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Blind Bart

Mark 10:46-52

The Rev. Jon Roberts

23 October

2009

Good Shepherd Episcopal

Venice, FL

46 And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimae′us, a blind beggar, the son of Timae′us, was sitting by the roadside. 47 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!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; rise, he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Master,[a] let me receive my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

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Bartimaeus turning to thank Jesus for his sight by Fr. Jon Roberts, 2009

It’s a long way down to Jericho,
Eight hundred and fifty steps left to go.
Watch your step. Do not trip.
Those stones on the road aren’t kind.
If you don’t believe me
Go ask Bart.
You know.
The one who is blind.[1]

Why eight hundred and fifty steps? Jericho, being the lowest, permanently inhabited place in the world is eight hundred and fifty feet below sea level. It is also the floor on which Bartimaeus sleeps. He is the blind man, according to Mark who cries out to our Lord. Matthew and Luke, for some reason fail to call him by his name. In the belly of the earth he sits and listens like a child in his mother’s womb. He cries out and lives on the alms given by others. It is by mercy that he exists. Without it, he would surely die. Not knowing all the by-passers, Only hearing the sound of sandals on the hard steps, each day; coming down that long road, eight hundred and fifty times he waited to beg for help.

Jericho and Venice (FL) have a lot in common. Both know all about sea level and being in a flood zone. Both are a tropical, “City of palms.” Jericho is one of the eldest settlements on earth. Venice has some of the eldest people living on earth and there are times when one walks down our streets and sees someone begging. There are a few in Venice. More to come in the future, to be sure. And like Jericho there is always the one who reminds us of Bartimaeus. Did you know that Jericho was the land of milk and honey? Moses led the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt, but forty years they spent in the Syrian dessert, before Joshua led them across the Jordan river. They descended from the mountainous terrain and saw the fertile crescent, that was promised below. As a nation, they received their sight. Do you suppose Bartimaeus made the same descent, or was he born in Jericho? Had he ever left the womb of the earth? He must have known every turn in the street. He knew all the crags and pits in those ancient walls. Walls that had one time reached forty feet before the trumpets of Joshua and the marching of the Israelites knocked them down.[2] Since then, some had tried to rebuild the fortified city. Now it’s a town for tourists. People, always coming and going. More languages to learn.

Bartimaeus listened carefully, eavesdropping, in the hope he could get their attention. Was it true, the man they called Jesus was coming down the road? What would the steps of this miracle worker sound like? He must be getting nearer. He hears someone call for Peter. It was another of the disciples. John he thought. Where was Jesus’ voice in the crowd?[3] “Oh Jesus of Nazareth, Son of David, where are you? Son of David, where are you? It is I, Bartimaeus, I am here. Do you see me? Have mercy on me, O Lord.” His usual tone of “have mercy on me, a poor blind man,” becomes more emphatic, more personal. from his years of sitting by the road he can tell this is a moment that is unique. Never before had he felt this way. His heart raced, He wanted to stand. “Have mercy on me. Have mercy on me. Have mercy on me,” he repeated. One for every step he heard getting closer. “Bartimaeus, enough!”, said a man who knew him. “Be quiet,” another insisted. But Jesus, who always felt for the marginalized, and was sensitive towards the outcast, stopped and said, “Call him.” Springing to his feet Blind Bart came over. Jesus looked at him and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Master, let me receive my sight.” After Bartimaeus received his sight, all that we know is that he took up his mantle and followed our Lord. It is the story of a miracle. Perplexity in the mind, and grief in the heart, are always the enemies that try to triumph over us.[4] It is even possible they can take away our sight.

There are times when we are very much like Bartimaeus.
We crawl in lowly places.
We grope for a way out.
We yearn for someone to hear us.

And when we learn of how God sent his Son down to us, along that hard and rocky road, that leads down into the earth of our soul, we begin to understand that he always hears us. We just forget to listen for his footsteps, and his voice when he calls us. Don’t let the eight hundred and fifty steps trip you up and take away your sight. Let God tear down the walls that blind you. Let God increase in you, the gifts of faith, hope, and charity. By these we are made well. Therefore, have faith in Jesus Christ, who calls you to take up your mantle, and follow him.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Bart.
You know, the one who received his sight.
He’s the one who took up his mantle by faith,
And loved the Lord with all his might. [5]

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Joshua 6:1-27
[3] Mark 10:46-52
[4] Ps 13:2
[5] The Rev. Jon Roberts

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