Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pentecost 21 Sermon -- Mark 10:46-52 (LSB Proper 25B)

October 25, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say; “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The cry of Bartimaeus is what the Lord God wants to hear from His people. He wants you to request with urgency whatever you need from Him. That is why He invites and even commands you to pray to Him. For it is His will that He would provide what you lack, especially in matters of salvation.

Urgent requests were demanded of the Israelites in the Old Testament Reading for today. The prophet Jeremiah discloses the Lord God’s message to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The city will fall to the Babylonian armies. Death will be felt by many; others will suffer the existential crisis of being exiled away from the Promised Land to the land of Gentiles. But the Lord God’s will is to bring them back to Jerusalem. So He commands them: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O Lord, save Your people, the remnant of Israel.’”

The Lord God had promised to answer His people’s cries. They arise out of need, out of lack, out of deprivation and desperation. Those who have all good things of themselves—or who deludedly believe that they do—will not ask. But those who suffer want, who experience the negative effects of living in this imperfect and hazardous world, will not hesitate to ask and beg for what the Lord God has which they need.

That is seen with Bartimaeus. Mark tells us that he was a “blind beggar.” He sat at the side of the road asking for whatever his fellow citizens of Jericho could spare. But on this day, the crowd was large, as they followed Jesus out of the city. As the entourage passed into earshot of Bartimaeus, “he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth.” And without hesitation, Bartimaeus cried out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Even when the people rebuked him, “[Bartimaeus] cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’”

Nothing would keep Bartimaeus from having Jesus address his needs. No, his faith moved him to beg and beg and beg again for what Jesus had to give. His belief in Jesus’ identity and ability is seen in his cries. The blind beggar believed that Jesus was “the Son of David,” the promised Christ from the royal line of Israel. He knew the prophecies; he knew the divine promises. And he was going to get his share of what the Lord God was giving through Jesus.

Bartimaeus’ cry—“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”—reached Jesus’ ears, even over the rebukes of the crowd. The Gospel Writer tells us: “And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him!’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart. Get up; He is calling you.’” Bartimaeus’ begging was being answered. “Throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.” Called by Christ, the blind beggar will receive the Lord God’s mercy.

But then Jesus asks Bartimaeus an interesting question: “What do you want Me to do for you?” The Christ asks the blind beggar what he wants. What is your request? How the blind man answers will determine what he gets. It will also disclose what he believes about Jesus’ being the promised Christ. Will he ask for earthly things: a few more drachma or denarii for his purse? Will he ask for honor: a place at Jesus’ left or right hand in His kingdom, like James and John did? Will he ask for vengeance: some sort of punishment for the citizens of Jericho who ever mistreated or ignored him? Jesus asks: “What do you want? What do you believe I can do for you?” And the blind man must answer.

So Bartimaeus responds to Jesus’ question: “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” Aha! A request based upon who Jesus truly is. The blind man calls Jesus “Teacher.” He begs Jesus: “Let me see again,” knowing that the prophecies said that the promised Christ would restore sight to the blind. The beggar asks Jesus for what He had been anointed by the Lord God to do. Bartimaeus believes what he has heard about Jesus—from the Scriptures and from the accounts of the people who have encountered Him—and he is holding Jesus to it.

Hear again what Jesus said to the blind man: “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” Perhaps a little more literal rendering will better show Jesus’ statement: “Go; your faith has saved you.” Bartimaeus is commended by Jesus for his belief. The meaning of Jesus’ words is this: “You were right about Me. I am the Christ, the Son of David. I have the ability and desire to heal you. Your request is not ignored; it is exactly what I want to hear from all people’s mouths. You believed that I can heal and you acted on your belief. That has made you well, and I have answered your request.”

And look what happens to Bartimaeus after his request was answered: “Immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.” Bartimaeus’ faith made him well, but his faith in Jesus’ identity and ability also drove him to follow the Christ wherever He went. Needs were met; faith was confirmed. That is what is seen in this event from Jesus’ life.

What Jesus commended Bartimaeus for is what He also wants to find in you. Bartimaeus serves as a great example of faith. He knew what was wrong with him and did not hide it. He knew what he believed about Jesus’ identity and ability and asked to benefit from it. When called by Christ, and asked what he wanted, Bartimaeus didn’t make a falsely humble request; rather, he begged for the restoration and healing that the Christ can give.

So it should be among you, the Lord God’s people here in this place. The incessant cries from Bartimaeus’ mouth did not receive the Lord God’s ire. Other citizens may have been perturbed at hearing Bartimaeus yell louder and louder, but Jesus hears and answers. In the same way that the blind man begged of Jesus, you also may ask things of Him. From your mouths come the same words: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Think on how many times those words or similar ones will come from your mouths today. Four times in the Kyrie. Twice in the Gloria in Excelsis. Multiple times in the Prayer of the Church. Three times in the Agnus Dei. Your worship is really nothing more than hearing of who Jesus is and what He was to accomplish, confessing that it took place, knowing He is present here, and requesting things based upon His identity and ability. But that is what the Lord God desires to hear, for He wants to answer your cries for aid. In fact, He commands you to ask.

Think on the prayer that you will recite in about 10-15 minutes. It is full of requests: “Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses. Do not lead us into temptation. Deliver us from evil.” That is the mercy that you cry out for from Jesus. And each request is answered: “I will provide for your needs. Your sins are forgiven. You will not be deceived by Me. I have overcome sin, death, and Satan for you, so you will dwell eternally in My presence.” Jesus answers because He is the Son of David, the promised Christ, and His identity is wrapped up in delivering salvation to you.

That is what the Author wrote in the Epistle Reading for today: “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but [Jesus] holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues forever. Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” So much is contained in those two sentences. But for today, know that Christ saves you, that He is the One who brings your requests for salvation before His Father, and that He affirmatively answers them because of His death and resurrection.

Like Bartimaeus, you can make the proper confession about Jesus’ identity and ability. You can say of Him: “You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us! You are seated at the right hand of the Father; receive our prayer! For You alone are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.” And with that confession and the requests for mercy, grace, and forgiveness, you place your plight in the hands of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David, the Promised Christ.

Jesus will answer in the same way He answered Bartimaeus: “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” Jesus says: “You are right about Me. Your sins are forgiven. Your health of body and soul will be restored. For so I have desired it to be for you who follow Me, who trust in My death and resurrection alone for your salvation, and who ask Me alone for what I can give.” May you so believe, so ask, and so be answered, always praying like Bartimaeus: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on Me!”

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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