“Was Blind But Now I See!”      Mark 10:46-52        October 28, 2007

 

SCRIPTURE INTRO: 

People can learn from good examples and from bad examples.

   Many people say—I will never do the things my dad did, or my mom did.

   That was wrong.  I’m going to be different from my parents.

   That’s one way of learning by example—and that’s very powerful.

The power of learning by bad example is not just seeing the negative consequences,

   it’s being aware of those tendencies in yourself, and fighting them.

 

Do you realize that so far in the second half of Mark,

   that all of the examples of following Jesus have been bad examples?

After Jesus says:  The Christ has come to suffer and die to set things right—

   and if you are going to be my disciple, you have to take up cross and follow me.

   All of the examples of following him are bad examples. 

 

We’ve seen over and over in 8-10 that the disciples did a terrible job.

   Argued over who was greatest, jockeyed for position—filled glory vacuum.

   They tried to keep the little children away from Jesus.

   They tried to cast out the demons without praying.

 

And we have the rich, young man unable to even take the first step to follow Jesus.

   He was unable to see his need for Christ  and give up his idols.

As you read these examples you say—Yes, I see myself in that person.

   Yes, I have that tendency to avoid Jesus, I have that idol, and so on.

   I need the Holy Spirit to help me follow Christ.

 

Well, today we have a good example of what it means to follow Christ.

   It’s a miracle story, the healing of the blind man, Bartimaeus.

   Remember, as I’ve told you before in our study of Mark.

Miracles of Jesus are more than healings, they are parables.

   Intended to teach deep spiritual truths that point to Him.

 

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INTRO:  Helen Keller was born and raised in Tuscumbia, my home town.

And she grew up in First Presbyterian Church, my home church,

   where her father was a deacon. 

She was both deaf and blind, but once said this specifically about her blindness:

   “It is better to be blind and see with your heart, than to have two eyes and see nothing.”

 

As Christians, we would all heartily agree with that.

   In fact, we sang this very morning: 

   “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see you.” and

   “Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.”

And after the sermon we’re going to sing Amazing Grace,

   and that great line in the first stanza:

   “Was blind but now I see.”

 

So Helen Keller had it right—spiritual sight is the important thing.

But there is a very sad irony in her words—

   because Helen Keller’s heart was just as blind as her eyes.

She abandoned the Christian faith as an adult and instead of the Gospel,

   she followed the teachings of a popular cultist of the day: 

   Emmanuel Swedenborg.

I hope that won’t be true of any of you.

 

What a contrast with Bartimaeus. 

This was a man who saw clearly even while he was blind.

   As one preacher put it, what he lacked in eyesight, he made up in insight.

   He saw himself and Jesus Christ clearly.

And Jesus’ healing of this man was more than a physical healing—

   it was an enacted parable of what had already happened in this man’s soul.

 

How good is your spiritual vision?

   Can you see as well with your heart as you can with your eyes?

Let’s use the story of Bartimaeus as a vision test.

   I want to ask three questions about your vision that

   with be the three headings for this sermon.

 

1.  How well can you see yourself?

2.  How well can you see Jesus?

3.  How well can you see the way?

 


MP#1  How well can you see yourself?

The story begins with a blind beggar named Bartimaeus.

When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by he began to shout:

   “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

When people around him told him to shut up, he was making a nuisance,

   he shouted all the more:  “Son of David, have mercy on me.”

 

What did Jesus do when he heard this cry for mercy?

   He stopped, called the man, and healed him. 

In order to understand the significance of Jesus’ response,

   you have to remember Jesus’ state of mind before this encounter.

Jesus was becoming more and more preoccupied with his approaching crucifixion.

 

Think of the clues we’ve seen so far in Mark about Jesus’ state of mind.

He tried over and over to talk to his disciples about what was coming,

   not just to teach them, but because it was on his mind, it was troubling him.

   He wanted to talk about it.  He needed to talk about it.

It wasn’t enough for him just to be able to pray about it.

   He wanted the sympathetic ear of other people. 

   But he didn’t get that sympathetic ear, the disciples were clueless.

We tend to forget the human nature of Jesus, forget all the little clues

   in the gospels that the knowledge of what was coming was overwhelming Jesus.

 

So as the crucifixion got closer, and now it is just one week away,

   and as Jesus started on this final trip to Jerusalem, he became more preoccupied.

   Luke says he set his face resolutely to Jerusalem. 

Have you ever been preoccupied with a very heavy matter?

   Maybe a deadline that is approaching, or an unresolved problem.

   Your children chatter away, but don’t hear them.

   You make small talk, but your mind is a thousand miles away.

Jesus was like that, but the weight of what he was facing tons heavier.

 

He was in this huge crowd of pilgrims is going to Passover.

   And he was the big topic of conversation—but Jesus not feeding off the crowd.

   Because he knew that they did not know why he had come,

   and were hoping for a political revolution.

There were also lots of beggars—this was one of the biggest routes into Jerusalem.

   Bartimaeus not the only beggar.  Probably many asked Jesus for money.

   But he didn’t hear any of them.

