WE YEARN TO SEE AGAIN
A sermon by Rev. Richard Miller, Minister of Trinity United Church, Montreal, QC. October 26, 2003. Mark 10:46-52.
Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
- Mark 10:51-52
In the Gospel of Mark there are several stories about Jesus meeting people who were blind, and our gospel reading today is one of them. It is the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, who calls out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And when Jesus stops and asks what he wants, he says, "My teacher, let me see again.” Then Jesus replied, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And we are told that "Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way."
Now you and I can take issue with several things about this story. We can, of course, argue about whether the man was really blind, or whether it is possible to heal someone without touching them – or without even saying the words “be healed.” For in this Gospel story, Jesus did not say that: he simply told Bartimaeus that his faith had made him well. Another point of interest is the fact that he asked to see “again” and that we are told that he "regained" his sight. What this suggests is that he was not blind from birth, but that he had been able to seen and had lost his sight which was fairly common in that time and place.
If I read this story in an earlier translation, it says, "let me receive my sight"; and when I hear it that way, I tend to focus on the physical blindness of Bartimaeus, and his regaining of his physical sight. And truly it would have been very difficult for him to follow Jesus on his travels when he was blind. But when I read this story in the Bible we have here in the church – the New Revised Standard Version, it reads that Bartimaeus said, "let me see again." And when I read it that way – and especially when I read it aloud, I begin to "see" this scripture in a different way. For I remember that blindness is a common theme in Mark's Gospel, and I also remember that Mark often uses physical events to pose spiritual issues. The truth is that Mark's Gospel is filled with such situations; and if we are paying attention to what we read here, we will think almost immediately of additional meanings for this word "see." So then, let us look more closely at this passage.
When we study this story, the first thing we note is that the blind man has a name, while in the parallel stories in Matthew 20 and Luke 18 no name is given. It’s true that the name simply means "son of Timaeus," but the fact that a name is given suggests that the conversation between him and Jesus was highly personal. He is not just any blind person; he is known by name.
Secondly, we note that Bartimaeus was persistent in his approach to Jesus - that when he heard that Jesus was passing by, he kept calling out to him, even though other people told him to be quiet. He was determined to seek Jesus’ help.
And the third thing we see is that Bartimaeus knows his own need. When Jesus calls him and asks him what he wants, he does not hesitate: he gets up quickly and states it immediately. And of special importance is the fact that he does not simply ask to see, but to see again. Since he was once able to see, he knows what he is missing. "My teacher," he said, "let me see again."
Well now, what can this scripture mean for us? If Mark's Gospel is primarily concerned with spiritual blindness and spiritual sight rather than physical, then the request to see again takes on spiritual meanings. "My teacher, let me see again." How often have we made this same request? How many of us once knew the clarity of spiritual sight and the vitality of spiritual life, yet we sense that now our vision has grown dim? It can be as if we have become blind. And even though we may get our lenses adjusted from time to time, we know that it is not enough. (It is interesting that Jesus once said that he came so that the blind could see and the sighted would become blind.)
One more thing of interest about this Gospel passage from Mark is that when Bartimaeus calls Jesus, he does not address him as a doctor or a healer. Instead, he calls him rabbi. "My teacher," he said, "let me see again." He knows his blindness is more than physical, and he goes to the one who can bring the sight he needs – he goes to a teacher.
Whenever our spiritual vision - our ability to see in faith - has grown dim or is gone altogether, we know that we need more than a tinkering with our lenses, don’t we? Even though we may try to tell ourselves that everything is all right, deep in our heart and soul we know what our problem is and we know what we need. We need to see again. And we yearn to be restored to the clarity of spiritual sight and the vitality of spiritual life that we once knew.
And we also know that it will not be a medical specialist or an optician who can help us see again in this way. There are many who can help us to see with the eyes in our head, but they do not bring us to see again with the eyes of our souls. The one who can do that is Jesus of Nazareth in whom God has drawn near to us. It is through him that God restores to us the clarity of vision that we once had, so that we can see again – amd so that our lives will again shine with the Christian vitality they once had. This is not something we can do by our own efforts at change, nor through professionals or self-help programs – useful though they are.
No, for us to see again, something more radical is called for, and that is trust in Christ. For us to see again, we need to come to Jesus and rely on his life-giving power to make us whole. And, like Bartimaeus, let us be persistent when other things or other people try to prevent us from reaching him.
And also like Bartimaeus, we may take heart when Jesus calls us. There are many things we need, but Bartimaeus recognized the thing that he needed most. He needed to see again. And what happened when he asked to see again? What happened was that Jesus said, "Go your way, your faith has made you well." Nothing is said here about Jesus laying hands on him, or placing mud on his eyelids, or anything else that was extraordinary. Just the simple statement that his faith had made him well. And that he followed Jesus on the way.
Let us ask ourselves what it is that we need the most.
"Let me see again." "Let me again have the clarity of spiritual sight and insight that I once had." "Let my eyes be opened." "Let my faith be sufficient." This is what we yearn for, isn’t it? And when we come to Jesus in faith believing, then indeed it is our faith that makes us well. When we come trusting Jesus completely, we do regain our sight as spiritual people. We can see again; and there is only one thing left for us to do.
That one thing is to follow him ever more completely as his disciples. Like Bartimaeus, we need not sit at the roadside waiting for a miracle any longer. Rather let us recognize the miracle that has happened: we can see again. And so, we act on our faith, and we follow Christ as those who can see once more – as those whose lives have been restored – as those who have experienced the very love of God. This is our promise, this is our call, and this is also our experience. May our lives so shine with the vitality of faith that it is clear to us and to everyone around us that we can truly see again. Amen.