25 October 2015Mark 10:46-52
“Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.” (v. 52)
Psalm: Psalm 126
Mark 10:32-52 is the prelude to Jesus's ministry in Jerusalem. It relates a pilgrimage to the verge of the city (Jericho was only 15 miles away). It also shows us in advance how to interpret everything that is to happen in Jerusalem. In the final section, about Bartimaeus, three themes emerge: faith, salvation and discipleship.
Faith principally comprises determination and tenacity. It will not be deflected by hostile resistance. Faith rids itself of every encumbrance: Bartimaeus throws to one side the only tool of his trade as a beggar, the cloak in which he collected alms. Faith is focused on direct engagement with Jesus: it is a plea for mercy, a yearning to state one's deepest need - with the expectation that Jesus can make a difference.
Salvation for Bartimaeus meant recovery of sight: an extraordinary gift! His story encourages readers not to be slow or cautious in asking for big changes in their own physical or social circumstances. They will also plead for inward change, from darkness to light - insight, knowledge of God's love and forgiveness, and inner moral transformation.
Discipleship: Bartimaeus followed Jesus 'on the way', ie on the road to Jerusalem and in a distinctive way of life - service of others, extravagant generosity, suffering and self-sacrifice, even martyrdom ('taking up a cross' (Mark 9:34-35)). Notice that the model for discipleship is not one of the Twelve but a socially excluded pauper!
Bartimaeus still had much to learn. Jerusalem was a hotbed of revivalism centred on the ideology of David. Jerusalemites looked for the coming of David's kingdom (Mark 11:10) and supported militant terrorists against Roman rule, like Barabbas (Mark 15:6-15). It was assumed that pilgrims to the City of David, like Jesus, shared these hopes. So, being part of this culture, Bartimaeus' first effort to capture Jesus' attention was in the words "Son of David" (meaning 'someone who supports our cause') in verse 47. But Jesus would not be thus imprisoned (11:27-33; 12:17; 12:35-37; 14:61-62; 15:32).
- Reflect on the question of Jesus, as if it were addressed to you personally: 'What do you want me to do for you?'
- Some of our petitions seem not to be answered, or not answered in any straightforward sense. How does your Church and its teaching help you to make sense of that?
- In what ways is your congregation open to socially-marginal people? What is entailed in your learning from them about new facets of discipleship? (Try to fill out your thinking with real examples.)
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