Mark 10: 46-52--Christ the Overturning Word, Christ the Solemn Procession, Christ the Joyful End
46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And 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.” 52 And 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.
I think of how we are changed. This man was not changed by what he looked away from, but what looked toward. He was not changed by what he did, but by what he was given.
How are we changed? How do we recover our sight? It is these words that have been on my heart: we do not trust in Christ by ourselves.
Blindness and idolatry are what comes naturally to us. Sight does not come naturally, it comes by grace. Reality is gift and intervention.
We do not trust in Christ on our own. We trust in Christ by hearing His Gospel.
That is what makes trust possible, what makes sight possible. We only trust in Christ as our hearts are cleansed and purged by His Gospel. This cleansing, this feeding, must happen because the wounded soul and the hardened heart is not a problem we can fix. The enduring of life is not a task we can manage on our own. Neither is the passage through the nightmarish fog one we can navigate on our own. Only the revelation of Christ can be its feeding and its cleansing and its enduring and its passage.
A Gospel that reveals who He is, and, by revealing who he is, reveals who we are. So that we can trust who He is and who we are in Him.
His Gospel has been spoken. HIs Gospel and HIs Spirit are an anointing, the gift of Christ to the wounded soul and the hardened heart, for our enduring of life and our safe passage through the nightmarish fog. So that we can see clearly. The Gospel has been spoken, but it will take a lifetime before we completely hear it. The Word has been spoken, but it will be a long time before we recover our sight.
For a long time, maybe for the last five years, and in some ways maybe for a whole lot longer. Life felt like a nightmare.
On vacation, I swam across a cold dirty river with a strong current and when I got to the end. And I felt that I had woken up from it. That I had recovered my sight. That I knew what things were now.
When you are in a nightmare, you don’t understand it as a nightmare. When you are in a bad dream, you don’t understand it as a bad dream. You think it’s just what life is, you think it's just what things are. And what they always will be.
You think something in your life, or life itself, is really is loathsome, wrong, excruciating, unbearable urgent, perilous or missing. And that something really has to happen so you’ll be okay. But it’s just your upset mind, it’s just what’s wrong with your brain.
You think something really is at stake, at risk, unsettled, or unsafe, or that you really are in trouble. That something bad really is about to happen, but its just your threatened body, it’s just the imprint trauma has left on your physical body.
You really think that you have not future, that you really are doomed. But it’s just the accusing devil, just the condemnation he lies to us with.
And all these things begin to intimidate you the way a nightmare intimidates.
This has been the blessing of sight: to know that its just your upset mind, your threatened body, the condemning devil. It’s just a nightmare provided by the brain and body and satan. It’s not you, it’s not even your life. That not what life’s about, and it’s not how we make it through life.
We do not make it through life by defending ourselves, making things right, knowing for sure, and figuring things out. We make it through life as we are carried from hearing, through prayer, toward what we offer.
A million things could happen, maybe even should happen. There’s a million things I have to do or should do, but there’s only a few things I’m ever offering.
And life is only that, heading from hearing through prayer toward what I’m offering. Heading from what's been given to what's been promised.
And there’s only a few things I’m ever offering: being with, bearing with, taking care, or making something. Life is just the moment by moment offer of ourselves to the world as it is rather than the world as we would have it.
We do not have to be confident in what could happen or should happen, only have to be confident in what we offer.
And we do not have to wait until the world has stopped being awful or dangerous or uncertain. We offer ourselves to the world as it is. It’s awfulness and its danger and its uncertainty or its loathsomeness may change how or what we offer, but never that we offer.
We only have to be confident in what we offer. That is the only thing we have been asked to become. We have only been asked to become the gracious offer of ourselves to the world as it is. The moment by moment offer of ourselves to the world as it is rather than the world as we would have it. The meaning of life is to become the offer of Mercy. All the joy and grief and honor and challenge is to become the offer of Mercy.
When we offer, we make a declaration about what life is.
“Life isn’t about what’s been taken, but what’s been given. They are a million things that can be and have been taken, but life will always be about what’s been given.”
“Life isn’t about what is wrong, but about what is promised. There will always be a million things that are wrong or could go wrong, but life will always be about what’s been promised.”
