We’re going to be in Mark 10 today,
so I invite you to turn there.
There are four Sundays left in August and that means we’ve got four more Sundays in the gospel of Mark.
As a community we’ve been following Jesus around this summer.
We’ve been trying to watch what he’s doing,
we’ve been trying to listen to what he’s saying,
and, in general, we’ve been trying to ask ourselves:
“What it would look like for us to take this guy seriously?”
That’s what the church is, after all.
It’s the community of people who take Jesus seriously—
who are learning to trust and celebrate and embody Jesus
more and more and more.
And as we’ve begun entering
into a new season at Belleview Community Chapel,
that is what we’re wanting to enter into.
Today we’re continuing to follow Jesus today in Mark 10:
(10.32-52) They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
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. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
In my Bible, we just blew through three different “subsections” of the story.
My Bible divides what we just read into three sections (complete with little titles):
“Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time”
“The Request of James and John”
and “Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight.”
But what we just read is all just seamlessly part of one story—
We’re two-thirds the way through Mark’s account of Jesus’ life—
through Mark’s telling of the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God
is what Mark called it in his opening sentence.
We’re two-thirds the way through Mark’s strange action movie where Jesus (who burst onto the scene announcing the kingdom of God and trashing evil) has now begun insisting since chapter 8 that he’s got to die.
At the beginning of this passage today in verse 33-34, we hear Jesus saying this again:
“I’ve got to die. I’ve got to die.
I’ve got to go to Jerusalem to lose—
to be crucified, to be killed.
“And after three days, I’m going to rise again from the dead.”
This is the third time that Jesus has told his disciples that this is where he’s headed—they’re on their way to Jerusalem right now (v32).
This is the third time that Mark has recorded these words of Jesus so that we can remember that this is what Jesus is about.
This is how he’s going to use his energy. This is how he’s going to exhaust his life.
He’s not going to keep turning up the volume on the action—
on miracles and fireworks and displays of power.
The crowds that were swelling and pressing and buzzing with excitement
have basically vanished in the second half of Mark.
And now you’ve got a band of astonished (confused, baffled) disciples (v32)
along with a crowd of people following Jesus who are afraid.
But Jesus just keeps telling them,
“This is what’s going to happen,
this is how I’m going to bring about the best kind of good— this is how things are going to become as God wants them to be.
“It’s not going to happen like you expect.
“It’s not going to look like God striking the world with apocalyptic violence,
it’s not going to look like the Jewish people rising in revolution against Rome,
it’s not even going to be obvious that God has established his king over the world.
“But the Son of Man—
that mysterious and powerful and divine-like figure from Daniel 7—
is about to establish the rule and reign of God over the world.
“And it’s going to look like the Son of Man be delivered over to the chief priests and teachers of the law who will hand him over to the Gentiles .
“The rulers of the people of God
are going to hand the Son of Man over
to the rulers of the known world.
“The church and the state are going to kill me.
“But three days later,
you’re going to see something new.”
Then (v35) James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him.
“Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“Whatever we ask”—
the thing to ask for.
“We want a blank check, Jesus.
We want you to agree to give us whatever we want.”
These are two of the guys who are closest to Jesus—
who went up with him on Mount Tabor and saw him go nuclear—
saw him standing in for God himself talking to Elijah and Moses.
These are two of the guys who are taking Jesus seriously—
two guys who should get it by now.
Let’s hear them out.
(v36) “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
This is infuriating.
“You’re going to Jerusalem to die, Jesus? Ok great.
Now… how can we get cushy cabinet positions when you take over?
“If you’re going to be in charge,
we’d like to sweet seats of powers.
One of us second in command,
one of us third in command.
One at your right,
one at your left.
What do we want, Jesus?
We want rule the world.
It’s frustrating to read about the disciples in Mark.
Why don’t they get it?
What on earth is their problem?
How could they still not understand?
At every turn in Mark’s story, the disciples have very short memories.
They always seem to forget what Jesus had just said
and be thinking and dreaming and arguing
in a completely different direction than Jesus.
