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Sermon: Cathedral Eucharist - 25 October 2015

Sunday 25th October 2015
Cathedral Eucharist
Mark 10: 46-52
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At the end of three years or so of ministry in and around Galilee, Jesus turned his face towards Jerusalem and started walking.

In his account of this St Mark tells us that Jesus walked ahead of the crowd: some were amazed, some were afraid; They might get caught up in all this (Mark 10.32a).

Indeed Jesus took the twelve aside from the crowd and told them that at Jerusalem he would be mocked, spat upon, flogged and killed, and then,after three days,be raised from the dead (Mark 10.32b-34). Little wonder that there was amazement and fear.

Walking with someone is often the best way to relate to them, literally and metaphorically. To walk alongside is less threatening than a face to face – which is literally ‘confrontation’ - walking alongside tells you that the journey is not made alone: parents of teenage children often find that their child is more forthcoming when walking alongside her; those falling in love might go for a walk, hand in hand, and share intimate words; it is better to talk through bad or difficult news whilst walking along.

The best advice I was ever given as a Chaplain was, ‘walk slowly’, in other words, walk so that you are accessible and people will walk with you: they will tell you things that they cannot say face to face.

On that walk to Jerusalem there were further misunderstandings that needed talking through. James and John thought this was a walk to power they jostled for places in the Kingdom of God,that they mistook to be a place of domination.

The walk to Jerusalem came to an end on the day we know as ‘Palm Sunday’, when crowds came out to welcome him,  and - led by the children –  to cheer him, waving palm branches, and shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11.8-10)

This is the context of the encounter between Jesus and Bartimaeus, whilst Jesus was walking out of Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. It comes between the lack of seeing of James and John and the clarity of sight of the children and crowds on Palm Sunday. Here is blind Bartimaeus who, as we might say, saw straight through Jesus. Without physically seeing him Bartimaeus recognised something profoundly true about Jesus, that he was, he is, the Son of David.

That title – Son of David - mattered to Bartimaeus, it mattered to the crowds on the first Palm Sunday. To be Son of David, was to be the Anointed One: Messiah, in Hebrew; Christos, in Greek; Christ, in English. To say, ‘Jesus, Son of David’ was to say: Jesus, fulfiller of all the hopes of your people; Jesus, the One who is promised by God to save and heal; Jesus, anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Bartimaeus saw something in Jesus; that he was the Anointed One, the Christ. And Jesus looked at Bartimaeus and saw someone’s son. ‘Bar’, in Hebrew, son of, son of Timaeus. Jesus saw more than that biological inheritance, he saw a child of God, just as you and I are precious, beloved sons and daughters of God.

And Jesus wants to see Bartimaeus, so the disciples tell Bartimaeus, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you”. (Mark 10.49)

“He is calling you”. He is calling you. You are Bartimaeus. Someone who sees, yet knows there is more to see, someone who, in faith, asks, “show me things I’ve never seen before”.

Just as Bartimaeus saw deeply into who Jesus was so Jesus saw something in Bartimaeus, his deepest needs. But Bartimaeus had to name it for himself: could he see that in himself? Jesus said to Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10.51) This is the same question he had asked the jostling James and John. They were told their request would be granted, but not in the way they understood it (Mark 10.36-40). “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus asks to see again. Don’t make this the last time I see, grant me this clarity of vision time and again.

As the psalms have it, ‘Open my eyes O Lord, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law’ (Psalm 119.8) ‘With you O Lord is the well of life, And in your light do we see light’. (Psalm 36.9)

Can I see signs of the kingdom here and now? Can I see Christ in my neighbour, in the people I share my life with, in the people I find most difficult, even in myself? Do we really look to behold Jesus Christ, or turn a blind eye?

Outward signs can point us in different ways. Bartimaeus didn’t see the outward sign but saw the inward grace. That’s at the heart of what we know as a sacrament: an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.

Jesus had told Nathaniel, “You will see greater things than these” (John 1.50b) And when some Greeks came to the disciples and asked them, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’ (John 12.20) they took them to him and Jesus pointed them to the glory that would be revealed in the Cross. John the Baptist said, “See, the Lamb of God”. (John 1.36)

We will see bread and wine lifted up, and discern in them the very presence of Christ, as he promised: “See, the Lamb of God”. (John 1.36)

Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus is an encounter with you and me, who see, and want to see more, who ask, ‘Show me things I’ve never seen before’.

After he was raised from the dead Jesus said to Thomas, when he saw and believed, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen me yet have come to believe” (John 20.29).