Do you want to hear it? Below’s the button, do not fear it.
United Church of Jaffrey
Mark 10:46-52 | An Excerpt from the “Reader’s Write” section of October 2018 Edition of Sun Magazine.
In January of 1990 I was referred to a twelve-step program for men only. I left my second meeting feeling calm and at peace, and it occurred to me why: Normally in a group of men some of them would interrupt and talk over one another, but in this place that didn’t happen. I experienced what it was like to truly be heard. Nobody gave advice or asked questions — they just listened. I decided to practice this at home with my wife.
Our kids were all married or on their own, so it was just the two of us. After dinner we would usually sit on the patio, and I would do most of the talking. Even when she started a conversation, I would interrupt many times to give my opinion. Now I tried to practice listening to her. It wasn’t easy at first, but I managed to be quiet and sometimes ask questions like “Why do you say that?” or “And then what?” Just hearing about her feelings was enlightening.
My wife passed away in January 1991. I’d learned more about her in that one year than I had in all the preceding forty-two years of our marriage. Later one of our sons told me something my wife had said to him in the year before she’d died: that she’d felt as if she had a new husband. — Ted Glinski
A Large Crowd
This morning’s scripture lesson tells us that when Jesus was leaving Jericho, he was in the midst of a large crowd.
I wonder if a “large crowd” in Judea in the first century was the same thing as a “large crowd” today.
I doubt it.
Today, when we think “large crowd” we think about baseball stadiums or rock concerts.
Assuming there were no empty seats at Fenway Park for the second game of the World Series, on Wednesday, there were 37 thousand 755 people in the stands.
37 thousand 755 is capacity seating at Fenway.
That’s a lot of people!
The largest crowd that I’ve ever seen was at the historic Simon and Garfunkel concert in Central Park in 1981. There were an estimated 500 thousand people were there.
I was a freshman in high school at the time.
And I was there.
Now that’s large crowd.
The town of Jaffrey has a population of 5259.
So, when I looked out over that crowd, I was looking at almost 100 Jaffrey’s gathered in one place.
You could yell all you want, in a crowd like that, and you wouldn’t be heard by anyone except a handful of people standing near you.
The only way to be heard, would be to talk through a microphone through a sound system.
That’s what a “large crowd” looks like today.
Bartimaeus Son of Timaeus
The next thing we learn, in the story that Brenda just read for us, is that as Jesus and this “large crowd” left Jericho, there was a man sitting on the side of the road.
But this one man, sitting by the side of the road is not just some man.
We are told quite a bit about this man.
We know where he is sitting — by the side of the road near the gates of Jericho.
We know that he is disabled and poor. He is a blind beggar.
But he’s not just any blind beggar.
We know his name.
His name is Bartimaeus.
And he’s not just any Bartimaeus… he’s the Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.
Isn’t that great?
I love that!
I love the way the text zooms in, in two sentences, from Jericho, a city, to a large crowd, to a single person.
And I love the way that single person is a blind beggar sitting on the side of the road.
We are told his name, and, just in case there we might be confusing this Bartimaeus with another Bartimaeus, we are told his father’s name as well.
This blind beggar is given so much dignity by the text!
This is a little odd, because if you look through the New Testament for the passages in which Jesus heals someone, you can see that sometimes we are given the person’s name, but more often the person is identified in a generic way, by their ailment, their ethnicity, or their relation to someone else. I am thinking of
the Centurian’s servant,
the Syro Phoenician woman’s daughter,
the ten lepers,
The man with the withered hand.
These people have no names.
Most blind beggars you hear about in the Bible are just called blind beggars.
Why is this blind beggar treated like royalty?
Maybe if we keep listening to the story, we will find out.
Jesus of Nazareth
The next thing that happens, is that this Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus finds out that the reason all this crowd is suddenly surrounding him, is because Jesus of Nazareth is coming by.
Interestingly, in this story, Jesus is not referred to with any of his high-highfalutin names. He’s not “The Son of Man” or “Jesus the Christ” or even “Rabbi.” He is identified by where he comes from.
Jesus of Nazareth.
That’s like saying:
Mark of Montague
Bob of Swanzey
Or Cynthia of Jaffrey.
When you think about it, “Jesus of Nazareth” is less specific then Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.
“Jesus of Nazareth” is the kind of name that you would call someone if they were from somewhere else because you don’t know his father’s name.
Hearing that Jesus of Nazareth is coming by, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus starts making noise.
He makes a big commotion. The text says that
he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The crowd of people with Jesus did not like this. Perhaps they felt that Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus was unworthy of Jesus’ attention. After all, he was a blind beggar.
Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
This tells us something about Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.
To put it politely, he’s a rather insistent fellow.
Less charitable folks might call him a “nuisance”, or “a pain.”
One thing’s for sure… he’s a squeaky wheel.
Do you suppose this is why everyone — including the person writing the story down — knows his name?
Oh, you mean the old blind beggar who hangs out by the gate! Sure!He’s well known around these parts..
Oh him? Yes, I know him! He’s got a mouth on him alright… the ornery old coot! Let me see… That’s old Bartimaeus, isn’t it?
“Yeees, that’t right Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.
Yes yes, thats the one!
Things are a little different today.
Even in a small town with a population of 5259, where everyone knows everyone, there may be more then one Cynthia — so just saying “Cynthia of Jaffrey” isn’t enough.
And if we think about the media and the internet, and the way we can travel long distances in a very short time, the world seems connected and interconnected in a dumbfounding number of ways.
In such a world
Sarah of Peterborough
or Jess of Brattleboro
just doesn’t cut it.
Now we need social security numbers, driver’s licenses and and mother’s maiden names to identify us.
37 thousand 755 people can get together from all over New England and the country to watch a game, and millions of others can watch it live on TV.
In such a world, the idea of knowing the name of blind beggar, seems more challenging.
And the idea of one blind beggar getting our attention in the middle of a crowd of 500 thousand?
Blind beggars become blind beggars again, and are no longer Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.
But let us not underestimate God.
It is our greatest hope and faith, that no matter who we are — and no matter how big the crowd, God hears our squeaking…
And even in such a world… we can still listen.
Listening is God’s half of communicating. And we can take part in it too.
There is talking and there is listening.
Listening is God like.
It is a great gift that we can give each other — the gift of listening.
When we listen, we act in faith.
We give the other person her dignity back
We give him a name.
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.”
The people’s attitude to Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus
Now that he is being listened to, the people do not say “Be quiet!”
Now they say
“Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”
Even in our crazy, 500 thousand person crowd world
We can still listen.
When we listen, we say “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”
And even in our social security numbers, driver’s license, mother’s maiden name world
“Take heart; get up, I am is calling you.”
If you are blind
If you are isolated,
“Take heart; get up,
If you feel like your life has no meaning:
“Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”