Blind Bartimaeus Bible Sunday

This last week, Bob and I have been taking our half term break early, but we made the mistake of taking away with us our whole collection of loose family photographs, which needed to be sorted into albums. At first this seemed a good idea to both of us; to reminisce together and at the same time put out of the way a job that had been ‘on hold’ for some time.

Well, so much for the holiday. We began to sort through them on Monday morning, and we didn’t finish them until Thursday night. In that space of time we’d only had one walk. We didn’t realise it was going to be such a mammoth task.

We handled about two thousand photos in all, and if it hadn’t been for important key events in our lives, and the fact that our hairstyles changed so often, we never would have managed to put them into chronological order.

Take a tip from us and always write the date on the back of your photos.

But somehow I feel that our practice of putting together our colourful memories this week must be similar to the way in which New Testament writers collected their thoughts about the events of Jesus’ life and works.

Taking their many colourful memories, they must have put them together as best as they could recall, perhaps in some cases getting the chronological order little wrong, but what does it matter. At least we know that the memories themselves were real.

After all, a person who was only twenty at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, would have been about forty when Matthew and Luke wrote down and circulated their writings, and fifty-five when Mark completed his. There would have been a great outcry from thousands of eye witnesses if what was written was inaccurate. If I told you that Hitler had blonde hair, or President John F Kennedy died of a heart attack, many here would put me right.

Such memories stand out in our minds; they’re real and colourful just like photographs.

Whether or not the story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus lies in the correct chronological order is unimportant, but here we find it at a crucial time in the history of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem.

Jericho, in the Jordan valley, was a pilgrim’s last stop before going up the steep desert road, fifteen miles to the temple in Jerusalem, to celebrate Passover.

Many pilgrims, it seems, had gathered around Jesus, all ready and prepared for that final climb. The last thing these fellow travellers wanted to do was be delayed by a mere blind beggar, sitting by the roadside. Some ordered him to be quiet. But Bartimaeus, the beggar, shouted all the more loudly.

They say that people who are blind have a well developed sense of hearing to compensate for their blindness. I don’t know whether this is true, but somehow, this man sensed that Jesus was present from the cries and shouts and excitement, and so he began to yell. He didn’t want this moment to pass him by.

Let us for a moment, remember what we’ve been learning these last few Sundays. The disciples and followers of Jesus have been finding his words very difficult to comprehend. All this talk of walking the way of the cross….talk of how the Son of man would be handed over to the chief priests and scribes and be put to death, then after three days he would rise again. It’s as though they’ve not been able to take it in. It’s as though they’ve been responding ‘Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!’

(I was at my cousin’s wedding recently, when at the reception it was announced, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, would you please be upstanding for the bride and groom, Mr and Mrs Smith’, when someone brightly shouted out what sounded like the thoughts of some hotel manager, ‘Yea! Yeah! Yeah’, and everyone laughed)

The story of Blind Bartimaeus enters this scene in Jericho like some wonderful PARABLE. Was it inserted here as a means of emphasizing Bartimaeus’ insight and comparing it with the disciples blindness? I’m just speculating!

But look at what the bible has to say to us even today, because we’re told that the bible is relevant, it inspires us, rebukes us and teaches us. Even simple stories like this one, can speak to our hearts?

What does it teach us through the character of Bartimaeus?

Bartimaus senses the PRESENCE of Jesus

He BELIEVES in him.

He CALLS upon his name.

He PERSISTS and PERSEVERES until he is heard.

He RESPONDS and puts forward his request, ‘I want to see again’, and he receives his healing.

Even though he was blind, he reacted more positively than did Jesus’ followers…throwing off his cloak, his blindness and his old way of life, to embrace discipleship and journey a road that would lead to the cross.

This story also invites us not to respond to others as the disciples did to Bartimaeus… For example as we hustle and bustle and hurry on our way through life, do we overlook what mat be essential to God’s plan. Do we ever take time to REFLECT?

Do we write others off who seem to be a nuisance in our busy lives? Do we understand what it is to be in need?

Perhaps the story also calls us to respond to others as Jesus did to Bartimaeus?

Do we take time like Jesus to stop and listen to the urging of the Holy Spirit?

Do we have enough compassion to see beyond the duties of the day, into the lives of the vulnerable and needy and disaffected people of this world? Does it take a disability or disaster in our lives before we really begin to connect with others and show the same kind of empathy and compassion that Jesus showed?

Do we ever take the time to speak healing into troubled souls or pray seriously for their physical healing? Do we care enough?

Do we possess a vision and direction in our lives that causes others to follow on the way of Jesus?

What does this story say to us today personally?

1 For some the bible means nothing at all. It’s there! It’s a book! A best seller! So what? ( Show the blank book)

2 For others, it’s there when they need it for some ceremony or service, a useful tool, in bringing education. (show black and white pictures)

3 But for us as Christians, we ought to read it in such a way that it bursts into full technicolour, because it is a living, challenging, God-given way to direct us on our path of life. (bible special effects book obtainable from www.decadeministries.co.uk)

Like photograph albums, we find there’s always more that can be added.

And so God is not finished with us yet either. Scriptures are still being written even though we cannot see it.

There are many more beautiful acts still to come, when we open our eyes and our hearts, trust in his word, and follow his way.