Family Service – Through the eyes of Bartimaeus

Reading: Mark 10:46-52
Series: One Off

Preacher: Rev Calum MacMillan
Preached: Noon Service, 23 June 2013

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Another early morning. I’m not sure what time it is but it’s early. Already Im feeling pains in my stomach I’m so hungry. That gnawing pain that has kept me awake most of the night. I used to say “I’m starving” so lightly but little did I know what it really felt like. I wouldn’t joke about it now. Its not easy being blind in Jericho.

Groping around I found my staff And slowly pull myself to my feet. Everything’s sore. I need food, I feel so weak. Slowly I shuffle my way outside. It takes time to get anywhere tapping with my staff and feeling along the walls with my hand.

I must be a sight for sore eyes. Clothes dirty and ragged. I’m sure I don’t smell too good either. Appearances are the least of my worries just now though. I tap my way along familiar dusty paths to the main gate of the city. Paths I know like the back of my hand. How long have I been making my way here every day? It feels like an eternity.

This is where Jericho is busiest, people coming and going,business deals being done, noise and comings and goings. Maybe today will be a good day. Maybe today someone might give me a few crusts of bread. A few pennies if its a really good day. But I don’t want to raise my hopes too high, they’ve been crushed too often. I sit myself down at the roadside. Though the sun is coming up, there’s still a chill in the air and I draw my greasy cloak tight round me.

I feel my heart so heavy. I hear the sounds of children playing all around me, men talking, carts with fruit and veg for sale coming and going, and I sigh. The children especially are hard to hear. Remember what it was like to be young and carefree? Who knew I’d end up like this? Sat in the dirt at the side of the road. Ignored. Sidelined. Just like I did to beggars myself before I lost my sight. If I’d only known, I’d have treated them so differently. Day after day sat here.Day after day people pretending I don’t exist. I’d cry but the tears dried up long ago. Instead there’s just a numb emptiness. My hope has long since died. I wouldn’t wish hopelessness on anyone. It’s a dark place to be.

The sun is beginning to get up and its heat-ing up. I can feel the suns rays on my face. People are moving all around me but no help so far. All I’ve gained is a cough from all the dust being kicked up by people travelling past. Person after person going past, I call out but no one replies. Just like every other day.

What’s that noise I hear? That’s not normal. It sounds like a big crowd coming. Lots of people and they sound excited. What’s going on? What’s happening? I hear someone coming and I grab their cloak – what’s going on? “Jesus of Nazareth is coming!” they say.

Jesus of Nazareth? I’ve heard of this Jesus man. Rumours have it that he has performed miracles. Some even say that he has raised people back to life. They even mentioned the family name. What was it again? Jairus. That was it. A synagogue ruler in another town. His daughter apparently.
The word on the street is that he can heal the sick, he can do the impossible. Could this be the King God promised to send way back in the Old Testament?

I feel funny. I’d forgotten what this felt like.
I feel….hope.

The noise gets louder. This is it – he’s here.
People start telling me to shut up. Jesus is a busy man they say, he doesn’t have time for a waste of space like you. Lord, please don’t let them be right! SON OF DAVID HAVE MERCY ON ME! Please…..

The crowd has stopped moving. They are all around me. Hushed voices whisper all over the place. What are they saying? What’s going on? My heart is pounding now. Thumping so hard in my throat that I can hardly get the words out.

Then someone says get up! He is calling you! Jesus? Calling me? Really? The King wants to see me. He could just click his fingers and I’d be able to see. He could just say a word. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve heard what he did before. He healed a Centurion’s servant just at a word from quite a distance away. My mouth dries up. I fling my cloak away. Wait – how will I find it again? Who cares? This is the opportunity I never thought I’d see! Nothing matters now but Jesus.

I push my way through the press of people and suddenly I come into a bubble of space in the middle. I don’t need to be told. It’s him. I know it’s him. I can feel him standing there. My heart pounds even louder. My mouth dries up. Then I hear his voice…

“What do you want me to do for you?” I’m stunned. I can’t speak for a few minutes. What do you want me to do for you? I think. It’s obvious surely. I’m blind. I’ve spent years of my life being ignored at a roadside. Dismissed. I find my voice. “Lord I want to see”!

O God, how much do I want to see! My whole chest feels like its about to explode. I want this so badly I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes. They burn and sting. I want to see!!

Then I hear his voice again. What a voice. Strong yet full of compassion. A power yet gentle. “Go” he says, “your faith has healed you”. The moment those words left his lips light just burst in. It’s overpowering. The tears do come now. I feel them flowing down my face. My whole body is wracked with sobs as I weep and laugh at the same time. I CAN SEE! I begin to focus and a face swims into focus. A man’s face. Is this him? Yes, the first thing I see is the face of Jesus. I look at him and can’t find words and I see him smiling. Is that a tear in his eye too? He puts his arms round me and I weep all the more. He IS a King. A king unlike any that have ever been before. A King who cares for even blind beggars. Lord I can see! I can see your face, but more than that I can see who you are. You are God’s King. You are the Christ. You are my King.