Jesus answers their request with a very polite (and patient) “no.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,”
Jesus says to them in verse 38.
“Can you drink the cup I’m about to drink?
Can you be baptized—can you be plunged into what I’m about to plunged into?”
“Yeah, sure, no problem,” they answer in verse 39.
“Well,” Jesus says, “you’re gonna get your wish.”
“You’re going to be plunged into suffering for my sake—
you’re going to wind up dying for me, announcing my resurrection.
“But my right and my left—
they’ve been prepared for other people.”
(Spoiler alert: if you want to see who winds up on Jesus’ right and Jesus’ left,
turn to chapter fifteen and you’ll find criminals on crosses.)
The other disciples (v41) hear about this, and they get upset—they get indignant.
“Who do these guys think they are? We’re a team—we should be ruling together.”
And Jesus has to remind them (again):
“Look, the one you’ve been waiting for—the Son of Man—is a Servant.
So you’ve to stop this nonsense about wanting to be great, wanting to conquer, wanting to rule the world.
“That’s what literally everyone else in the world is trying to do—not so with you. If you want to be great, well, try being like me. Try being a servant.”
And Mark is a brilliant story-teller—have I said that before?—
because notice the story that immediately follows this one.
Jesus and his baffled disciples and the frightened crowd keep heading to Jerusalem.
And they’re getting close.
They’re fifteen miles out.
They come to Jericho (v46).
And a blind man who people called Bartimaeus begins calling out for Jesus.
The rumors of an action-hero who can banish evil and sickness and brokenness— the rumors have reached the ears of the Son of Timaeus.
And so the Son of Timaeus
begins calling out to the Son of David— one of the titles for the long-awaited Messiah that many Jews were longing and waiting for.
Back at the halfway hinge-point of Mark’s story in chapter eight, Peter (the leader of the disciples) had confessed that Jesus was the Messiah.
The way that this blind man is calling for Jesus has the same kind of effect as that confession.
“You’re the one we’ve been waiting for!
You’re the one who will rescue us—who will liberate us, who will heal us.
While you’re passing by, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
This blind man gets his wish—
Jesus hears those who call out for him, and so Jesus calls back to him (v49).
Crowds of people are always fickle—always easily swayed. This one is no different.
One minute this crowd was saying,
“Quiet, you. Shut it.” (v48)
and the next minute the crowd is saying, “Oh yeah! Timaeus’ Son! Cheer up, man! On your feet! Come on!” (v49)
And so that’s what Bartimaeus does.
He jumps to his feet, tosses aside cloak (v50),
and makes his way to Jesus.
Tossing aside that cloak is kind of big deal.
That’s his livelihood—
that’s his fishing net.
When you’re blind—and especially blind in crowd— you don’t casually throw aside anything.
You keep track of everything.
Especially things as important as your cloak.
That’s probably the cloak he spreads on the ground
so that people can toss charity and alms and coins his way.
That’s the way he provides for himself. That’s the way he fishes.
He’s got a lot of trust in Jesus because going back to begging is going to be tricky without a cloak.
And then Jesus asks this man a familiar question:
(v51) “What do you want me to do for you?”
Mark is absolutely brilliant.
He’s arranged the way that he tells these stories, so that we remember the request of James and John— and maybe so we can hear Jesus asking us this question too. “What do you want me to do for you?”
I mean, at the heart of it all, what is it that you want?
What is it that’s driving you— day in, day out?
What are the concerns that consume your thoughts, the activities that consume your time, the plans that consume your energy?
What does a happy life look like for you?
Most of us don’t think about that very much— we’re too busy bouncing in a thousand directions that we’ve only ever got a vague sense of what we want.
But I think most of the time most of us have a vague answer that’s along the lines of James and John’s answer.
I just want to rule the world.
Maybe not the entire world.
Maybe just my little world.
But I sure do—
I want to control it, I want to manage it, I want to rule it.
And if Jesus is the way that I can rule the world, then I’ll sit at his right hand—or even his left.
But that’s a request that Jesus’ cannot grant and will not grant and does not grant.
