You’ve probably heard it said in the past that there are two things you should never talk about publicly; “politics and religion” because no matter what you say or believe, you are probably going to upset half the people you know. And if you value relationships, you do not want to do that.
But what is interesting is that over past 50 years with the emergence of evangelical groups such as the Christian Coalition on the right and Sojourners on the left, the two taboo topics have blended together.
Religious conservatives as well as religious liberals have found it difficult to draw a line between what is religious principle and political cause.
So, the gap between right and the left, red and blue, grows wider, with moral stances. Add to this, the emergence of social media and you have the recipe for tearing apart a nation in the name of Jesus.
Just read social media posts and both sides ask the question “How can you be a Christian if you vote for that person?” And if you choose to answer that question, no matter where you land, you are going to anger half the people in that argument.
And so, I wonder, is this what Jesus had in mind when he ushered in the Kingdom of God?
Let’s watch our text this morning: Mark 10:32-52
Jesus is heading to Jerusalem during the season of Passover, an annual feast where God’s people would travel, usually by foot to the city of Jerusalem to celebrate their story of deliverance from Egyptian slavery and to offer sacrifices so God’s judgment would pass over them.
As they are traveling, Jesus pulls the disciples aside and he says, “You know all of that stuff you learned in church over the years; the torah and the prophets . . . yeah, well, that was about me”
And then predicts what is going to happen when they get to Jerusalem; he will be arrested, mocked, spat upon, and flogged and then they will kill him but on the third day, he will rise.
In other words, he’s telling them that they are going to Jerusalem during the season of Passover because he is going to be the final sacrifice so that the wrath of God would pass over us and we would be restored as the people of God.
But they didn’t get it. They have no idea what he’s talking about. Instead they started jockeying for position and got into an argument about who would best help Jesus achieve his political goals which were clearly to overthrow the Roman Government.
As they continue their journey, they pass through the town of Jericho, and there is this blind, poor beggar on the side of the road whose name is Bartimaeus. Now he is not the only beggar there. In fact there are beggars everywhere because this was a strategic place for those who begged for their survival.
What better place to be than on the side of the road where a bunch of religious guys are heading to Jerusalem to meet with God.
But this particular beggar cries out, saying something that no one else says . . . He shouts “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”
And when they tell him to be quiet because Jesus is busy and he's very important and doesn’t have time for people like him, he just kicks it up a notch and yells louder. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”
Now, we can easily miss what he is saying because honestly, this guy is kind of annoying . . . but it is very important. He says, Jesus, Son of David.
They would have heard that as a very significant, theological and political statement.
- This blind beggar is making a declaration that Jesus is the king of kings
- And he’s making this declaration during another low point in the history of God’s people when they were once again no longer free. They were back under foreign oppression.
- But this time it wasn't the Egyptians, now, it was the Romans. And they wanted liberation and deliverance and freedom from Roman oppression. They wanted their Exodus.
And so when this blind beggar cries out, “Jesus, Son of David” he was saying . . . “There's someone above Caesar, and here he is, Jesus, the Son of David.”
This was a very dangerous thing to say because David was a what? A king.
Now throughout the history of God’s people they had good kings and they had bad kings but the best king they ever had was David. He brought peace, protection and prosperity.
However, David was not a perfect king and so over time his kingdom completely fell apart.
God came to David and said, "There will be a day when I raise up from your family line another King. And he's going to bring peace and prosperity along with the presence and protection of God. In fact, it'll be God himself and the kingdom he ushers in will endure forever and ever.”
From that point forward, God’s people were aching and yearning and waiting, “Where is this king?
And the blind beggar says, “He’s right there. Jesus, Son of David.” And as the people tried to stop him from proclaiming, he just shouted all the louder. “Jesus, Son of David . . . have mercy on me”
This is how Jesus is proclaimed as king of kings and Lord of lords, God among us, and the fulfillment of prophecy. Isn't it amazing that God would choose to do that through this homeless, poor, unkempt, blind beggar on the side of the road?
This blind beggar was able to see what Jesus’ own disciples were unable to see.
When Jesus heard him, he stopped, and he tells him to come to him and then asks: “What do you want me to do for you?”
I love this question and here’s why . . . just because someone cries out to Jesus, doesn’t mean that they actually want what Jesus has to offer.
People can become very comfortable with their condition and the amount of caring that their condition has created for them and they are not willing to give that up, even if Jesus has something better to offer.
An ordinary beggar would have demanded money but instead, Bartimaeus asks that his sight be restored . . . and again, this is important.
You see, he was not blind from birth: he is asking for restoration into the sighted community . . . to be restored among God’s people and God’s kingdom.
And when he opens his eyes . . . the first thing he see’s is the face of Jesus, Son of David, the king of kings the one who has come to bring peace, protection, prosperity and the presence of God.
Jesus replies with his usual formula: “Go, your faith has made you well.”
But Bartimaeus doesn’t go . . . he wants to follow Jesus. I don't even think he took time for a shower.
It’s like; Jesus has got a huge posse and one really stinky homeless guy, with a nasty hair and a big scruffy beard but he didn’t have time to clean up or get a haircut because Jesus walked away and he just wanted to follow Jesus and shout out his praises.
And his praises were infectious . . . it says that the whole crowd started praising God with him as they walked along the road to Jerusalem.
And I can just picture Bartimaeus continuing to shout praises to Jesus the Son of David and the others in the crowd picking up on it as they traveled.
For the next few days, I imagine that “Son of David” became the new catch phrase that carried through to the Triumphal Entry as people shouted “Hosanna blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”
I think it could well be that the shouts of praise on Palm Sunday can be traced directly back to one blind beggar with enough faith and persistence to cry out to Jesus for mercy and recognize Jesus for who he is
This man was blind, and then he sees. He trusts and then he is delivered. And he cannot help but shout out praises and follow the one who has restored him.
And he followed without question or an agenda.
- never asking where they are going or what will happen when they get there.
- Unlike the disciples, he does not compete to be the greatest.
- He does not jockey for position of influence to help Jesus achieve his political aspirations.
In gratitude for mercy received, he simply follows Jesus.
For Mark, this is the essence of discipleship: to follow Jesus along the way, wherever that way may lead.
And if Jesus is who Mark says he is, the king of kings, we must believe that following Jesus would lead us toward the most vulnerable in society, toward those who have been left on the streets to beg, toward those who have been shouted down by the crowds, toward those who have been treated mercilessly.
The world needs a church that sees clearly, like Bartimaeus, and not a half-sighted church that seeks its own glory or political gain.
It doesn’t need a church that seeks to restore its place of honor in society, but a church willing to risk itself on behalf of those who suffer, to give up its life so that others may live.
So God . . . open our eyes that we may see. Heal the blindness in our souls that keep us from you. . . . Let us not be comfortable with our condition but restore us into your kingdom, a kingdom that lasts forever and ever. AMEN