Throw Off Your Cloak!
Text: Mark 10:46–52
Proper 25, B
50And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Such a small thing. Something Bartimaeus probably didn’t even give any thought to. Not that he was careless … better to say care free. Yet this one little action is the defining moment of this story from Holy Scripture. The key to understanding the depths of God’s grace and mercy to each of us, weighed down, covered over and hidden from life and joy. Embrace the metaphor and get ready to throw off your own cloak!
Throw off the cloak of despair. 46They came to Jericho. And as [Jesus] was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Look there, at the side of the dusty road. No. Not out into the distance. Right here at your feet. Look at the beggar your eye naturally seeks to slide past. Be confronted by a man who has led a life of utter discouragement and despair. Here cast away by the roadside is a nobody. An outcast. A man so despairing that not even his own name is truly his. He is simply known at the son of Timaeus. Timaeus seems to have been a man well-known in Jericho, and Bartimaeus is driven to be a beggar by reason of his blindness.
The whispered talk and the implied shame are palpable. Now add to this life of grey despair the fact that the one person who might help seems to be unreachable. It is no hardship for you or me to pick a person out of a crowd and make a bee-line for them. If you are blind and suddenly in the midst of a noisy crowd there is nothing you can do. There is nothing Bartimaeus can do but call out for God’s mercy! AND that is precisely what he is quick to do because he knows the prophets and the promises God made through them to those like himself.
7Thus says the Lord: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel’ ... 9With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” To "have mercy" means to have compassion on those who are miserable. They are the words we cry out each Sunday in the Kyrie which is based, in part, on this passage. Every Sunday the Church sits in the dust with the blind beggar and comes to Jesus with his same plea. In the noise and the chaos and the press of worldly fears, in the despair of day to day struggles it can be hard to pinpoint the One who might help. So we call for His mercy!
Throw off the cloak of doubt and call to Him for that mercy. 48And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” Crowds are notoriously uncaring. They have their own problems they need looking after. Who do you think you are? Get back under your despair and discouragement. Who are you to bother Jesus?
Yet he would not doubt Jesus’ compassion! And Jesus’ mercy is always more than enough! Jesus hears and responds with compassion. He stops. He listens. He answers the call for mercy with a call of His own. He calls Bartimaeus to Himself! Do you doubt He would do the same for anyone? For you? Oh ye of little faith. If only we could throw off the cloak of our doubts and become like this blind beggar!
Throw off the cloak of denial. 50And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
That cloak was likely his sole possession. It was the roof over his head and the bed for his body. Folded up on his lap it lay ready to receive alms. He tossed it away not knowing if he would be able to find it or the money again. And he didn’t care! What are you willing to give up to heed the Lord’s call. What will you cast aside at the chance to follow Jesus? I guarantee whatever solace or comfort they give is but tatters and rags compared to what the Saviour offers you.
For physical healing is only a part of of Christ’s work. Jesus rescued Bartimaeus from sin as well as its collateral damage. He gives him not only sight, but also discipleship and the call to continue in a life of faith and following. Cast off your cloak, whatever it may be that shrouds your life and put on the Robe of Righteousness that Jesus gives to you!
25Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Even though Jesus is intent on going to the cross He takes the time to have mercy. No matter how busy Jesus is, no matter how urgent His task (dying for the whole world no less) Jesus takes time out for this lowly individual. So it has always been according to God’s mercy. You are never so small or insignificant or besotted or besmirched that He is not there to hear your pleas. You are never so broken or guilty that He will not answer the cry for mercy. You are never too far away to be crowded out of His compassion.
Jesus has the power to heal and to save. Not everyone in this life will get the gift of sight Bartimaeus received, not every disease will be cured miraculously. Not every consequence of sin can be avoided. But Every Blind soul can opened to the light. And the good news of God’s mercy in Christ extends that light and produces a joyful jumping faith. One that is willing to get up and follow Jesus all the way to the cross and the tomb, and through them to the resurrection, the reunion and the kingdom of everlasting joy and the gift of finally being able to see God Himself face to face!