Jesus was in his own world—but in the midst of all of this noise,

   and his own preoccupation—he heard the cry of this man:

   “Son of David, have mercy on me.”

And it stopped him in his tracks. 

   Because this was the cry of a man who saw himself clearly.

A cry for mercy means you know you don’t deserve kindness.

   In fact, mercy is compassion shown to an offender.

   Bartimaeus cry for mercy was a recognition of his sin and need for Christ.

If there is one theme that we have seen over and over in Mark—

   theme of whole Bible, God responds to people who know their need of him.

 

In Chuck Colson’s autobiography he vividly describes the moment

   when he saw himself in need of God’s mercy.

At the time the Watergate scandal was crashing down, on him.

   Thought that was the real problem of his life, but friend shared Gospel,

   and he started to see him self clearly for the first time.  This is what he wrote:

 

“That night, when I sat alone in my car, my own sin, not just dirty politics, but the hatred and evil so deep within me, was thrust before my eyes, forcefully and painfully.  For the first time in my life I felt unclean, and worst of all, I could not escape. 

   He realized it was not just about his political problems—

   just like Bartimaeus knew it was not just his eyesight problems. 

   Colson saw himself as a man in need of Christ—this is how he finishes.

In those moments of clarity, I found myself driven irresistibly into the arms of the living God.”

 

Do you see yourself as a person in need of God’s mercy? 

   It’s hard to see yourself that way. 

If you have a problem, you want to compartmentalize it.

   This is just a problem I’m having with my money or my marriage or business.

   Lord, if you just help me with this problem, that’s all I need.

When you think that way, you are not seeing yourself clearly.

   You are seeing yourself as ok in most areas of life, but just this problem area.

  

Jesus passed by many beggars that day who thought problem

   was just that they didn’t have enough money to buy bread.

But Bartimaeus saw clearly that his physical blindness, and his financial poverty,

   were just outward pictures of his desperate need for the mercy of Christ.

   That is how you must see yourself—every day—as a blind beggar,

   crying out for the mercy of Jesus as he passes by.  How well do you see yourself?


MP#2  How well can you see Jesus?

So Blind Bartimaeus called out to Jesus for mercy.

   And Jesus stopped, and called him and asked him a question:

   “What do you want me to do for you?”

 

Does that question sound familiar?  It should. 

   If it doesn’t, then you skipped church last week!

That is the exact question, word for word, that Jesus asked James and John.

   Remember they came to Jesus privately and said,

   “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

 

And Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?”

   They said, “Let one of us sit at your right and other at left in your glory.”

   Jesus denied them.  You don’t know what you are asking.

 

But when he asked this same question of Bartimaeus,

   “What do you want me to do for you?” 

   Bartimaeus said:  “Rabbi, I want to see.” 

   Jesus gave him what he asked for.

   “Go.  Your faith has healed you.”

Why did Jesus answer Bartimaeus’ request and not the disciples?

   That is a very important question.

 

Is it because Bartimaeus had faith and the disciples didn’t?

   No, they had faith in Jesus.

   They really believed that he could give them what they asked for.

Was it because the disciples were wanting something that would give them glory,

   but Bartimaeus was wanting something that would give Jesus glory?

   That’s certainly true.  That’s part of it. 

   Remember Jesus sat them down and talked about true greatness.

 

But I think there is something even more profound.

   The miracle of giving sight to the blind was a miracle reserved for the Messiah.

   There are no blind people healed in the Old Testament.

There are no blind people healed after Jesus, by the Apostles. 

   There are two people struck blind, who later regain their sight.

 

But not a single person in the Bible, born blind and healed, except by Jesus.

   We read earlier in service, those great prophecies in Isaiah.

When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

   He did not cry out, Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy on me.

   He cried out, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

He used the great Messianic title—Son of David.

   He was affirming that he believed Jesus was the Messiah.

 

And as a Jew, he would have known the great prophecies—

   that when the Messiah appeared, one of the things that he would do

   would be to open the eyes of the blind. 

Bartimaeus made this request of Jesus knowing that this was exactly

   that the Messiah had come to do.  He came to heal the blind.

 

Contrast that with James and John’s request.

   Let us sit at your right and left hand in your glory.

   In asking that, they thought Jesus had come to set up a political kingdom.

Unlike Bartimaeus, they did not see clearly what Jesus had come to do.

   Later on they saw it clearly, but not then.

 

Now, let me tell you where this comes home to us.

Seeing Jesus rightly means that you ask him to do for you the things

   that he came to do.  And what did he come to do? 

He came to pay for your sins so that you could be forgiven.

   He came to live a perfect life, so you could be right with God.

   He came to give you the Holy Spirit so you can have life in him, fight sin,

   and live a holy life, know the assurance of your salvation. 

In other words, the big things Jesus came to do are spiritual.

 

That means you can’t see Jesus as the one to fulfill your agenda for happiness.

   Can’t say, Jesus, this is what I want you to do for me!

   Jesus, this is the list of things that makes my life worthwhile,

Happy marriage, children, no financial worries, good health, fulfilling work. 

 

Jesus has his own agenda, and it’s mostly spiritual. 

   Yes, he answers prayers in tangible ways—

   he heals our bodies, he restores relationships—but his first work is in you. 

