October 25, 2009
46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 49 Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 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.’ 52 Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
According to an old story, there was a lady, a faithful saint of God, who attended Church every Sabbath day. This lady had been noticing some problems with her eyesight, and she went to the eye doctor.
Said the doctor, “you have presbyopia.”
“I beg your pardon,” said the lady, “I have been Presbyterian all my life.”
“No, no,” said the doctor, “I was referring to how you see.”
“Well,” she said stiffly, “I think Presbyterians see the truth just as well as any other denomination.”
“No, no,” said the doctor, “I mean your vision.”
“I resent that, sir,” she said. “Presbyterians have just as much vision as anybody else.”
You see how this story could go on and on.
But Presbyopia, contrary to the story, is not a disease, you catch from Presbyterians. Presbyopia is a common eyesight problem. The word comes from two Greek words: s (meaning “elder/old man”) and smeaning “eye). It is “old person’s eye.” It is the slow deterioration of close-up focus. Presbyopia develops when the clear lens of the eye loses its elasticity. Elasticity changes focus. What is that guy doing holding his cell phone at arm’s length, like a rancid diaper? Why is that woman leaning away from her menu with eyes agape, like the blue-plate special is cat? Presbyopia. He is trying to make out the caller ID; she is trying to read the menu, and they are like millions of other baby boomers who hold their reading material like they don’t have elbows.
Until recently, the treatment of presbyopia was either inexpensive reading glasses or very expensive and often repeated laser surgeries. But switching between readers and distance glasses is irritating. You juggle not just four eyes but six. People usually stash several pairs of cheap readers in all the places they read—one by the nightstand, one in the office, one lost in the couch cushions—but none seem to be around when the cell phone rings.
And laser treatment is still gaining credibility—slowly. Think about it: lasers are used to carve steel, burn off ulcers and blow up bad guys in sci-fi movies. That is what you want to aim at my eyeball? I don’t think so. Although lasers are effective, it is understandable that so many people are still skeptical of the concept and put off by the huge cost—which most insurance plans do not cover.
Eighty-five million Americans have presbyopia and are looking for better solutions than glasses or expensive surgeries. Now, there is a treatment that might be the answer. It is called Transcleral Light Therapy. It is still being tested, but it might do the trick. A light beam is aimed at the ciliary muscles (the lens focusers), increasing their strength and flexibility. After five 10-minute sessions and periodic tune-up treatments, patients report that their glasses are obsolete. To summarize then: application of light solves the problem.
This leads us to our scripture passage where THE Light solved the problem of Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is blind; therefore, he is a beggar. In the first century, a blind person did not have many options. If he had been a poet, he might have become famous like the blind Greek poet, Homer, but apparently, Bartimaeus was not a poet, so he was a beggar, and thus on the margins of his society.
He was certainly not a VIP—a very important person. He was a VIP—a very insignificant person or a very inconsequential person—at least that is what the crowd thought that day. I would argue that other than Jesus, Bartimaeus was the most significant person there.
When Bartimaeus hears that Jesus of Nazareth is approaching, he calls out to the Son of David and asks him for mercy. Most Jews thought that the messiah would be of the line of David and would establish a Davidic Kingdom. Thus, Bartimaeus is recognizing Jesus as the expected messiah. The crowd rebukes his outburst. They want to protect Jesus from unseemly and unimportant people. But the faith of Bartimaeus told him that this Light, that is, this Jesus, was his only chance for light, so he yelled out even louder. His cries worked. He got Jesus’ attention and Jesus pauses. Jesus does not speak to Bartimaeus directly, however. He commands the crowd to call to him. This could be because the crowd was so large that Bartimaeus would not have been heard if Jesus had called him directly, but it also seems to be a subtle critique to those who rebuked the blind beggar. People who have been trying to keep Bartimaeus away from Jesus now act as mediators to bring Bartimaeus to Jesus, and that same crowd gives Bartimaeus advice, telling him to be bold. He might have replied that he had already been bold by crying out to Jesus and ignoring their earlier rebuke, but let that pass.
When the crowd tells him that Jesus is calling to him that is all the encouragement Bartimaeus needs to make his move. He throws away his garment and jumps up to meet Jesus. When he comes face-to-face with the Lord, Jesus asks him to be more specific. What does he want? You might say, “Well, Duh. It is obvious that he wants to see,” but Jesus does not assume that. Bartimaeus needs to spell it out, and he does that. He says, I want to see.
Surprisingly, Jesus’ first response to this request is to tell Bartimaeus to leave. He commands him to depart, but then quickly adds that something has changed about the man. He has been delivered from his blindness; he has been healed—because of his faith. Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well.”
The one thing Bartimaeus wanted from Jesus, He got from Jesus,because he believed in Jesus.
In John 1 we read, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (5). Jesus was the light that shines in the darkness. That is what Bartimaeus realized that day; that is why he screamed out in faith to receive his sight. For the blind man, there was only one way to get sight: Apply the Light.
