Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Psalm 34:1-8; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
October 28, 2018 –Twenty-third Sunday After Pentecost
Do we really want to get better? Sure, we have issues. Of course, we’re not perfect. We know we could be better. But do we really want to give up all the quirks we are comfortable with to get there.
Job seems to get there this morning. He is blameless. What has happened to him is not a matter between him and God. It is a matter between God and Satan.
He does not blame God, not even when his wife urges him to, not even when his friends taunt him with two-dimensional accusations, based on his bad luck instead of anything they have seen him do.
Imagine an innocent person being blamed for something they did not do…something they did not even have any part in…when they are the innocent victim of their time or their circumstances.
When the bad news hit it was painful enough. But now to be blamed for something they had nothing to do with?
That is injustice upon injustice…salt in the wounds…a slap in the face after you have been hit over the head.
Job pleads with God for an explanation and doesn’t get one, except that God does speak to him. It is not for us to question life, we hear. It is for life to question us. And when that happens, we had better be ready to reply with the best we have.
If God’s answer to him last week – where were you when I created the world and the sun and the moon and the stars? – begs the question, then Job’s reply to God this week does, too.
God does what God does and if God had not done that, then I would never have had a chance to do anything. So I count my blessings and get on with what I have left.
Message received. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
He has every right, from a human point of view, to feel cheated. He has done all that he was asked to do. He should get to expect good things.
But if bad things happen to him, he can’t undo them. He can’t say “No, thank you.” You don’t get any do overs. You can only go on with it.
“I have no choice,” he seems to understand. Either I accept life or I reject it. And to reject life is to reject the good I have received as well as the bad…to reject those who love me as well as those who are jealous of me…those who hate me.
I accept, Job says. I accept it all. I see things in a new way now. And thank you…for it all.
Blind Bartimaeus is far less complicated…on the surface…but there is a big leap of faith he has to make, too.
His blindness has left him with only one choice in this world. He has to beg to stay alive. He has to ask good men for help, and he has to ask bad men for help.
He is better than some of them. He is stronger than some of them. But he is blind. He knows he has to face rejection, even ill treatment. But he has to do what he has to do…to hang onto life as best he can.
But loss of one thing helps him build up another. He can hear, and he has heard of this Jesus from Nazareth. This man has made the lame to walk and the deaf to hear. He has even raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.
His people have been waiting for a savior for 500 years and it looks like this is the one God had promised to send. He can do anything. Surely he can restore my sight.
He calls to Jesus with a robust acknowledgement of who he really is. “Son of David” he calls to Jesus. The rich man can’t see it. The powerful man can’t see it. They crowd around Jesus. They crowd Bartimaeus out. But they can only see the possibility of much change and they like things better the way they are than how it might all turn out if this prophet has his way.
They are willing to settle for the Pax Romana – a peace imposed by force upon all the people under Roman rule. It is demeaning, but the pay is good for the rich and having status among their own people is good enough for those with power.
But the poor can see it. Those who are faithful to God and honor God’s claim upon their life live lives full of truth and faith. Even a blind man can see it.
“Son of David!” he cries out. “Have mercy on me!” The men in front of him tell him, with authority, to be quiet.
But men in authority have been telling Jesus to be quiet, too. Maybe he and Jesus can connect in some deep, important way.
Bartimaeus cries all the louder, and the Promised One calls for him. Bartimaeus can see hope in a man others want to write off. Jesus can see with his heart an opportunity to show God’s power.
Then Jesus asks this delicious question. A blind man has been calling to him for help. He has called for the man to come to him.
“What is it you want me to do for you?” he asks. Isn’t this a little obvious? If he couldn’t walk, the man would want to walk. If he couldn’t hear, the man would want to hear. If he couldn’t talk, he would want his speech.
So what do you think a blind man would want? Or would he? Bartimaeus can get by blind. Maybe sight would only complicate matters.
