Saturday, October 27, 2012

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Warning: I am going to talk about Jesus today, about Jesus, the gospel, and the Bible. I am going to talk about turning to Jesus and what it means for our lives. I am going to start with the Gospel – the Scripture reading for today, and the question Jesus asks:

“What do you want me to do for you?”

What is it? (Bartimaeus is next to the road, on the pilgrimage route outside Jericho.) This is a pretty good place for a beggar, for being poor and needy, a good place to ask people, to demand that people, give you stuff – so that you won’t have to change a bit… In fact, if you do you will probably mess it up. You might as well throw away your beggar sign – your cloak – and go on the road.

Why would you change a thing? This is a pretty good gig. All we have to do is wait for other people to come along and rescue us and give us our due – and do the work and make the friends and give – so that we can stay right here by the side of the road, waiting for rescue.

But will Jesus rescue us? Did he rescue Bartimaeus? Waiting for the reward doesn’t work out so well either – remember the Zebedee boys last week? Put us next to you when you come into your kingdom. So wouldn’t you expect Bartimaeus – and the people of Israel – knew he was onto a good thing? Knew he was ready to stay put – and collect? But no.

There is a turning here: a turning to Jesus. And that meant – and means – turning away from a whole way of life.

When Bartimaeus cast his cloak aside he was not only discarding an outer garment (as if to get ready for action) he was leaving behind him the source of his livelihood – for beggars spread their cloaks to receive alms (handouts) from passers-by.

(Cf. Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man, Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, ca. 1987)

All this before he can even see. All this before we can even see – which we won’t do until we trust Jesus – and throw our dependence on him. But – be warned: Once you really see there is one thing you have to do.

When we see things the way they really are we get up and follow him. —Paul Mitchell

What does that mean for you? What are you clinging onto, holding onto, that you need to cast aside, let go of?

Are you willing to venture away from what you know, blindly seeking Jesus, willing to ask him, that you might see, that your eyes might be opened?

What will you see when your eyes are opened?

Are you willing blindly to follow his voice – before you even know where he’ll lead you, what he looks like, or what you will encounter on the way?

Do you know what you will do?
Do you know what you are asking for?
Do you know the way ahead?

Are you willing to follow Jesus, knowing that putting your faith in him, you need no other?

“Repent means stop doing it” (as Massey Tice said to me, in 1975) … and it means to start doing something else.

This is the turning point, the conversion, the healing – of Bartimaeus.

What follow from it is the way, the way of truth, the way of Jesus, the way of the Cross.

Bartimaeus did not ask Jesus to bless his cloak; he let it go.

And followed him.

What will it mean for you to follow Jesus on the way?

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