About 10 years ago I started going for Tai Chi lesson’s with a Chinese lady who sometimes attended our Church. Tai Chi is something I had wanted to do for quite a number of years. I had been attracted by the slow, flowing and meditative movements and the idea of learning to use one's whole body in a more connected way.
One could say that I had been an admirer of Tai Chi, but in 2009 (for a few months) I became a learner!
I wonder how true that is for many people in this world when it comes to Christ. There are many in this world who would hold Jesus in high regard. Many who one could say are admirers of Jesus, both inside and outside the Church. But it is quite another thing to become a learner, or a disciple of Jesus, to sincerely seek to put the way of Jesus into practice in their lives.
Our text today is all about discipleship. It is more than just a healing story. Rather it is the story of a blind beggar who receives his sight and becomes a follower of Jesus.
The clues that the story is about discipleship are found in a number of places
- Jesus calls Bartimaeus – it has echoes of Jesus calling the first disciples.
- Bartimaeus jumps up at once and leaves his cloak behind in order to meet Jesus - it contains echoes of the first disciples who left their nets and at once followed Jesus.
- Jesus asks Bartimaeus “What do you want me to do for you?” It is the same question he asks two of the 12 in the passage prior to this one.
- When Bartimaeus receives his sight, he follows Jesus down the road.
What is particularly interesting is that the 2 prior passages are also about discipleship; about two failed attempts at discipleship.
The first is the story of the Rich Young Man who comes to Jesus with good intentions, longing to have a deeper experience of God. His sincerity is obvious because he has been diligently following the law, doing all that he can to prepare himself for a deeper experience of God. In a moment of insight, Jesus identifies the one thing that is holding the young man back, his attachment to money.
As sincere as the Rich Young Man is, he is more attached to his money than he is to following Jesus. and he goes away sad. It is a failed attempt at discipleship. He is blinded by his attachment to his wealth.
The second failed attempt at discipleship is from James and John, two of those disciples who had been with Jesus from the very beginning. At this point in Marks story Jesus has 3 times predicted his death. He has told them that in order live the Kingdom way they need to become like children and need to become the servants of all. But they just don't get it. They are blinded by their desire for glory and status and power and so that ask Jesus a special favour, to sit at his left and right in his glory, when he has defeated the Romans.
They have failed to see and know and understand the true way of being a disciple of Jesus.
After two failed attempts at discipleship in our text today, Blind Bartimaeus, the outcast, the one cursed by God (a common understanding of blindness in his day) becomes the model disciple who follows Jesus down the road! What are the mark's of discipleship that we see in Bartimaeus that we can learn from?
Firstly Bartimaeus is no longer willing to sit on the sidelines of life begging.
At the beginning of the story we find Bartimaeus sitting on the side of the road. But something is stirring within him. He longs for something more. He is not willing to sit on the sidelines simply receiving anymore....
Are we tired of sitting on the sidelines? Is there a stirring within us for something more?
Secondly there is a determination in Bartimaeus
Bartimaeus is absolutely determined to meet Jesus. When he hears that Jesus is coming, he shouts above the crowd, calling out to Jesus. As Bartimaeus cries out for Jesus, the crowd try to discourage him. They tell him to be quiet! But Bartimaeus will not be discouraged and he shouts even louder!
How often do we allow others to discourage us? How often are we the voice of discouragement in other peoples lives? How often are we even the voice of discouragement to ourselves?
Thirdly, Bartimaeus is willing to make sacrifices for that which is most important to him.
As Bartimaeus hears Jesus calling him, he immediately jumps to his feet and leaves his cloak behind so that nothing will hinder him. His cloak was his most valuable possession, and yet he casts it aside for the more valuable thing of meeting and knowing Jesus.
What hinders you from embracing that which is most valuable and most important in your life?
Fourthly, Bartimaeus wants to change!
Bartimaeus wants his life to be different. He knows he is blind and he desperately wants to see! He knows what his need is and is not afraid to bring his need to Jesus. He stands in contrast to the Rich Young Man and James and John who don't know their real need, and are not yet willing to truly change.
Thomas Keating says that the greatest sin is the refusal to grow. Are we willing to allow ourselves to be challenged? Do we really want to change and grow? Do we like the idea of changing and growing, but are not yet ready to do anything that really requires changing?
Fifthly, Bartimaeus is willing to get involved
When Bartimaeus receives his sight, he doesn't wander off home or go back and sit by the side of the road. He joins the throng and begins to follow Jesus down the road. He gets involved. A disciple is willing involved.
Very often in Church people think that someone else will get involved! A few years ago, a colleague sent the following humorous piece. :
“An obituary to Someone Else”
I know that all of you were saddened to learn this week of the death
of one of our church's most valuable members -- Someone Else.
Someone's passing created a vacancy that will be difficult to fill.
Else has been with us for many years, and for every one of those
years, Someone did far more than the normal person's share of the
work. Whenever leadership was mentioned, this wonderful person was
looked to for inspiration as well as results. Someone Else can work
with that group. Whenever there was a job to do, a class to teach, or
a meeting to attend, one name was on everyone's lips, "Let Someone
Else do it." It was common knowledge that Someone Else was among the
largest givers in the church. Whenever there was a financial need,
everyone just assumed that Someone Else would make up the difference.
Someone Else was a wonderful person, sometimes appearing super-human,
but a person can only do so much. Were the truth known, everyone
expected too much of Someone Else. Now Someone Else is gone. We
wonder what we are going to do. Someone Else left a wonderful example
to follow, but who is going to follow it? Who is going to do the
things Someone Else did? Remember, we can't depend on Someone Else