Last week we had special prayer that the Pathfinder Club from Finland, that we are hosting at the Osh Kosh Camporee, would arrive safely. Our prayers have been answered. I know this because there are air mattresses all over my home. It is wonderful. Right now, if you want a picture of what's going on at my house, breakfast dishes are flying hither and yon, and people are looking for their Sabbath shoes. We are just thrilled that the house is full. Many of you remember Marcue and Ahia Henanen. They decided to escape the hubbub this morning along with me and come to first service. So, they're here and we welcome them.
July 17, 1955, forty nine years ago today, was the grand opening of a place in California called Disney Land. Have you been there? I have never been there. But I have been to a place called Disney World near Orlando Florida. In fact, I can remember, as a child, standing in the orange groves where Disney World now sits. I don't remember much about it but I do recall a small building in the middle of an orange grove. In that building was a three-dimensional rendering of the soon coming Magic Kingdom. Thousands of people flock to that former orange grove every day looking for something. Looking for something. Enjoying something that is not real. Disney World is all about imagination. People are amazingly willing to stand in long lines in the boiling sun to have an imaginary thrill. And, I've been one of them, more than once. People enjoy the pristine, litter free streets. Main Street USA is like no other street in the world. No beggars, no homeless to make you feel guilty. The price of admission assures that. It is always clear of everything ugly, except the exhausted tourists pushing strollers of crying children wearing Micky Mouse ears and faces smeared with tears and ice cream. Parents, frustrated that their children are not having the time that they paid fifty bucks to get them in for. If Disney World or Dysneyland were a place of real beauty, hundreds of teenagers would not be hired to walk around with little brooms and large dust pans picking up the popsicle sticks and cigarette butts of the careless.
July 19, 1996, eight years ago this Tuesday, the 1996 Olympic Games opened in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta became like Disney World. I was pastor of a church that was near the Volley Ball events. I watched as Atlanta prepared for this event. The streets were swept clean of all things undesirable. The buildings were washed, the streets no longer had beggars and homeless. They were removed, preferably further than they could walk back. I remember this happening. The controversy was going on: Loading up the homeless, moving them out of town. Old neighborhoods were bulldozed. Fences were built around things that could not be gotten rid of, but were not beautiful. Everyone put on a smile that said "It is always this nice around here." Even the Seventh-day Adventist Church tried hard. I remember sitting in meeting after meeting of the area pastors: "How can we make an impact in this time that will make people's trip enjoyable and maybe they leave with something spiritual.
Spring, A.D. 31, the Passover celebration opens in Jerusalem. All of the streets are swept clean. Beggars are forced further away from the Temple and from the city. Surrounding towns where visitors will be staying, or passing through, are also cleaned up. Including Jericho. Jericho was a place of natural beauty, and it was known as the City of Palms. It lay in the fertile plain of the Jordan River. Jericho was a place of commerce, military strength and vacationers from Jerusalem. This is not the same Jericho destroyed by God in the time of Joshua. The ruins of that event were a mile down the road. Yet, despite its natural beauty, the ususal ugliness of beggars, the sick, the homeless was in the streets and needed to be pushed out, or at least aside, as the important visitors came through town. "We need to put our best foot forward." What the city officials did not know was that the most important Visitor in the Universe was about to pass through on His way to the Passover. In fact, this was the same Jesus that spent that night in Jericho with a local IRS agent, named Zacchaeus. He was on His way to the Passover. He was to be the guest of honor at the Passover, even though the people see this. He was the Passover Lamb! What they had been waiting for for so many years was in their midst. All they could think of was putting on the best impression. It's much like a button I have in my office you can wear on your lapel that reads: "Look Busy, Jesus is coming." That's what was going on. Jesus is coming, look busy! We need to look like we're doing what's right.! Isn't He the great teacher?" But they were blind to Whom He really was.
Speaking of the blind, Turn to Mark 10, and we'll be starting with verse 46. This is the story of blind Bartimaeus.
Mark 10:46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd , were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (That is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.
Notice, Bartimaeus is not in the city or even by the city gate where most beggars usually congregate. He is by the highway. I imagine he was forced out of his usual spot to help clean up the city for the big event. Yet, any spot along the route to Jerusalem is an advantage to a beggar during the Passover. After all, people are more generous on their way to Passover, or more guilty. They feel more like giving to the beggars than usual.
Most of the people that Jesus healed did not have their names recorded. So, it is surmised that Bartimaeus was someone that readers of the Gospels in the early church would recognize. He may have become a church leader after this event.
