22nd Sunday after Pentecost
22nd Sunday Pentecost 22.21 “See What I Did There?” Mark 10:46-52
Did you see what Jesus did there? “Oh, sure, Pastor. He did a miracle. A blind beggar pleaded for miraculous recovery of sight—which Jesus gave him. Oh, and we “see” what you did there, too, with your little pun on “see what he did there?” recovery of sight, “see” what he did?, yeah, yeah, we get it. Very droll.
But, with all due respect, I’m not sure you do see what’s going on here, all that much better than Bartimaeus “saw” before his encounter with Jesus. But it’s not your fault. The English translation of the crucial last sentence blinds you (see what I did there, again? 🙂 to what’s really going on in this pericope. Only one or two more “see” and “blind” puns, I promise, though they do serve a serious rhetorical purpose. I’m a trained professional. Trust me on this.
Also, the standard way we’ve been taught to read the Scriptures—all precepts and propositions—does us no favors in getting all that this text has to say. But fear not, faithful flock! All shall be revealed… 🙂 See what… oh, nevermind. I’m stopping. In a sec… See, like an unreliable narrator, bad puns are irresistible to me. But I see they hold some appeal for all 4 of the Gospel writers, too; so maybe they’re not so “bad” after all?
Anyway; the two things that keep us from “seeing” what’s going on in this Gospel, plainly stated: Thing One: what Jesus says, after restoring Bartimaeus’ sight, is actually not as our English versions all translate: “Go your way; your faith has made you well…” Nope! In Greek, it’s σεσωκεν which is literally saved you. Euphemistically, σωζω can be taken as “made well” but there is nothing euphemistic about Jesus! He means what he says and says exactly what he means…
“Seeing” that makes a big difference in how you read the text now, doesn’t it? If Jesus says your faith has “made you well”, given you sight, that’s one thing. Very nice. “Alright! You can see now; should improve your driving, and get you home safer; have a nice day.” But… if your faith has saved you from everything—from sin, death, and hell!—then that is quite another thing! Then, the outward miracle of sight is actually revealing, a deeper, hidden miracle—of a new heart, mind, spirit and eternal life with Jesus. But if you don’t “see” that hidden under the miracle of sight restored, you just might miss out on the bigger deal. Which leads to…
Thing Two: we can only “see” the bigger deal, the real miracle here—of new life in Christ, hidden under the restoration of a blind beggar’s sight, when we come to “see” that this story (like all of Holy Scriptures) is not primarily about a beggar named Bartimaeus who lived 2,000 years ago (although it is about him, too), but that this Story is the story of your Life (and mine!) and a miracle that is being done to us right now, this very minute—as to Bartimaeus—the moment we “see” IT, with eyes of faith…
- Two pretty big suitcases there. Let’s unpack them a little bit.
This episode takes place at the very end of Jesus’ public ministry, apparently just a day or two before Palm Sunday and the events of Holy Week (which is why we get it near the end of the church year). One of the last chances to “see”. And, in all the miracles of healing Jesus has been doing for the previous 3 years or so, he’s been trying to get us all to “see” that the outward physical healing he grants is a sign of an inward spiritual transformation that culminates in freedom from sin, death, and the power of the devil—that results in eternal life!
But almost no one sees this!
Consider one of the first miracles Jesus did, in Capernaum, Mark 2, at the start. Immediately after being baptized by John in the Jordan, Jesus went to the synagogue in Capernaum and cast out a demon. The demon knew him, “the Holy One of God”, but the crowd just gaped, stunned and blind to what was going on, just in it for the Bud Light, the outward goodies.
Some days after that exorcism, Jesus is in the house in Capernaum, teaching a crowd, when 4 guys get up on the roof and let their paralyzed buddy down thought the skylight. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” And the scribes said he was blaspheming, that only God could forgive sins! And Jesus goes, “Which is easier to say: ‘your sins are forgiven’, or ‘rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he says to the paralytic—‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home’.” Which he did. But they didn’t get it. Wouldn’t get it…
For the 2 reasons I said before: they did not see that forgiveness of sin is the real trick, the serious miracle that saves us from everything! Because the only cause of sickness—bodily or spiritual—is sin. Because sin separates us from God, keeps us from being kites blown by his wind in the most delightful ways. Sin cuts that string, our connection with the Triune God, and so we shrivel up, bodily, spiritually. We go blind, deaf, get demons, can’t walk, and finally die. Like a kite crashing to the earth when the string is cut.
But blindness, lameness, leprosy, evil spirits—these are all just symptoms of the connection with Christ being cut, from our, end by our sin—which is the knife. To truly heal body or spirit of any infirmity (and not just temporarily mask the symptoms, as mere earthly physicians do, at their best), sin would have to be forgiven and our connection with Christ restrung by faith. Then we take wing and soar with him to unimaginable heights and joys.
So, Jesus forgives sins, first of all, because then strength of body, soul, mind, spirit will naturally follow. But not too many “see” this. And the more Jesus healed their bodies, the darker their minds and spirit became because they would not “see”: Jesus’ outward healing is a sign of inward spiritual transformation—of forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation enjoyed by faith alone.
So, for one of his ultimate public miracles, Jesus gives “sight” to a blind beggar. He doesn’t say: “your faith has “made you well”; no! He says: “your faith has saved you!” Faith is the biggest miracle, seeing this!—seeing underneath the outward healing our complete, spiritual renewal that will eventually raise our mortal bodies from sickness and death and make them like Christ’s glorious body!
Above all, faith sees behind this miracle done to Bartimaeus, the same miracle done to us! The moment we read this as our Story, the eyes of faith are opened and, seeing the outward sign of our inward transformation, we are new creations, inside and out. We are…saved from everything!
How do we know Bartimaeus saw this with Faith’s deeper vision? Because it says so. “Go your way; your faith has saved you. And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the Way.” This is sight recovered: not only outward, physical sight, but the inward seeing of Jesus as Savior, his way as our way, always. Christ’s road is our road, his Story our story. That’s true seeing!
This is the Way: it starts by faith that captivates our hearts in Christ and makes us see everything, clearly, finally, for the first time. It takes up the cross with Jesus, dying in order to live. And tied to him by the cross, Christ’s Spirit blows us—like kites on his string—to the heights of heaven. And oh!, the places you will go; the things you will see! In Jesus’ Name. Amen.