“When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!” And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.” (Mark 10: 49-52 NLT)
Most of us are instantly familiar with the exhortation to “live each day like it’s your last.” It’s an old standby for motivational speakers and song writers alike. The thought behind it being that if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, you’d try to make every minute of today count, doing things you’ve always wanted to do and so on.
Well, we discussed that a little bit in our adult class last Sunday, and we took a different perspective on it. Honestly, if I knew I was going to die tomorrow I’d probably be a little scared. My guess is that I would be paralyzed, stopping and thinking about past wrongs and regrets. That’s just my personality. Having a strong faith doesn’t always mean that you’re comfortable with impending doom or death. Fear, regret, maybe even resentment are all part of the human experience surrounding the end.
But what about the beginning? What if you could try to “live each day like it’s your first?” The verses above from the Gospel of Mark tell the story of a man who was given a fresh start by Christ.
Put yourself in the blind man’s shoes for a bit. The gospels tell us that words of the deeds of Jesus had spread throughout the area, and no doubt you would have heard about the miracles and wonders that this man had performed. As you’re sitting in your usual spot outside Jericho one day, you hear the ripple go through the crowd “Jesus is coming!” “The Healer is coming!” Maybe some even said “The Messiah is coming!”
What would you do? Would you be bold enough, would you be desperate enough to try and come to Christ? After all, you can’t see. What about the money that you had collected that day? It could be lost. What possessions you had could be stolen while you were trying to get Jesus’ attention, and you might not even succeed in reaching him.
No. I think there are a few of us who might just sit back and protect what we we know we have. I think fear might paralyze some of us. I know I feel like that sometimes.
This man overcame such feelings though. As he senses the excitement and the noise level of the crowd grow he begins to shout:
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
His pestering and shouting makes others around him mad, and they tell him to be quiet. After all, many of these people are trying to reach Jesus or get his attention as well. This man, Bartimaeus is not deterred though, he shouts all the louder:
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
Jesus hears, and he responds. He orders that the man be brought to him. The people, perhaps the disciples, bring Bartimaeus to him and Jesus, knowing full well what the man wants, asks him anyway. “What do you want me to do for you?”
Put yourself back in the shoes of Blind Bartimaeus. This is it. This is your chance. Can you imagine how he must have felt as he uttered the words, “My Rabbi, I want to see!”
Then some tender words from the mouth of The Master. “Go. Your Faith has healed you.”
He didn’t say, “I have healed you.” He didn’t give him some list of things to follow. He didn’t make him sign a statement of faith or ask if he had health insurance. He simply said “Go. YOUR FAITH has healed you.” Its not necessarily about the power of Jesus. it’s about the boldness, the faith, the action of Bartimaeus, it’s about the risk he took.
Imagine being Bartimaeus as light and sight entered his eyes. It would feel like a new beginning. Like you had been, dare I say, BORN AGAIN.
What might you do if you had been blind your life through and could suddenly see? Think of all the things around us that we take for granted. Think of the things you’d be seeing for the first time: your family, your friends, a beautiful tree, the explosion of color in the garments of those around you, a huge storm cloud, lightning, the sunrise, and even the sunset.
When I stop and think of it, it gives me the chills. I would want to run all over and see everything that I possibly could. I would want to explore all the new avenues of learning that were now available to me. I would want to see people, to meet some of my friends and family all over again, and yet, in a sense, for the first time.
What would you do?
Of course, this wasn’t without challenges for Bartimaeus. As NT Wright writes about this in his book “Lent for Everyone,” he talks about the challenges that might be ahead for Bartimaeus. For one, his life of begging was probably over. Now in order to make a living, he’d have to learn a trade. That is a wonderful opportunity, but also a challenge for someone who had never really done anything like that. Perhaps people would be skeptical of Bartimaeus, wondering if he was ever really blind or just faking it in order to get people to give him free cash. Maybe some people would be afraid of him, thinking he had been taken over and used by something evil. Who knows?
One thing is for sure. The gift of sight, brought about by his faith, didn’t mean that all his troubles were instantly over forever. Nor does our faith mean that our troubles are over and we’ll just have it easy from here on in. In fact Jesus says that the exact opposite will happen. We must take up our own crosses and follow him, not grab a cold can of Coke and sit back while he does everything for us.
But think of this. What was the first thing that Blind Bartimaeus probably saw? My guess is that it was the warm, gentle, loving face of Jesus Christ, Son of David…Son of God.
The author of Mark says that Bartimaeus went on to follow Jesus on the road, as the NLT puts it, but what is in the Greek is that he followed him on “The Way.” This was a term used to describe the followers of Christ before the term Christian was coined. The implication being that Bartimaeus joined Christ’s followers, and in that sense, for him, for us as well, Christ would be with him to help him meet and overcome the challenges ahead of him.
Christ is with us as well. He doesn’t offer a Pollyanna blessing where if we believe in him, all our dreams will come true and we can kick back into the good life. However, he does offer us sight, where when we begin to see the world through his eyes, and maybe through our own eyes, for the first time we see immense opportunities for joy, love, learning, and service to others. He also offers his presence next to us as we face the tough moments in our lives.
I challenge you to join me this week, and in the days and weeks to come. Can you see the world in a new light? Can you see your life and the lives of those around you in the light of Christ, the light of love and compassion? Can you discard the idea of “living like today is your last” and instead “live like today is your first day?”
It’s quite the perspective, isn’t it?