Sunday, October 28, 2018
And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; He is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
A man named Charley was blinded in World War II while rescuing a buddy from a burning tank. Charley had always been a great athlete so, after the war, he took up golf. And he was really good at it. Charley won the National Blind Golf Championship 16 times, once shooting a score of 81.
In 1958 Charley went to Ft. Worth, Texas to receive the coveted Ben Hogan Award named in honor of one of the greatest professional golfers in history. Mr. Hogan agreed to play a round of golf with Charley. Charley asked Ben if he would you like to play for money? Hogan said, that wouldn’t be fair! Charley said, c’mon, Mr. Hogan, are you afraid to play a blind golfer? Hogan who was really competitive, said, Okay, I’ll play for money. How much? Charley said, $1,000 per hole. Wow, that’s a lot. How many strokes do you want me to give you? Charley said, no strokes. I’ll play you heads up. Hogan said, Charley, I can’t do it. What would people think of me taking advantage of a blind man? Boswell smiled and said, don’t worry, Mr. Hogan, our tee time is tonight at midnight! Charley didn’t let his disability stop him from having a fulfilling life.
Today I want to talk about another man who was blind. Mark calls him Bar-timaeus. The story takes place just outside Jericho. Jesus and His disciples are making their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. Mobs of people are heading to Jerusalem for the same reason.
Jericho is very near to Jerusalem, which meant the streets of Jericho were filled with people on their way to the Holy City. That was important to Bar-timaeus. These were primitive times and through no fault of his own Bar-timaeus was a beggar. Crowded streets meant that he might receive a generous day’s wage for his work as a beggar. There were no government programs to aid a blind person in Bar-timaeus’ day. Unless he had a family to look after him, life would be cruel. By the way, do you know where the word “handicapped” comes from? Until relatively recent years there were no programs to help the disabled. Their only possible source of income was to stand beside the road with their cap in their hand begging. Thus, the word “handicap.”
There are many people in our society who have severe disabilities who are quite productive. People like Stephen Hawking certainly wouldn’t have taken a handout. All they want is an opportunity to be productive. If Bar-timaeus were alive today, I believe he would be a productive person.
But in the day in which he lived opportunities for a blind man to work at anything other than begging were nonexistent. On the day our story takes place the streets would be filled with people, giving Bar-timaeus the opportunity to receive more than the usual measly amounts he normally received.
Little did Bar-timaeus realize that this wasn’t a normal day. A travelling teacher was passing where he was begging. His name was Jesus of Nazareth. Obviously, Jesus’ reputation had spread to Jericho because Mark tells us that as soon as Bar-timaeus heard that it was Jesus passing by, he yelled, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Somehow, he knew enough about Jesus to know Jesus was of the house and lineage of David and that Jesus could help him. Perhaps Bar-timaeus was already one of those who believed Jesus was the Messiah.
His shouting made many of his friends uncomfortable. They tried to quiet him, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then something dramatic happened. Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” How did Jesus possibly pick Bar-timaeus out in that crowd? Its easy, Christ picks us out when we make our requests of Him.
So, they called to Bar-timaeus, Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you. Then Bar-timaeus did something quite unusual. Mark tells us that, throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
A blind man throwing aside his cloak in a busy crowd was risky. What if he wasn’t able to get it back? His cloak may have been the only thing he owned. He depended on it in winter to allow him to be out in the street begging. I'm thinking that Bar-timaeus had enough belief in Jesus that he thought that he’d be healed and wouldn’t need his cloak anymore Or was he so enthusiastic about Jesus calling for him that he simply acted without thinking. Jesus asked him. What do you want me to do for you? He said, Rabbi, I want to see.
Notice this. As extraordinary as this request was, Bar-timaeus wasn’t asking for anything beyond that which you and I take for granted. He just wanted his eyes to work properly. He wasn’t asking for a cushy lifestyle. He wasn’t asking to meet the woman of his dreams. All he was asking, was the opportunity to be able to see so he could find a job and enjoy the beauties of life that all of us enjoy.
