Sunday, November 1, 2015
What a Day!
What a day! Nothing like it ever happened before. If I hadn't been there, I don't think I would believe it...and I probably wouldn't blame you if you have trouble believing. But it's true. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. Oh, I guess I should introduce myself. I am Samuel, Son of Benjamin. I live in Jericho, and I have a small booth selling wine and bread just outside the city walls on the southeast side, along the road to Jerusalem. Most of my customers are travelers to and from that city. Like all travel based businesses, for much of the year I barely keep body and soul together, but just before and after the Passover, when the crowds are flocking to Jerusalem, I make most of my profit for the year. It was the week before Passover the year Jesus was executed. There were large crowds passing through, and business was brisk. Then we heard the rumor: Jesus was coming. This was good news if it was true, for wherever Jesus went, crowds went, and crowds meant business. The murmuring of the crowds got louder as more and more people spread the story. Even the beggars, who sit in the field across the road seemed anxious. Those beggars are the bane of my business. I work hard to provide good bread and wine at a fair price; but they sit over there on their blankets with pathetic looks on their faces, siphoning off the coins that should be used in my stall. Besides, they're dirty, and they stink. And they're so ugly...some are missing an arm or leg; Some have noses and ears missing, some are twisted and gnarled, and some, who are disfigured by leprosy, have to sit way away from the rest because they are unclean. And then there was blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus. Somewhere he'd gotten a hold of a bright multicolored cloak that he sat on to call attention to himself and his plight. Every day he sat there, third row back, in the center, and waited for travelers to toss him a coin. I don't know for sure, but I think he was born blind...though he comes from a good and righteous family. Then, suddenly, there he was. Jesus himself! Surrounded by his disciples. He seemed to be telling them something..I couldn't catch much of it, but it sounded like he was talking about the Son of Man coming to serve and die. It didn't mean anything to me, and I was too busy with my customers to pay it much mind. Then Bartimaeus did it! He started shouting. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And when I say shouted, I mean he was screaming. He knew better than that. The beggars weren't supposed to say anything, except a polite blessing to those who tossed a coin their way. To shout out at a passer by was rude, crude, and boorish. That kind of behavior was giving our city a bad name. Several of us merchants, and even some of the other beggars tried to shut him up, but he just cried out all the louder; “JESUS! SON OF DAVID! HAVE MERCY ON ME!” The more we tried to quiet him, the louder and more insistent his cries became. Then Jesus did the totally unexpected. He stopped dead in his tracks and said: “Tell that man to come here.” It took a while, because Bartimaeus was still shouting. Finally they got him to quiet down enough that they could tell him: "Don't be afraid! Come on! He is calling for you." Immediately Bartimaeus leaped to his feet and ran, stumbling and tripping over the other beggars, until he fell at Jesus' feet. Jesus just stood there looking at him for a minute. Then when he spoke to blind Bartimaeus, I couldn't believe what I heard. "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. What kind of question is that? I mean, what do you think he wants? Duh? Of course he answered: “I want to see.” But you know, later, as I thought about it and talked to Bartimaeus, I realized maybe that wasn't such an obvious question after all. Think about it. Bartimaeus was blind for as long as anyone could remember. He had no wife, no children, no family, and the only way he knew to make a living was to beg. If he gained his sight, how would he live? He didn't even know how to pitch hay or pick grapes. But like he told me; he did know he wanted to see. And I guess Jesus understood it too, because he said: Mar 10:52 "You may go. Your eyes are healed because of your faith." Immediately Bartimaeus could see, and he went dancing down the road with Jesus. I didn't see Bartimaeus again for a couple of months. We heard stories from Jerusalem about how the temple leaders accused Jesus and riled up the crowd to have him crucified. And every now and then a traveler would come through with a story about Jesus coming back from the dead and appearing to his followers. But I didn't give those stories a second thought...not until Bartimaeus returned and told me what he'd seen with his new vision. He's seen Jesus' arrested. He'd been in the crown in front of Pilate's castle when Pilate condemned Jesus to death, and then washed his hands. Then, 50 days later, he was outside the house where the twelve were when folks from all over the world heard them speaking in their own languages. Bartimaeus was a changed man. It wasn't just that he could see, it was that he could see with more than just his eyes. And when he shared with me what he'd seen, what he'd learned from and about Jesus, and what Jesus' followers were doing, I wanted to be a part of it. So one day me and my family went down to the river and Bartimaeus baptized us. I have never known such a sense of peace; nothing seems to worry me; I am absolutely convinced that God does, and will continue to provide for our needs. Bartimaeus works with me, now. And both of us share with our customers the story of Jesus and what he's done for us. And while Bartimaeus probably gives away more of our merchandise than he should, it's OK, because there's always more than we need. That's the way it is, with Jesus. AMEN.