It’s to raise the level of grace in your life.

   Seeing him rightly means asking him to do for you

   what he has promised to do.  When you ask for those things, always answers. 

James Boice, liver cancer, how pray.  Pray that Jesus glorified in my death.


MP#3  How well can you see the way?

So Jesus healed Bartimaeus.  And then what happened?

   “He received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

And here I’m going to gripe about the New International Version,

   and say that the good old King James Version is much better—

   because you need a more literal translation to get the depth of this sentence.

KJV says that Bartimaeus “followed Jesus in the way.”

 

And that is what it is literally, the Greek word “way.”

   Which is a word that is charged with significance.

What were Christians called before they were called Christians?

   Book of Acts tell us—they were called those “who belong to The Way.”

   In Gospel of John, Jesus says:  “I am the Way.”

And throughout the Gospels, at various times Jesus

   is said to make his way to Jerusalem, on the way to the cross.

 

And so when Bartimaeus followed Jesus in the way—

   it was not just on the road to Jerusalem, as NIV makes you think.

   It was certainly that, but it was much more—he followed Jesus for life.

If you think I’m reading too much into this, consider this detail.

   Bartimaeus is one of the only people healed by Jesus who is actually named.

   Which almost certainly means that this man was known in the early church.

 

And there is one more detail about Bartimaeus following Jesus in the way

   that adds a depth to it—in verse 50.  When Jesus called him.

People said, cheer up, on your feet, he’s calling you it says:

   “Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.”

   The beggars cloak was his only possession. 

He slept in it at night, during the day he spread it out to catch coins people dropped.

   He threw it aside—and he did not return for it—but followed Jesus in the way.

 

When you read this, you can’t help thinking again of the rich young ruler.

   How he was unable to sell everything and follow Christ.

   And because he was unable to see his idolatry, unable to see the way.

   So he went away sad.

But Bartimaeus saw the way clearly,

   and left behind this symbol of his old life,

   that comforting possession, and followed Jesus.

 

When I think of that I think of my old seminary buddy Charlie Baldini.

   After he became a Christian, decided to go to Columbia Bible College, SC.

When he walked out of his apartment in Brooklyn, turned in key,

   he intentionally left behind his huge collection of Grateful Dead records.

Because that was a huge part of his life and identity—in his before Jesus days—

   following the Grateful Dead around, being part of that scene.

   And so he left them there and followed Jesus in the way. 

 

Being a Christian is not just saying I believe in God, I believe in Jesus.

   It’s following Jesus in the way.

   And what is the way?  It’s the way of the cross.

That’s where Jesus was going, that’s where Bartimaeus followed him.

   At the end of the week, Bartimaeus saw the crowds turn ugly,

   and he saw Jesus bloody, carrying the cross to the place of the skull.

And perhaps he saw the crucifixion itself, and the agony of Christ.

 

Can you imagine what that did to this happy man

   to see the one who had restored his sight, hanging on the cross.

But we can hope that Bartimaeus was one of that crowd of over 500

   believers who saw Jesus again after his resurrection.

 

What does this all this mean?  It sounds frightening.  The way of the cross.

   It simply means this—that following Jesus means death to everything

   that stands in the way of loving him and obeying him with your heart.

It means leaving behind those old cloaks—those old rags of your old self

   that are so comforting to you.  Old habits, old attitudes.

   Even old dreams and plans. 

It means fighting sin and fighting to glorify God.

 

It means dying to self pity. 

   So that if the Lord leads you through a testing time,

   you don’t say—I don’t deserve this—but you see it as a chance,

   to share in the sufferings of Christ.

Do you see that the way of following Jesus is the way of the cross

   but it’s the way of true happiness.  It’s the only path to happiness.

   Bartimaeus saw that clearly, and he is a great example for all of us.


CONC:  How well can you see?  How clear is your spiritual vision?

Several years ago I had the blessing of getting Lasik surgery.

   I was extremely nearsighted.  Unable to do anything without glasses/contacts

   After a lifetime of wearing those—amazing not only to be free.

   But to see so much better than I ever did with those things.

Will strike me at odd times.  Standing in Lowes one evening this summer.

   It was dusk, all the neon sign for businesses lit up—Wow. 

   Used to never see it that way.

Strange little habits—find myself reaching for bedside table—glasses.

   Just the other day, getting ready for bed, realized washing hands—Why?

   My habit before taking out contacts.

Vision is a great blessing—though not blind, close to it.

 

Make it your prayer, make it your cry, that Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit,

   would help you to see.  Many of you see already—

   but we need vision sharpened—see self, Jesus, way of cross more clearly.

Perhaps some of you who at this moment in true darkness.

   Christianity just a religion—just motions.

   Or it’s just morality—doing the right thing.

   Or it’s just experience—hoping to feel good things.

Have never seen that it is the cry of a sinner for mercy—

   and that it is Jesus Christ coming to you personally,

   and healing you, and calling you to follow him.

 

If that’s you, want to see for the first time, like Barimaeus

   As we sing Amazing Grace, ask Jesus to have mercy on you,

   and he will stop, and call you, and give you sight.