Christ Lutheran Church
October 24, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Now they entered Jericho, and as he was leaving from Jericho along with his disciples and a good number of people; Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus, who was a blind beggar sat himself down at the side of the road. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began crying out over and over again saying, "Son of David! Jesus! Have mercy on me!" But the crowd reprimanded him in order to silence him. But he only shouted out all the louder, "Son of David! Have mercy on me!"
And Jesus stood still and said: call him over to me. And they called the blind man and said to him, "Take heart! Get up! He is calling you." And throwing off his cloak he sprang up and went to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, "What is it that you want me to do for you?" The blind man responded, "Rabbi, let me recover my sight." And Jesus said to him, "Go, your faith has made you well. And he immediately recovered his sight, and followed him on the way.
Today’s gospel, Dear Christians, is something like a Las Vegas smorgasbord. A room the size of a football field filled with luscious food. Now that means there isn’t enough time to have even a sample of everything, but let us enjoy what we can!
Before we begin let us remember once again how we should hear and understand Sacred Scripture.
For the Bible, you see, is not merely an historical report or collection of Christian writings. But it is the church’s worship book.
Let us hear that again: the Bible is the church’s worship book!
Given to us by God to be used in the church, by the church and for the church. This does not preclude personal reading of Scripture. But the home of Scripture is the church.
And what do we mean when we say: church? We mean this! “The baptized engaging in Eucharistic intimacy with her Lord.” For, you see, everything that happened “on the road out of Jericho” in today’s gospel now happens in the church. Indeed everything that happened in the entire Scripture, now happens now in the church. The Flood takes place here, in baptism. The Passover takes place here, in Holy Communion. Pentecost takes place here, in confirmation. The altar is “table, manger cross and tomb," and the list never ends.
And so it is safe to say that the church is Jericho, the city which Jesus enters not only then, but now by his Word and Sacraments. As you may know Jericho was the first city that Israel conquered as she entered into the Land that flowed with milk and honey.
As Joshua, whose name in Greek is Jesus led them in then, Jesus the New Joshua leads his people into the New Israel which is the church. We are those people. We are the lame, the blind and the laboring that Jeremiah names in today’s Old Testament lesson upon whom God’s mercy now shines brighter than a thousand suns on a cloudless day.
Yes, the church is Jericho. It is the entrance of the New Jerusalem, which is heaven; and to the New Temple, which is Christ seated at the right hand of the Father always interceding for us. (Heb.7:25)
What the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, did from the roadside – cry out to Jesus for mercy – we do in the church every Sunday. We pray: Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us.
Are these the “vain repetitions” that Fundamentalists would condemn? Thinking that we will be heard for our many words. Not even close, dear Christians.
But even if they were, then we would be in good company. The company of the blind beggar who cried out with all his might, over and over again, to Jesus, and received all that he asked for, and more.
Because not only were Bartimaeus' eyes opened, but the “eyes of his heart” were opened also, to see that Jesus was going to the cross to expunge all sins.
St. Mark also notes for us that the crowd, for some unknown reason, tried to silence the blind beggar; but that it made him cry out all the more, and all the louder and with even greater faith: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me. May we do the same!
Indeed, Fellow Beggars, today’s gospel teaches us the best prayer there is: Lord have mercy. Why? Because it is taught in the Bible. Because it is simple, portable, and covers everything we will ever need. You need not even fill it in with content, because your Heavenly Father knows what you need even before you ask.
And so when “spires are crumbling,” and “steeples falling;” “when every earthly prop gives way;” when you are buried under, and can remember no other prayer, then cry out: Lord, have mercy upon me.
And he will!
But like the smorgasbord there are other delicacies to be found as well. The crowd who at first scolded Bartimaeus and tried to silence him now, at Jesus’ command, says to him,
“Take heart! Arise (resurrect) ! He is calling you!”
What we find here are seeds of the resurrection, and the promise that we confess every Sunday: “I believe the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” When we say those words we are talking about ourselves; for we possess “the perishable bodies that must put on the imperishable, and the mortal bodies must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:53)
And so these words, “Take heart, Arise (resurrect)! He is calling you” will carry us when death draws near. When our loved ones are called to Jesus’ side be it of age, tragedy, sudden, untimely or unexpected death, we can say to them, and to ourselves: “Take heart! Arise! Resurrect! He is calling you.”
In today’s gospel there is are yet another delicacy: namely the Lord’s words to Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?”
Remember that the prayers the Bride prays to her Groom at the time of Holy Communion are the most powerful prayers of all. St. Paul teaches this to us when he writes,
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with EUCHARIST/thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6)
At this tenderest of all moments when the Bride enters into communion with her Groom he will deny her nothing. While kings of old often promised “up to half their kingdom” to those they favored, Jesus says to us: “Fear not little flock for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
And so you see, once again, that what happened on the road for Bartimaeus now happens in Divine Liturgy for us. Here “the eyes of our hearts” are opened; our begging days are over; and we no longer sit at the side of road waiting. But we join in the procession to the altar, which is the procession to heaven: “with the cross of Jesus going on before.”
But let us be sure to embrace this last point, that the road to heaven passes through cross and grave. While we are sacramentally crucified, buried and raised again to newness of life with Christ in baptism; we will one day factually die, be buried and raised again.
One last thing we should know about today’s gospel is that it is the end of the entire first section of St. Mark’s gospel. Beginning in Chapter Eleven we find Jesus leading Bartimaeus, eyes wide open, to Jerusalem where the Lord will stand trial for our sins, be condemned for them, and pay the ultimate price for them. There the “Great Tribulation” take place: Jesus suffering as no one ever has, nor will ever again. Suffering for our salvation.
And so Take heart! Arise! He is calling you to follow him to the Right Hand of the Father. To our heavenly home, and the heavenly banquet. Take and eat. Take and drink! Amen.