The Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
October 28, 2018
What Do You Want Jesus to Do for You?
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
One of the things that I treasure about the Bible is that it is filled with real people— people we can relate to quite easily. No matter where we are in our walk with our Lord, no matter what situation we find ourselves in we can look into the pages of Scripture and see someone who is just like us. Sometimes our faith is strong and we boldly say with the apostle Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) and sometimes we echo the sentiment of the man whose son was possessed by a demon. He said to Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Sometimes we are like great King David who danced for joy as he brought the Ark of the Lord into the beloved City of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:12-15) and then there are times when like Peter we realize that we have denied our Lord and Savior and weep bitterly (Luke 22:54-62). Then there are the days when we are like the blind man here in our text for today— the days when we want Jesus to do something for us, the days when we need Jesus to do something for us.
Today then, my friends, as we study this very personal portion of God’s holy Word let’s use it to address a very personal question: What Do You Want Jesus to Do for You?
While our text for today is very simple, very straight-forward and very easy to understand there are three points I would like to highlight so that we can apply these words to our sometimes complicated life. The first point centers on the faith of Bartimaeus. As Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging, it became obvious to this blind man that something was going on. He could hear that there was something unusual taking place, something that was out of the ordinary. Mark then tells us, “When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” The simple fact that he calls Jesus the “Son of David” reveals to us that he believed that Jesus is the long-awaited Promised Messiah. How did Bartimaeus come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, as his personal Savior from sin? While our text does not address that question directly, to me there are only two possibilities.
First, Bartimaeus knew his Bible. Bartimaeus knew that through faithful servants such as Isaiah the Lord God had revealed to His people what the Messiah would do when He came into this world. (See Isaiah 35:5, 6) Do you remember when John the Baptist (who had been thrown into prison by King Herod) sent two of his disciple to Jesus to ask Him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:18, 19)? How did Jesus respond? He pointed to the miracles He was performing, He pointed to the message He was proclaiming and then He pointed to the words of Isaiah, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind will receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Luke 7:22). Through the power of the Holy Spirit Bartimaeus trusted in the promises the Lord had given to His people in His Word!
Second, Bartimaeus had undoubtedly heard about the miracles that this Jesus of Nazareth had been performing. Think of how many times we read in the Gospel accounts words such as, “This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country” (Luke 7:17). Through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the written revealed Word of God Bartimaeus believed in the Messiah that the Lord promised to send into this world. Through the words and the actions of Jesus Bartimaeus believed that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of those promises. Yes, through the power of the Holy Spirit Bartimaeus was able to “see” that Jesus of Nazareth is “the Son of David.”
The second point I want to highlight from this text centers on two obstacles that Bartimaeus faced. The first obstacle came in the form of people. Mark tells us that as soon as Bartimaeus started shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet.” Why did the crowd “rebuke” Bartimaeus? Were they annoyed by his cries for mercy? Did they consider this poor blind beggar unworthy of having someone as great and as powerful as Jesus pay attention to him? Why they “rebuked” Bartimaeus we are not told. What we are told is that even while he was being “rebuked” Bartimaeus’ faith led him to “shout all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’”
The second obstacle Bartimaeus that faced might seem rather insignificant, but I hope it will make sense later as we apply these inspired words to ourselves. After Jesus told the crowd, “Call him,” God the Holy Spirit led Mark to record these words, “Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.” Why did Bartimaeus throw his cloak aside? This may have been the most important possession this blind man owned! I can’t help but think that Bartimaeus was so excited to hear that Jesus was willing to at least listen to him that he didn’t want anything to get in his way. He wanted to get to Jesus as fast as the parting crowd and the guiding hands allowed.
The third point I think needs to be highlighted from this text centers on the love and the power of Jesus. Even though the crowd was rebuking Bartimaeus, Jesus’ love for this blind man not only led Him to say to the crowd, “Call him,” but Jesus’ love for Bartimaeus led Him to ask, “What do you want me to do for you?” And when Bartimaeus humbly said to Jesus, “Rabbi, I want to see,” Jesus’ love and Jesus’ power led Him to say, “Go, your faith has healed you.” Mark then concludes this very simple account by very simply saying, “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”
How do those three points help us to apply this very simple, very straight-forward and very easy to understand portion of Scripture to our sometimes complicated life? Let’s answer that question by going back and looking at these three points again— this time with this question in mind: What do you want Jesus to do for you?
