46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher,[a] let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Mark 10: 46-52 NRSV
We often talk about looking for God. We live in a culture that has to “see it to believe it”. We want things to materialize in front of our eyes and confirm what we have been told, learned, or discerned in our walks with the Spirit. “Show me Lord!” we pray, “show me what to do, where to go, and where I need to be.”
It is pretty safe to say that we have forgotten an important element to our faith journeys.
Living in a country that promotes the value of materialization seems to have altered other ways we can listen for and experience the Spirit. What could it be that we are ignoring in our daily walks with the Spirit?
To answer that, I draw your attention to a very familiar hymn that I know for a fact you’ve sang more times than you can count. A hymn that brings attention to another way we can experience the Spirit. A hymn that challenges our insistence that the Spirit materialize before our eyes.
Any guesses on what that hymn is?
I’m talking about the hymn “Amazing Grace”. Have you ever thought about the words you’re singing in this hymn? Listen as I read a few lines: “Amazing Grace how sweet the SOUND that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was BLIND but now I SEE.”
It seems to me that the HEARING of the grace (or about the grace) is what has opened the eyes of the writer of the hymn. The grace came in sound FIRST and opened their eyes to the Spirit at work in the world.
Today I ask: Are we listening?
Today’s Scripture contains in it a story that is so familiar to us. Jesus is passing through Jericho and the crowds are following Him. A blind beggar (Bartimeaus) HEARS that it is Jesus who is passing through. He calls out for mercy and the crowd tells him to be quiet, so he calls out for mercy even louder. Jesus calls Bartimeaus over and heals his sight attributing it to the faith Bartimeaus has. Bartimeaus promptly follows Jesus out of Jericho.
Bartimeaus was listening.
We can speculate in all sorts of ways how exactly Bartimeaus heard that it was Jesus passing through. It seems to me that the crowd was quite large and quite loud. We also know that during this time, a blind man was an outcast in the society. Not only that, but Bartimaeus was a beggar which means he was homeless and poor. That means he would have been shunned, looked over, and ignored by the crowd and the rest of his society at the time. It seems perfectly reasonable, then, to say that Bartimeaus wasn’t told by the crowd that it was Jesus.
And yet, he heard that it was Jesus.
He heard that it was Jesus because he listened for the sound of the crowd. He listened for the footsteps of Christ. He heard the jubilation, adoration, and celebration of the crowd. In that instant, the spirit of Bartimeaus experienced Christ in his soul internally and that is when he yells out.
Do we hear Jesus?
Sounds like an awkward question, right? When is the last time you’ve been asked to LISTEN for Jesus? We’re always told to look for or to notice when we see Jesus in society. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s certainly not the only way to experience Christ in our lives.
So, do WE HEAR Jesus? Do we hear Jesus in the weeping of the widows, in the wailing of an abused child, or in the chattering teeth of the homeless? We see these things. We register these things as being uncomfortable, sad, and in need of some sort of intervention.
But do we LISTEN?
Listening invites us to allow the shouts of agony in our communities to enter directly into our heart without the filter of our eyes. When we filter through our eyes, we can be led astray from hearing the Spirit.
We come up with all sorts of excuses when we rely solely on our eyes don’t we?
“They did that to themselves”, “They are wearing a warm coat, they don’t need help”, “I saw that widow having fun playing Bingo last week, she isn’t THAT sad” and the list seemingly goes on forever.
But in hearing these sounds, there is no bias. We cannot pass judgment on how someone looks, dresses, or had a moment of jubilation in the midst of grief. We can only hear the invitation to come and heal our communities with Christ.
The part of this Scripture we find ourselves most a part of seems to be the crowd. We’re celebratory when we see Jesus, we’re jubilant when someone accepts the sacrifice of Christ in their lives. It’s safe to say that we are comfortable experiencing Christ in these visual ways among many others, but our list only goes so far.
That’s because we DON’T listen.
The crowd didn’t listen either. The crowd saw Jesus, followed Jesus, and knew who Jesus was physically. But then something quite curious happens. Bartimeaus yells out for Jesus because he heard Jesus and the crowd told him to knock it off. You see, the crowd saw Jesus in the flesh, but they didn’t hear His prompting in the cries of Bartimeaus. They didn’t understand His teachings to bring the oppressed into the fold and to care for them.
They hadn’t been listening.
When Bartimeaus yells out again, Jesus stops walking and instructs the crowd to call Bartimeaus. This instruction becomes a holy indictment on their negligence towards Bartimeaus and their inability to listen.
Jesus asks Bartimeaus what he is seeking. Bartimeaus hears the voice of Jesus (a voice he had not heard prior to this), trusted that he heard the voice of Jesus, and was healed by the grace Jesus because of his faith in who Jesus is and his faith in hearing the calling of Jesus to gain the sight Jesus desired for him and us.
What can we learn from Bartimeaus?
The biggest thing we can learn is that the grace extended by Christ and calling to help the oppressed in our midst from Christ goes far beyond and deeper than what our eyes can perceive.
True, we are not physically blind, but we often find ourselves spiritually blind. Like the crowd, we dismiss the plights of those in our society who we deem as the “other” until Christ stops us dead in our tracks and corrects our thinking.
And in this way, our very spirit becomes its own blind beggar. Yelling and crying out to be heard in an ever constant battle with our eyes telling our spirit to be quiet because the eyes perceive things are going well on the surface of our lives.
But, we are not left alone to blindly walk through life. In fact, Christ extends an invitation to us in response to our spiritual blindness.
The invitation of Christ is this: Listen. Listen for Christ in the agonies and joys in our world. Listen for Christ in the agonizing poor, in the wailing of abused children, in the silence that our negligence causes.
Once we can hear Christ, then we can experience His deliverance of sight to our spirit, a refocusing of sight to our eyes, and the call to follow Him in the transformation of our communities and the world.
Let Christ talk to your spirit. Listen and respond and allow the grace, love, and mercy of the Spirit to restore sight to our souls and to heal the blind beggars in us to see the Kingdom realized more fully in our communities.