One of my favourite songs is Louis Armstrong’s, “It’s a wonderful world”. I love his deep husky voice and the lyrics.
“I see trees of green,
red roses too,
I see the bloom,
for me and you,
and I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.
The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,
Are also on the faces,
of people passing by
I see friends shaking hands
Saying how do you do
They’re really saying, I love you.”
It’s a real ‘feel good’ song and makes me appreciative of the blessings I have, which I often take for granted, and how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful world, with family and friends who love us.
But in a way it also highlights the fact that there are many things in the world which are not so good. There are hardships, people suffer through ill health, poverty, famine, and at the cruel hand of others. And sometimes, it appears as though love has gone from the world and people often too busy to stop, listen and see; too busy to journey together, to stop along the road and say hi, how are you, and actually listen to the answer.
And this was just the same in Jesus’ time. There were hardships, disease, cruelty. But into this world, God walked amongst the people in human form, but not everyone recognised that fact.
In today’s Gospel reading we hear of Jesus his disciples walking together on the road from Jericho and towards Jerusalem, where Jesus was later to have his triumphant entry. Can you visualise it? A scorching hot day, a dusty road busy with hundreds of people. It was soon to be the Passover and everywhere people were dashing about, rushing to get ready, pushing through the crowds and making their way towards the temple. Along the road walked Jesus, also on his way to the Temple, but He was not rushing. He was walking and talking to his fellow travellers. The road would be lined with people, all curious and trying to catch a glimpse of him.
At the northern gate sat a blind man, a beggar, named Bartimaeus who couldn’t physically see the world around him, but he had obviously heard about this man named Jesus; he had heard stories of the miracle Jesus had performed, and knew that Jesus, in his grace, could heal him and change his life forever.
Although it was noisy and he could hear people everywhere, he was determined to attract Jesus’ attention. He started to call to him “Son of David, have pity on me!” And he shouted louder and louder, determined to stop Jesus and to him.
To those who were walking and talking with Jesus, this shouting was a huge intrusion and they shouted back and sneered at Bartimaeus telling him to be quiet! But he didn’t give up and when Jesus heard his call He stopped and asked Bartimaeus to come to him. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks, and Bartimaeus says, “let me see again.” Jesus replies, “Go, your faith has healed you.” And immediately Bartimaeus is healed. But he doesn’t turn away and start a new life elsewhere..…he turns and follows Jesus.
Of course, this passage is not just another story of Jesus’ healing ministry. As with everything in the scriptures, it has far deeper meaning.
This is the last event in the journey of Jesus towards Jerusalem. At first glance it looks like 'another miracle' but there are aspects to consider. There is a similar healing miracle earlier on in the gospel where we read of another man being healed of blindness and, it is believed, that these two episodes of healing of blindness, highlights the spiritual blindness of the disciples. They do not fully understand who Jesus is. By contrast the physically blind man in today's story has good 'spiritual' sight. He 'sees' that is, he understands, that Jesus is 'the Son of David” in whom he has great faith and, unlike the disciples who had earlier requested glory, the blind man requested mercy and healing.
Bartimaeus may have been a poor, lowly beggar who couldn’t physically see, but he is far from blind when it comes to seeing that this man, this Jesus that he had heard spoken of, was so special that He had the power to heal. His blindness is clearly physical; as is the healing he receives through faith in Jesus. But we cannot overlook its spiritual dimension too. Even before Bartimaeus can see physically, he has some kind of insight that makes him see Jesus as the source of healing and love.
When Bartimaeus rises up and throws off his cloak. He throws away the old and puts on a new life in Christ. He is changed, he is made new, which, in a sense, could be thought of as his moment of baptism. He rises out of the dust, casting off the old, and becomes a follower of Christ. Not only does he have physical vision, but he also has spiritual vision, which draws him to follow Jesus.
Many people are not physically blind, and yet when it comes to insight and vision some, even us as Christians, can be very lacking. Maybe we are too busy to notice what is going on around us; too busy to slow down and spend time getting to know God, which can cause spiritual blindness, with eyes that can see but whose inner vision is constrained by a lack of faith, or belief.
So, what is the way out of this blindness? Well, when Bartimaeus comes to Jesus, the answer he receives to this question is clear: “Your faith has made you well”.
It’s true. Faith is the answer. Jesus says that even when we have faith the size of a mustard seed, it will still enable us to move mountains!
God wants us to open our eyes to a different world. When we remove the blind restrictions and are bathed in the light of Christ, we see others, and ourselves, differently. We see each other as someone who God values and loves. Through clear eyes of faith, when you look in the mirror, you can see yourself deeply held in God’s loving embrace.
With faith, you can open your eyes and see life differently. The world through which you travel, the companions on your journey, the adventures you have on the way, take on a whole new look when you walk, in faith, with God.
So take time to follow Jesus, to have vision, and to walk in faith with the people with whom Jesus walks, and see the miracles of God’s work in all its glory.
says…have faith, open your eyes and