It just so happens that my life has travelled more widely these last few days, courtesy of the internet. Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto, Canada, is one of those places happily lodged in my past ministry. I first visited in 1980 and since have been a Summer interim preacher on several occasions, with extra opportunities like the Lester Randall Annual Lectures. Carol and I have many friends and much history there.
A little while ago the church started its own online daily devotional guide called Walking Together Weekday Devotional. (You can access it online). Following the lectionary readings, they invited a range of writers to contribute. Considerable freedom is given in terms of length. So, my turn came on Saturday March 25. Three texts included Mark 10:32-34. 46-52. Separating these texts made me focus on how these different events relate. The second part about Bartimaeus I have often preached on, but bringing verses 32-34 alongside changes perspective.
Verses 32-34 contain Jesus' third prediction of his impending death. It's stunning. Some scholars say that it must have been written later by the church when the full Easter story is known. That seems the common sense explanation. Otherwise you are driven to the quite extraordinary possibility that Jesus really did know the cruel details of his death. That he was fully aware of the awfulness of his mission. Now doesn't that open eyes of faith?....Jesus really is the unique Son of God. In full health, he strides out at the height of his powers to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45) Willingly, with high intentionality, he goes to his death choosing to make it inevitable. What physical, moral, and spiritual courage he shows.
The second reading tells of the blind beggar who hears the crowd as Jesus leaves Jericho. People tell him that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. He knows enough that this Jesus is a healer. When he shouts out : Jesus, Son of David' people around try to quieten him. Just who does he think he is- the lowest at the lowest end of productive society. You can picture the story as he shouts even louder.
Bearing in mind the singlemindedness of Jesus' conviction about facing his death, what happens as Jesus calls the man to himself shows how Jesus works. Always works. His big mission is for little people. For him nobody is of little significance. Jesus works on the one-to-one principle. He makes time on the road for just one. This last miracle in Mark's gospel speaks volumes about his compassion to humble, needy requests. And I love the fact that Mark's account is the only gospel record that names the man Bartimaeus. As he followed Jesus did he become well known - a nobody, now a friend of Jesus?
When you spend time looking in detail as Easter draws nearer it deepens the wonder and worship, doesn't it?