Sergio Rodriguez, Pastor for Community Ministries
“So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus” Mark 10:50
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus declare God’s joyful salvation to Bartimaeus. This silent suffered cast aside his cloak once he heard Jesus’ compassionate call. Bartimaeus sprang up in joy to receive God’s long-expected care. Christ so clothed him with life-restoring faith. How does faith restore our live together with God? Or let’s rephrase this question a la John Hiatt. “When the road gets dark and we can no longer see, do we let Divine Love throw a spark and have a little faith in me (in each other)?” If so, faith is within our reach so long as we are in tune to the divine harmony of everlasting love. Bartimaeus’ sight could be recovered by a caring person whose love would so move him as to make God absent from the equation. Faith is like a lovers kiss that makes the fond heart whole. Thus spoke Abelard.
Perhaps faith restores our lives precisely when God is most absent from us. In the popular Netflix series, Midnight Mass, the protagonist Father Paul addresses the nihilism and hopelessness of his island congregation with faith of the psalms. He says, “That’s what it means to have faith, that in the darkness, in the worst of it, in the absence of light, and hope, we sing. “Restore us” we sing to the skies.” In this current cultural milieu, faith appears less as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1) and more as the last ditch effort to make sense of the world. The world does not have meaning and neither do we. Yet in Christ, faith causes an entirely new way to spring forth. When Jesus declares God’s joyful salvation, he announces to Bartimaeus the nearness of God’s salvation. “Go, your faith has made you well.” He is saying, “Go, God’s restoration has already drawn near to you in me.” How has that restoration already arrived before Jesus declared to Bartimaeus the joy of his salvation?
Let us consider Bartimaeus the man and his low estate so that we can see God’s restoration on the way. Bartimaeus is a man of constant sorrows, sitting by the roadside. He is outside the city, family, and with no helper around. He is unable to see and so is unable to provide for himself. The visible sign of this sacrament of sorrow is his cloak. His cloak reveals his low estate. He is a man of constant sorrows, living in the fullness of what Mother Teresa called, “the greatest poverty…The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for…” The Bartimaeus of the world are many and all around us; (11:00AM) differently abled folks, those suffering with PTSD, the homeless, the countless migrants, etc.. We too in our sorrow, in our isolation and daily obstacles face countless moments where we sit by the roadside of life with God.
Yet the same Bartimaeus, crushed by life, shouts out for Jesus as he walked pass him. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowds around Jesus failed to hear the faith-filled cry of the one suffering in silence. The man of constant sorrows. Nevertheless, the man doubled down in his plea for mercy. What else would the man do? What would you do knowing that the Son of David has come by, bringing God’s kingdom that makes all things new? He cried out in the midst of the uncaring crowds trusting in the person of Jesus to be merciful. (11:00AM) I would be remiss at this point out this truth. Whatever the expectations were about the Son of David, they certainly were not of listening to the silent sufferers. He was to establish a kingdom of power and might, not have mercy upon outcasts. Bartimaeus recognizes in Jesus what many of his disciples failed to understand. Jesus’ kingship is that of serving and giving his life for those in sting of all kinds of death. Even as Jesus beckons Bartimaeus, he summons him in service of his cries. “Call him here,” or rather, “Awaken his heart. Salvation has come.”
The silent sufferer threw off the weight of his poverty stricken cloak and sprang with joy to Jesus. Jesus sought him. He wanted him. He cared for him. And we shall see him love him. So moved by Christ’s compassion, he finds the courage to lay aside his only possession to response to God’s gracious call. Bartimaeus is unlike the rich man who is unable to sell his entire possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. Being poor himself, Bartimaeus sprang up to meet Jesus, receiving his soul’s salvation in the process. He casts aside his cloak of shame to be clothed with Christ’s compassion. Restoration has already arrived in the casting of his cloak.
Jesus poses to Bartimaeus a very matter-of-factly question, striking at the heart of expectations of Jesus: What do you want me to do for you? For Bartimaeus, he wants to be restored to full vision. To see the world through the lens of faith: “My teacher, let me see again.” He wants to be clothed with life-restoring faith. “What do you want Jesus to do for you?” Out of the great sorrows of this pandemic, we want life. We want wholeness. We want not only to sing to the skies, “Restore us,” We want our “the great God of heaven, our treasure,” to be our vision and our guide. What do you want me to do?” asks Jesus. And we respond, “we want you to die and be raised anew. We want you to take your cross so that you may lift us up through our crosses in life. We want Christ’s cloak of salvation in a way that restores our rhythm of life towards the fullness of joy.
Martin Luther described this reality as baptism. For Christ himself has done this for us, “instituted holy baptism thereby to clothe you with his righteousness…He strips death from us and clothes us with his life.” How does faith restore our life together with God? Christ so clothes us with himself that we are moved to faith. To trust in the midst of the nihilism all around us and cast aside all the cloak of riches which we have. That’s what it means to have faith, that in the darkness, in the worst of it, we see God’s light from the cross and the hope for restoration. So we sing. “Heart of my own heart, whatever befall. Still be my vision. O Ruler of all.” Amen.