October 24, 2021 Confirmation Sunday
It is amazing the technology cars have today. I am old enough to remember when power windows were a luxury and my father had trucks with the crank you had to turn to roll the windows up or down. You can get cars with park assist and you can get cars that even drive themselves. A friend posted a video recently on a Florida highway of a man sleeping in the driver’s seat as the car drove itself. One of the features I have found most useful are the lights on the mirrors letting you know another car is in your blind spot. If only we had this type of notification when we veer off from our path following Jesus. We are reassured in the gospel lesson that when we veer off the path, Jesus can open our eyes and our hearts to see his light.
We receive a brief glimpse of Jericho in Mark’s gospel. It is the oldest known city in the world, and it gets only a brief footnote. Jesus and his followers enter Jericho and the next thing you know they are already leaving. They seem to be just passing through. This is the path Jesus is on. Jesus and the disciples were in the north in Caesarea Philippi, and since then, they are making a path to Jerusalem as Jesus makes predictions of his coming death. On their way out of town, Bartimaeus is bold enough to call out to Jesus. Not only does he call him, he calls him the “Son of David,” acknowledging his divinity. These are words that could possibly get him, and his friends killed. It was the emperor who was considered divine, and not some itinerant shepherd stirring up the people. In his proclamation, Bartimaeus brings truth and shines a light on Jesus. While the others want to silence Bartimaeus, Jesus does not stop him, for he knows his time is coming.
This is not the first time Jesus had healed a blind man in Mark’s gospel. While in Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus to be healed. We do not get a name and there is not a verbal request made by the man. In this healing, Jesus spits in the palm of his hands and places them upon the blind man’s eyes. Quite different from today’s healing when Bartimaeus professes Jesus as the “Son of David,” and Jesus says, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Jesus’ travels in this section from Mark are bookended by these two healing stories of the blind men. From Jesus physically healing to witnessing Bartimaeus’ courageous faith in proclaiming the “Son of David.”
Blindness can go far beyond the literal notion of being sight impaired. We may have 20/20 vision, but there are places within our vehicles which we cannot fully see, our blind spots. The same thing can occur in other parts of our lives when we are not even aware. Nicholas Cage starred in a movie about twenty years ago titled, The Family Man. The plot reveals Jack as a successful businessman closing billion-dollar deals. However, his life took this route when he made the decision to take an internship in London one summer and he left his girlfriend Kate behind to the detriment of their relationship. They would not see each other again for twenty years. In this vision, Jack’s alternative life is revealed to him where him and Kate have children and he is a tire salesman. He was blinded by the idea of success and money while the idea of a fruitful life with Kate and his children were in his blind spot. While a bit fantasy, this is a wonderful movie to watch as the holidays approach.
We each have these blind spots as we grow up. As you are being confirmed today, your faith has already been tested. Others have tried to distract and lead you astray. When the possibilities of what may be are hidden in the periphery, it is easy to focus only on what is directly in front of us. By ignoring our blind spots, we can miss out on a lot of opportunities. There are also things in our blind spots we want to stay away from. Like the car on the highway, we don’t want to swerve into, we don’t want to get distracted by the things that pull us away from Jesus.
Bartimaeus is an example for us to follow as he summons the courage to call out for Jesus, even when the crowd attempts to hold him back. He is not concerned about what will happen, because he knows he is speaking the truth. He knows Jesus’ presence even when he cannot physically see him. Like many sight-impaired individuals, his other senses seem to be heightened. The throwing off of his cloak, symbolizes the old order he is leaving behind. In the throwing off, he opens himself up to receiving new life. Organizations can also miss what is in their blind spots and keep things under the cloak. The church is no exception.
C. Andrew Doyle observes, “this passage reminds me the Christian Church is not a society of the wealthy who distribute their wealth for the sake of the poor, but a community of blind people seeking clarity of sight so that we might in turn help our siblings see.” At this time, as you make your affirmation of faith, there is a clarity of sight. You have written faith statements clearly stating your current beliefs. May you now continue to help guide those who are seeking the same clarity. And the same thing goes for those whose confirmation day was many years ago. You always can be the light for those who are in the darkness.
It is easy to be blinded and led astray by the desires of the world. In our blindness we lose sight of God and all the wonders of creation. The healing of the blind man in this morning’s gospel lesson is for all of us. It is a reminder Jesus not only opens our eyes, but also our hearts to see the light. The light which is found in Jesus. The light which draws us down the same path as Bartimaeus once his eyes were opened. A path where Jesus leads the way, and we choose to follow him. May your blind spots be revealed, and your hearts and eyes opened to the light of Jesus of Christ.