The Power to See
A Sermon on Mark 10:46-52
After he lost his sight, Bartimaeus was relegated to the sidelines. He couldn’t see. He couldn’t work. He couldn’t go anywhere without help. By day Bartimaeus sat by the side of the road with his cloak spread out to receive any coins that passersby might toss his way. By night he slept wrapped in his cloak, the only valuable thing he owned.
Bartimaeus’ sights were limited socially as well as physically. To most people’s way of thinking, his disability meant that God had rejected him, and that he must have done something to deserve it. At best Bartimaeus was the object of pity, and often he was the object of scorn.
There was no denying Bartimaeus couldn’t see. It was obvious to all. But he wasn’t the only person in the crowd with vision problems that day. The authorities—priests, scribes and Pharisees—were watching Jesus. And what they saw was not a savior. What they saw was a troublemaker. In their eyes Jesus was a sinner who disregarded God’s laws, and in particular the Sabbath laws. To make things even worse, Jesus claimed to forgive sins, something only God himself can do, and he spent too much time with the wrong people: the outcast, the unclean. Early on the authorities had concluded that this lawbreaker had to be destroyed before he enticed more people away from the true religion. Now they were looking for the opportunity to nab him.
Even Jesus’ own disciples had vision problems. As we have seen on several Sundays recently, they were so focused on the prospect of winning and getting ahead that they couldn’t see it when Jesus showed them that the way of life was the road of humble, suffering service, and it led through the cross. They didn’t get it when he showed them that the Kingdom of God is a pure gift to us from God, to be received simply and gratefully as a child. It didn’t fit their expectations. It wasn’t what they themselves wanted. Places of honor were what they wanted.
There’s no question: what we expect to see and what we want to see shapes what we actually do see. I read a poignant story illustrating this. (more…)