Sermon: Mark 10:46-52, October 24, 2021


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A sermon preached by Pastor Lewis Polzin on October 24, 2021 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Mark 10:46-52. You may play the audio of the sermon here.

A mostly unedited transcript of the sermon follows the jump:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The text this morning is from the Gospel according to St. Mark, the 10th chapter:

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Thus far the text.

My dear friends in Christ,

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. That is the cry of the beggar, Bartimaeus. You may not have seen it the first time through, but names are important. You’ve got Bartimaeus. Now, interestingly, we're not given his first name. We're actually only given his last name, Bartimaeus. Bar in Aramaic means son, and Timaeus, the indicates the name of his father. Bartimaeus means son of Timaeus. And you can see, it's mentioned twice. Mark mentioned this twice, and really there's only one reason that the gospel writers include the names of such people: so that people can go back and find these people and ask them the question, what happened to you? Did it happen in this way? And the person can confirm the story. Yes, Jesus, the Son of David, did have mercy on me and restored my sight.

It's an incredible thing. This son of Timaeus, this blind man from birth, was able to get his sight and it didn't just happen. It only happened because he cried out for mercy. If you notice throughout all of the gospels, whenever somebody approaches Jesus and asks for mercy, he stops. You can imagine that Jesus walked everywhere and was always encountering people. At least some of those people, whether it be lack of faith, not in God’s will or timing, didn’t receive what they were asking for. But, Jesus always stops when there's a cry for mercy. This son of Timaeus cries out to this Jesus. And do you notice what he calls him? Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

The son of Timaeus cries to the Son of David. Word of Jesus had begun to spread throughout the countryside. Jesus, this itinerant rabbi, this wandering teacher ,has now come to Jericho. Jesus, the son of Joseph, had come. After all, Jesus’ last name isn’t Christ. That’s his title. Jesus, the Christ might actually be more appropriate. Jesus’ last name would be Baryoseph or Barjoseph, son of Joseph. Now, you would expect that Bartimaeus would cry out Jesus, son of Joseph, have mercy on me, but Bartimaeus knows something that many of the people did not because Bartimaeus, having been blind from birth, had to rely very much on his hearing. And faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and in the preaching of God's word, he learned of the coming Messiah and Bartimaeus had faith in him.

So, when he began to hear of this itinerant rabbi, you know that he figured out that this Jesus was the actual Messiah, the one who has come to have mercy on Israel and to save them. Now, it may not be that Bartimaeus had a complete understanding of everything that the Messiah would save him from, but he knew this Jesus was the Messiah, which is why he calls him Son of David. After all, it would be from David's line that one would come to sit on the throne of Israel. And we know that Jesus, being of the flesh of Mary, who was in the line of David, and having been adopted by Joseph, who was in the line of David, Jesus, the son of Joseph, is now the Son of David. The line is complete. The prophecy is fulfilled and Bartimaeus, having to rely only on his hearing, knew the Word and knew this.

So he cries out to the Messiah the only cry that truly matters, Have mercy on me, and if Jesus stopped and said, I do have mercy on you, your sins are forgiven, that would have been enough. But instead, Jesus stops, hearing the call of Bartimaeus, and says, Call him, let him come to me.

You can almost imagine how the apostles hear this word and think back to when Jesus welcomed the children into their midst, do not hinder these little ones for to such as these belongs the kingdom of God. After all, everybody had tried to shut Bartimaeus up. They had told him to be quiet. You're bothering the teacher. You're bothering us. You're bothering everybody. You're a beggar. We just don't even want you around. And Jesus says, Call him, or, in other words, To one such as this beggar belongs the kingdom of God.

They stop and collect Bartimaeus, leading him by the arm to the teacher saying, Take heart, get up. He's calling you. What an amazing thing, that Jesus, when he says, Call him, was even saying more than is written down. I don't think that Jesus just said, Call him. I think he looked at this blind beggar and said, Call Bartimaeus to me, because when you call somebody, you use their name.

Jesus has power, after all, even to know the names of those around him. Do you not remember Zaccheus? You know, the wee little man, a wee little man was he, he climbed up in a Sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the savior passed that way, he looked up in the tree, and he said, Zaccheus, you come down for I'm going to your house today. Remember that children's song is actually based on a real story where Jesus looks up at this small, tiny man hiding in a tree that he might see over the crowd just to get a glimpse of Jesus and Jesus, using his divine power, calls out the name of Zaccheus and says, Hey, you, Zaccheus, come to me. I'm going with you. And so it is for Bartimaeus, that Jesus would call him even by name, Son of Timaeus. come to the Son of David, that I may have mercy on you.

And he does. And Jesus goes beyond this even to say, what would you have me do for you. Here you can hear the how God said to King Solomon, Ask me for whatever you wish and I shall do it for you. And Solomon says, Lord, give me the wisdom to rule your country. And God says, because you have not asked for riches or wealth or anything else, I shall give this to you. And all these things that you have not asked for are yours also. You can find Jesus saying, Because you've asked me for mercy, I shall give you this. And all these things that you did not first ask for, I will give you. And Bartimaeus is immediately healed here. I imagine the scales falling off his eyes like Paul, the whites of those blind eyes falling away, giving rise to the most beautiful blue or green or brown eyes that you've ever seen, eyes that have never before seen anything, taking in absolutely everything. But the first thing is the sight of his savior, his Messiah, his Son of David, who has had mercy on him, and finding in that face the beloved son of God.

Jesus looks at him and he says, Go your way. Your faith has made you well. Immediately, Bartimaeus recovers his sight and he goes his way. But what is his way? His way is in the way of his master. His way is following after Jesus. This is a beautiful story, a wonderful thing in which we see the juxtaposition of the sinner, the blind man and the Messiah who has mercy on him. And so it is for us, that we who are great sinners are born blind. We cannot see the righteousness of God. It alludes us. The beauty of God escapes us. Everything around us is darkness and not light. And yet we hear the word of God: it's been preached to us, it’s been read to us, we sing it, we pray it, we meditate upon it. And finally Jesus is presented to us and we cry out with one voice, Jesus son of David have mercy on me, a sinner.

And he does. He has welcomed you into his kingdom by baptizing you in the water, which cleanses you from all of your sins. And, even more, then says, What more would you have me do for you, inviting us to pray to him, to come to him with all of our supplications, and the answer in Jesus Christ to our prayers is always yes and amen. And Jesus will give you all things that you ask him for, for he has had mercy on you. It may not be in our time, like it was for Bartimaeus, but the day is coming when your youth, when your vigor is restored, when your health is given back to you, when your grief and your sorrow and your pain are taken away, because we have seen our Jesus take these things already to himself upon the cross, he has crucified these things. He has shed his blood. He has had his body given over into death that you would have mercy given to you, mercy you cannot gain for yourself but is given as a free gift. Righteousness you cannot do, justification, salvation you cannot win, but Jesus gives you these things in his mercy and says, What more would you have me do for you?

We find that Jesus calls us even by our names. There is no better example of that than baptism. The old tradition is a good one. It’s not one that many of us have followed, I think, where you hide the child's name until they're baptized. No one knows it outside of the parents, not the government, not the siblings, not the grandparents, no one knows the child's name. And the first time that name is called to that child is when the pastor, after having asked the name, names that child… do you remember in the baptismal liturgy? How is this child to be named? Lewis Robert Polzin. And the pastor reaches out, like Pastor Potratz down at Pilgrim did for me, he reaches out his hand and he puts his hand upon me and he reaches out with another to grasp the water and begins to pour it upon my head. And he says, Lewis Robert Polzin, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And we know this is not just the pastor doing this, but the pastor being in the stead and by the command of Jesus Christ, it is as if Jesus himself is doing this, calling you by your name in your baptism. I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus calls out the name of Bartimaeus and he calls out your name, too. The Son of David has taken notice of you despite your sin, despite your blindness. And he has brought to you his mercy and his justice and his reconciliation with God. You have been freed from the sin that blinds you to the righteousness of God, to the beauty of God; open your eyes this day, for you have been made well to see the face of your God and Savior Jesus, the Son of David, who has had mercy on you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord! Amen.