Summary: Who really was blind?

Langham/Hunworth 26-10-03

amended Burmarsh 29-10-06

Mk 10:45-52

Today’s Gospel reading is the story of Jesus restoring the sight to the blind man Bartimaeus.

Story: Helen Keller was inspiring in the way she dealt with her deafness and blindness. She once wrote a magazine article entitled: "Three days to see."

In that article she outlined what she would like to see - if she were granted just three days of sight.

It was a powerful, thought provoking article.

On the first day she said she wanted to see her friends.

The second day she said she would like to be able to look at nature around her.

And on the third day, she said she would like to spend her time - in her home city, New York - watching the busy city and the bustle of work.

She concluded with these words:

"I who am blind can give one hint to those who see: Use your eyes as if tomorrow you were stricken blind.’

Blindness in the 21st century is bad enough - but it was much worse in Jesus’ day. Today a blind person at least has the hope of living a useful life with proper training.

And Braille opens opportunities for education.

Some of the most skilled and creative people in our society are blind.

But in first century Palestine blindness meant that you would be subject to abject poverty.

You would be reduced to begging for a living.

You lived at the mercy and the generosity of others.

And unless your particular kind of blindness was self-correcting, there was no hope whatsoever for a cure.

The skills that were necessary to cure some forms of blindness were still centuries beyond the medical knowledge of the day.

Little wonder then that one of the signs of the coming of the Messiah was that the blind should receive their sight.

When Jesus he announced his ministry, he said:

"The spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has sent me to recover sight to the blind."

The story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus would suggest to us that there are three kinds of blindness.

1. The first kind of blindness is the blindness of Bartimaeus.

Bartimaeus was unable to see and so he was consigned to a life of begging.

But he could see that if he came to Jesus, he

would be healed. It was a gift of faith.

But if he was healed, he’s have to change his way of life – as begging had become a habit with him

He wasn’t put off when others told him to shut up.

He could see that Jesus alone was the answer to his predicament.

2. The second kind of blindness is the blindness of the disciples.

The disciples of course could physically see.

But in this case they could NOT see the will of God.

If they been aware of what Jesus intended to do, I am sure they would have eagerly helped Bartimaeus.

But healing a blind man this was outside their experience.

In another passage, a man summed the situation up as follows: “Never since the beginning of the world has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind” (Jn 9:32).

The crowds didn’t have any compassion either

They tried to shut him up. Why have their Passover celebration spoiled?

Perhaps they said things like:

“We’re on our way to the Holy City; we have no time for a blind beggar!”

“Don’t bother the Master, you old beggar, he can’t help you!!”

“He’s got more important things to do than to bother with you!”

Do you catch the irony here?

It is the religious crowd, on their way to a religious festival – who miss the will of God!

These same people listen to Jesus talk about the kingdom of God and yet can’t see what Jesus is planning to do!

They are in the right place listening to the right things – but with the wrong heart - and they completely miss the point!

Helen Keller said, “Better to be blind and to see with your heart, than to have two good eyes and see nothing.”

3. The third kind of blindness is the blindness of our generation to their needs.

Story: Have you ever been bothered by unsolicited phone calls -from double glazing salesmen?

I used to receive quite a lot when I was a Curate in Bale.

On particular Monday night I got such a call.

I said to the young man who rang – “I’m sorry but I can’t be much help to you with your business because I don’t own the house. But can I ask you a question.

“Yes” he replied, puzzled I think

I said. “Do you go to church?”

“No” he replied

So I followed up by asking “Why not”.

He replied “ I haven’t really given it much thought – but my brother goes to church – he’s keen”

“Can I ask you one final question?” I said “Have you ever given thought to where you will spend eternity?”

“No” he said “But you have given me something to think about”.

Can you imagine that every time a double glazing salesman called, every Christian asked him if he went to church. They’d start panicking!!

After a bit, they’d start their patter by saying:

“Before we start please don’t ask me if I go to church – I have already been asked that by 50 people this evening!”

You’d share your faith – and they pay the phone bill!

The world is so busy that they seem to have little time to sit down and consider the claims and mission of Jesus.

I wonder if the world doesn’t have time for God, because we don’t really believe - in our heart of hearts - that Jesus is the answer for this generation.

I think the challenge to us was put very nicely by the ’Sunday Times’ journalist Matthew Parris – a man, who by his own confession, is not a Christian. Parris wrote:

’The New Testament offers a picture of God, who does not sound at all vague.

He has sent His Son to earth. He has distinct plans for each of us personally and can communicate directly with us.

We are capable of forming a direct relationship, individually with Him, and are commanded to try.

We are told that this can be done only through his son. And we are offered the prospect of eternal life – an afterlife in happy, blissful or glorious circumstances if we live this life in a certain manner.

Friends, if I believed that, or even a tenth of that, how could I care which version of the prayer book is used. I would drop my job, sell my house, throw away all my possessions, leave my acquaintances and set out into the world burning with desire to know more and, when I had found more, to act upon it and tell others.

Far from being puzzled that the Mormons and Adventists should knock on the door, I am unable to understand how anyone who believed that (which) is written in the Bible could choose to spend their waking hours in any other endeavour.’ (Matthew Parris).

(My thanks for the Helen Keller story and the three main headings for this talk from the sermon titled "Lord, I Want To See")