This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: Mark 10:46-52
Text: Mark 10: 51
Sermon prepared by Rev. Harry A. VanderWindt, Pastor emeritus, Grimsby, ON
Have you ever been in a cave? Have you any idea how dark it can be in a cave? When visiting a cave, let’s say, some 250 feet under the surface of the earth, you will be impressed with the beautiful rock formations down below. Sometimes, with the help of colored spotlights, you can admire those unique and fascinating rock structures.
There is a good chance that the guide may ask you to stand still for a moment while he turns off the lights. And as you stand there in total darkness, he may explain to you that this darkness is 40% darker than the darkest night ever experienced on the surface of the earth.
You may have heard the expression, ‘It was so dark that you could slice the darkness with a knife’, or, ‘I couldn’t see a hand in front of my face’. Well, it will give you a pretty helpless feeling as you stand there in a cave with such deep and total darkness!
And that is also the helpless condition in which we find Bartimaeus in the Scripture reading today. It was not likely that he was blind by his own choice. Perhaps he was born that way. But Bartimaeus could not participate in the regular activities of life — because he was blind.
And that brings us to the theme of the message today, namely, FROM DARKNESS INTO LIGHT, and, as we delve into the story, we shall see three thoughts:
1. Bartimaeus, in his blindness, calls on Jesus;
2. Jesus tells His disciples to go and call Bartimaeus; and
3. Jesus calls Bartimaeus out of darkness into His glorious light;
But in the meantime, Bartimaeus is sifting along the roadside. The Bible tells us that he was a beggar. We may safely assume that ‘begging’ is the most humiliating way of making a livelihood. A beggar is totally dependent on others. Bartimaeus was also blind which made him even more helpless. He completely depended on the kindness and mercy of other people.
Day after day he would sit along the road calling out, “Please, sir, remember the beggar, please sir, please!” Perhaps, from time to time, he would receive something and say, “Thank you, thank you!” Then he would have to ask again, “Please sir, remember the beggar!”
But today was going to be a good day for Bartimaeus because the Passover Feast was going to be held in Jerusalem. Thousands of people were on their way to this great feast. Large crowds would walk past the spot where Bartimaeus was sitting. And you know how it goes: when people are going to a festival, they are usually in a good or generous mood. And furthermore. . . the more people - the greater the chance that Bartimaeus would collect some shekel money. Yes, Bartimaeus expected to have a good day!
But. . . . Bartimaeus was blind!
Sometimes, we know what we are talking about - most of the time we like to think that we know what we are talking about. But there are also many times that we don’t know what we are talking about. Here we have such a situation . . . because we (likely) do not know what it is to be blind. Most of us can not sit down with a blind person and say to him or her, “I know exactly how you feel”. Because we don’t!
To be blind is to live in total darkness. Not to be able to see the movements of the clouds, the trees, the plants and the people walking back and forth. Not to be able to see flowers or the colored feathers of birds. And to have to miss out on seeing the joy in a smile or the tenderness in the tears in the eyes of another person.
Oh, certainly, our boys and girls play games where they blindfold each other — but, then, they still know where the kitchen table is or the back door. That is not real blindness. But Bartimaeus was really totally blind! That is to say, he was physically, totally blind. But he was not totally ‘spiritually’ blind. That is a little difficult to explain and we may have to simplify it somewhat.
When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was nearby, all kinds of thoughts came to his mind. He had heard about this miracle doer. Jesus had healed lepers and crippled people. He had even raised people from the dead! And… this was important for Bartimaeus. . . Jesus had even given sight to the blind!
And so, Bartimaeus shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” It was only a simple expression of Bartimaeus’ faith. But he called on Jesus to do something for him. Bartimaeus believed that Jesus could do something for him. lt was only a simple cry, but Bartimaeus, in his helplessness, now calls on Jesus to help him! Have you ever felt so helpless that you called on Jesus to help you?
Bartimaeus shouted, “Son of David”. This expression occurs only a few times in the New Testament. It has a Messianic tone to it. Was it, perhaps, a foretaste of what was soon going to happen on Palm Sunday when the people would hail Jesus into Jerusalem with these same words, “Hosanna to the Son of David?”
Oh, Bartimaeus’ faith may have been small, but what he had, he used to call on the Lord Jesus.
We sometimes wonder how many other people there were in those days who cried to Jesus to help them. We may also wonder how many dying souls there are today, still calling on Jesus for mercy. How many people still have enough of that spiritual breath left? Do you know any among your neighbors, your friends or perhaps among your relatives? Can you still hear their voices, or are they dying out already?
