Hearing the Bartimaeuses in Our Lives ...
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus (Mk. 10: 46-50, NIV).
On Monday, it was 16 people.
Yesterday, it was only eight.
That’s the number of potential Barimeaeuses that I encountered in my journeys in the last couple of days.
For me, these are people who are not part of my own “inner circle”… the people with whom I have an ongoing relationship … with whom I have some sort of face-to-face contact and interaction on any given day.
It’s more than me just seeing someone else or being in the same room with someone else, but it doesn’t necessarily involve words. They are the people that we somehow connect with even in the simplest of ways.
Those numbers were low for me these last couple of days … I was traveling on Monday and working on a project all day yesterday, but some days that number is huge. For people who work in retail or in customer service, I suspect that number could be in the 100s on some days.
But why is this important? Why am I even counting?
Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with contact tracing!
You see, in my mind, the real message in this story is not Jesus’ ability to make the blind to see, but that Jesus overruled the disciples and others who tried to hush up the man and that Jesus stopped to listen to his request. Bartimaeus was healed because Jesus stopped and listened to his concern … Jesus didn’t allow the calling of his name to just become white noise in the background of his journey into Jericho.
And yet, if I’m honest, that is what I am often so guilty of doing … being so focused on my life, my challenges, my problems that I often don’t hear the people around me … especially the people who may be hurting, lonely or may be enslaved by a myriad of situations in their life. And if I am to be an ambassador for Christ as Paul suggests, then it is possible that if I take time to listen, if I hear and if I acknowledge the person whom I see ... and if I allow Christ’s Spirit to speak through me, I might just make a difference in someone’s life by simply listening for a moment.
But usually, I barely acknowledge their presence. They are just a human appliance to facilitate my needs. I barely notice their existence.
My wife, in her kindness and generosity to me, says that it is because I’m always thinking about more important things.
I wish that were true. Maybe sometimes such is true, but more often it is simply me thinking about “me” and “my needs” and my desires instead of being open and being aware of what it is going on around me.
And so, I decided to start counting the opportunities that I have to connect with others … the opportunities to “be Christ” to another person … just to see if it makes a difference.
Don’t get me wrong! I didn’t go out and buy a stack of “The Four Spiritual Laws” or anything like that!
And I have no illusions that I will become a miracle worker.
But I hope that maybe it will allow me to make someone’s day a little bit better by being aware of them. Or if not that, maybe it will help me … who long ago stopped being a “curmudgeon in training” to being a full-fledged, card-carrying grouch … from making someone’s day worse.
And despite acknowledging this simple reality about my relative impotence in this world, maybe, just maybe, if I do start paying attention to those potential Bartimaeuses around me… maybe someone who is blind will see, someone who is lame will walk or someone who is being held captive will be set free ... not because of me, but because of Christ at work in and through me.
Lord, help me to notice those people I encounter who need to talk to you. Help me to be your eyes, your ears and your voice to these people. Soften my heart and sharpen my mind to love and to serve others. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains