Such a sacred part of the Christian life of faith is prayer. Jesus’ healing of blind Bartimaeus gives us another opportunity to look at prayer and how it can affect our life.
We have been following Jesus for several weeks headed on his last trip to Jerusalem. Today he is on the outskirts of Jericho headed up to the city. As Jesus and the crowd are passing by Bartimaeus hears the crowd is with Jesus and he begins to shout; “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Every society has its “insiders” and its “outsiders”. Bartimaeus is one of the outsiders. He, women, children, and lepers are at the bottom of the heap. The rest of society, namely the men, sought to ignore them. They try to shut out the blind beggar. He persists. Jesus hears him and calls him over. Over and over again Jesus shows his compassion for the bottom dregs of society. “What do you want me to do for you?” “My teacher, let me see again.”
This request is so different from one James and John made to Jesus just recently. “Master, when you come into your kingdom let us sit at your right and left hand. Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking. Besides, such a role is not mine to give.” Jesus knew when he came into his Kingdom two thieves would be hanging on either side of him.
It brings for me an important aspect of prayer; Jesus’ answer. “Yes” “No” “Wait” or “I have a different plan for you.”
Jesus looks him in the eye and says; “Go; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus is telling him his trust in him has already made him well. But remember Jesus is not the great genie in the sky who responds favorably to our requests if we can just say the right words. Jesus responds with what we need to have most, even if we do not recognize it at the time.
I suspect not many of us here have recovered from physical blindness, but I suggest that all of us have experienced spiritual blindness.
Let me share a few moments when the scales have been removed from my eyes. Please be asking yourself when you have had such experiences.
You have heard of my initial struggles with whether I was called to be a pastor. Let me move further down the road.
When I left seminary, I was convinced that only males were called to parish ministry.
Then the Spirit got me. I was on vacation with my family, and we attended a nearby Presbyterian church. The worship leader and pastor was a woman. I was stuck. No way could I get up and leave. So, I stayed in my pew and prepared to endure. First, I was impressed with the sensitivity in which she handled the worship service. Then her sermon totally opened my mind to new possibilities. She said, “We so often read John 3:16 as ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son…’ But actually, in NT Greek is reads, ‘God so loved the cosmos.’ That means God so loves the earth, the moon, the stars, the galaxy… That understanding came to me from a woman preacher. Since then, I am convinced that God gives men and women insights needed in the parish ministry. But it did not stop there.
When I was in graduate study the American Psychiatric Society decided being gay was not a mental illness, but part of the rich variety of humans living on this planet. I had trouble accepting that until I got to know some gays who were committed Christians. Since then, the ELCA has decided all persons are called to Christian ministry. The only question is whether each person has the gifts and the call from God, and to be ordained have a proper call. Since then ELCA has given each parish the opportunity to bless gay unions of marriage.
But probably the greatest struggle of spiritual blindness has been can Christians marry and make it cross culturally. Then my daughter fell in love with an African/American man, Dano. I officiated at their wedding. His family and ours pledged to do everything we could to support their commitment.
This month they celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, and they have an awesome son; Trey.
I hope you have been doing your own inventory as to where and how Jesus has removed the spiritual scales of blindness from your eyes.
I now have the big question for me is what spiritual scales are yet to be lifted from our eyes.
Jesus will remove our spiritual blindness, if we but ask him. Amen.