It all begins with faith. We know deep down in our hearts that no matter what situation we are facing in life we too can cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Why can we join Bartimaeus in speaking these words? Because through the power of the Holy Spirit we believe and trust that Jesus is both our God and our Savior! Through the power of the Holy Spirit we believe and trust in the promises that the Lord our God has given to us in His holy Word, promises such as, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15); “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10); “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30); “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Yes, my friends, we believe and trust in the promises of our God because through the power of God the Holy Spirit working in our hearts through God’s holy Word and God’s holy Sacraments we have received the same gift of saving faith that was given to Bartimaeus so many years ago!
But like Bartimaeus our faith also faces obstacles, doesn’t it. Some of those obstacles may come in the form of the people around us. There may be a family member who doesn’t share our faith and openly disagrees with the priority that we give to strengthening our relationship with Jesus through regular worship, Bible study and prayer. There may be a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker who doesn’t believe that Jesus is “the Son of David,” the Promised Messiah, this world’s only Savior from sin. As a result of this unbelief they may tell us that we are naïve or old-fashioned to cry out to Jesus for help. There may even be a brother or sister in the faith who for one reason or another does not think that we are “worthy enough” to ask Jesus for anything. That, my friends, is when we need to follow the example of Bartimaeus and “shout all the more”!
Then there are the “cloaks” that could be hindering us from crying out to Jesus for help. Stop and examine your own heart and your own life, my friends. Is the cloak of pet sins or the cloak of pride or the cloak of material possessions preventing you from turning to Jesus in prayer? Is the cloak of apathy or the cloak of despair or the cloak of denial or the cloak of doubt hindering you from crying out to Jesus? If so then we need to throw that cloak aside as fast and as far as we can!
With the God-given gift of saving faith in our heart and by ignoring or getting rid of the obstacles that are in our way we can humbly turn to our Lord in prayer and hear Jesus, the “Son of David” lovingly say to us, “What do you want me to do for you?”
What do you want Jesus to do for you? Each and every single one of us could easily answer that question in a variety of legitimate ways depending on what we are facing on any given day. What I suggest that you consider doing this morning, however, is to follow the example of Bartimaeus and humbly say to Jesus, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
Right about now you may be thinking to yourself, “What! I can already see!” While that is true on a physical level, that may not always be true on a spiritual level. Think about it, my friends. When you look at your spouse, your siblings, your children, your grandchildren are you always able to “see” how you can serve them with the same humble, self-sacrificing love that led Jesus to serve you? (Pointing to the cross) When you look at your family, your friends and your acquaintances who do not believe that Jesus is the “Son of David,” this world’s only Savior from sin, are you always able to “see” how you can share the message of Jesus with them? When you look at the community in which you live are you always able to “see” them as precious souls, souls that Jesus loves so very much that He was willing to die to save them from their sins? (Pointing to the cross) When you look at your fellow church members are you able to “see” them as important members of your spiritual “family,” people with whom you will spend eternity in your heavenly Father’s home? When you are reading and studying your Bible whether here at church or at home are you always able to “see” what the Lord is teaching you? Do you see what I mean? There is always going to be a reason for us to follow the example of Bartimaeus and say to Jesus, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
Praise God, my friends that whenever we turn to Jesus and ask Him to help us “see” we can trust in the same love and in the same power that He showed to Bartimaeus here in our text! In other words, Jesus will never let us down when we come to Him for help!
What are some of the things that you treasure about the Bible? Yes, we treasure the fact that the Bible is the holy, inspired, inerrant Word of the one and only living God. Yes, we treasure the fact that the Bible alone reveals to us that we are saved purely by grace through faith in what Jesus has done for us. (Pointing to the cross) My prayer this morning is that you will also treasure the fact that the Bible is filled with real people— people with whom you can related at every stage of life and in every situation in life. For then, my friends, you will not only be able to follow the example of Bartimaeus and humbly cry out to your Lord, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” but you will also be able to hear your powerful Savior lovingly say to you, “What do you want me to do for you?”
To God be the glory!