Sunday, March 25, 2012

What do you want me to do for you?

Our life group lesson today was on Mark 10:46-52, the healing of Bartimaeus. We called him "Bart" in class. We continue our lessons based on the pastor's sermons each week. Since our class meets during the second service, and we've just heard the pastor preach, we have good discussions about it. As a teacher, I have to say this has made my teaching prep a little easier. We have a good group, and knowing they will take the subject and run with it in a wide-ranging discussion, I prepare less than I used to.

Back to Bart. He was on the Jerusalem side of Jericho, blind and begging. Since Passover was about seven days away, the foot traffic from Jericho to Jerusalem would be above normal, so Bart was on station, hoping to receive a little mercy from the pious pilgrims. I suspect the two or three weeks around Passover were to Bart as the Christmas season is to an American merchant: you have to do well then of your business won't survive.

On this particular day, Bart was at his station. He heard greater than usual noise. This wasn't just a pre-Passover travelling parting going by; this was a large crowd. A question to a passer-by gave Bart the answer he needed. It was Jesus of Nazareth, with the usual crowd that hung around him: the Twelve, other disciples, the curious, and some women from Galilee who looked after the needs of the rabbi and his immediate disciples. It might easily have been a hundred people.

Bart must have heard about Jesus. Either earlier that day, or more likely the day before, he had healed a blind man on the other side of Jericho [my interpretation of Luke]. Not too long before he had raised a man from the dead in Bethany, which wasn't all that far away. Bart may have been blind, but he wasn't dead and probably wasn't stupid. He had heard about this miracle-working teacher from up north, and knew what he could do.

So he shouted out into the crowd, which tried to stop him. But he shouted all the more. Somehow Jesus heard him above the noise, called for him, and when the blind man got there said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" Now, maybe to us it was obvious what the man wanted. But he had been shouting, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." He might have been asking for money, or come to a realization that his soul was not right with God. For whatever reason, Jesus made him state what he wanted before performing the miracle for him.

In class we discussed how Jesus asks the same thing today. What do we want him to do for us? Are our prayers kind of general, or are they specific? Are we persistent in asking, as Bart was? Do we ask despite the ones around us who discourage us, either purposely or unknowingly, from asking? And are we ready to throw off that which slows us down, and run to where Jesus is?

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