. Bartimaeus yelled out, “Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me!” This was the first time Mark used Son of David as a reference to Jesus. It is a Messianic title and comes from the prophecy that the Messiah was to come from the linage of David.
The crowd tried to keep him quiet. (It would be interesting to know if “the crowd” were bystanders, or maybe the disciples who were following.) But they tried to keep him quiet. Was it because they were embarrassed for him? After all, under the Jewish understanding of illness or handicaps, it was because of the person’s sins or maybe even their parent’s sins. And being blind indicated the worst of sins. So just be quiet Bartimaeus. But he cried out even louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” This was the first time in Mark that the crowd tries to silence someone rather than Jesus.
Jesus heard him and asked that he come over to him. So excited, Bartimaeus threw off his cloak, answered the call of Jesus, and made his way over to him. Jesus asked him a simple question. “What do you want me to do for you?” It was the same question he asked James and John when they asked him to grant them what they wished. And they wished that one would sit at his right hand, and the other at his left—positions of power in Jesus’ kingdom.
The same question to the blind man, but quite a difference in their answers. The sons of Zebedee asked for extraordinary glory. The blind man wanted only to see like everyone else. But perhaps Jesus gave him sight beyond seeing.
But perhaps something else happened. The blind man came as he was called, went to Jesus and cried out to him—he prayed to him out of faith that he receive sight. And Jesus answered his prayer. Jesus told him to go. But this go was not like the previous times. There was no “Don’t tell anyone.” Jesus told him to go, but Bartimaeus left his cloak—left all his possessions behind unlike the rich man and he followed him on the way—to Jerusalem; to the cross.
We read last week that the disciples who had been following Jesus for the past few years were afraid; afraid of going to Jerusalem. Jesus had told them three times he would be killed there. They also thought that this would be a time when Jesus would come into his glory and they would take part in his worldly dominion. They had been with Jesus for two plus years and they were more blind than Bartimaeus for he had simple faith! They would eventually come to understand, but Bartimaeus was a little ahead of them; he came to Jesus simply praying, “Jesus have mercy on me! Have mercy on me, a sinner!”
And we come here this Sunday and every Sunday in person or through electronic means (and we thank God for that), we confess. We confess we are like lost sheep and have gone astray. We confess we turn away from injustice; we confess we exploit the earth. And we pray to God to free us from our sin. And God does—he forgives.
But worship doesn’t stop there. God feeds us through the Word in song and proclamation of the gospel. He feeds us through the meal of bread and wine, his body and blood, given to us as he commanded. And we partake of it and Jesus becomes physically a part of our very being.
And then God sends us—sends us beyond the walls of this sanctuary or the walls of our homes out into the world—the world in which we see our neighbor to whom we are called to offer comfort and joy and love and peace. We are not to sit and watch Jesus go by on his way to the cross and not to participate. We are to be more like Bartimaeus. We are to be like him, praying for mercy, praying for sight and insight and open ears and then following—following Jesus to the cross—even taking up our own cross to follow him.
God gives us the tools to accomplish what he has called us to do. Even Marsell tried to use the chainsaw, but when he learned how to use the saw, he became more productive. So we too, must use the tools, the gifts God has given us to accomplish the work he has for us.
“Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” Have your answer ready when he asks “What do you want me to do for you?” He will answer because he loves you!