Or are we perhaps so busy, so excited, so involved with being a follower of Jesus that we are, much like the people around Jesus on the road at Jericho, that we tell such people to be quiet! Yes, believe it or not — Bartimaeus calls on Jesus and the people tell him to be quiet!
Perhaps they had their reasons for it. Perhaps they considered Bartimaeus to be a nuisance and they couldn’t be bothered with such an indignant scene. Perhaps they were too much in a hurry to get to Jerusalem to prepare for the triumphal entry. Perhaps some of the people may have been annoyed with Bartimaeus who called Jesus, ‘Son of David’.
Sometimes, we too, can get so caught up in our excitement,our activities and even in our worship, that we do not take time to greet or smile at the brother or sister who is sitting right next to us in the same pew. Or to pray for that elderly black-dressed woman down the street, or bake a pie for Mr. Morris, that old man next door.
But Bartimaeus continues his calling. He is persistent. This is the chance of his life. His LIFE! It’s now or never. A decision has to be taken! There may never be another time or another person who would be able to lead him out of his darkness into light. And so, Bartimaeus calls on Jesus in spite of what people tell him. In spite of all the noise around.
But note that, in spite of all that arguing and noise, Jesus hears him! In a way, that should not surprise us, because Jesus always hears people when they call on Him. No matter where they are: at home, on the job, in the car or in church.
But did you notice that, in spite of the fact that Bartimaeus calls directly on Jesus, that Jesus does not answer him back directly. Note how Jesus tells His disciples to go and call him. Jesus could have spoken directly and personally to Bartimaeus Himself. That was no problem. But Jesus has His own way of doing things.
He had a reason for that. He chose to involve His disciples because it would be better for them to get involved. It is better for His followers — for you and me, too. And so Jesus uses His disciples as a means to call the blind beggar to Him. Jesus still does the same nowadays. Oh, if He wanted to, He Himself could bring about the conversion of thousands of people. Because He is God Almighty, beyond all knowledge and all thought!
But God chooses to do things His own way. He could have led Israel out of Egypt in a much faster and easier way. He could have prevented that Samson had his eyes gouged out. He could have prevented Job from making that horrifying tumble from being a multi-millionaire to that pitiful person sitting on the dump. He could also have prevented Bartimaeus from having been born blind. But God does things for a purpose and He often uses natural means and ordinary people to help bring about His will. Isn’t that a breathtaking thought that the Almighty God uses people like you and me to work for Him?
And not just people ‘in general’ or very special people such as missionaries or ministers or Sunday School teachers, but anyone! Anyone who is gripped by the power of God becomes subject to that command of Jesus: ‘You go and call him or her!’
Perhaps you may be inclined to walk or drive home a little more slowly after the service, whichever way you go home today. You may start looking for some Bartimaeus. But let me tell you that you probably won’t find any. At least not the kind of Bartimaeus as was sitting near the roadside of Jericho.
You may have to look somewhere else. Or for other needs in different forms. Perhaps there is a widow in the congregation whom you have not visited for a very long time. There are many, many people in nursing homes who would love to have someone bring a little sunshine in the lives. Those are people to whom you and I can show some kindness. There may be children in your neighborhood whom you could bring to Sunday School. You can likely think of many other needs.
Jesus says to His followers, “You go and call them.” That means that you and I are not calling them to follow us. We don’t call these people to ourselves. We invite them to come to Jesus, Who, in the first place, called us. We may tell those people that Jesus can do something for them--something that you and I cannot do. All we have to do is to tell them that Jesus is calling them.
After Jesus instructs His disciples to go and call Bartimaeus, a hush may have fallen on the crowd as the disciples make their way to Bartimaeus who still sits there along the road crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
The disciples encourage Bartimaeus and tell him, “Cheer up. He is calling you!” Bartimaeus jumps to his feet, throws his mantle to the side and while the people step aside making room for the disciples — one of them possibly holding Bartimaeus by the hand — they make their way to Jesus.
Here we have one of the greatest confrontations possible. On the one hand Jesus, the source of Light and Life. . . and on the other hand, possibly on his knees, blind Bartimaeus.
The all seeing God and the nothing seeing man.
The all powerful, majestic Being and the helpless unfortunate human being
Total Light and total darkness
It is Jesus Who is the first One to speak. He asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?’ Just imagine: Jesus Himself asking you, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
Bartimaeus was used to getting pennies and nickels and dimes in answer to his call for mercy. Most of the time he got nothing. Sometimes he became the object of foul play. Not many people would ever ask him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And now, imagine this, not just anybody, but Jesus Himself asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” All he had to do is ask for it!
