Help! Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Oct 25, 2015) The story of Bartimaeus is probably a parable. It isn’t presented as a story Jesus makes up to make a point, but it might be one made up about Jesus to make a point. The “blind” character might represent those who don’t see the significance of Jesus’ […]
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Oct 25, 2015)
The story of Bartimaeus is probably a parable. It isn’t presented as a story Jesus makes up to make a point, but it might be one made up about Jesus to make a point.
The “blind” character might represent those who don’t see the significance of Jesus’ Dominion of God (or kin-dom of God) message, his counter-cultural, anti-imperial, justice-seeking, liberating message that God desires for us to care for one another and work to build a just, peaceful, and generous world (the Dominion of God, the anti-Empire, the counter-Kingdom, the kin-dom of God).
But even if one can’t see how this divine Dominion is possible, one might nevertheless wish to see it, to trust that it could be possible. And so, the affirmation, “Rabbi, I want to see” makes space for Bartimaeus to see what he could not see before, to imagine that the divine Presence is everywhere fully present, that when we love, when we hope, when we care, when we share, we are divine Love in action and we are ushering in the kin-dom of God in our lives.
Being willing to see the kin-dom of God as a “this world” possibility is the trust, the faith that broadens Bartimaeus’ perspective. He can see more than he could before simply because he is willing to see more, to understand more, to experience more, to have a new thought about how life can be.
Bartimaeus’ healing, his miracle, his new vision (sight), was simply his willingness to try on a new view, a new perspective. A Course in Miracles teaches that a little willingness is all that is needed for a miracle (a change in perception). Bartimaeus has at least a little willingness to see what he could not see before, and the result is a new spiritual vision.
The story isn’t about ocular improvement. It is about seeing the sacred value in all people, the potential in all of us, the Spark of divinity that is your very soul.
The other thing about the story is that not only is Bartimaeus able to see what he hadn’t seen before, the dominion of God in our own hands, the reign of God as a here and now possibility expressing through us, but Barimaeus insists on being seen. Yes he sees more than he could before, but he is also ready to be seen more than he has been before.
When Barimaeus hears that a healer is nearby, one who routinely gives people their dignity back, one who affirms the sacred value of all people, who touches the untouchable and loves those who have been called unlovable…when Bartimaeus hears that this amazing Galilean prophet is nearby, this Jesus of Nazareth, he wants to receive whatever blessing Jesus has to offer. This kin-dom of God business that includes all people and sees the light of God in all people, that is good news for Bartimaeus, and he wants some of it. He wants to believe that it’s for real, and it’s for him. He’s ready to see it for himself.
So Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus. Help me!
People who ask for help make us uncomfortable.
Why must people insist on having unfettered access to the voting booth?
Why must the uninsured ask for access to medical care regardless of their income?
Why must people without enough to eat ask for food?
Why must same-gender loving people come out of the closet and insist on being treated fairly and without discrimination?
Why must people struggling with diseases ask people to work for a cure?
Why must the addict seek support in achieving sobriety?
Why must women insist on having sovereignty over their own bodies?
Why must transgender people fight for the right to use public restrooms without having their dignity assaulted?
Why must people make such a fuss as our youth are gunned down not only in the streets but on school campuses and in movie theatres?
Why can’t all these people just be quiet and leave well enough alone?
Bartimaeus found his voice. He not only needs a hand up, he dares to believe that just maybe he deserves it, simply because he exists. And so, the Wayshower is nearby, the exhorter, the prophet of hope, the minister of healing, and Bartimaeus calls out to him. Those who were luckier than Bartimaeus, those who hadn’t had it quite as rough as he had, were uncomfortable with him affirming his right to be blessed, and daring to ask for the help he needed. He called out and others told him to be quiet. But he would not be silenced; he called out even louder, “Hey, Jesus; help me!”
And Jesus summoned him, and encouraged him, and told him that his faith had served him well.
Then Bartimaeus could see more possibilities in his life than he could before. That’s the gospel lesson today.
Bartimaeus’ faith brought a positive change to his life. This isn’t to suggest that if one wishes hard enough or believes sincerely enough, problems will simply disappear.
Faith remember is “trust”…faith trusts that we are more than our problems, that we cannot be defined by or limited to our conditions. Bartimaeus discovered that he had the ability to trust that he deserved help and had a right to ask for it, and that trust, that faith, had a profound impact on him.
The kind of faith, or trust, that Bartimaeus discovered within himself is present in us. Such trust can comfort us when things are difficult, and might even lead us to improved conditions, but even before things improve (or if they never do), trust says that we matter, we can have peace and joy regardless of conditions, and that it is worth the effort to try overcome the difficulties even when we don’t know how or when the breakthrough might occur.
Bartimaeus’ healing happened before Jesus noticed him. Bartimaeus’ healing occurred the moment he dared to ask for it. Now, as I said, the vision Bartimaeus received was probably a spiritual vision, an infusion of optimism, a willingness to see and seize the possibilities in life. But even before he experienced this new vision, he manifested the power of hope when he said, “Please, help.”
Even if Jesus hadn’t heard him, or couldn’t do much for him, the minute he said, “there must be possibilities for me and I will not give up until I discover some of them” Bartimaeus had a breakthrough in consciousness that changed his life and opened the door for blessings. From that moment on, Bartimaeus was going to see more reasons to hope, more reasons to be glad, more reasons to be grateful, more reasons to celebrate life. The moment he was willing to see more, he was bound to see more. And his asking merely indicated his readiness to see and seize more blessings in life, more of the kin-dom of God all around him.
This reminds me of the story in Mark, chapter 9, where a parent comes to Jesus to help a sick child. Jesus tells the parent, “All things are possible.” And the parent says, “Oh I do believe that; help my unbelief.”
Oh I believe in the power of hope, help me figure out how to not talk myself out of hope.
Bartimaeus is ready to embrace hope, to believe that he deserves to be sustained by hope, and he won’t let others tell him to keep his hope to himself. When he calls out, “Help me,” it was his own higher Power that immediately responded, “Help is on the way.” Jesus just affirmed that reality for Bartimaeus.
I don’t know what your regret, your fear, your burden, your pain, your challenge is today, but I know that prayer can help you see possibilities you may have overlooked so far. I know that prayer can help you have a peace that no circumstance can take away. I know that prayer can help you face the obstacles, see past them, and move toward possible resolutions. I know that prayer can help you feel connected to the universal and never-ending Love that will never let you go. Prayer is how we say, “Help me!” And when we pray, somehow, in some fashion, help is on the way.
Spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant says that three of her favorite prayers are “Help! Help me now! Thank you.” That’s basically the way Bartimaeus prayed, and it helped him see life in a whole new way. Bartimaeus is anyone who needs to see more reasons for hope and more blessings for which to be grateful. Bartimaeus is us, and his miracle can be ours. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2015
Help me now!