As [Jesus] and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
|Guide-dog at work by smerikal on Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0|
Out of all the people I’ve known through the years, I’ve never met anyone like our friend Roy. He was the husband of a fellow seminary student, who was quite an extraordinary woman herself. But Roy had been blind for most of his life. But Roy lived a most abundant life. His faithful seeing eye dog would lead him to wherever he wanted to go (on foot).
Yet Roy also had an extraordinary ability to see with his ears. He sang tenor in the seminary choir. He enrolled in classes. And he greeted everyone by name, just by recognizing their voices. Sometimes, I forgot that he was blind. He had an uncanny ability to perceive the world before him, even though he couldn’t see it.
The same holds true for blind Bartimaeus. Even though he couldn’t see, he knew much about Jesus. He’d obviously heard Jesus or heard about him. He calls out to him as the Son of David, which no one had ever done before. He was persistent in crying out for Jesus while everyone was trying to shut him up. He asks Jesus to give him eyesight, which Jesus does. His eyes are opened, and he immediately follows Jesus. Now, his eyes will see the wonders and works of the Savior he had heard so much about.
But still, I wonder: how does a blind beggar understand Jesus better than his own disciples?
The answer to the question lies in the problem of spiritual blindness.
In last week’s Gospel, James and John want Jesus to give them seats of honor when Jesus supposedly ascends to his throne as the most powerful ruler on earth. In Jesus, they saw the potential of gaining great wealth and privilege for themselves. They did this after Jesus told them three times of his death and resurrection. This after Jesus taught them that greatness in God’s kingdom is known through service and self-sacrifice. The proverbial writing was on the wall, but they weren’t seeing it.
This is the essence of spiritual blindness: you see with your eyes only what you want them to see, but you do not see truths that are literally staring you in the face. You are blind to all that Jesus is saying and doing right in front of you.
Do you believe you know everything there is to know about Jesus? Have your eyes seen; your ears heard; your hands worked; and your mind comprehended all that Jesus has in store for you?
Contrary to popular opinion, truth does not come from within you. No matter how learned or experienced you are, you still don’t know all truth.
One of the most disturbing realities of our world today is that you can choose your own facts from like you choose food from a buffet. You seek out information and experts who tell you exactly what you want to hear. If you believe that NASA faked the moon landing, you can find plenty of people who’ll present a compelling case for that. If you believe vaccinations cause cognitive impairments in children, you can find plenty of people who’ll present a compelling case for that. You’ll feel really wise and intelligent listening to them. You feel like your part of something special when you can be part of a tribe of people just like you, who believe just like you. And you’d sooner reject the truth if it means that you’re wrong or that you need to change.
To make matters worse, people use the bible to manufacture their own truths. They call our chapter and verse to support all kinds of human rights abuses and atrocities, including slavery, violence, genocide, sexism, racism, and the like. Much of the time, you can tell if someone is crucifying the truth—when someone’s cries are ignored (like Bartimaeus) or when they are silenced (like Jesus Christ).
It’s the truly blind who say, “I’m not the one who’s blind to the truth. I’m not broken. I’m not a sinner. You are!” It’s the blind who believe the voices that tell you that you’re saved because you deserve it; or that your salvation depends on your beliefs, your faith, and your good works. It’s the blind who believe embrace the prosperity gospel, and look for Jesus in their individual power, success, and the quick and easy fixes to their problems.
It’s the truth of God, that comes from beyond you, that sets you free. To see the truth, you must first own the fact that you are blind, and that only Jesus can open your eyes. To know the truth, you must leave behind your “favorite facts” and listen to Jesus. To hear the truth, you need to listen to voices of people who say things you don’t want to hear; whose cries are much more convenient to ignore. The voice of truth will call you to repentance. It will challenge your assumptions. It will change your beliefs. It will transform how you live, what you value, and what you strive for. It will crucify you with Christ before it raises you up into new life.
Jesus opens the eyes of the blind to the truth that sets you free. Follow him, and you will see the truth in action. Better still, you will be the truth in action!
The freedom Jesus is giving is about seeing the truth and living it! You’re free of any questions as to whether God loves you or if you’re good enough to be saved. Embrace the cross of Jesus who embraces you as you are. You’re free from the pressures of having control situations and control people, because God has your best interests at heart. You’re free from the pressure of having to fix problems yourself, because you’ll see the healing works of Jesus. You’re free from the fear that festers in conspiracy theories and factions because God owns your future, and God will have the last word. You’re free from the bitterly divisive politics of the day that wreak violence, destruction, and division. Fear, competition, and bitterness give way to peace.
The freedom you find is the freedom you give when away. Never underestimate the transformative power of listening to someone tell the story of their pains and struggles. Never underestimate your power to ease the soul-crushing burden of poverty by sharing what you have and doing the good that is in you to do. Never underestimate the indescribable peace and healing of reconciliation and forgiveness.
The greatest truth you’ll ever know is that Jesus loves you with the world. You are worthy of dignity and daily bread because God made you. Jesus loves you and you belong to him.