“Gift of Sight”
Rev. Sandy Johnson
October 11, 2015
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There is a lot going on in our church right now. We are preparing for Charge Conference which will mean some changes in our leadership team as people finish their terms and as new people come on board. We have had a change recently in our music leadership, a change that is still being resolved. We have a potential change if we move our worship site to St. Jude’s, but probably the best change that we have experienced this week is that we are changing from a Fellowship to a Church. Change isn’t inherently bad, although it can create a sense of anxiety in some, where others sense excitement at new possibilities. One thing I do know is that the only thing in life that is consistent is change. We can’t avoid it, we can’t hide from it, we can’t control it; it just is. What we can control is how we respond to change.
Bartimaeus wasn’t thinking of change when he went out to the stoop to beg for his morning breakfast. He had no idea what laid ahead of him that day. The lesson this morning begins with Jesus and his disciples, traveling through Judea, teaching as they went along. They were heading toward Jerusalem and along the way, Jesus focused his teaching on what it means to be a disciple.
Jesus had just finished telling the disciples that they must humble themselves, be like a servant to all; they must stop promoting themselves and wishing to be the first in line, the most important one. Jesus had just told them that those who are first, will be last and the last will be first. Strange teachings for sure, but life lessons for all who wish to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus was pressing them always to remember their mission, and not to get side tracked. Serving others was paramount.
And then they came to Jericho, a popular resort city, about twenty miles northeast of Jerusalem. The city had been “rebuilt by Herod the Great in the Judean desert, not far from the Jordan River crossing.”
We don’t know what they did at Jericho because scripture tells us that Jesus, his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho when they were sidetracked. Someone on the side of the road was calling out to Jesus. He was quite insistent in fact, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The voice was coming from a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. Someone had told him that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by, not just any group of people, this was Jesus. He had heard about him, an itinerant carpenter from Nazareth, who was believed to be Messiah. He honors him by calling him “Son of David.” He knew that the Messiah would come from the line of David, a descendent of the King and he also knew enough about this man Jesus, to know or at least believe, that he was Messiah. Perhaps being recognized, Jesus felt compelled to stop and speak with the man. In any case Bartimaeus grabbed his attention.
Now we also know that beggars were a common feature of most towns, same as today. The man alongside of the road would not have been uncommon. Since most of the occupations of Jesus’ time required people to be in good physical shape, anyone who was physically handicapped in any way, were often cast aside, left to beg and fend for themselves. Now, God’s law did tell them that they were to provide for needy people, but they often disregarded Leviticus 25:35 which specifically said that if your kin fall into difficulty and are dependent on you, you shall support them. No questions asked. Unfortunately not everyone has next of kin.
This beggar named Bartimaeus may have been thought to be cursed. Many believed that blind people were cursed by God for a sin they had committed. Jesus refuted this myth by approaching the man, willing to offer a healing.
But Jesus didn’t run right over. His companions tried first to dissuade the blind man, sternly telling him to be quiet. It reminds me of when the children tried to get to Jesus and the disciples shushed them. Jesus doesn’t have time to spend with little children and blind men. The disciples were Jesus’ gatekeepers right? His bodyguards; keeping the riffraff away from Jesus.
But instead of being quiet, Bartimaeus cried even louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have Mercy on me.” Instead of praising the disciples for their diligence, Jesus stands still and contradicts them, asking them to call the man over to him. That had to sting a little bit. Here they are doing their very best to protect Jesus and he, in essence, tells them to knock it off. Jesus never stops teaching his disciples that everyone is welcome to come to him. No one will be turned away. When will the disciples learn?
So they call out to Bartimaeus, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” Here’s your chance! The blind man sprang up, throws off his cloak and came to Jesus. Pretty agile for a blind beggar man. And then Jesus asks him the $64,000 question.
