Readings for the day (22nd Sunday after Pentecost – Lectionary 30 – Sunday, October 25, 2015):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Today’s Gospel reading brings us to the end of the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel. For the last 6 weeks, we have been hearing about Jesus’ teachings as he makes his way to Jerusalem to complete his ultimate purpose on the cross. Since the beginning of chapter 9, Jesus and his disciples have been making their journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Ever since Jesus descended from the mountain after his transfiguration, his focus has been to get to Jerusalem. In today’s text, Jesus has made it to Jericho, which is a town just outside of Jerusalem. So Jesus is close, really close to entering Jerusalem and the events of Holy Week unfolding.
Now as Jesus is leaving Jericho, a blind man, named Bartimaeus, continues to call out his name. During Jesus’ time, if there was something wrong with you, you were considered an outcast and banned from the community. Since Bartimaeus was blind, the community basically kicked him to the curb. We, too act like the crowd who was trying to quiet Bartimaeus down, don’t we? We give funny looks and avoid people who don’t dress like us, talk like us, or think like us. We work very hard at quieting children down to the point that they can’t just be kids in church. And we have driven people away from the church who really need the church.
I’ve noticed recently that this has become a popular viewpoint of the church – if I am going through a rough time in my life, then I am not going to go to church. For some reason, people think that in order for them to come to church, they have to have all of their crap together. If at any point in their life they feel like blind Bartimaeus, then they better stay home from church. Doesn’t that sound completely backwards? If you’re at a rough point in your life, wouldn’t it make sense to go to church to bring your cares and worries before God and be supported by your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? And yet, this isn’t what happens at all. Rather than coming at the darkest points of their lives, people avoid the church at these points. We as the church have done an excellent job of quieting the Bartimaeuses in our community. We have fostered an environment where people do not feel safe to come and worship their creator for fear that they will be judged and bombarded with questions when they arrive.
Whether it is a death in the family, going through a divorce, recently losing their job, or being at any other dark point in life, I have been seeing the people who need God the most are exactly the ones who don’t come to church out of fear of judgments.
Now Jesus’ followers and the crowd that surrounded him, certainly did not want Jesus to stop or be bothered by Bartimaeus. He was an outcast after all. Why would Jesus want to waste his time with this begger? Remember, Jesus’ followers believe that he is heading to Jerusalem to save them from the Roman oppression. So they definitely didn’t want Jesus to waste any time with someone who couldn’t see anyway.
But even though Bartimaeus was blind, he is the first one in Mark’s Gospel to call Jesus for who he really is, the son of David. His closest and most faithful disciples are still confused as to who he really is and it is this begging, blind, outcast sitting on the roadside that knows exactly who Jesus really is and what his ultimate purpose is. Throughout his ministry, Jesus is constantly bringing people who the community considers the loser, the outcast, the sinner back into the fold, back into the community, restoring their place in society.
Jesus is still doing that. This is the reason why we call the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Good News is that in Christ, none of us are outcast. People are mean. People are cruel. People can be jerks and make this life hard to get through. But no matter what your situation. If you’ve ever gotten picked on in school or work, this Good News is for you. If you’ve ever felt left out, unnoticed, or alone, this Good News is for you. If you’ve ever felt like Bartimaeus by feeling unwelcome in the church or in the community, this Good News is for you. No matter what is causing the darkness in your life, Jesus gives light to the hopeless, strength to the weak, and rest for the weary.
So instead of avoiding people who don’t dress like us, talk like us, or think like us; let’s go out of our way to greet them. Instead of trying to quiet our children; let’s show them that they are welcome here. Instead of judging people and giving them the impression that they can’t come to church, let’s support them, pray for them, and encourage them as they journey through those dark parts of life. We’ve all been there at some point in our own lives. Let’s actually be the body of Christ, and care for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Remember, Jesus did not die on the cross for you, but also your neighbor. The Good News of Jesus Christ is for anyone and everyone, no matter their past or current situation that life brings them. Jesus’ forgiveness that we receive not only restores us to our rightful state in the community, but also restores our relationship with God. Our sin and selfish desires hinder our relationship with God, but through Christ our status with God is restored.
Thanks be to God, for you have been forgiven and restored to new life with Christ. Amen.
© 2015 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.