Being blind in that day meant that you were also a beggar. There was no other choice. That was your lot in life. Today, people that are blind have many opportunities that did not exist then. No wonder that one of the signs of the true Messiah was that He would bring sight to the blind. But this can also mean the spiritually blind. Helen Keller once said, "Better to be blind and see with your heart than to have two good eyes and see nothing."
Mark 10:47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
It is said that when one of the senses is lost, the others sharpen to help compensate. Others say that one just pays more attention to the other senses when one is lost. Whatever the case, Bartimaeus was listening intently. He heard a greater commotion than usual coming down the road. It must be a large crowd. "What's this all about?" People have been streaming in, but this was a large group of people that usually meant that a great teacher was on the way, because people would surround the rabbis as they came into Jerusalem wanting words of wisdom. "What do you have to say about this? What do you have to say about that?" "Well, who is this teacher," he would be asking. But, children, you know children, they're running forward, "Jesus is coming!" Who's coming?" "Jesus of Nazareth." Bartimaeus had heard about Jesus of Nazareth, about His teachings, about His love of little people, not meaning just children, but people that didn't have what other people had. He had heard about His ability to heal! His heart must have clenched in his chest to think that he was going to be in the proximity of a man who could take away his blindness and change his life from that of begging from society to that of giving to society.
He dare not miss this chance to be with Jesus! "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Did you hear that? Did you hear what he said? He had heard that Jesus of Nazareth was coming but he called Him, "Jesus, Son of David!" That is a leap of faith that you seldom see anywhere in the Scriptures. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was coming, He shouted out, "Jesus, Son of David." Peter, himself, had only reached this conclusion and he had been walking with Jesus for a long time. Just a few short verses before(Matthew 16:16), finally Peter says, "You are the Son of the Living God!" And here is a man who has never seen Jesus, and he knows Who He is: the Son of David. Bartimaeus has expressed and amazing faith. One advantage of being blind and sitting around all day is having plenty of time for thought. He had thought a lot about this Jesus he had heard of. All the prophecies would have time to come to mind and had been applied to this Man. Others simply saw this Jesus as a nice teacher with incredible power and they liked to see the miracles, but he had never seen a miracle for he had never seen. Faith may bring miracles but miracles seldom bring out faith.
Did you notice what he asked for? He didn't have his hand out asking for alms. He wanted mercy, not alms. He was there to receive money from the crowds but when he hears that Jesus is near, money is of no importance any more. He stops asking the crowd for a hand-out, this huge crowd coming by that could give him so much; he doesn't want it. He asks Jesus for a hand-up instead of a hand out. He only has "eyes" for Jesus even though he can't see. Today, we invited Jesus to be here. Know what? He is. Where are your thoughts right now? Are the concerns of day to day life filling your mind, the marriage troubles, children troubles, the finances, summer school Are these filling your mind, or are you here to seek His mercy for your life, for your family. Are you here to worship Him? Think about it. Jesus is in this room right now, along with a host of angels. It makes me tremble to think about it. What are you asking Him for? Something to get you through the day or something to get you through eternal life? What is in your mind, what most concerns you? The big picture, or something that is rather minuscule.
Look at Mark 10:48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
If you are here looking for mercy, don't let anybody rebuke you for that. This is the place to find I because Jesus is here! Many rebuked him and told him to "Be quiet! Hush your mouth!" Can you imagine that he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"?
How ironic, to be rebuked by a religious crowd for asking for mercy. They're on their way for Passover. That's as religious as it gets. For some, it may have been thoughts of keeping Jericho clean. "You are not supposed to even be here. Hush your mouth. If I drop a coin in your cup, will you hush? I would move you if I didn't have to touch you." For others if may have been thoughts of Jesus. "Hush! This is Jesus. He's teaching. We want to hear Him. Who do you think you are? He doesn't have time for the likes of you! Don't bother the good teacher. Can't you see (oh, I guess not)! Can't you hear He is on His way to Jerusalem?" For the religious leaders it may have been, "Hush up!" They wished he would keep his faith to himself. "We don't like to hear that 'Son of David stuff. We hope the blind guy doesn't draw attention to himself. Jesus heals people like that and that destroys our teaching that you get what you deserve. Blindness is caused by his sin or his parents sin. Don't you know that? Don't heal him."
What do you do when things hinder you from getting close to Jesus? Bartimaeus just became more determined and cried all the louder. He did not go away, he did not give up. This is his church family. Don't let things that go one even here or at home keep you from Jesus.
Mark 10:49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you."
How does Jesus respond? He denied that blindness came from any sin. Jesus wanted the sick to know they are especially loved and not cursed by God. Every one of his miracles of healing undercut the rabbinic tradition of "You deserve it." Aren't you glad we don't get what we deserve?
