Your Faith Has Made You Unwell. (Thinking Through Mark 10:46-52)

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 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.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Mark 10:46-52 (NRSV)

“Your faith has made you well.” So said Jesus to Bartimaeus. I suspect that Jesus may want to say to some of us today:
“Your faith has made you unwell.”

Faith can make us unwell when we get the wrong ideas stuck in our heads and we live in constant fear. I’m not good enough. I don’t have enough faith. Or we live judgemental lives. Those people are not good enough. We are barely scratching the surface here, but whether it makes us ugly in our emotional well-being, or ugly in our relationships, faith has the power to make us unwell.

So what does it look like to have a faith that makes us well? Bartimaeus will help us think through that question.

Bartimaeus asked for help.

Of course Bartimaeus asked for help since he was blind and wanted to see. Sure, he wanted to see as anyone in his situation would. However, not everyone would want the upheaval of life that would come along with such a miracle. The status quo might be awful, but at least it is known, safe, and in a way, comfortable.

Bartimaeus was not wiling to stay with the status quo. Contrast that with the spiritual leaders who were trying hard to protect the status quo, who did not want to see things from a new perspective.

Do we have the kind of faith that looks to get the best perspective? A faith that has initiative, that is willing to embrace change? Or do we get comfortable with the status quo?

A faith that makes us unwell embraces the status quo.

Bartimaeus did not listen to the crowd.

The crowd tried to shut Bartimaeus down. He tried all the harder to get the attention of Jesus. Embracing change is hard enough but it is even harder when the people around us try to shut us down. It is hard for the addict to break the addiction in the company of other addicts. The people around us can keep us in the status quo.

That is how cults work, surrounding people who might think differently on their own with people who are too afraid to think differently. Sadly, some churches may be closer to a cult than a community gathered around Jesus.

Do we have the kind of faith that yearns for growth and is willing to embrace change, or do we allow the crowds around us to draw us back to the status quo?

A faith that makes us unwell listens to the crowds.

Bartimaeus had wisdom in knowing what to ask for.

Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “what do you want me to do for you?” Contrast that with the request of the disciples:

And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Mark 10:36-37 (NRSV)

Let us imagine how the spiritual leaders might have responded if Jesus asked what he could do for them; something like “Go fly a kite.”

Do we know what to ask for? Do we have wisdom in our asking, in what we are seeking help on? Or do we have a one track mind like the disciples. Or worse, blind spots like the religious leaders? Do we have the kind of faith that seeks light on our blind spots? Or do we just live with assumptions, assuming the status quo is just fine?

A faith that makes us unwell lacks wisdom in knowing what to ask for.

Bartimaeus knew whom to ask.

When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Mark 10:47 (NRSV)

“Have mercy on me.” While Bartimaeus may have said that to anyone and everyone who passed by, he knew that asking it of Jesus would be life changing in a way that some coins thrown his way would not be. “Son of David” is not likely how he addressed anyone and everyone that passed by. Bartimaeus had insight into the unique identity of Jesus. Jesus was the one who could destroy the status quo.

When we celebrate the Lord’s Table we are reminded that Jesus changes everything for us. This man, being God with us, will have mercy. Do we have the wisdom to go Jesus? Or do we depend too much on religion and religious leaders who themselves are comfortable with the status quo?

A faith that makes us unwell lacks wisdom in where to look for help.


Does your faith make you well or unwell? Perhaps it might be a bit of both and faith has brought both beauty and ugliness to your soul. May Jesus say of us “your faith has made you well.”

Is Jesus a Product of Organised Religion? (Thinking Through That Question with the Help of Mark)

Reading through Mark’s account of Jesus there were two key responses to Jesus:

  • Just who is this Jesus? A response of amazement.
  • Just who does this Jesus think he is? A response of disbelief

    Which one of these represents best the response of Canadians to Jesus today? Given the passage of time there is a new response to Jesus:

    • Just how do Christians expect us to take Jesus seriously when he is a product of organised religion, indeed one we don’t really care for?

