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Sermon October 24 2021

Pentecost 22 B 2021 Shut Up Bartimaeus Sermon

October 24, 2021


Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Just like we see today under the overpasses and important intersections here in San Angelo, in Biblical times people saw individuals who needed a helping hand from strangers to help them secure their daily needs. 

In our text today, we hear of such a man who asked strangers for help. 

At the main gate at Jericho, where crowds of people had gathered to hear Jesus speak, a blind man named Bartimaeus sat begging, hoping that people would have pity on him and drop a coin or two into his cup. 

Now, anyone who has traveled to a third world country knows how prominent blindness is in these areas.  Throughout the history of mankind, blindness has been a common ailment in poor countries where water-born parasites cause vision problems in many of the residents. 

And today we can still visualize the unpleasant appearance of these people with their milky eyes encrusted with dry secretions and perhaps even covered in flies.  The man named Bartimaeus in our text today certainly would have had these physical handicaps and blemishes.  

And so, it was no wonder that the blind and physically challenged people were often known as the forgotten people, and the people who were cut off from families and friends, and the people who were not able to experience the blessings that a family unit could offer to an individual. 

Their safety net was gone.  Therefore, their only hope for survival was dependent upon the kind acts of strangers who would stop and take pity on them and give them something to eat or put a coin or two in their jar. Bartimaeus was one of these people who depended upon the generosity of strangers. 

When I read this text, I can picture in my mind Bartimaeus sitting at the main gate into Jericho hoping that someone would notice him, feel sorry for him, and drop a coin or two into his money bucket. 

And as he sat there, I’m sure that Bartimaeus would have heard the noise of the caravans, and the sound of children laughing, and the chatter of the people as they passed by. 

So, when Bartimaeus heard the news that Jesus was about to leave town through the main gate, he must have also heard the tales that told how Jesus made the blind see and the lame walk. 

Bartimaeus was intrigued.  And so he waited, and he hoped that Jesus would notice him and heal him as he sat begging for money. 

It must have been quite a sight that day.  Excitement was in the air.  The noise from the crowd would have been louder than normal.  And Bartimaeus would have had no trouble hearing the news that Jesus had arrived. 

Determined not to let the opportunity pass him by, when he heard that Jesus was near, he lunched forward and shouted out in a loud voice “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

And it is at this point that the story gets interesting, because the other folks in the crowd were not pleased by Bartimaeus’s determination to be seen by Jesus.  Be quiet, the people demanded.  Keep your voice down.  Bartimaeus, shut up. You are making a fool of yourself

But Bartimaeus would not shut up.  We are told that he cried out even more loudly, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” as the people rolled their eyes in disgust. 

I think we can relate well to this story because are we not all encouraged, one way or another, to keep our voices down in the public square?  Don’t rock the boat, is a popular expression.  Be silent like a lamb, we are told.  

Despite the fact that as Christians we have been called to give witness in the world, most of us are encouraged to avoid saying anything controversial so we won’t offend anybody with our faith.  Keep your opinions to yourself, we are told.  Don’t offend me with your world view.  Shut up and keep your nonsense to yourself.   

In the text, Bartimaeus was also told to keep silent and not interrupt everyone with his problems.  But Bartimaeus would not shup up.  Instead, he cried out even more loudly as he tried to get Christ’s attention. 

Do you ever feel like you are expected to keep quiet and keep your opinions to yourself?  Do you sometimes feel that you are supposed to stifle your opinions lest your viewpoint might upset someone or make them think less of you? 

One of the most dangerous forces in our world today, even with all the blessing that social media has gifted us, is the subtle encouragement for Christians to keep quiet and not cause a scene.  Don’t bother us with your faith, the world cries out.  Keep your “hateful” religion to yourself, we are told by the masses. 

Shut up.  Keep quiet.  We do not want to hear from you. 

Bartimaeus could not keep quiet that day.  Instead, in one brave faith-filled inspired move Bartimaeus stumbled forward and cried out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”.  And Jesus heard his cry and Jesus healed him. 

And the theological point is this, we too need to call out to Jesus with a similar determination and ignore the voices that tell us to be quiet.  We too need to call out to Jesus asking to have our vision restored so we may be the people God has called in God’s good creation. 

We need to call out to Jesus with our ills and our problems so we may hear the Good News: “Go; your faith has made you well.”  

Let us pray: O God, source of deliverance and help, do not let our hearts be troubled, but fill us with such confidence and joy that we may sleep in your peace and rise in your light, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.