Jesus knew the kind of man Bar-timaeus was and He granted his request. Go, said Jesus, your faith has healed you. Mark tells us that immediately Bar-timaeus received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
There are some things about Bar-timaeus that jump out at us as we read his story. The first is, obviously, that he was disadvantaged. Many great people have fallen into that category. Bartimaeus probably wasn’t only disadvantaged but, because of his disability, was also made to feel rejected. Even his name, Bar-timaeus simply means “Son of Timaeus.” We don’t even know Bartimaeus’ given name. He wasn’t even important enough for them to have called him by any name except, Son of Timaeus.
As you know from reading the New Testament, there were many people, in that time, who felt that a physical disability was a punishment by God. Call it superstition, but they felt that someone sinned if a child was born with a condition such as blindness. Bar-timaeus probably had to put up with some of this. He was blind, and he was a beggar, and he was most certainly a social outcast.
Bar-timaeus was disadvantaged. All of us have our shortcomings. They may not be physical, they may be emotional. One of the most dangerous disabilities is, living a privileged life, because we never develop the mental, and emotional and spiritual toughness that’s required for dealing with life situations.
Bar-timaeus was disadvantaged, but; Bar-timaeus wasn’t defeated. When Jesus came by, Bar-timaeus started shouting, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. And when Jesus called for him, he threw off his cloak and jumped to his feet. I love that picture: a blind man leaping in anticipation. Bar-timaeus wasn’t going to let people tell him to be quiet. When he saw the opportunity for healing, he jumped at it. He wasn’t like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking, what must I do to be saved? And turned away sadly when he learned that he would have to choose between his wealth and Jesus. Bar-timaeus wasn’t like the man beside the pool of Bethesda, who, when Jesus asked him if he really wanted to be healed, made excuses for his situation.
Bar-timaeus wanted to see, and he was willing to pay any price to achieve this goal. Your attitude makes a difference in life. Thank God for the Bar-timaeuses of this world who won’t be denied by their circumstances.
I recently saw a documentary about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. It’s an engineering marvel. It was finished in 1883 and known for its granite towers and steel cables, the bridge took 14 years to build. Two dozen people died building that bridge, including its original designer, an engineer named John Roebling. When Roebling came up with the idea of building this massive suspension bridge over New York City’s East River to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn, everyone thought he was crazy. But John and his son Washington set out to prove it could be done. After only a year of construction, though, John Roebling was killed in a ferry accident. This left his son, young Washington, an inexperienced engineer, in charge of the bridge. But this wasn’t the only tragedy for the Roeblings.
Since part of the bridge was being built underwater, many workers began to suffer from decompression sickness or the bends, due to the difference in pressure below the water and above it. Young Washington, himself, suffered from this condition to such an extent that he became paralyzed, deaf, and mute. Can you imagine what this would’ve been like? But this wasn’t going to stop him from building his father’s bridge.
Able to move just one finger, Washington devised a system by which he could tap on his wife’s arm and communicate with her. He continued to direct the construction of the bridge from his bed, giving instructions to his wife, who then passed them along to the crew building the bridge. For the next eleven years, Washington continued to work in this way, until 1883, when the Brooklyn Bridge was completed and opened for use. And what a success it was! Today, 135 years later, the Brooklyn Bridge still carries more than 150,000 people each day safely across the East River.
You have to admire any person, who through faith and determination, refuses to be defeated. Blind Bar-timaeus was one of those people. Bar-timaeus was disadvantaged. But he refused to be defeated. And he was rewarded for his determination.
Jesus asked him, what do you want from me? Bar-timaeus said to Him, I want to see! Jesus said, Go your way. Your faith has made you well. What a wonderful gift Christ gave him. You and I take our vision for granted. We shouldn’t. The gift of sight is one of the most precious gifts that God can bestow upon us.
Bar-timaeus became a follower of Jesus. Jesus said to him, Go your way. Your faith has made you well, and immediately after receiving his sight, followed Him. Bartimaeus became a follower of Jesus Christ. How could he do anything else? All his life Bar-timaeus had been blind and finally Jesus gave him his gift of sight. What greater gift could Jesus give him than that?
We need to know Christ won’t pass us by if we call out to Him. He sees our need whatever it may be. Bar-timaeus was disadvantaged, but he wasn’t defeated. He came to Jesus and Jesus healed him. And he became a follower. May we see what Bar-timaeus saw; that Jesus is the giver of every good thing in life. I hope we are as wise as he. May we, too, follow Jesus all the days of our life as well.