Do you ever find yourself singing a song, at the right time and place that it speaks directly to you? I remember clearly singing “Hosanna” (By broke Ligertwood) during Xpression one year and it was a song that had a massive impact on my faith, one verse in particular:
“Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours.”
Everything we sing in Church should challenge us, make us think; or else it is pointless. These words challenged me because they make me think about Jesus Christ not just in the vertical (Saviour) but the horizontal (praxis of faith) during a week of practical-mercy outreach. To sing those words and mean it, in essence, was to pray to see the world through the eyes of Christ, and then that the Holy Spirit would give us the courage to act like him. It is to ask to see Jesus and see like Jesus.
How often do we walk down a street so familiar and only notice what we want to see? Yet, if we are disciples, seeing Jesus and seeking to see as him, then our eyes should be drawn to the shadows; to the Bartimaeus’s of this world. Today, we see a man whom cannot see physically, yet sees clearer than all.
Unseen by the World || Seen by Christ (46)
A crowd is a strange thing, it is great to be a part of it, you feel valued, safe and involved. There is a buzz in a crowd, and the reality is that a crowd tends to be unaware of anything beyond it. A crowd also does not like threats to its make-up, security and journey. Threats like Bartimaeus. Contrast the picture of a crowd (the disciples, and the larger entourage following Jesus) with that of the isolated blind-man lying at the side of the road begging for survival. It’s the image of the outsider: rejected by society. Bartimaeus sidelined and marginalised by the crowd; yet, seen and known by Jesus.
WHERE ARE THE SIDELINED AND MARGINALISED IN OUR LIFE?
The Praxis of Jesus (47-49)
Lying at the side of a dusty road, we meet a picture of true-faith. The man physically blind can see Jesus for who he is and shows greater insight towards Jesus than any of the disciples to this point. Faith and Expectation summed up in the cries of out an unnoticed-outsider:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Today, it is a cry daily ignored around the world, from the rejected; lost, hurting and broken of the world. they cry out seeking help, and often their cries disappear into the air that carries them. Daily, we see on our media platforms people in need: Homeless, Refugees, Famine, enslaved; and we find some logical reason not to respond. We are safe in the crowd and don’t want to risk it.
We see this basic human-protectionism in the crowd to the cries of the man that are so loud and threatening that he gets rebuked. A collective act which speaks of unworthiness of the man before the crowd, Yet, thankfully for us Jesus was not like the crowd, nor did he get his identity, value or worth from the crowd.
Simply, this passage is calling us to model our lives, mission and mercies on the example of Jesus towards Bartimaeus: Where the crowd rejects, Jesus includes. It is a powerful moment in which Jesus shows the counter-cultural nature of the faith the kingdom of God. It incarnated becoming great by leastness.
Consider the scene in verses 47-49 as Jesus stops upon hearing the cry of Bartimaeus; instead of going to him, he makes the crowd that silenced him, now speak to him and beckon Bartimaeus to him. The man arises and stumbles his way to Jesus, who can obliviously tell what is wrong with him, yet he asks him:
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Bartimaeus speaks for the first time in response to someone else. It seems small and insignificant; yet, it is a powerful and counter-cultural moment. Where the crowd silence him and tried to keep him out: Jesus brings him into their midst of those who silenced him and gives him the platform to speak. Jesus dignified and lifted up Bartimaeus.
This is the horizontal reality of our faith: this is the outworking of true sight. Jesus’s example in this passage is how we are to act in outreach and mercy. We are challenged to be ‘the body of Christ,’ and not to be the ‘crowd:’ excluding people. Consider Church history, our faith grew not because it was the faith of the elite, it spread because it valued the least of society, and gave a voice to the voiceless: Women, Children, the disabled, and the outsider. This is our faith, and if we are in Christ then we are to be like Christ: countering the crowd, perhaps even countering the Church: think of Wilberforce and the Abolitionists, who saw the plight of societies least, and against the domain trends of the culture and the Church time spoke out for those who had no voice, recognised their dignity and fought for them. They became great in leastness.
Today, where are our outsiders? if we consider ourselves truly Christians, then who are we dignifying, valuing, seeking, loving? Maybe we convince ourselves that we do out bit by giving to charity, supporting mission – all of which is good, yet it’s not enough. Our faith calls us to more than the bare minimum. True Discipleship is not just about following Jesus teaching’s or morals, it is all-encompassing: living as he lived and acting as he acted.
“Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.”
