One of the most common things we say to one another when we meet is, ‘How are you?’ We all know that there are various polite responses we expect to this enquiry. ‘Oh, I’m fine.’ ‘Very well thank you’ ‘Not so bad’ or other things along the same lines. Actually most of us are not fine. We’ve all got things going on in our lives, our relationships, our work that are not fine at all. We have hurts, fears, pain, insecurities, troubled relationships and may other things, but often we keep them deep within ourselves and just carry on. Sometimes we might wonder, who really cares?
This morning we are going to look at the story of Bartimaeus in Mark’s gospel and see how Jesus responds to him. We are going to see how Jesus cares deeply for Bartimaeus and how he cares deeply for what is going on in each of our lives. Jesus brings healing and transformation to Bartimaeus and he offers healing and transformation to each one of us.
Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. There was a bit of a holiday mood in the air. It was festival time and a large crowd was leaving the city to go to Jerusalem which was about eighteen miles away. They would have met up with friends and family and neighbours to make the journey. Most would have travelled on foot.
For Bartimaeus it must have started just like any other day. He was blind and the way he supported himself was by begging. He’d got up that morning and set off for what was probably his usual pitch, sitting by the roadside, just outside the gates of Jericho. He was probably expecting some good takings that morning. As it was festival time, he would have known that there would be large crowds leaving the city that day on their way to Jerusalem. But as the people started to pass him by, what caught his ear was the subject of people’s conversations. Through the hubbub of people talking to one another, he could hear people talking about Jesus. Somewhere in the crowd passing in front of him was Jesus of Nazareth.
Can you imagine what it felt like to be Bartimaeus? He was on the edge, on the margins, sitting on the side of the road in the dust. Most people probably didn’t even notice him. He can’t see what’s happening but he can feel the excitement of the crowd as it surges past. Then he hears Jesus is in the crowd. Bartimaeus has heard about Jesus. Jesus had travelled around the villages preaching that the kingdom of God is near and showing what God’s kingdom would be like. Jesus didn’t just talk about the kingdom of God. His very presence was a practical demonstration of what the kingdom of God was like. And part of this was that Jesus healed people. Good news spreads. Bartimaeus heard about it and he doesn’t hold back. This is his big opportunity. He shouts out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, Have mercy on me.’ But lots of people don’t like it. It’s embarrassing having this beggar make a fuss. They’re having a good time. They don’t want to bother with this annoying man on the side of the road. But Bartimaeus doesn’t give up; He shouts all the more, ‘Son of David, Have mercy on me’.
- Jesus stops Jesus hears Bartimaeus and he stops and says, ‘Call him.’ I love the way that Mark tells us that the crowd speak to Bartimaeus in verse 49, ‘Take heart, get up, he’s calling you’. Or as another translation puts it, ‘Cheer up. On your feet. He’s calling you.’ Bartimaeus literally jumps up and goes to Jesus. Jesus wants to stop and listen to you just as he stopped and listened to Bartimaeus. Don’t sit back and let Jesus go by. Don’t let other people put you off. Jesus doesn’t want you to sort yourself out before you come to him. He wants you to come to him now. Just as you are. He wants to stop and listen to you. He’s not too busy and he hasn’t got more important things to do. When Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, Jesus had set out on the most important journey of his earthly life. He was on his way to the cross. But Jesus still stopped to listen to Bartimaeus. Jesus wants to stop and listen to you. Let’s get back to Bartimaeus. He is standing before Jesus and Jesus asks him a question in verse 51, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ It must have been obvious to Jesus that Bartimaeus is blind. But he wants Bartimaeus to tell him exactly what his greatest need is. Bartimaeus replies to Jesus question in verse 51, ‘My teacher, let me see again’
- Jesus listens to our deepest needs.
