Summary: The hope that rests in Jesus Christ is only fully realized when we place our full faith in Christ and respond to his call with enthusiasm.
We talk about hope a lot. As a matter of fact, as I was sitting at home working on this sermon, I was scanning the TV listings for the evening, and one of the movies showing on that particular day was, Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Despite all the talk about hope, assurance of hope is not so easily found it seems. Last week, we listened as Job mourned the absence of God even as he searched and hoped for God’s presence and justice. Today, we have the story of blind Bartimaeus, who himself has lived a life full of hopeless difficulties. So where’s the hope?
As we search for that answer, let’s put ourselves in Jericho for a moment. Have you ever been on a trip where you had been gone from home for several days, living out of a suitcase and separated from your friends and family? The day comes for you to head back home and you are so excited. And then you find out your flight has been delayed or worse yet, cancelled! If you’re anything like me, you get really antsy and anxious when something like that happens.
So here we are, traveling with Jesus. A huge crowd is following him as we make our way out of Jericho and toward Jerusalem. It’s hot and dry and dusty and we are all just excited to be on the road again. And then someone begins shouting from the roadside. It’s annoying, a nuisance, like your flight has been delayed. As Jesus turns to the voice, your anxiety level increases; no wonder everyone in the crowd is trying to “shush” this beggar hunkered on the side of the road. This is not on the schedule. We don’t have time for this. Can’t we just get on with it and get to Jerusalem? All the discouraging comments would be enough to quiet the hopes of any of us. But not Bartimaeus!
Mark lifts up the story of blind Bartimaeus because Bartimaeus is a model we should all imitate. We all come to places where we feel more hopeless than hopeful. And often, in the midst of that, we reach out to God and yet feel as if there is no help. It is then that we should yell all the louder; that we should cry out to God all the more! And this is exactly what Bartimaeus does! The story of blind Bartimaeus is not important so much because Bartimaeus was healed of his blindness, but more because Bartimaeus had the type of faith that heals. We can hope for many things, but until we seek God in faith, those hopes are nothing but empty vessels.
So here is Bartimaeus. Sitting by the roadside begging, simply trying to get by; and yet, all the while clinging to a hope that he might one day see again. Then he hears a crowd coming near. Can you imagine the excitement that must have welled-up in Bartimaeus’ heart when he realized it was Jesus coming his way? So Bartimaeus cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus was so overcome with excitement and hope that he most surely did not even notice the grumblings of the crowd now gathered around him. “Who does this guy think he is? He’s a nobody; a nuisance; he doesn’t matter! Get him quiet, we need to be on our way to Jerusalem!” Bartimaeus was a man who had obviously heard about Jesus. He had heard about the miracles Jesus had been performing. And here comes this great man; he may never come this way again. This was Bartimaeus’ big chance! So, Bartimaeus hollered for Jesus! Bartimaeus wasn’t going to let anything get in his way, he was determined that he would speak to this man who heals! We are all given the opportunity that Bartimaeus was given. Jesus came his way. And Jesus comes our way. This was Bartimaeus’ time to reach out in faith and hope, or let Jesus just pass on by. So Bartimaeus decided to take action and he cries all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And then, Mark tells us, Jesus took notice. Jesus stood still, the story says, and he called Bartimaeus to him. Let us be reminded, when we call out in faith, Christ will hear us!
You see, when we have hopes, when we want things to turn around and be better in our lives, we have to pursue that with everything we’ve got. We cannot just sit idly by, lift an occasional prayer asking that things may change, and then expect that a magic wand will be waved and all will be right in the world. We have to seek to know God in Jesus Christ more and more, and then we have to listen actively for the approaching crowd that signals the coming Messiah. And when we are moving forward in the faith and the naysayers begin to boo and hiss in our ears, telling us to be quiet, we cannot stop calling out for Jesus! And through this all, we have to believe, really believe that Jesus can help us. Such was the faith of Bartimaeus, who caught Jesus’ attention; such is the faith which gives substance to our hopes.