We live in a more advanced society, with better rights and protections for all, yet let us not fool ourselves into believing that all peoples in our society are equal. Do you disagree with me? Then consider the words of bioethicist Tom Beauchamp:
“Because many humans lack properties of personhood or are less than full persons . . . they might be aggressively used as human research subjects or sources of organs.”
Or journalist John Zmirak who describes humans as “merely potential sites for either suffering or pleasure. If we cannot guarantee their pleasure, we at least can end their suffering” when writing around euthanasia.
Bartimaeus is the only person healed in the synoptic gospels who is named. It is a reminder to us of his worth and dignity. It is the context of the interaction is a challenge: who is God calling us to stand with and dignity, who are we to bear the disgrace of as individuals and a church? Whom are we heading to who is outside the camp/crowd?
Bartimauesian Discipleship (50-52)
In Bartimaeus, we see an example of real discipleship. Firstly, there is the persistent faith he displays in Jesus Christ, even in the face of the crowd’s hostility. Secondly, he recognised that Jesus was more than just a new teacher/wise, by using “Son of David” he recognised Jesus as Messiah. He had faith in Jesus Christ, not just to heal, but to save. Then he responds directly to the call of Jesus. Notice his action when he is summoned:
“Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.”
Such was the reality of his faith that when Jesus called him, he abandoned the only thing that offered him security (his coat) and fully embraced the call of Jesus Christ. Then, Jesus asked him a question, that mirrored one asked of the discipleship just a few verses earlier and where they failed, he passed. Where they sought their own advantage, Bartimaeus simply sought Jesus. Jesus opened his eyes because of his faith and then Bartimaeus displayed real faith after that moment when in response to the act he chose to follow Jesus.
For two chapters Jesus has been teaching about discipleship, service, the kingdom of God and about his Messiahship, not as they expect him to be, but as they need him to be. He has modelled it, in word and deed – showing them the upside-down metrics of the kingdom of heaven, the metrics we are to live to buy, through his use of teaching on the cross, transfiguration, passion predictions, healing of an impure -boy, rich young ruler, and use of children. Multiple-times Jesus demonstrates the discipleship get close, but their aim is still way off. They still view Jesus with an earthly lens as a political Messiah: wondering what they can get from him. They have the right faith, with the wrong understanding. Then, when all hope seems to be lost we meet Bartimaeus, the blind man who sees Jesus perfectly. Bartimaeus is the opposite of the disciples he has the right faith, the right heart, and the right response – not seeking to use Jesus, but to known him. Where the disciples wrong-faith lead to failure, Bartimaeus right-faith leads to following.
This healing is the climax of Chapter 10, where Jesus has been teaching faith and discipleship. Where we have seen the disciples over and over again, not see as Jesus, and see him for who he is. Yet, here in one moment, a blind man gave sight, also sees Jesus truly with eyes of faith. Whom do we have faith like? The disciple’s (at this point) or Bartimaeus?
“A disciple is a follower, one who trusts and believes in a teacher and follows that teacher’s words and example. Therefore, to be a disciple is to be in a relationship. It is having an intimate, instructive, and imitative relationship with the teacher. Consequently, being a disciple of Jesus Christ is being in a relationship with Jesus—it is seeking to be like Jesus. In other words, we follow Christ to be like Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). “
This passage teaches us two main things: What discipleship and faith look like (in Bartimaeus): then, how we are to live it out (the example of Jesus). The two pictures go hand in hand, if our faith is real that means we are looking to Christ and desiring to look like Christ – this is discipleship. Thus, if we are looking to Christ it means that through our study of his word we are seeking to mirror our lives of his example because we have received are all in him. It means that like Bartimaeus, we have faith in him, have responded to his call then followed him along the road.
As we seek the least and lost, speak for the voiceless, defend the cause of the poor; these are evidence of our faith. they are fruits of Salvation, not attempts to earn it. I have been reading Jeremiah in my own quiet time and something struck in Chapter 22 as Jeremiah was prophesying against the unrighteousness of King Shallum he tells him what the Lord says to him:
Does it make you a king
to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just….
He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
…Is that not what it means to know me?”
declares the Lord.
“Is that not what it means to know me?” we might say today, ‘faith without works is dead.’ Yet to truly know Christ, is more than just doctrine or word – it is to live as Christ. John Calvin says:
“The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.”
― John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life
The reality was that even though Bartimaeus was blind, he could truly see (Jesus). It was evident in his life as he leapt up, and as he followed. If people, where to look at us, would they say that we are someone who truly knows God, or just another person following the crowd?