In his sermon today, Father Merrow shared how he felt a real connection to Bartimaeus, the blind beggar from the Gospel of Mark who called out to Jesus asking for His mercy. Blind since birth, Bartimaeus would have been among the lowliest members of society, understood by the people of that time to be blind because his parents had sinned. So, as Father Merrow noted, it took a great deal of courage for Bartimaeus to ignore both his own internal qualms about calling out to Jesus, as well as the external forces – the many people who “sternly ordered him to be quiet.”
I, too, admire Bartimaeus and I see him as another of what I call the unsung faithful heroes of the Bible. The smaller players, if you will, of the Gospels, but the ones whose faith runs so deep, they end up teaching everyone else a thing or two about faith and love.
But if I am honest – which hopefully is the point of these reflections – I can also relate to the crowd who sternly rebuked Bartimaeus. Some in the crowd perhaps thought they were doing what was best for Jesus. It was a large crowd in Jericho, it was hot, and Jesus and the disciples were trying to leave. He can only bless and speak with so many people. I suppose I recognize that I could easily have been part of a misplaced effort to shield Jesus from a needy vagrant.
But where the crowd got it wrong was in thinking that Jesus would be bothered by a blind beggar and that he would not want to talk to Bartimaeus. People didn’t seem to get it either when Jesus ate with the tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. The people on the very margins of society were the ones He called to himself. It was radical behavior, and perhaps not easily understood by the people of Jesus’ time despite His repeated attempts to show all who followed Him what it truly means to be a child of God. Even with 2,000 years of the message, we continue to struggle with this idea that everyone is equal in God’s eyes and deserving of love and respect.
It is often easier to stand with the crowd, even if it is by way of saying nothing, than it is to shush them. Again, if I’m honest, it might be a little easier to stand up for people who look like us or live near us, or who also oppose that dog park in the neighborhood. But what Jesus asks of us is to stand up for the oppressed, the downtrodden, and those on the margins of society. To be a voice for those who do not have one in our society. We are asked to speak up for the Bartimaeuses of the world.
- What character do you relate to in this lesson?
- Remember a time you stood up for an unpopular cause or position because you felt it was the right thing to do?
- Have you come to a point where you sought God no matter what others thought or how you looked?