Due to a technical error (Pastor Mike forgot to hit record) caused by timing issues (because he was tired from Springing Forward) there won’t be a sermon uploaded this week. Sorry everyone! Here is the manuscript version at least.
Psalm 34:8-14; Mark 10:32-52 – Bartimaeus Healed
One of the most important things to remember about today’s gospel is it comes directly after last week’s gospel. Jesus had just welcomed children, talked about the impossibility of the rich entering the kingdom of heaven, reminded the disciples that what’s impossible with humans is possible for God, and said that many of the first will be last and last will be first.
And the next thing Jesus does is get on the road and start heading to Jerusalem, something that “amazed” the disciples and left the others following Jesus “afraid”. Twice now Jesus has said that he’s going to go to Jerusalem and be killed, only to rise again after three days. I expect the disciples are thinking, “Wow, he’s really doing this” and the others are thinking “What’s going to happen to us if he gets killed? Are we next?”
So Jesus takes the Twelve aside again, and now, for the third time, explains to them what’s going to happen to him. “We’re going to Jerusalem. I’ll be handed over to human authorities. I’ll be mocked, spat on, tortured, and killed. Three days later I’ll rise up.”
Jesus is desperate for his disciples to understand that some terrible things are going to happen to him in Jerusalem, so much that he’s said basically the same thing three times to them somewhat recently. He’s also desperate for his disciples to understand that even with the terrible things that will happen – even up to and including his death – he will be back after three days.
He wants the Twelve especially to understand because they’re the ones the good news of the kingdom will be left to. They’re the ones who, after Jesus’ ascension, will be sharing this good news with the world. They need to know what’s really going on before it’s too late!
So can you imagine Jesus reaction when, right when he got done talking, two of his disciples came to him and said, “Let one of us sit on your right and the other on your left when you enter your glory.” Epic Facepalm.
Ok, so to give them the tiniest bit of credit, this has been brewing for a while they just picked a really garbage time to bring it up. It all started when Peter tried to scold Jesus and got scolded in return. Peter was their leader you see, and pretty obviously so, but this left a power vacuum of sorts. Not from Jesus’ perspective, but from the disciples’ perspective. After the Transfiguration, nine of the twelve couldn’t cast out a demon, lowering their statuses down a bit. There was debate among the disciples about who the greatest of them was. And finally, by this point, a decision was made: James and John hadn’t screwed up yet so they must be the greatest.
Jesus’ response is a bit predictable: “Y’all don’t know what you’re asking.” They also pretty obviously missed all the points that Jesus had been trying to make about what he was about, but they were insistent and Jesus only warned them that they will go through similar things to Jesus – and then the other Ten got mad at them for being so presumptive and Jesus sat them all down and said, “It’s not about being the greatest – if you want to be the greatest in the kingdom of God you have to be the slave of all. The Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”
And what better way to show this service than to do it, right? So Jesus gets to Jericho and sees Bartimaeus. (Whose named literally means the Son of Timaeus, so either Mark only gave us one of his names or his dad was incredibly uninventive and named his son “Bartimaeus Bar Timaeus”.) Now Bartimaeus was blind, and a begger, and when he heard that Jesus was their he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!” Everyone around him was telling him to be quiet, but he kept shouting, “SON OF DAVID, SHOW ME MERCY!” Jesus stops, calls Bartimaeus to him, and, after asking what he can do for Bartimaeus, heals him and restores his sight.
All three of these stories really function as the same story, but it’s easy to only see them in their smaller chunks. It, and the three other passion predictions before it, follow the same kind of pattern: Jesus says what is going happen to him; the disciples fail to understand; he gives them some kind of teaching about discipleship to try and help them understand. They all happen in succession, and the whole section begins and ends with Jesus healing someone who is literally blind, all the while trying to cure the disciples’ spiritual blindness.
The gospel of Mark loves to make sandwiches like this – with two or sometimes more similar events tying related stories together – and this particular one is all about what it is to be a follower of Jesus: it means taking up your cross, following Jesus like a little child, and serving others.
To follow Jesus, it means putting even our own lives second to the gospel – because the gospel is a promise of eternal life. It means putting all our trust in a God who loves us enough to liberate us from sin and death so that we can then be free to serve others as Christ served us. This call is contrary to our human nature: which of course makes sense. Our nature, corrupted by sin, wants to work for our own benefit as much as possible, but Jesus calls us to something more. He calls us to work for the same kind of liberation he worked for us; he calls us to serve any who are in need; he calls us to trust in him with the trust of a child. And he calls us to all these things even if it costs us life or comfort.
It’s not an easy call at all. It’s a hard road to follow Jesus the way he tells us to follow him, but like we heard last week, whatever we lose for the sake of the gospel we are promised back a hundred times over. Even if we lose our life for the gospel, we gain eternal life in the presence of the God who saves us.