    Given the bias against organised religion today, it would be interesting if Canadians could read the account of Jesus written by Mark and think of it not as being part of the Christian Bible, a product of Christianity, but as a historical document, something written at a particular time and place in history. Now, why was it written?

    Did Mark and the other Gospel writers write what they did in an attempt to start a new religion? Or was Mark simply capturing what he had learned from Peter and others about their experience of Jesus? Why did Mark write what he did, and why was there a community of people willing to live and die for what was captured in writing by Mark about this Jesus? Why were people rethinking everything?

    Mark gives us some clues, so let’s dig into a section of Mark paying attention to what he really wants us to know about the identity of Jesus:

    • In Mark 4:35-41 we read about Jesus calming the storm. Just who is this guy, that the winds and the sea obey him? “The Messiah” does not come immediately to mind as the answer to anyone, nor would it.
    • In Mark 5:1-20 we read about Jesus healing a man possessed by many demons. No one was able to chain this man down. Jesus did something better, he set him free. On people’s minds would have been “who is this that spirits obey him”? We can note that in verse 19 and 20 “go and tell your family what the Lord has done for you” becomes “he went and told everyone what Jesus did for him.” There is a hint there about what Mark, at least, is thinking about the identity of Jesus.
    • In Mark 5:21-43 we read about Jesus raising a girl from the dead. Just who is this, that can raise the dead? Again, “the Messiah” would not come to mind.
    • In Mark 6:14-29 we read about the death of John the Baptist beginning with a discussion of who Jesus might be. We can note that “the Messiah” does not make the list. Also not making the list was “Jesus is God incarnate” or “Jesus is the Word made flesh and dwelling among us.” No one was expecting that to happen. Indeed the idea was ludicrous.
    • In Mark 6:30-44 we read about Jesus feeding thousands from very little. Who can do that? Mark gives a hint with the sheep without a shepherd reference plus the fact that Jesus made them lie down in green pastures, reminiscent of Psalm 23 which refers to God.
    • In Mark 6:45-52 we read about Jesus walking on water. Who can do that?
    • In Mark 6:53-56 we read about people being healed simply by touching the clothes of Jesus. Just who is this?
    • In Mark 7:19 Mark throws in a comment that Jesus had declared all foods clean. With long established religious rules about clean and unclean foods, set, according to the Book of Leviticus by God, who can do that?
    • In Mark 7:31-37 we read about the healing of a deaf man including a bit of a summary; “he does all things well.”

    Just who is this Jesus? Jesus was a person in history because of whom people had to rethink everything. Mark records for us the reason why Peter, James, and so many others, went way beyond thinking “this Jesus might be the Messiah,” to “this is God with us – and this is good news.”

    Because of their experience of Jesus, people, regular people, normal people, were willing to rethink everything they thought they knew about God, about God’s people, and about themselves. The people who were invested in organised religion had trouble rethinking. They, the scribes, Pharisees, and other religious leaders, were thrown off by Jesus not meeting their expectations of a holy man, a man from God. This can’t be the Messiah for he is not doing what we expect the Messiah to do according to our religion, and besides, he does not seem to be very religious.

    What do people think about the identity of Jesus today?

    People are quick to give opinions about Christianity, sometimes based on what is seen on tv or in politics, but sometimes based on the experience of hypocrisy. “You talk a lot about love, but…” Opinions about Christianity often determine people’s opinions about Jesus.

    What if people could start from a blank slate? Where did the belief that Jesus is actually God come from? From Mark we learn that this belief came not from the organised religion types, but from the experience real people had of Jesus. The religious types had no interest in starting a new religion, they were all about protecting the one they had, while the non-religious types, like Peter and the disciples, had no interest in starting a religion because, well they were not that into religion. Christianity did not create Jesus, it sprang up because of the experience of Jesus.

    The people who were there, like Peter, the disciples, and so many others, were sharing their experience of Jesus before Mark, and others, wrote it down for future reference. They were willing to rethink everything, and to live and die for what they came to believe about Jesus. We have Mark and the other Gospel accounts, not because organised religion types made Jesus up, but because normal people experienced Jesus. We still do.