Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bartimaeus and His Persistence, Passion, and Pursuit

My scripture today comes from Mark 10:46-52

Do you ever feel like life is passing you by? That is how Bartimaeus felt. He had been sitting on the sidelines of life. He was begging because he was blind and had no way of making a living for himself. He could not go on a trip as the people with Jesus were doing. The whole crowd was passing him by. There was a lot of excitement as the people with Jesus anticipated getting to Jerusalem for the special religious feast of Passover. The city of Jerusalem would be decorated and full of the smells of this special occasion in the religious life of the people. It would be comparable to us coming home for Christmas. There was joy in the voices of the people as they passed by Bartimaeus. He was hearing it all, but he was not a part of it. He was not a part of much of anything, because of his blindness. People were laughing as they bustled by him. But there was an added excitement that Bartimaeus sensed. Someone told him that Jesus was in the crowd. He had heard about Jesus. People had told him about his teachings and the healing miracles that he had performed, and he began to cry out at the top of his voice: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” It was a moment that would change his life forever.  I want us to see the life of Bartimaeus as an example of what our response should be when Jesus is passing our way — which he is doing this very moment. The first thing that I believe Bartimaeus and his experience with Jesus teaches us is: Jesus Christ rewards those who are PERSISTENT with him. When Bartimaeus began calling out to Jesus there were those who tried to silence him, but he was not to be discouraged. Some of the people in the crowd did not want to be delayed by the request of some nondescript beggar. They did not want anything to interfere with their trip to the holy city. Others thought he would annoy Jesus and that he should not bother him with his request. But Bartimaeus did not pay any attention to them. In fact, he cried out to Jesus even louder. When it seemed as though Jesus did not hear him, and would pass him by, he kept crying out until Jesus did hear him. He was not going to let this blessing pass. What I want you to notice is that when Jesus caught the sound of this blind man’s voice, he stopped in his tracks. He heard the desperate cry of someone over all the other voices in that great crowd. Jesus not only heard with his ears, he heard with his heart. The cry of human need touched the heart of Christ and he stopped. He would go no further until he met the need of this man. Bartimaeus’ persistence paid off, because if he had allowed the people to silence him, he would never have received his healing. If he had been afraid that his request was not important enough to bother the Master, he would never have met the Master. If he had been afraid that he might annoy Jesus with his request, life would have passed him by and there would have been no change in his life. Jesus taught In Luke 18:1 that we “should always pray and not give up”. You can’t receive anything from God if you do not ask anything from God. And you cannot receive something from God if you are going to give up after the first time you ask. You have to keep coming, in spite of what people say or the discouragements you face. You have to keep calling out to God, even when it seems like he is passing you by. You have to call to Jesus Christ even when people tell you that your request is not valid or important enough. You have to be persistent. You have to ask, and when God does not seem to hear you, ask again. When you ask again and you do not receive an answer, then knock. When you knock and do not receive an answer, then seek.   In Matthew 7:7-8 Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened”. The kingdom of God belongs to those who are persistent and keep coming to God in faith, even when their first cry does not seem to be heard.   The second thing that Bartimaeus’ experience with Jesus teaches us is: Jesus Christ rewards those who are passionate about him. I have always been fascinated by Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:12 which say: “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it”. The kingdom of God is not for the mild and mellow. It is for those who will passionately pursue God with all their hearts. God spoke to the people of Israel in Jeremiah 29:13 saying, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. What that means is that if you do not seek God with all your heart, you will not find him. You cannot be passive about God and at the same time be seeking God. How interested are you in knowing God and having him as a part of your life? Your answer to that question will determine how much God is a part of your life. You may come to church, but are you actively, passionately seeking God throughout the week? Does a little dose of God do it for you, or do you want everything God has for you and feel like you cannot get enough of him?  Often people think that the opposite of love is hatred. But, actually, the opposite of love is indifference. You may not hate God, but if your heart is indifferent to him, it is very far from him indeed.  If you have no hunger for God and his righteousness, then you will not be filled — you will remain empty. God blesses people with hunger and desire. He pays attention to those who are passionate.  