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.”