If this is what life’s about, how do we make it through life? Especially through all life’s alienation and temptation, its uncertainty and complication, its suffering, injustice, and death.
How do we know there is always a path toward what we have been asked to offer? When we feel stuck, like we are in a dead end?
We make it through life by taking hold of what’s been given and heading toward what’s been promised.
By taking hold of what’s been given and heading toward what’s been promised.
We take hold and head toward who we are in Christ--seen, safe, fulfilled
We take hold of and head toward what is ours in Christ--faith, hope, love
We take hold of and head toward the enduring of this wilderness with Christ
We take hold of and head toward the way through the nightmarish fog with Christ
Which begs the question: What’s been given? What’s been promised?
I think of it this way:
We’ve been given Christ’s Death and Resurrection, all its promise and power and peril–He has given us the Events of His life.
How do we have it? We have it by His Gospel and through His Spirit–by His Means of Grace.
How do we receive this Means of Grace? We receive the Gospel by hearing and are led through His Spirit in prayer. We have been given, along with the events of His Life and His Means of Grace, this daily rhythm of hearing his Gospel and praying in His Spirit,
We have Christ’s Death and Resurrection,
Assured to us, and partaken of by His Gospel and through His Spirit,
Which we take hold of by hearing and through prayer
Because we have His Death and Resurrection, by His Gospel and through HIs Spirit,
We have an Overturning Word and a Solemn Procession,
The Rescue and Leading of our Trust.
When we have nothing else, we always have the Rescue and Leading of our Trust.
How? How? How? Is the path really secure? How can I be so bold as to say there is always a way forward? How?
Because we have His Gospel and His Spirit, we always have Faith and Hope. They cannot be extinguished.
We cannot trust in Christ (what is called Faith) by ourselves.
We trust in Christ by His Death. Our trust is rescued His Death.
We trust in Christ By His Gospel. Our trust is rescued by His Gospel.
We trust in Christ by Hearing. Our trust is rescued by Hearing.
We cannot trust Christ with things (what is called Hope) by ourselves.
We trust Christ with things through His Resurrection. Our trust is led through His Resurrection.
We trust Christ with things through His Spirit. Our trust is led through His Spirit.
We trust Christ with things through prayer. Our trust is led through prayer.
How do we make it through life?
We make it through as we are carried through Events of His Life by His Means of Grace which we attend by this Daily Rhythm.
But hearing and prayer are so hard yes? We don’t feel like we can quiet ourselves enough to hear, we don’t feel we can become simple enough to pray. There is so much, and life is so complicated.
But I simply recommend the practice of hearing and prayer. Faith and hope are a reality we practice. Faith and hope are realities and disciplines. Faith and hope are the disciplines of reality. In hearing the Gospel and praying through His Spirit, we are simply practicing Faith and Hope, we are simply claiming what is ours, we are simply practicing reality.
It is not my experience that we have to become quiet before we can hear. It has been my experience that hearing makes us quiet. Maybe not all at once, and sometimes only gradually over a lifetime. But I believe we become quiet by hearing.
It is not my experience that we have to become simple before we can pray. It has been my experience that prayer makes us simple. Maybe not all at once, and sometimes only gradually over a lifetime. But I believe we become simple through prayer.
What has been promised?
We have been given His Death and Resurrection and promised His Return.
We have been given HIs Gospel and His Spirit and promised His Fellowship.
We have been given Hearing and Prayer and promised it will lead us to what we offer.
When we trust in Christ, and trust Christ with things, we will have to, inevitably, entrust ourselves to others, both for their care and for ours.
We do not entrust ourselves to others by ourselves or for ourselves, but for the building of His Fellowship. That is the purpose of offering
What a terrible, wonderful thing.
We serve, and are served by, an inevitability called His Fellowship.
If we take hold of His Death and Resurrection, then we are headed toward His Return. There is nowhere else to go, nowhere else we can be led.
If we take hold of His Gospel and His Spirit, then we are headed toward the building of His Fellowship. There is nowhere else to go, nowhere else we can be led.
If we take hold of this practice of hearing and the practice of prayer, we will head toward what we offer. There is nowhere else to go, nowhere else we can be led to.
If we take hold of the Overturning Word and are led in the Solemn Procession, we will arrive at the Joyful End–of despair, death, suffering, condemnation, and the hardness of our own heart.