This week we have a story that is both about healing, and it is about faith leading to sight that is physical and social and spiritual as well. (RCL Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126: Hebrews 7:21-28; and Mark 10:46-52.) The disciples and we need healing as much as blind Bartimaeus did.
I always come to stories about Jesus healing ministry with mixed feelings and some trepidation as a preacher. And so too with this story of healing near Jericho. Stories of miraculous healings are always exciting and a little disquieting. How wonderful it must have been to be around in the time of Jesus and to see him in action. And how we would love to see some of that miraculous healing power in our lives and in the lives of those we love and know to be suffering. But that does not always seem to be what is intended. So how are we to engage with such stories, with this story of blindness being healed?
The blind man is given a name: Bartimaeus - which means son of (bar) the precious or worthy one. The blind man, and his family, is named precious and worthy, which was the opposite to how blindness was thought of in that society. Jesus declares this man, and all who are sidelined in life - forced to literally line the sides of the road hoping for a begging opportunity - as precious and worthy of inclusion. Whether that was literally this man’s name does not matter as the author of Mark’s gospel clearly understood Jesus’ teaching to have been that this blind man, and by inference all others outcast because of their health, was precious.
Jesus also seems to have been attempting to heal the disciple’s spiritual blindness. He is effectively telling them to open their eyes to what God is doing in him, the Son, and what God is about to do, in terms of the journey to Jerusalem and the cross. The blind man calls Jesus Son of David. Shortly afterward Jesus will be called Son of David, King, again, as he enters Jerusalem. And then only a week later will be ironically, cruelly called King of the Jews as he is hung on a cross. Blind Bartimaeus can see who Jesus is and is to become, better than the sighted disciples!
And here we are like the disciples, sighted but not always seeing. Always it seems there is yet more, or maybe less, to understand. Another level of letting who Jesus is and what God is doing into our hearts, minds and lifestyles. Allowing the kingdom to set up reign in our hearts and lives.
Metaphors for prayer often focus on speaking and listening and rightfully so. But prayer might also be thought of as seeing. What do you need or want to see more clearly, more lovingly, more creatively, in our lives? Are there past events that need to be seen differently so that they can be forgiven and be healed and released? Is there an impasse or a confusion at this moment that needs a new way of seeing to get beyond where we are now?
As I shared last week there are moments which come to us unbidden that bring us new ways of seeing. But mostly we see, especially spiritually, in the ways of habit and so our spiritual habits are most important. Regular times of prayer are important. And I think it is important to allow times of silence and free form imagination as part of our sacred time with God allowing God to speak to us in silence, in imagination, in desire and hope.
Especially in hard and barren times, such as the world is still going through, it is important to allow our dreams and desire to fuel our prayers as well as the witness of the past. From the past the prophet Jeremiah encourages us to see that even though reduced, even though only a remnant of what we once were, we are still God’s people, a people that will be gathered from the ends of the earth.
As I reminded us last week of the adage of the seventies and eighties – “Think global, act local.” Pray, dream, imagine big and also pray, dream and imagine the minute and local detail of how we might most fully be God’s people in this time and place.
What and who is God drawing your and my attention toward? Small or large what is suggesting itself to us as we sit, walk, garden quietly with God? If our sight were restored, if we were given new sight, what would we see as possible that now escapes us? What restoration of what has been lost, what new mercy, what flower of faith might unfurl, if we had eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to hope?
My prayer for us is that we would be given new sight so that we might glimpse ourselves, our neighbours, the world, as God does. And then the kingdom of God might indeed be realised in this place and in this time. "Your will be done, your kingdom come," your dream on earth become our reality.
Even so, come Lord Jesus Christ.