Why Bartimaeus matters

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then 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.”Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. - Mark 10:46-52

Talking about this text with my wife and co-pastor, she mentioned how commentaries point to this story as a story of great discipleship. And it is. 

But why?

This was the question she and I thought about for a bit. Then something dawned upon me, it is this insight that I want to share.

It could be imagined that as a blind person, Bartimaeus was always following people. He had to in order to survive. he had to follow people to food, water and even the temple. Being blind at this time meant that you were, by definition, a follower. 

And so when Bartimaeus was healed and able to see, he no longer was bound to be a follower. He could find his own food, water and place of worship. He was free to be a leader for the first time in his life free from following anyone. And yet, Bartimaeus chooses the life of a follower even though he is no longer dependent as he once was.

Choosing to relinquish freedoms is the ultimate expression of freedom. Christianity is about choosing to follow Christ when you do not have to.

We call that freedom in Christ. 

What heaven looks like

For some people, heaven has streets of gold. That sounds great. But how is God supposed to make streets of gold if humans hold on to all the gold.

For some people, heaven will reunite us with family members. That sounds great. But how are we to be reunited then if we are unwilling to reconcile with people now?

For some people, heaven will be a place of peace. That sounds great. But how will there be peace then if we are convinced of the power of war now?

Whatever your vision of the afterlife is can only be made complete by what your actions of today are. 

Liberals who watch FOXNews - uncomfortable on purpose

Scripture is often a source of great comfort for many people. When there is a funeral you can but there will be a reading from Psalm 23. When you hear 1 Corinthians 13 is read, 93.6% of the time you are at a wedding. When there is tragedy in real life or in a play, you can find scripture be a source of strength and comfort.

In the same breath, scripture is also the source of great discomfort. When Jesus tells the people to sell all they have and give it to the poor. When we read about God destroying people and nations. Where there is a difficult teaching for which there is no simple answer, you can find scripture to be a source of discomfort.

We watch the news to be comforted. This is why conservatives will watch FOXNews and liberals watch MSNBC. We watch the news in order to hear others tell us that our worldview is correct. We love to hear our side is correct and the other side is wrong and idiotic.

For many Christians, we tend to read scripture like we watch the news. We choose the places that we like that affirm our worldview. We choose the places that provide us comfort and provide discomfort for others. We choose our own canon which we feel is "truer" or "more in line with God" than other scripture.

Do yourself and the world a favor - read the discomforting scripture. Watch the "other" news channel. Allow for the possibility that you may be wrong. The irony is that by listening to only the sources that bring us comfort, we actually harden our hearts through the phenomena of expectation confirmation.

Zero-sum, all-you-can-eat and Christianity

Some people feel that there is a scarcity in the world. News of few jobs, few natural resources and diminishing opportunities affirm this sense that the world is running out of “stuff.” Other people feel that there is an abundance in the world. The ease to spend beyond one’s means, enjoy all-you-can eat-buffets and the endless supply of information on the internet affirm this sense of abundance -- that we can have our cake and eat it too.

Christians are called by Jesus to embrace a third view of the world: there is enough. When Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread, he teaches us not to worry we will run out of food or conversely be irresponsible with over-indulgence. Jesus teaches us to trust that, through God, we will have enough. Having the view of “enough” is a position of faith in God.

These three different worldviews affect the way we live in the world.  A worldview of scarcity can lead us to despair and hopelessness.  A worldview of abundance can lead us to rely on our own abilities in order to “store up” a surplus and take more than our share of resources.  The Christian view of enough calls us to trust that the God who has provided for people in all times and places will provide for us today.  We do not despair and we are not irresponsible.  Instead, we hold fast to our God of daily bread.