OPEN OUR EYES, LORD!
Mark 10: 46-52
John Newton, the famous writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” wrote on his gravestone that he was an infidel, but by the rich mercy of Jesus Christ his Lord, he was “preserved, restored, and pardoned.” His famous hymn, which we will sing, has the famous line, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see.” How does a man with two good eyes describe himself as blind? Are there not fathers who are blind to their daughters becoming little princesses because they have daddy wrapped around their little finger? Are there not people of age who are blind to the growing danger they pose to pedestrians and other drivers if they get behind a wheel? And are there not children who are blind to dangers in this world that adults can clearly see? With two good eyes, people are blind. With two good eyes, someone can ask me what another person was wearing who I just saw thirty minutes earlier and I can’t tell them! Yes I too am blind with two good eyes. Blindness is everywhere. Sometimes it takes a blind person to cultivate, and to help me cultivate, my perceptive vision. Fanny Crosby was blinded as a little child and show wrote the gospel songs “Rescue the perishing,” “To God Be the Glory,” and “Blessed Asssurance, Jesus is mine.” Her physical eyes did not work. But her mind’s-eye did, with such lines as “But purer and higher and greater will be, our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.” Sometimes it actually takes the blind to lead “the blind.”
Today the physically blind one is a beggar named Bartimaeus. Actually his name might have been unknown since our text says he was the son of Timaeus, and bar meant “son.” So, he was the “Son of Timaeus.” He could not use his eyes to see that Jesus was drawing near. What other senses might he have used? Certain his hearing was more perceptive; as the din of noise grew higher and others called Jesus’ name, he would have known that he was in earshot. Like a crowd that begins to push closer in to catch a glimpse of a parade character, he would have felt the movement that clued him in about when to speak. The he used his voice, likely in a loud way not unlike a bleating goat: “Jesus,” he calls him by name. He does not call him Rabbi. He has Jesus’ attention. “Son of David!” or “Bardavid.” That was a title of honor; David was the anointed King and Bartimaeus claimed that Jesus was his spiritual ancestor. “Have mercy on me.” In those days people needed to be declared clean by tabernacle priests. But from Jesus they wanted to be well. The people who were sighted heard Jesus say “Call him,” and even though Bartimaeus had keen hearing, they thought they need to point it out: “He is calling you!” The rest is history. He addressed Jesus as “master” -a statement of humility-and respectfully asked to receive his sight. The faith that this blind beggar demonstrated moved Jesus to do what in all ages is called miracle: he made a blind man see. We don’t know how he did it except with great faith in his Father. But he did do it! Did God also make the spiritually blind John Newton be able to see; to see the error of his ways; to see his life of sin; to the depths to which he was sinking? Could it have been the very same Jesus passing through John Newton’s wretched life who moved him to declare “I once was blind, but now I see?”
Hindsight is so clear, isn’t it? With hindsight I can see myself saying words of criticism that I wished had not come out of my mouth. Hindsight lets me see what I was blind to seeing earlier. Hindsight lets me see mistakes I made in judgment. Leaders must take risks in order to move forward, but hindsight lets us all become Monday morning quarterbacks. Sometimes we have to choose, even in our blindness or limited vision; and then we, at times, will join blind Bartimaeus and cry out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” It was blind, deaf and mute Helen Keller who finally got the word associations that a persistent teacher named Annie Sullivan taught her. She had a breakthrough of understanding that sighted persons would envy: she understood. Some time in school, did you understand, all of a sudden, what you did not understand a day before? I remember when I was young and learning writing that penmanship did not come easily to me. Those who have seen my writing know I am challenged in that area! As all my 5s looked like Ss, my mother taught me this: Instead of writing them from top to bottom in one motion, she opened my eyes to a way of getting my fives write. It involved lifting up my pencil once, and saying: “the little man walked down the street, turned the corner, and put on his hat.” Hearing and practicing that rhyme made the scales fall from my eyes. Hearing some Bible passages have made more scales fall from my eyes. And hearing precious words to anthems like the one today help me to pray earnestly and intensely. Today we do not have a priest, rabbi or other sighted person to lead us. We have a blind beggar who got his physical sight, to guide us to see a new insight about God, about others, or about ourselves. I still don’t know that my powers of observation will ever be as sharp as my wife’s my daughter’s, or my daughters-in-law Amanda and Vicki. They can instantly tell me what a person was wearing, and, without me asking, they’d add descriptive words like, cute, darling, or frumpy. Maybe I can do that someday. For today, I ask for the ability to at least see my own mistakes and repent of them. Perhaps that kind of blindness is the kind that can be most healing.
On this Reformation Sunday I am reminded that the banner for the Westminster Confession of Faith has one eye in the middle of it- the symbol of our all seeing, all knowing, never sleeping God. God neither slumbers nor sleeps the Psalmist wrote. God does not have an eye that grows cataracts or scales. God does not have eyes that look away; God always sees. Perhaps the logical choice for our lack of perception is putting our trust in the God who is always perceiving and noticing. When you can’t see; God can. When you can’t make out what’s ahead of you, God can. If we acknowledge that we are blind as a beggar, can we also acknowledge that we need Jesus, for without him we are a miner without a lantern, or a search sub trying to find a sunken ship without eyes or sonar. If we stumble on what we’re looking for, it is just by accident or timing. But with Jesus, we have the light, and we have the eyes, and we have the way, the truth, and the life.
On last thing: if your prayer is “Open my eyes, Lord!” be ready for what you see. If your eyes get opened, be ready to change. Bartimaeus could no longer sit on a street corner and beg; he would have to get a job. If your eyes are open, you’ll likely want to change your relationship with others; you’ll have to toss out cherished viewpoints and biases. You might be moved to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or give shelter to the homeless. Spiritual sight can mean a giant shift in priorities. And it can be
wonderful! So get ready! Will you become found who was lost? Will you become spiritually sighted who was blind? Are you ready to receive God’s amazing grace?
Jeffrey A. Sumner October 25, 2009