Jesus gathers his disciples and says he must be on his way. Something about having to go to Jerusalem to suffer, die and rise from the dead. I don’t understand it. But I know whom I have believed. The crowd begin to move again, flowing past me. I can’t just let him go. He is my King. Where he goes, I will go. I want to be where he is. So I run back and grab my cloak and join the crowd.

It’s a long walk to Jerusalem – 18 miles – but it feels like a moment. Everything looks so, so bright. The colours! The flowers that are in bloom, the olive trees, the people teeming back and fore – I never want to close my eyes again. Just drinking in the scenery. Above that I keep one eye on Jesus. I can’t peel my eyes away. There is a determination in him but such a heart. Never have I seen anyone like this.

When we reach Jerusalem – what an entrance it was. Crowds came flocking to us shouting Hosanna! They threw palm branches over the road for us to walk over, children running round singing praise to God and proclaiming Jesus as the King. What a party! It just doesn’t make sense what Jesus said – they are welcoming him as a King. Who on earth would want him dead?

But it turns out – he was right. I should have known better than to think he’d be wrong. He is God’s King who can do the impossible. Why would I think I know better than him?
That was arrogance at best, stupidity at worst. They came for him during the night. One of his own disciples led the band that
arrested him. What was his name again? Jude? No Judas, Judas that was it. Betrayed him with a kiss I heard. Traitor!

And now I’m standing on a hill outside the city. It’s a funny shaped hill, it kind of looks like a skull if you look at from a certain angle. That’s how it got its name – Golgotha.
I’d rather be anywhere in the world than this right now. My King is unrecognisable. I saw him as he approached and the tears came
again. He is a mess. His face is a mask of blood. His hair is matted with the stuff. His body is destroyed. I can see exposed bones and muscles on his back where they must have flogged him. Other prisoners are with him carrying their crosses but Jesus has
some man carrying his for him. I’m amazed he is still on his feet.

I look around the crowd looking for his disciples. Where are they? Gone. Run away. Maybe I should too. But I said where he goes I go. I will not, I cannot leave him. He is my King. I can’t bear to watch as they hammer those nails through his wrists and feet and he is hauled up into the air.

I can’t believe my ears when he begins to pray for those murdering him! They are killing their King! They are killing God’s
promised one! And he says Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing! Forgive them? If I could I’d grab a sword and strike them all dead and cut Jesus down. But he prays for them! How? How could he do that?

And then another cry – Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. Not my head, not my hands, not what I’d expect. He cries to God? There is
something going on here that I don’t yet understand.

A darkness worse than anything I experienced before grips me. My sight blurred. Then I hear that voice, that voice that changed my life cry out – Tetelestai! Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit. The strength in that shout was incredible. It almost sounded triumphant but that doesn’t make sense.

I slip away. I can’t watch any more. Three days I spend in turmoil. Lord, I’m so confused. I hear word where the disciples are gathered and I make my way there. We’re all devastated. What’s going on? But that hope still burns within me. There was something he said, something strange. He said this would happen. And he said he would rise again. But that’s impossible. Then again so is giving sight to the blind. Who am I to say what’s impossible for Jesus? Maybe just maybe the story isn’t over yet.

Peter and John arrive breathless in the room. They’ve run from Jesus’s tomb – Peter is a big lad and he takes a few minutes to get his breath. They say Jesus’ body is missing. Now my heart starts pounding again. That’s what he said would happen! The place is in an uproar now. Excited chattering – what could this mean? Some of the women even say that they have spoken to Jesus!

Then he appeared. How I don’t know. The door was locked because we were afraid of being arrested too. My Lord. I thought when I got my sight back I couldn’t be happier. I was wrong. Today I know I was wrong. Nothing prepared me for this joy!
Jesus is risen!

We spent some days with Jesus. He gives us a mission. To go and tell the world what he has done. To make them disciples of his too before he comes back to judge the world. I’m excited. Scared yes. Daunted a bit. But he said he would be with us. With Jesus by my side I will not fear. Nothing can stand against him! Even death couldn’t! My life now is going to be different. My life is going to be lived for him. My time is short. People need to know. People need to see.

What Jesus has done for me he can do for others. He can give hope to the hopeless. He can make the blind see. He can bring the dead to life.

My name is Bartimaeus. What do I want Jesus to do? I want others to see. And I will spend my life in that cause.

(This is the address given by Calum at the family service)