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The Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost
October 28, 2012
The Gospel: Mark 10: 46-52
Sermon: "On The Way"
The Reverend Dr. Richard (Rick) Miles
Watch the complete video of this service on our YouTube Channel
Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Mark 10: 46-52
On The Way
Oh Boy, another miracle! For this past year, our lectionary has been living with Mark’s Gospel account, off and on. One thing Mark doesn’t scrimp on is miracles. We’ve encountered them and delineated them and spoken of their great importance to both the faith and to the Gospel. And it may well be that you’re getting a little tired of miracle stories by now.
This sort of thing was impressive when we first encountered it in Capernaum. “You should have seen Jesus heal the man with the unclean spirit,” Mark almost seems to say to us. “Sorry, we weren’t there, tell us about it.”
And Mark obliges. Then there’s Simon’s mother-in-law with the fever. The reaction of the populace could have been predicted. Everybody for miles around with any sort of ailment comes clamoring after Jesus. Then comes the leper at Galilee, the roof-destroying friends of the paralytic, the man with a withered hand, the demoniac of the Gerasenes, and on and on. Here at the end of October, if I had anything left to say about these miraculous healings, I’ve pretty much already said it.
And now, here’s another one; a healing of a blind beggar Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus. But this one is important for a whole different reason. This is the last act of Jesus’ public ministry before entering Jerusalem to be crucified. The whole previous several chapters have been about discipleship; what defines a disciple, how to be a disciple, what makes a good disciple. What’s crucial here is that this is Mark’s account of Jesus last public statement about discipleship. Now discipleship may not exactly inspire you as a topic for discussion this morning either. You may actually prefer that we just go back to the well worn miracle stuff after all. But wait! If you catch what Jesus is saying about discipleship here, it could well change your walk with him, and vastly increase your effectiveness in following him. We can see this potential walk changing teaching in something Jesus does in our story.
Now this sermon has only one point this morning, and it’s going to be really short, so hang on because here it is: Jesus calls his disciples to call Bartimaeus. In verse 49 we read, “Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” What Jesus is telling us about discipleship this morning is that he calls his disciples, that’s you and me, to be the ones who bring others to Jesus; that is, we are called to introduce others to Jesus. This is our part in any story of someone’s life with the Lord. We get to be the ones who introduce others to Jesus.
I know that this is starting to sound dangerously like a call to evangelism; and it is. We Episcopalians get rather ambivalent on this subject. Historically, we’ve always been just a bit hesitant with this part of discipleship.
Frankly, part of our problem with the whole concept is that it conjures up images of perfumed, pompadored, slick-suited televangelists, thumping their Bibles and shouting at people to turn their lives around or go to Hell. We call that “turn or burn” theology. And given our own history in England of converting people at the point of a sword and real fire, we tend to be much more circumspect these days. We know that this is a sensitive matter. We’re not out to run over another person’s beliefs or invalidate their spiritual walk. We know that to introduce someone to Jesus requires that we tailor that introduction to the person. And we are to be sensitive to the language and style that will most encourage the person we’re talking to. Otherwise, they may misunderstand the call.
Like that evangelist who once asked all in his congregation who wanted to go to Heaven to raise their hands. Everyone did, except one elderly man sitting near the front of the sanctuary. The preacher pointed his finger at him and said, “Sir, do you mean to tell us that you don’t want to go to Heaven?” “Sure I want to go to Heaven,” the man said, “but the way you were talking, I thought you were getting up a bus load for tonight.”
Yes, it’s important how we communicate the call of Jesus to others. Notice that the disciples bring words of encouragement. “Take heart; he is (already) calling you.” But notice something else here. Note that the disciples don’t save Bartimaeus. That is, they don’t get Bartimaeus to accept Jesus. They don’t sell Bartimaeus on the idea of following Jesus or of becoming a disciple. Jesus can present himself, and he does. We are called simply to bring people to him and introduce them. Jesus does the convincing. He gets the people who come to him to accept. Jesus does the soul-winning as it used to be put in another day. In all my years of ministry I’ve heard people express negative views of Christians, but I’ve rarely ever heard a negative word against Jesus. Throughout the world he is at least respected, if not outright revered. Jesus draws people to him. Our calling as disciples is to introduce people to Jesus through the way we live our lives as disciples, and through the way we verbalize our faith. In effect, to get them to him through our active faith to where they can consider him, or as the case most often is that they are already considering him, to help them get past whatever blocks may be in their way that they might meet him clearly. That’s why we’re most effective with a friend or a family member; someone we know. We know their sensitivities and we know their desires. We know the questions that need answering, the issues that need addressing, the living demonstration of life and faith that needs to be seen. We can tailor our invitations. That’s why Jesus will rarely call us to speak for him to total strangers; although it can happen if we’re open to it.
A man on his way to evening prayer one night saw a stranger looking thoughtfully into a window of the church. Sensing the leading of the Holy Spirit, the church member smiled and tactfully invited the man to attend the service with him. The stranger agreed, and it was the beginning of a new life for him, for that night he determined to give his life to following Christ. After the meeting he said to the man who had invited him, “Do you know, I’ve lived in this town for seven years and no one has ever asked me to go to church. Why, I hadn’t been here three days before a local restaurant owner, a loan officer from a bank, and a sales agent for some consumer product contacted me. Yet in all these years you are the first person to show an interest in my spiritual life.
It’s not often as simple as that, but it can be; especially with people we know. Do you know that 80% of all people in churches today got there because a friend or family member just invited them. Tailor your invitation to them to something you know they’re looking for: a chance to belong, perhaps, to be part of a small group or a study group, to hear good music or mingle their own prayers with others in worship, or to hear a good word about living by faith, and to join their efforts with others seeking to make this world a better place.
The truth is that the people Jesus calls us to bring to him are already thinking about it. It may be only on a back burner, a vague unspoken awareness, or it may be suddenly at the forefront of thought, as with Bartimaeus this morning, who didn’t even wait for help once he heard the invitation from the Disciples. In any case, the Holy Spirit has been at work in them long before you or I arrived on the scene. The people Jesus is calling already have a sense of needing him; even if they aren’t sure of what that need is about, or why it’s there. That’s how it was with Bartimaeus. He knew he needed Jesus, or at least something to do with Jesus. The disciples only needed to get to him to deliver the invitation. We are Jesus’ disciples now. Live your life as a disciple; a living open invitation to meet Jesus!