Bartimaeus was passionate about seeking God that day. He kept calling out to God with all of his heart, in spite of all the obstacles and the people who were trying to discourage him. He kept calling out when it seemed like Jesus was not responding to him. When they tried to silence him, he only cried out louder. Bartimaeus called him the “Son of David.” It was a Messianic title. He was expressing his belief in Jesus as the Messiah, the chosen one of God. Jesus responded to his passionate plea. He stopped in his tracks. He looked in the direction of the heartfelt cry he heard. Jesus then said to those around him to bring Bartimaeus to him. He was so excited that he threw down his outer garment. He had probably been holding the lap of his robe out like a pocket for people to place money in it. But he threw it down, even though someone might steal it, and ran toward Jesus’ voice — even though he could not see him. He didn’t even care if he ran into something. His heart was racing with desire. Then Jesus asked him an interesting question. He said, “What do you want me to do for you?” He had only asked for mercy from Jesus. He had not said whether he just wanted a gift of money, or whether he wanted something more. Think of how tragic it would have been if he had only wanted to hit the lottery that day. That is, after all, about all the higher people’s minds often go. They see money as the answer to their problems instead of Jesus. But Bartimaeus wanted a touch from Jesus. How much we miss by not seeking God with all of our heart’s passion.  Bruce Wilkinson tells this story in his little book, which is Amazon’s top selling volume, The Prayer of Jabez: “There’s a little fable about a Mr. Jones who dies and goes to heaven. Peter is waiting at the gates to give him a tour. . . . Mr. Jones notices an odd-looking building. He thinks it looks like an enormous warehouse — it has no windows and only one door. But when he asks to see inside, Peter hesitates. ‘You really don’t want to see what’s in there,’ he tells the new arrival. ‘Why would there be any secrets in heaven?’ Jones wonders. What incredible surprise could be waiting for me in there? When the official tour is over he’s still wondering, so he asks again to see inside the structure. Finally Peter relents. When the apostle opens the door, Mr. Jones almost knocks him over in his haste to enter. It turns out that the enormous building is filled with row after row of shelves, floor to ceiling, each stacked neatly with white boxes tied in red ribbons. ‘These boxes all have names on them,’ Mr. Jones muses aloud. Then turning to Peter he asks, ‘Do I have one?’ ‘Yes, you do.’ Peter tries to guide Mr. Jones back outside. ‘Frankly,’ Peter says, ‘if I were you. . . .’ But Mr. Jones is already dashing toward the ‘J’ aisle to find his box. Peter follows, shaking his head. He catches up with Mr. Jones just as he is slipping the red ribbon off his box and popping the lid. Looking inside, Jones has a moment of instant recognition, and he lets out a deep sigh like the ones Peter has heard so many times before. Because there in Mr. Jones’s white box are all the blessings that God wanted to give to him while he was on earth. . . but Mr. Jones had never asked.”  God has so much to give us, but we are too busy pursuing the things of this world to be passionate about the things of God, and so we never ask. We think that spiritual gifts from God could not possibly be as wonderful as the things we can buy, feel and touch. But God rewards and blesses those who passionately seek him and what he has to give.  The third thing that Bartimaeus’ experience with Jesus teaches us is: Jesus Christ rewards those who are in pursuit of him. The first thing that Bartimaeus did was to leave his former world and follow Jesus. When Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus said, “I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Then it says, “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road”. I can just see him jumping and dancing along the way. Once life had been passing him by, but now he was fully enjoying the blessings of God. He had entered into life in its fullness and followed Jesus. Lee Strobel, in his great book, The Case for Faith, tells an amazing story of the famous atheist Charles Templeton. Templeton had not always been an atheist. In fact, he had been an evangelist working side by side with his close friend Billy Graham. Before his conversion to Christ he had been on the sports staff of the Toronto Globe. But he became disgusted with his lifestyle and knelt by his bed one evening and gave his life to Christ. He wrote about the experience saying, “An ineffable warmth began to suffuse my body. It seemed that a light had turned on in my chest and that it had cleansed me.” But Templeton would later abandon his faith and write a book entitled: Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith. According to Templeton, the loss of his faith began when he saw a photograph in Life magazine. He said, “It was a picture of a black woman in Northern Africa. They were experiencing a devastating drought. And she was holding her dead baby in her arms and looking up to heaven with the most forlorn expression. I looked at it and I thought, ‘Is it possible to believe that there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?’” Templeton was dying from an incurable disease as Strobel interviewed him. They talked of death and what was beyond. Eventually, they began to talk about the person of Jesus Christ. Templeton’s tone completely changed when Strobel asked him what he thought of Jesus. He looked at Strobel and said, “He was the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius.” Strobel was surprised at his words and replied, “You sound like you really care about him.” “Well, yes,” he said. “He’s the most important thing in my life. I... I... I... I know it may sound strange, but I have to say... I adore him!” Strobel was a little shocked as he said, “You say that with some emotion.” “Well, yes. Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.” “There was a brief pause, almost as if he was uncertain whether he should continue,” Strobel writes. Templeton went on as he spoke slowly and deliberately: “He’s the most.... In my view he is the most important human being who has ever existed.” Then it was that Templeton uttered the words that Strobel never thought he would hear: “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, “ I... miss... him!” “With that, tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept.”   Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46). Jesus Christ is the pearl of great price, and to lose him is to lose everything.

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