"Jesus stopped..." Those are amazing words. Jesus is on His way to His death. He is carrying the burden of the world on His shoulders. He has a lot on His mind. Yet he has time for a filthy blind beggar on the side of the road. God is running the Universe but He has time for you and whatever concerns your life! It's hard to keep that in my head. How about you?
Notice. Jesus stopped, but He asked others to help. He wanted others to call Bartimaeus to Him. He wants us to bring those in need to His feet. He wants us to give others the same message that was given to Bartimaeus. These words are wonderful. "Cheer up! On your feet! Jesus is calling!" Who do you know that you could say these words to? Your neighbor? Your husband? Your wife? Your children? "Cheer up. On your feet! Jesus is calling." That's exciting, that's the gospel.
Mark 10:50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
This verse is much more than it first appears. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Mark to add that little bit about casting away his garment? I can picture it being merely a filthy rag of a thing, just like our righteousness ! We can not jump up and come to Jesus when we are weighted down by the filthy rags of our own righteousness! We don't need to just need to drop it, we must cast it aside where we won't ever be tripped up by it again. Bartimaeus did not want anything to hinder him from finding Jesus!
Bartimaeus had better vision than anyone else in the crowd. It seems that blind sight is 20/20. He knew he had nothing to offer of any value to such a man as Jesus. He saw clearly that the minor things of this life are mere hindrances to seeing the big picture. It is so easy to get caught up with intensity in what are actually microscopic issues in the large scheme of things. The Enemy loves to catch our attention by small matters so that we can not see where Jesus really wants us to be. It is so easy to do because if we focus on small issues we don't have to look at ourselves and realize how spiritually bankrupt we are. But Bartimaeus, in his blindness, has plenty of time to see that he needs to be nearer to Jesus. The alms that have been the focus of his life are put in their proper perspective: away from him. Jesus is there.
Mark 10:51 "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
Why does Jesus ask a question like this when the answer is obvious? Couldn't he see the man was blind? He does it for the sake of the asker. We often find Jesus asking people to put their desires into words. To express faith, strengthens faith. That's why we pray. Does God not know the end from the beginning? Does He know what you desire, what you need? Then, why ask? Because to express faith strengthens faith. And we need to remember Who good things come from.
Mark 10:52 "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Notice that Jesus credits the man's healing to the man's faith: "Your faith has healed you." He takes no credit to Himself even though without Him, blindness would have remained. Jesus is the light that reflects through our eyes. WE can claim no credit for anything. Even the people that we share Jesus with we claim no credit, He is simply reflecting through our eyes to that individual.
The first sight that filled those eyes was the face of Jesus. Out of love and gratitude we find Bartimaeus following Jesus down the road. Is there any other reason? It's not because of who we are, but because of Who He is.
The Sunday Times journalist, Matthew Parris, a man, who by his own admission, is not a Christian, wrote this:
"The New Testament offers a picture of God, who does not sound at all vague. He has sent His Son to earth, He has distinct plans for each of us personally and can communicate directly with us. We are capable of forming a direct relationship, individually with Him, and are commanded to try. We are told that this can be done only through his Son. And we are offered the prospect of eternal life a happy afterlife in happy, blissful or glorious circumstances if we life this life in a certain manner. Friends, if I believed that, or even one tenth of that... I would drop my job, sell my house, throw away all my possessions, leave my acquaintances and set our into the world burning with desire to know more and, when I had found more, to act upon it and tell others. Far from being puzzled that the Mormons and Adventists should knock on the door, I am unable to understand how anyone who believed that which is written in the Bible could choose to spend their waking hours in any other endeavor."
What an interesting insight from a non Christian. Are you so full of love and gratitude for Jesus that you feel like you will burst if you are not leading someone to Him? "Cheer up! Get on your feet! Jesus is calling!" Or, are you so concerned with microscopic issues that you can't see what He has done for you: the big picture. Are we so concerned with making sure that our lives look good, that true goodness can't get in? Are we so concerned with this and that, that we don't see Jesus when He arrives? Is your life like Disney Land? It looks good but is only imaginary. Or does your life look good in reality because you have seen Jesus and have walked with Him?
Sources: All the Miracles of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim Luke by Griffith Thomas The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey Bartimaeus Receives Sight Sermon by Melvin Shelton Bartimaeus Sermon by Byron Harvey Barimaeus the Blind Man Sermon by Martin Dale Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Hymn of Praise: #33, Sing a new Song Unto the Lord Scripture: Mark 10:51 Hymn of Response: #547, Be Thou My Vision
Return to McDonald Road Sermons Index
Return to McDonald Road SDA Church Home Page
McDonald Road Sermons converted to HTML and
last updated July 19,2004 by Bob Beckett.