On Sunday, October 25th our second service during the Season for Commitment was followed by the second Sermon Talk Back of the fall. A half dozen people gathered with me following the service, to talk further about the scripture and sermon of the week. We talked about how we read scripture, how our faith engages politics, ways criticism and judgment can get in the way of recognizing grace, and what was different about the request of Bartimaeus.
It is interesting to reflect on the way the narrative structure of the Gospel of Mark points to its meaning. Our gospel reading Mark 10:46-52 directly follows last week’s passage, with the request of James and John. Jesus asks “What do you want me to do for you?” and they ask for glory. This week we encounter Bartimaeus, who cries out for mercy. Jesus asks the same question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus answers that he wants to be able to see again. I think that “again” is significant; it suggests that this is not about something more or new, but about restoration. Jesus asks the same question, but then hears different requests. These two stories, side by side, contrast James and John with Bartimaeus. Jesus responds differently as well, telling James and John no, and Bartimaeus yes.
Afterward, Bartimaeus follows Jesus. He is able to see (spiritually, as he was when blind, and now also physically) and knows what is a part of following this kind of Messiah. A Messiah that does not seek glory, but walks into places of suffering and is open to the vulnerable. The next story that Mark tells is entering Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, and then all that follows. This is not an easy road – not because suffering is necessary for its own sake, but because restoration, new life, and the depths of love are not easy. Commitment gains meaning in this context, in the walk through the difficult times as well as the good.
A question to ponder this week: where do you see grace?