I was reminded by Peter’s sermon tonight that blind people often have better sight than do the sighted. In Mark 10 the blind man, Bartimaeus, knew enough to call out to Jesus for healing and Jesus responded. The story of the man born blind in John 9 is another example. Jesus loves to give sight to blind people. The problem comes when people prefer to remain blind: who claim to see when they really don’t have a clue.
There’s the irony. All of us have spiritual and moral blindness in some measure; and the depth of our blindness can be measured by our refusal to see it that way. No one is so blind as the one who refuses to see.
There are of course certain benefits in moral blindness including the freedom to take care of ourselves in the ways we most prefer; to seek our own success without any worries about what others think; to live as if others don’t really matter; and so on.
The crowd around Bartimaeus was irritated with him because he was a beggar in a world where beggars were despised. He was shouting for mercy at the top of his voice at a time when mercy was considered weakness and loud beggars were treated as irritants. “Shut up!” they told Bartimaeus. He kept shouting: “Jesus, help me!”
Jesus, of course, had a long trip ahead because he needed to get up to Jerusalem in order to be crucified. He was on a mission. He needed to be crucified on behalf of proud people who had no sense of mercy towards poor, irritating, loud, blind beggars.
Bartimaeus seems to have sensed that Jesus was like himself. He was willing to be weak, if showing mercy and meeting the needs of others can be taken for a weakness. And a blind beggar knew what real weakness produces: a freedom to shout loudly for help.
So Jesus paused, healed him, and then continued on to his date with the cross. There on the cross he would be mocked by calls, “Save yourself if you’re really who you claim to be!” But by saving himself he would not have saved others by conquering death: he needed to become death on our behalf in order to give us his eternal life. So Jesus gave himself into his Father’s care and obeyed him even to the point of death for all of us who hate blind, irritating, loud beggars.
In my own blindness I once heard my voice among the Golgotha scoffers: “Jesus, get off the cross and come help me reach my personal ambitions to be successful, prosperous, healthy and comfortable. I’m anxious to be a God just like you, but with you up there dangling and bleeding on a cross all your credibility is disappearing. We associate gods who use your name need better benefits than a lousy, painful, bloody cross!”
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Then I really heard him and realized I, too, was among the blind. And in that moment I received my sight and forgiveness. Like Bartimaeus I then followed him. Of course all who now see are welcome to join him. Shall we?