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Let’s step into a story.
The sun has not yet come up, but you know it is morning. You know it the way you know a storm is coming or the way you feel a person walking into the room when your back is to them. Maybe you feel the warmth of the sun through a window. Maybe you hear birds outside greeting the day. You know it, you just can’t see it.
In a day and age where the worth of a man is based either on wealth he was born into, wealth he earned, or the work he does everyday to support himself, you are in a difficult situation. There are no options for employment, and you’re left with only one option: the charity of others.
So, maybe you have friends help to guide you to a place on the road where people travel in and out of town easily. Maybe you’ve learned to use a walking stick and can make the way alone. Either way, you go to the spot you go to everyday and get to work as a beggar. Since Jericho is usually a temperate place, you take off your cloak and spread it on the ground so you can feel when people drop coins and things in front of you. You spend your day begging passersby for a few coins, a meager bit of food and hope that you get enough to survive or that friends look in on you if you don’t.
But today something feels different. You can hear the buzz of the crowd nearby and people shouting a name, trying to get a man’s attention. In the noise you hear the name, Jesus. You remember snatches of conversation about a Kingdom of God and teachings that are revolutionary and life changing. You remember stories you have heard, stories about Jairus’ daughter who was dead but brought back to the living, stories of evil spirits cast out of those who were possessed, stories of thousands of people being fed with little more than person’s lunch. You even remember hearing about another blind man who was given back his sight.
This is the Messiah, the one chosen and anointed of God, the restorer of hearts, minds, hopes, dreams, and even bodies. This is Yeshua, God’s salvation. Maybe your salvation? If this Jesus will just come your way, if he will just get close enough to hear you, to touch you, you might, you just might, be healed. So, you start shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The people in the crowd are trying to get you be quiet. With all the clamoring no one can hear Jesus speaking but you won’t let it go, you say again and louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Suddenly, you hear a hush as the crowd stops and you hear a voice say, “Tell him to come here.”
A person grabs your shoulder and the people around you say, ““Cheer up. Come on, he’s calling you!” You jump to your feet, shaking, unsure of what to expect but certain that if you can just get to Jesus, you can be healed. The crowd opens and people guide you in the direction of the voice, murmurs and whispering as you go until finally you stop and hear a voice say, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Your mind races, reels in the moment. Your entire life what have you wanted, what have you always wanted. There is no equivocation, no wondering about the answer. In fact, you don’t even think as the words come tumbling out of your mouth, “Teacher, I want to see.”
There is a slight pause and then you hear, “Go, your faith has healed you.” For the first time you blink, and light connects with your eyes in a new way. At first nothing but brightness but then, images, shapes, things that begin to sharpen into people, things, and as you look and really see for the first time with eyes that have never focused on anything, you see the healer, Jesus of Nazareth.
There is no second thought, no question in your mind as to what to do now. Jesus begins to walk away with his disciples in tow and fall in line, thanking and praising God for what he has done through this anointed one of Israel.
We’ve read this story many times probably as children in Sunday school and all the way through to our adulthood. It’s a great story and a great illustration of having vision. I think the idea of vision goes beyond sight. Sight is simply being able to see, to physically convert light waves to images in the brain. Vision is something else. Vision is being able to see beyond sight, to see with soul and spirit and understand more than the images playing on the great screen in your brain. It is a form of wisdom that allows a person to gain meaning from the experiences of life.
I’ll illustrate this with the previous story in Mark: the disciples could see, but Bartimaeus had vision. In the previous story, the one we talked about last week, James and John are asking Jesus for seats on his right and left when God ushers in the kingdom. What they could see was their present but in the future. They were with Jesus as two of his closest disciples and they wanted to remain that way. In a world of patronage, where who you know and who you are close to can change your world, James and John were trying to play the game well. By asking Jesus for places close to him in the Kingdom they were asking for places of authority and privilege, something the other disciples balked at.
Bartimaeus couldn’t see but he had vision. He realized that Jesus was more than just your average prophet, more than just a healer. He was the Messiah, the hope of Israel in a world where the Jews were fearful of having hope. He was the one who could not only restore Bartimaeus’ sight but also his direction in life, his way of life. Notice the word choice by the writer of Mark, “Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.” Another word used in many translations for the word road is way. The Way was what the early followers of Jesus called their version of Judaism and for many years after Jesus they were not only called Christians or little imitators of Christ but also followers of the Way. Bartimaeus had vision enough to see that this was more than healing his body, it was healing his way of being, of living.
That leaves us with a question, are we people who simply see or are we people with vision. Are we going to be people who are limited to only what is immediately in front of us and our immediate needs and wants or are we going to be people who can see a future? In a time when we deal with so much fear and uncertainty, we as people of faith need to be people of vision, people who see beyond the present to future. People who see past their needs to the needs of others and the needs of the community. People who see themselves as followers in the Way of Jesus, living and being people of the Kingdom.
Now more than ever, we need kingdom people. We need people who live out the Sermon on the Mount, people who live out the Fruit of the Spirit, people who feed the hungry and thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe those who are without, care for the sick and imprisoned. Where you cannot go, send cards, send letters, make phone calls, send texts, whatever you can do with the means you have to share the love of God with those around you.
Be people of vision. Be Kingdom people.