There is a very interesting movie that gives us some insight here. Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino starred in a movie in 1999 about a blind man who was a massage therapist.
In At First Sight, a woman comes to him one day and he is so good at his work that he can release so much of her tension and pain that the massage reduces her to tears. The blind man takes pity on a woman who can see and comforts her.
They begin a relationship and she finds a doctor who can do a procedure that might restore his sight. He agrees to give it a try and the surgery is successful.
Sounds like a pretty short movie, but the story does not end there. His brain has trouble interpreting the images it is receiving after all this time and he becomes disoriented.
He goes back to the doctor who tells him he should not just see. He should look for what is important to him. There are many questions that seeing alone cannot answer…many problems that sight cannot solve.
His sight begins to deteriorate and he eventually admits to Sorvino that he is going blind again. She does not believe him. She wants to show him Egypt and Europe and she doubts his feelings toward her.
The truth is the truth, though, and she finally accepts it as fully as Kilmer must. She apologizes for trying to move too fast with him.
She invites him to take a walk with her, just to see what they can see, and they walk off together. End of movie…leaving the audience to finish the story.
We might think we want what we are supposed to want, but there is more to life than how you are supposed to feel about things, just as there is more to life than what you are supposed to get.
Our friend, blind Bartimaeus, was supposed to keep begging. He was supposed to keep quiet. He was supposed to accept his failed sight, his failed life, and his failed hope. But he does not.
We read that Jesus didn’t even touch the man and only told him to go on his own way now that his faith has made him well. But it was his faith in Jesus that made him well, and we finally read that he chose to follow Jesus ‘on the way.’
Perhaps Bartimaeus thought he owed it to Jesus to follow him. Perhaps he thought that he had a debt to pay for what he had received, and now that he had his sight back he should serve the man who freed him from darkness.
But I think this is too shallow a reading of our lesson here. Maybe, like Val Kilmer, he has received the gift, not only of sight…but of insight as well. Maybe he has learned to look at what is there, not just at what he wants to see.
Maybe life had just gotten a whole lot more interesting for him and he wanted to look at the best things he could look at. What better choice could he make than to follow Jesus?
It must have been a little like returning from the dead to be a blind man who could see again. He wanted to do the best he could with the days he had left and what could be better than follow God’s gift to the world and see what happened next?
Indeed, maybe he could no longer be content with just seeing what crossed his field of vision. Maybe he needed to look at things in a new light…wonder about the world and everything in it in a new way…and find not just money…not just power…but meaning and a life that was more abundant not just because it could get busier, but because it could become more meaningful.
The rich men around him had the luxury of believing what they wanted to believe and be on their merry way, but he had learned through his poverty to see things as they were…with his ears alone…or it would kill him.
If he believed a lie he might die. But if he knew the truth, he knew it could set him free every way a person could be free. He who had so little did not have his life cluttered up with so many distractions that he could not see the way and the truth and the life in this great gift God had sent into the world.
Other choices might have brought him more stuff, but following the one who had heard his cry and welcomed him would bring him the right stuff…the best stuff…the real stuff.
We all have our blind spots and sometimes they make it impossible for us to see what is right there in front of us. Jesus, son of David, have mercy upon me.
We all suffer injustice some time or another, but fixating on the injustice only makes it worse. We cannot see what we might be able to do about it. We will not look for it because we are consumed by our outrage at the unfairness of it all.
We send pipe bombs instead of looking into the hearts of those we choose to vilify.
As innocent bystanders, we are all victims of this kind of violence, but we choose to indulge in conspiracy theories instead of asking how we can keep it from happening again. So how innocent are we when we go there?
We shoot up synagogues instead of drawing close to hear what we might learn. We see only our differences instead of looking with an open heart and an open mind for that which binds us together and makes us all one in Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world.
We see the threat, but we are blind to the opportunity that such moments bring to us.
Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. Dear Lord, what is it that you want to do in the world through me this day? Amen.