“What do you want me to do for you Bartimaeus?” Notice that Jesus doesn’t assume what he wants nor does he command the healing that he thinks Bartimaeus needs. But as a gentleman, Jesus asks what he can do for him. As United Methodists we don’t believe in predestination, our lives aren’t set in stone, a mere path to follow, one brick or step at a time, laid out before us. We are given opportunities to follow the Master and we must respond to that question, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
It’s simple, Bartimaeus wanted to see again. He could remember what it was like to have full vision. The brilliant colors of the rainbow, the deep blue of the sea, the mottled browns of the hillsides around Jericho, the sweet face of a baby. Over the years his sight had failed him and to be able to see again, to witness a sunrise with all the vibrant colors flooding into his vision was something he has waited for; longed for and frankly never thought it would happen. And here is Jesus, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“I want to see! Heal me Jesus! Heal me!”
With a mere word, Jesus tells him to “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on his way.” This blind man was so grateful to Jesus for healing him that he immediately became a follower.
Although this is the end of the scripture lesson for today, it isn’t the end of the story, at least not for us. Having been healed, the man’s life changed forever. No longer did he have to beg for his needs to be met. No longer was he a cast away. He was back in action and he was at least now capable of following the Messiah, following him wherever he led.
But with change comes fear. With change is the unknown. This man was incredibly brave to ask for a healing, especially one that would bring such a dramatic change to his lifestyle. I wonder if he thought about that ahead of time. Fear of change can keep us from moving forward, it can keep us fighting for the status quo.
Fear can keep us doing the same thing over and over because we tell ourselves that it is better for us to keep the devil we know, versus the devil we don’t know. Some of us avoid change like the plague. Too scary. Or we tell ourselves that we are being prudent, wise and cautious.
I think change is one thing that all of us have in common, in addition to our shared faith in Christ. Change is happening all around us and probably the one we notice most is the changes in our bodies as we grow older. Things we could do 5 or 10 years ago, we can no longer do. As we get older I think the change becomes more rapid. Can I get an “amen” from anyone?
So how do we deal with change? Should we spring up like Bartimaeus and run ahead, eager for it? I don’t know the answer but I do know that God does. I know that our God is a God of miracles and he will always be working out in front of us, a dozen steps ahead or more, paving the way for us as we move forward, accepting and embracing the changes that are before us. God knows our hearts, he knows our desires, and he knows our dreams. He knows we desire to transform our city with the love of Jesus Christ and he agrees with our mission! But fulfilling our mission will require change.
With every gift comes change, we receive a gift of sight and our whole world changes. We receive the gift of salvation and we are never the same. We are continuously changing, growing, learning, and becoming the person God created us to be. I want to close with the story of the Butterfly because I think that we can learn a lot about the butterfly.
“One day, a small opening appeared on a chrysalis; a person sat and watched for the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.
Sometimes the struggle has a purpose, doesn’t it?
Then, it stopped and did not appear to be making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could not go any further. So the person decided to help the butterfly: With a pair of scissors, the person opened the chrysalis.
The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a withered body, it was tiny and had shriveled wings. The person continued to watch, expecting that, at any moment, the wings would open, enlarge and expand, to be able to support the butterfly’s body, and become firm.
It never happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a withered body and shriveled wings.
It never was able to fly. . . .
What the person, in sincere kindness and goodwill, did not understand was that the restricting chrysalis and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening, were the One’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings, so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the chrysalis.
Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles…it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. We would never be able to fly.”
I believe that our church is a chrysalis, struggling and pushing and straining to burst forth as a beautiful butterfly. Like a butterfly evolving, we must love each stage we pass through. We must not be judgmental of ourselves or others. We are becoming a wondrous butterfly. To become a butterfly requires the caterpillar to die, but in reality, the caterpillar and the butterfly live on as one.
I can see how all of the work we have done and will do, serving God and our community, will soon result in our flying high, free of the chrysalis, as strong, healthy butterflies. As we move forward, embracing the changes which are all around us, we must keep the vision of the butterfly in front of us. When we keep our eyes focused on God, when we struggle together for His glory, we will fly high one day. Amen.
 Mark 10:31
 Life Application Study Bible. NIV. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois and Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1991. Page 1757.
 Mark 10:47b
 Mark 10:49b