Can we learn from Bartimaeus’ faith? Jesus said, what do you want? Or more accurately, “What do you want me to do for you?” If Jesus were to ask us that question today, what would we answer?
What are you worried about today? What are you concerned about.? Are you a worrier? Do you have the worry habit?
Michael Angier says he had it and it took him a year to get rid of it. Michael Angier grew up on a farm in Vermont, and after college, he bought his own farm. He says, “You might be interested to know that I learned the secret to making a small fortune in farming. It's kind of inside information and I don't pass it around to just anybody. Ready? Here it is: In farming, start out with a large fortune, and sooner or later, you'll have a small fortune.” That is Michael’s secret of farming.
Michael describes his worry habit. “I used to worry all the time. I worried about livestock disease. I worried about getting bank loans. I worried about the buying price of grain and the selling prices of livestock. I worried about not having enough money. I was unhappy, fatigued and irritable. It had become a disease.”
[Kicking the Worry Habit By Michael Angier
Most of us are not farmers, and perhaps we have a little different version of the disease, but it is the same disease—worry, worry, worry.
Michael Angier said something I thought was interesting. He said that worry is “like prayer in reverse.” When we pray we lift our concerns and thoughts and doubts up to God, and that very process makes our worries smaller and easier to handle. When we worry and fret, we make our problems bigger and bigger and more impossible to handle. So worry is negative prayer. Angier says its “contrary prayer-prayer in reverse.”
Basically, worry is “what if” thinking. “What if I am late for that job interview?” “What if I did not do well on that test?” “What if I inadvertently made him mad at me?” “What if she does not like me?” Real worriers take worry with them wherever they go. If they go on vacation, they worry, “What if I left the coffeepot on?”
Our doctors tell us that too much worry leads to certain physical symptoms. We feel restless, and at the same time we feel tired. We become irritable, and we have difficulty concentrating. Our muscles are always tense, and we have difficulty sleeping. That is just the beginning. In the worst case, worry can lead to deep depression and suicidal thoughts.
You might say, well all of that sounds pretty awful, but what can we do about it? After all everybody worries. And that is true everybody worries somewhat. You can argue that at a low level, worry is just a problem-solving technique. What if this happens, well I will do this. What if that happens, well I will do that. Worry becomes a problem when we spend a lot of time churning these “what ifs” in our minds.
So how do you know when you worry too much? That is a question you must answer for yourself. You are your own best worry gauge. You need to look at yourself and be honest with yourself. Do you worry too much? Do you find yourself laying awake at night, asking yourself what if this and what if that, ? Do you find yourself supposedly watching TV and worrying about something else altogether. Are you talking to your friends at one level, and your mind is tangled up with worry at another level? If so, you may have a problem and you need to do something about it because worry is not your friend.
I would recommend to you the Bartimaeus solution.
Bring your problem to Jesus,
And trust Jesus with your problem.
The second part of that little formula is the worry solver.
Jesus brings light into darkness. Jesus can solve your problem. The problem is many people do not really believe that--even people in church, even people that recite creeds and make professions of faith.
Ask them, do you believe in Jesus? Yes, they say. Have you brought your problem to Jesus? Yes, they say. Are you still worried about your problem then? And they say, “well, what if so and so happens ?”
You see, we are getting to what people really believe here, and not just to what they say they believe.
Worry is a real problem for many people.
The real answer to that real problem is take it to Jesus, and leave it there. Now when I say this is the answer, I mean it literally.
Something is bothering you. It can be anything. You might be worried about health insurance, you might be worried about what you are going to wear tomorrow. You might be worried about your marriage or your football team. Some worries of yours might seem trivial to another person, but they are not trivial to you.
The first thing we ask is, have you done all you can to solve your problem. Usually we have because worry sets in later. It is after we have done all we can that we began to compulsively wonder what if this happens or what if that happens.
So here is the biblical solution to worry. This is not necessarily a solution to your problem. It is a solution to the worry about your problem. Prayer. Take it to Jesus. Trust Jesus with it.
Then when the worry comes back, you say, I have trusted Jesus with that. I don’t need to think about that any more. This is your shield against worry.
You are laying awake at night, and the “what ifs” arise, you say, I have trusted Jesus with that. I am going to sleep now.
Or during the day, and you are supposed to be doing something else, and you are worrying. Your response is I have trusted Jesus with that, I am just going to do what I need to be doing. Wherever you are, whenever the “what ifs” come up, we need to learn to say, I have done all that I can do, I have trusted Jesus for what I cannot do, and I will not think about it anymore.
Bobby McFerrin wrote a song that begins like this:
“Here is a little song I wrote,
You might want to sing it note for note,
Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
That is what everyone wants. No one wants to worry. Everyone wants to be happy. The question is, how do you do it? The answer is Jesus. Apply Jesus to your problem. That is what Bartimaeus did. But to apply Jesus, you must actually believe in Jesus. That is in effect what Jesus said to Bartimaeus. Your faith has made you well. What does your faith do for you when you worry about this or that or t’other? Use your faith. Apply it. Your faith can literally make you well.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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