the twenty-second sunday after pentecost

Mark 10. 46-52
Jesus is Savior and King … of people without names!

Today’s the forty-eighth Sunday of the church year. New Year’s Day, for us, was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, last year. So, only four left until we start it, all over again. And of these last forty-eight weeks, for a little over half them, the third reading was from Mark’s gospel. For ten chapters, we’ve been walking with Jesus. We were there when he was baptized in the Jordan. There when he was tempted in the wilderness. We were with him, along the Sea and with him there in the synagogue in Capernaum. We heard him call the disciples. We listened as he taught – as he proclaimed – the gospel of god. And we watched as he was questioned, challenged, from one end of Palestine to the other.

But this morning, what struck me as odd was that this is the only place – the ONLY place – in Mark’s entire gospel where the person being healed is mentioned by name! All the others … the man afflicted with an unclean spirit … the deaf man … the leper … the paralytic … the man with the withered hand … the woman suffering from a hemorrhage … They were all anonymous! In ten chapters of exorcisms and healings and cleansings, only here, this morning, is any of them mentioned by name. The blind beggar! Sitting by the roadside. Bartimaeus! Son of Timaeus!

Of course, I got to wondering, why? Could he have been a friend, an acquaintance, of Mark? Could he have been a member of the community, of the church, for whom Mark was writing his book? Could someone else have told Mark the story; someone who had been there, who had known the man personally. Or maybe, Mark, simply, made it up. Artistic license. To make it sound more real. To make it feel more authentic. “Bartimaeus! Son of Timaeus! A blind beggar! Was sitting by the roadside!

I read the passage, reread it. Thought about it and thought about it some more. Pondering these things in my heart, you might say. It took a while; but I, finally, got there. I wonder … Wonder if “Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus” isn’t so much a name, as a title. In the story, that blind beggar shouts to Jesus. “BarDavid! Son of David!” Would it be so unrealistic to imagine Jesus calling the beggar, “Bartimaeus! Son of honor!” After all, that’s what the name Timaeus means! Honor! Respect! Admiration! Esteem! As the blind beggar reveres Jesus, Jesus – or at least, Mark – returns the favor! It’s a kind of dance. Between healer and healed! Between savior and saved!

Besides, this is the last person Jesus heals in this gospel. And the final verse in this passage is the proverbial bend-in-the-road and brow-of-the-hill. And the moment the beggar receives his sight, the story changes. Drastically. Dramatically. With the very next verse – Mark, chapter eleven, verse one – Holy Week begins! Palm Sunday! Maundy Thursday! Good Friday! From then until Easter morning, there are no lepers. No paralytics! No blind beggars! There are only important people. People with power. People who have names. Herod! Caiaphas! Pilate! But it’s only that last blind man who’s called “Son of Honor!” In a way, he represents all the nameless, faceless people who came before! We don’t know their names. But they all are Bartimaeus! Sons and daughters of honor! Maybe it’s not a name! But a description! A label! A calling!

For ten chapters, Jesus has taken care of them! He cured them! He fed them! He transformed them into something they never imagined they could be! Never imagined they would be! They are the bible’s tired and poor! Scripture’s huddled masses yearning to breathe! The wretched! The refuse! The homeless! The tempest-tossed! The flotsam and jetsam, the shipwrecks and the derelicts of life! And they all cried out to Jesus! They all cried out and Mark calls them Honored! Mark calls them Venerated, Respected!

Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem! The city of privilege! Of favor! Yet here, in the shadow of the holy city, Mark calls a blind man, begging, sitting along the road, “Blessed!” Mark calls them all “Blessed!” And that’s gospel! Good news! The best of all possible news! This is what Luke was talking about when he proclaimed a god looking with favor on lowliness! This is what he meant when he decreed a god lifting up the lowly! And it’s all there when Mark calls him Bartimaeus!

Remember, for a moment, all the people in his gospel! The people from the whole countryside who went into the wilderness! Everyone from Jerusalem who joined them along the Jordan! The fishermen on the beach! The members of the synagogue! The five thousand! They’re all called! All chosen! All Bartimaeus! Children of honor! And with that title, Mark turns the world inside-out! He flips creation upside-down!

You see, there’s more to this story than, just, one more blind man seeing. This is the kingdom of god! What it looks like! What it sounds like! This multitude! This mob! Of battered, broken humanity! The real miracle isn’t that eyes once blind, now see. The real miracle is seeing people – like the blind beggar – with different eyes! Bartimaeus! Children of honor!

“Consider your call,” Paul tells the church! “Not many of you were wise! Not many of you were powerful or of noble birth! But god chose you! YOU! The foolish and the weak! The low and despised!” And you have become Timaeus! Children of honor! And Jesus? Jesus is our savior! Our king! Savior and king of those who have no names!

My friends, it’s not a name! It’s a title! A title that you share, as well! For like that blind man, sitting by the roadside, begging, you, too, are BarTimaeuses! Children of god and children of honor!