Your Faith Has Made You Well (Mark 10:46-52)
Blind Bartimaeus was sitting by the side of the road. He was there each day as the traffic went by. Since he couldn’t see anything, his other senses were heightened.
He heard the slap of leather sandals on the pavement. He smelled the livestock and touched the sides of the animals as they passed by. He felt the smooth coins people tossed on his gray cloak, which stretched out on the ground.
Bartimaeus was a beggar. Being blind, there was no other way to support himself. Begging was an accepted vocation then. Jericho was a wealthy city. There was money to give away. Bartimaeus lived—literally—by the generosity of others.
We can benefit from generosity ourselves. You’re in a hospital waiting room, and someone you’ve never met before offers you encouragement and says, “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Doesn’t it make you feel good?
Or you’re standing in the doorway at K-mart, ringing the Salvation Army bell, and someone you know who has no money to spare drops in a ten dollar bill and wishes you a Merry Christmas. This kind of generosity makes the world work. It’s something to keep in mind as the church engages in its stewardship campaign.
Johann Sebastian Bach, the great composer, was poor as a young man. He was orphaned by the age of ten and had to make his way in the world alone.
One day, when Bach was a teenager, he was walking to a city where he would study music. He stopped at an inn, thinking he’d get something to eat, but he realized it was too pricey for him. He didn’t have enough money. So he sat down on the side of the street to rest.
Out of a window above, someone tossed two fish heads. They landed with a thunk next to Bach on the pavement. He was hungry enough to eat anything, so he picked one of them up and brushed it off. Inside the fish head he found a ducat, which was a gold coin. There was one in the other fish head too.
Now Bach had two gold ducats, or about half a year’s salary. Someone was looking out for him. He was able to buy dinner, get a room for the night, and continue his journey the next day.
No one threw fish heads at Bartimaeus. Actually, he probably made a decent living. He was poor, not destitute. And like Bach, the generosity of strangers supported him.
One day Bartimaeus heard the commotion of a crowd coming by him. You’d have to be in a crowd yourself and close your eyes to get a sense of what it must have been like for him. What is it? What’s going on? He didn’t know.
Then he heard a couple of people say the name… Yeshua… Yeshua. Jesus. The teacher is here… the healer. That was all Bartimaeus needed to know. He needed to act quickly. This is his once in a lifetime opportunity. This is his chance.
So Bartimaeus cries out… literally he screams. “Jesus… have mercy on me!!!!” Over and over he says it… people are trying to shush him, but he says it all the more loudly, “Have mercy on me.”
What he says in the Greek New Testament is eleeson me. Again and again that word, eleeson. If it sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s still found in the liturgy today. Kyrie eleison… Lord have mercy.
At this point, Jesus does two things: he stands still… and he says in a loud voice, ‘Call him over here.’ He stays in one spot, and he allows Bartimaeus to find him by the sound of his voice.
Bartimaeus tosses off his cloak. He stumbles over to Jesus. Jesus places a hand on his shoulder and asks, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
What do you want me to do for you? It’s the question God asks of us all. Our answers say a lot about what our life is like right now – what our struggles and heartaches are.
Bartimaeus asks something simple. ‘Lord, I want to see.’ I want to be able to see the sky and the trees. I want to see the children playing. I want to see the faces of people speaking to me. I want to see again.
Jesus responds, ‘Your faith has made you well.’ Suddenly Bartimaeus can see. He doesn’t go home and tell his family. He goes on with Jesus, like a kitten following the source of milk.
I love what Jesus says… Your faith has made you well. He doesn’t say, ‘I have made you well.’ He attributes the change to Bartimaeus himself, to his own faith. His faith shouted out to Jesus. His faith threw aside the cloak and let all the coins on it go flying. His faith stumbled over to Jesus. His faith made all the difference.
I’d like to show you a scene from the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy is being held prisoner by the Wicked Witch in her castle. Her dog Toto has escaped and goes to warn the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. This happens next:
[show scene, 1:19:15 to 1:21:32]
I love this scene. The Tin Man thinks he has no heart, but he’s crying at the thought of Dorothy in danger. The Lion thinks he has no courage, but he’s saying ‘Let me at ‘em… I’ll tear ‘em apart.’ He’s ready to fight. The Scarecrow thinks he has no brain, but he’s making a plan to save Dorothy.
Do you see it? Each of them has the very thing they claim not to have—a heart, courage, a brain. They already have these things… they just don’t know it yet.
In a similar way, Bartimaeus didn’t realize what he had. He was used to being the one in need, the one asking, the one defined by what he did not have… his sight. He didn’t even realize what a powerful resource he had… his faith.
The presence of Jesus drew the faith out of him, but it was there all along, hidden, latent, waiting to come out. Your faith has made you well.
Now I don’t think faith is a blank check that will get us anything we want. But it is a powerful resource in life—like heart, courage or brains. Faith can lie hidden in us, waiting for the right day and time to come out.
Do you think you have no faith? Then think again. You have more than you know, more than enough. Whatever crisis you are facing, whatever castle is holding you captive, whatever heartache is plaguing you—know that you have the faith it takes to face it, endure and overcome.
When you don’t expect it, the presence of Jesus will come, draw your faith out of hiding and bring you wholeness you have not known before. Then you too will hear those words, ‘Your faith—your faith—has made you well.’