Advent and Christmas at St. Mark's

Same Question, Different Answer

by The Rev Beth Knowlton on October 20, 2021

“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?’’ -Mark 10:46-52 
Last week in the lectionary James and John approach Jesus asking him to do whatever they want for them. This week we find Bartimaeus, a blind man sitting by the side of the road, calling out to Jesus to have mercy on him. To both of these requests Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” James and John give quite a different answer than Bartimaeus. They ask for the position of privilege, not knowing the cost. Bartimaeus on the other hand asks, “My teacher, let me see.” 
While Jesus asks them the same question, their approach is radically different. James and John perhaps have let their anxiety or pride force them into a place of jockeying for position and privilege. A blind beggar has no such luxury. He is aware of his need, to the point of being willing to suffer the rebuke of the crowd to seek healing. This is where it gets interesting to me. Because Jesus doesn’t run over to Bartimaeus. Instead, he stands still. He empowers Bartimaeus to cut through the crowd that was trying to silence him and come closer into his presence. This invitation to take heart and approach, gives us the joyful image of the cloak being thrown off so Bartimaeus can ask for what he needs.
There is a transformation when our sense of humiliation can be translated into true humility. When we are too prideful our humbling comes in the form of being asked to really look at what we are asking for, servanthood not elevation. When we feel too marginalized and can only ask for mercy, we are elevated to a posture of humility. Jesus stands still and asks us to trust our deep sense of the need for God and the possibility of healing. Jesus commends Bartimaeus, not just for his question, but for all it took for him to gather his strength and approach. He receives his sight, and the commendation that his faith has made him well. 
This kind of faith is not an easy journey. To take the parts of ourselves that feel shameful and needing of the light means fighting through the crowds of all the voices within and without that tell us we are not worthy of approach. It’s tempting to wish Jesus would just come on over and fix it for us. But Jesus knows the importance of standing still. Of letting us get strong enough that we can bring forward our request without humiliation. Then we are healed and able to continue on the way, restored in more ways than we could have imagined. What parts of your story are still by the side of the road? Can you take the first step and answer Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Peace, Beth+

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