It is difficult to imagine the emotion,the shiver that must have run through his body,the lump in his throat, the tremble in his voice! Perhaps a tear in his blind eyes. This was it— now or never! And so from the bottom of his heart and from the depths of his soul he cries out, “Rabbi, I want to see!”
We don’t know how old Bartimaeus was - twenty? thirty? forty-five or sixty?, but all he wanted was his eyesight!
Jesus was moved with compassion when He heard Bartimaeus cry out like this. Yes, He was acquainted with the misery of the sick, the lame and the poor. He had seen so much of it in His three year ministry.
Then He spoke to Bartimaeus, “Go, your faith has healed you”. Those words must have been like an electric shock to Bartimaeus. The gospel writer Matthew tells us that Jesus touched his eyes and he immediately received his sight and followed Jesus on the way. What a joy it must have been for this man to receive his sight! And the first person Bartimaeus saw was… JESUS!
Yes, Bartimaeus followed Jesus. What other way would he want to go? For, after all, Bartimaeus had received not only his physical sight, but also his spiritual sight. Bartimaeus could not think of another way to repay Jesus for what He had done for him than to follow Him.
Oh, isn’t Jesus a wonderful miracle-doer? He gave Bartimaeus his eyesight. He led Bartimaeus out of his darkness into glorious light. Yes, also into spiritual light.
Nowadays, there are still many people who are physically blind. You may know someone, or you may see a person with a white cane or accompanied by a seeing-eye dog. But there are many more people who are ‘spiritually’ blind. And that spiritual blindness is greater and deeper and darker than the 140% darkness that you will see in a cave. Because spiritual darkness is separation from God, which means: no hope, no light, no life. Total darkness!
If there is anyone in this sanctuary today who still walks in that darkness, then you are invited to come to Jesus Who is the only One Who can lead you out of your darkness into His glorious light. Come to His light — walk no longer in sin and darkness. Come to the Light of eternal salvation for body and soul. Live no longer in darkness - enter the joy of the Light that only Jesus can give.
When you already walk in the Light. . . praise the Lord and thank Him for His gift of salvation. It is wonderful to belong to the ‘Family of God’. But having received this gracious gift of salvation and being a member of God’s family makes us responsible as co-workers in God’s Kingdom. Yes, we are also used by Jesus to invite others to come to Him. Bring someone to church with you next time, so he or she may also hear the good news about Jesus and what He can and will do for them.
Well, this is the end of the sermon. Let us just review the three thoughts:
First, Bartimaeus in his darkness calls on Jesus. . . today there are still thousands,millions of people who live in spiritual darkness.
Second, Jesus tells His disciples to go and call Bartimaeus. . . yes, also today, Jesus uses His followers to call others, who still live in darkness, to come to Him
And third, Jesus calls Bartimaeus out of his darkness into His marvelous light.
The Bible tells us that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved”.
Father in heaven, we thank you for letting us hear about that amazing miracle which Jesus performed on Bartimaeus: how that blind beggar called on the Lord for mercy and how Jesus instructed His disciples to call him. How the Lord gave eyesight to that blind man and how Bartimaeus received the faith to follow Jesus.
May Your Holy Spirit help us also, as your disciples, to be mindful of the spiritual darkness of many people. May the Spirit go before us as we have opportunities to tell others what the Lord has done for us and what He is ready to do for them also.
May Your Name be glorified in our lives and in the lives of all who, by grace, may be called out of darkness into Your glorious Light. We pray in the precious Name of Jesus Who makes this possible. Amen.
Order of Worship
OPENING OF THE SERVICE
Welcome and Announcements
Silent Prayer concluded with #625
The Invocation: Dear people of God, it is with confidence that we may confess ‘that our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made the heavens and the earth.’ Let us pray:
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You for this time that we may gather here in Your presence. May your grace, love and peace be to each worshipper in this place. We pray in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
God’s Greeting: "May the grace and peace of God our Father and of our Lord Jesus Christ be on us. Amen."
Hymn of Praise: PH # 23
SERVICE OF RECONCILIATION
Prayer of Confession
Assurance of Pardon
Song: PH# 257
God’s Will for Our Lives
Hymn of Response: PH # 548
SERVICE OF THE WORD
Prayer for God’s Leading
Scripture Reading: Mark 10:46-52
Scripture Text: Mark 10:51
Sermon: "From Darkness to Light"
Hymn of Response: PH # 363
SERVICE OF PRAYER AND OFFERING
Offertory Prayer followed by: PH # 568
CLOSING OF THE SERVICE
Benediction prayer: Gracious God, as we are about to leave this worship service, we look to You for a blessing on our journey through life. We pray that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be with each one. Amen.
Doxology: PH # 632