Even the Son of Man has not come to rule the world the way we expect—
the Son of Man has come to save the world by giving himself up for the world.
If we’re looking for Jesus to help us rule the world—
or even to help us rule our private little worlds—
we’re going to be endlessly disappointed.
Bartimaeus doesn’t want to rule the world.
Bartimaeus wants to see the world.
And that—that is a request that Jesus can grant.
That’s a request that Jesus will grant.
That’s a request that Jesus still grants.
For Bartimaeus at this particular moment in history, he found that his corneas and retinas and optic nerves were suddenly working.
But Mark isn’t just telling us a story
just to make us marvel at the miraculous power of Jesus.
He’s also giving us a picture of what it really looks like to take Jesus seriously.
Jesus sees this man’s trust in him—
Jesus sees this man’s faith—
and gives him a new ability to see the world.
The Son of David says, “Go. Your faith has healed you,”
but the Son of Timaeus doesn’t go anywhere.
On the contrary—
He follows Jesus down the road.
Bartimaeus can see the world.
Not merely on some physical level—
as much as that helped him leap to his physical feet and helped him comprehend and receive the love of Jesus.
Bartimaeus can see what this world it about.
And there’s nothing that he would rather do than follow Jesus down the way, down the hodos, down the path.
There’s nothing that he would rather do than follow Jesus to down the path of self-giving love that is taking him to Jerusalem.
This is central to what following Jesus is all about.
Following Jesus is about receiving new sight.
A new way of seeing the world.
We begin to realize that Jesus— exhausting his life to love the world—might not be crazy.
We begin to realize that the Son of Man—
giving his life to serve and save others—might not be blind.
It might just be we who cannot see.
We who are obsessed with ruling our worlds—
we who think a happy life will be found when we can finally control everything—
we who race through most days blind to those around us and consumed with ourselves—
It might just be we who cannot see.
And worse than that—
because Jesus is asking us everyday
“What do you want me to do for?”
And we’re too blind to ask for sight.
We can’t even recognize
where real and lasting life is found.
I don’t know why we’re frustrated with the disciples—we do the exact same thing.
We treat Jesus like a vending machine or a magic eight-ball or a financial planner or a therapist or a life-coach.
We want Jesus to do for us whatever we ask— but then we ask for things to help us rule the world.
But Jesus hasn’t come to make us rulers.
Jesus has come to give us sight
so that we can follow him on the way— so that we can become like him.
Jesus has come to give us sight so that we can serve.
Because that’s where real life is found.
Not in ruling but in serving.
The question is “What are we requesting from Jesus?”
Are we asking Jesus to help us rule our world?
Or are asking Jesus to give us what we need so we can follow him on the road—follow him on the way— and serve the world?
If we want to take Jesus seriously,
we’ve got be becoming the kind of people who plead with Jesus—maybe daily—
“Son of David, have mercy on me. I want to see.”
If we wanted something to begin practicing throughout the week, we could probably do worse than learning to pray that.
“Jesus, help me to see.”
In the midst of that routine,
while we’re around those people, when we’re struggling in that area—
“Jesus, help me to see.
And Jesus help me to serve.”
This table is the place we come each week to see to actually see (and touch and taste) tangible reminders of God’s grace and self-giving love.
This is what we believe that God is like:
[That] the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
The Son of Man gives himself as a ransom for us, not to make us rulers but to mold us into servants.
The Son of Man came to make us like himself—
Servants who can see the world clearly,
and who taste the life of resurrection— lives of self-giving love.
In just a couple of moments,
you’ll be invited to come down this center aisle,
to receive a bit of bread, to dip it in the cup, and then return to your seats along the sides.
This table is open— it’s open to anyone who willing to confess their blindness and who wants to truly see the world.
As we come this morning,
may we be granted the wisdom
to stop asking Jesus to help us rule the world,
may we be given a new way of seeing the world and endurance to ask for new sight every single day,
and may we cast aside our delusions of grandeur and even our beggar’s cloak so we can follow Jesus into his unending life of self-giving love.