Jesus stops to listen to each one of us when we approach him. He asks us the same question, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Have you told Jesus your greatest need? If you had the chance to stand in front of Jesus now, just like Bartimaeus, what would you ask him? Some of us find it hard to believe that Jesus cares about the things that trouble us. Jesus is here today by the power of his Holy Spirit. Maybe you are hurting physically or maybe you are hurting emotionally, or maybe you have some other need to do with relationships.
We are going to have an opportunity now to respond to Jesus. I hope that you will have been handed in a card like this as you came in. It’s got the question on it, ‘What hurts you the most?’ or put another way, ‘What is the one thing that you find hardest to handle?’ We’re going to have a few moments of silence to ponder the question and write down what we feel. Please don’t put your name on the card. It would be good if we could give each other space so that we can answer honestly without anybody looking over our shoulder. When you have finished writing, it would be good if you could fold the card in half like this. When we come up to communion I’m going to invite you to put your cards in this box and I will pray over them.
Let’s get back to Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus tells Jesus, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ In verse 52, Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately Bartimaeus regained his sight and followed him on the way.
- Jesus heals
Jesus came to save us. Another way of putting that is that Jesus came to bring wholeness and restoration in every part of our life and relationships. When Jesus healed Bartimaeus he said, ‘Your faith has made you well.’ Sometimes we can make the mistake of thinking that we don’t have enough faith for Jesus to heal us or to answer our prayers for healing for other people. There is no indication that Bartimaeus had some incredible faith that the rest of us can’t possibly manage. He did recognise in Jesus someone from whom he could expect the grace and mercy of God. Jesus healed him. The small amount of faith that he had was enough for him to receive the gift of healing from God. The small amount of faith that we have is enough to receive the wholeness and restoration that Jesus wants to give us in answer to our prayers.
I can’t promise you today that Jesus is going to heal everybody’s illness and injuries. The bible promises that when Jesus comes again there will be no more sickness, but we are still waiting for the total fulfillment of that promise. But I do know that Jesus wants us to bring our sickness and hurting to him. I do know that Jesus has the power to heal and bring transformation to every part of our lives and relationships.
Jesus cares for us. He loves us. He wants us to share his love and care with others. As I explained at the APCM, encouraged by Bishop David, we are going to join in with a Hampshire initiative where local churches carry out a survey of their local community to find out what is really concerning people. It’s called Who Cares? Hampshire. The purpose of doing the survey is to find out how we can better serve our community with the love of Jesus.
Our ambition is to reach every household in our parish. The way the survey is done is to use small cards like the ones you have just filled in. We are going to have the opportunity to give them to our friends and neighbours. This is an opportunity for us all to get involved. People can write their response on the card and then give them back. It’s an anonymous survey so that we hope that people will be honest. We will also hand out another card that will explain a little about the Who Cares? Mission. We are going to discuss at PCC tomorrow the practicalities of carrying out the survey.
We are also going to hand out the cards in our services and to the various groups that meet in our churches.
The answers we get will shape our church life. Our talks and sermons can be based on the most popular issues that have come up and we can publicise these so anybody interested can come along from our local community.
What happened to Bartimaeus after he had been healed?
In verse 52 Mark writes, ‘Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.’ When Bartimaeus received his sight he didn’t just say, ‘Thanks a lot mate’ and carry on with what he’d been doing. He didn’t go back to sitting by the side of the road. He followed Jesus. He joined the disciples and followed Jesus to Jerusalem. He didn’t know exactly what being a disciple was going to entail. He would learn about that as he spent time with Jesus and the other disciples. Christianity is about being in relationship with Jesus. It’s about spending time with Jesus. Getting to know him. Being loved by him and loving him. It’s also about becoming part of God’s family, the church and following Jesus together. The deepest need that we all have is to know and be known by our loving God.
The cards we have handed out today say on the front, ‘Who cares?’ Jesus cares for our deepest needs and every aspect of our lives. He calls us to not only receive this love for ourselves but share this love with others. One of the ways we can do this is by joining in with the Who Cares? Survey of our community. I would like to encourage everyone to get involved.