Proper 17 (B)
September 3, 2000
Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Can you remember the first time you fell in love? Maybe you were in high school, spending hours on the phone talking to the guy or girl of your dreams. Perhaps you were in college or at work, and you were captivated in the presence of that special someone. There is nothing like it, is there? Being in love is a time when we step outside of ourselves and our routine, and we enjoy the companionship of another person. It is a lot like Spring. Everything is new — the flowers are in bloom; rich green grass covers the ground; trees art budding. It is a time of newness, life and celebration.
We find the same parallel in our passage today. As Spring is blossoming all around, so too is this special relationship. The lover longs to be in the presence of his beloved (possibly his spouse, see 5:1). Theologically, we discover God’s affirmation of passionate love. In addition, the passage serves as a model for marriage, encouraging us to spend time with our spouse, cultivating our relationship. You may have heard the story of a distraught and hurting woman who asked her husband, “Why don’t you tell me that you love me anymore?” To this, he replied, “I told you that I loved you when I married you 20 years ago. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.” While this may sound ridiculous, it is all too easy to neglect our spouse and forget to say “I love you.”
What about those of you who are not married? These truths can be applied to all relationships, challenging us to cultivate our friendships and celebrate the gift of companionship that God has given us. Too often, we get so busy that we don’t take time to smell the roses. We need to slow down, hit the pause button on our lives and enjoy our friends just as we enjoy the newness of Spring.
I am reminded of a poem called The Sation. It describes our lives as a long scenic train ride with passengers intently focused on the final destination. We say such things as, “When we reach the station, that will be it!” “When I am 18!” “When I put that last kid through college!” “When I have paid off that mortgage!” “When I get a promotion!” “When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after!”
Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us. Remember Psalm 118:24, “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that steal our joy. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow, twin thieves which rob us of today. So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles.
Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.
To this I would add, celebrate your relationships, and enjoy the companionship that God has given you.
Finally, this passage provides a picture of what many lives are lacking. It can therefore challenge us to be sensitive to those around us who are lonely, without love, without friendship, and lacking a place of acceptance and belonging. It can serve as a call to the church to reach out to someone who is lonely and develop a new friendship. (Paula Fontana Qualls)
Proper 18 (B)
September 10, 2000
Restoration and Renewal
Restoration. Renewal. Hope. Healing. Just hearing these words ignites within us an attitude of expectancy. So many of us need restoration and hope in the current situations of our lives. Even though the summer sun is shining all around us, it does not even begin to penetrate the dark depression that is burdening some of you. Perhaps you are grieving the loss of a loved one, or hurting because of a broken relationship. Maybe you have just lost your job, or you are struggling with a certain sin in your life, or someone you love is facing divorce. Perhaps you are feeling down about yourself, wondering if you will ever do anything right. Whatever your situation may be, you have come here today needing restoration, renewal, hope and healing.
The prophet Isaiah brings us a message of hope. Isaiah speaks of a total reversal of circumstances (see also Isa. 42:9, 16; 43:18-19). His message points us to the Babylonian exile, a time of crisis and despair. Jerusalem was in ruins, the temple destroyed, and the religious foundation of the people was shattered. Would life ever be the same? How could they pick up the pieces of their broken lives as exiles in Babylon? Sound familiar? Do you ever feel like you are living in exile? Are some of the most important aspects of your life slipping away? What are you to do?
For those who were exiled in Babylon, God brought restoration. The exiles returned to their homeland under the leadership of Cyrus, King of Persia. God can also restore our broken lives. One of my college students recently told me his story which demonstrates this. When he was in high school, he suffered from an injury that left him temporarily paralyzed. As he started his rehabilitation, he had to learn how to walk again. It took him about two hours to take his first two steps. Daily he would pray, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This was his source of motivation. Today, just a couple of years later, he is walking and playing college baseball. This young man experienced renewal and restoration as he relied on God every step of the way.
But what about the times when the miraculous healing does not take place, the loved one dies or the divorce is finalized. How do we cope? I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Countless Psalms also echo this truth that God can bring peace and serenity in the midst of struggles.
This passage from Isaiah also shows us that God works through individuals to bring restoration and hope to others. Just as God used Cyrus to restore the exiles to their homeland, perhaps God wants you to be His instrument. A recent television special illustrates this so well. The show spotlighted a team of six or seven policemen who helped drug addicts turn their lives around. Because of the compassion, determination and persistence of these police officers, several individuals were recovering from their addictions, holding decent jobs and living in an apartment rather than on the streets. Are you willing to go the extra mile to bring healing and restoration to someone else?
I challenge you today to let these words of Isaiah find themselves to be rue in your life. If you are carrying a burden, give it to the Lord so that He can restore you. If God is urging you to help someone else, make that commitment to be an instrument of His healing and hope so that water can be poured into the desert of someone s life today. (Paula Fontana Qualls)
Proper 19 (B)
September 17, 2000
It All Depends On How You Look At It!
The passage for consideration is one that is well known to the church. It is Peter’s confession of faith. This passage marks a transition in terms of Jesus’ ministry. To this point Jesus has been defining and clarifying His authority and power as to who He is. Now His focus shifts to helping the disciples understand the meaning of His messiahship. That meaning is understood in suffering, death and resurrection. It is for this purpose that Christ has come into the world.
The beauty of this story is found in the unique mix of the human and the divine. In one minute Peter, caught up in the moment, just blurts out the powerful and correct response to Jesus’ question identifying Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. Now, even though Peter makes the confession, it seems that he doesn’t quite fully understand the meaning of what he has dared to proclaim. That becomes obvious as Jesus begins to spell out what this bold claim about Him means. For Christ it means suffering, death and resurrection.
Peter’s humanity gets the best of him as he hears this awful prediction and takes Jesus aside to rebuke Him. Jesus, with a keen sensitivity to the powers that are at work here, identifies not only the temptation, but its source as He cries, “Get thee behind Me Satan” (v. 33). As in the wilderness temptations, Mark portrays Jesus’ own struggle and victory over Satan, Jesus clearly points out Peter’s mistake as He responds with, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (v. 33). Jesus then begins to teach and to instruct the disciples as to the nature of what discipleship must mean for them and for any one claiming to follow Him.
Discipleship means denying ourselves so that we may be directed and led by the will of God. Anything less denies the best part of who we are and cuts us off from the source and power of life. All that we are must become subject to the will of the God. He recognizes God in Peter’s confession, He senses the temptation of Satan in Peter’s rebuke, He is clear as to who God is calling Him to be.
Peter, however, struggles at best with who God is revealing Himself to be in the everyday and ordinary. The story offers a powerful contrast in terms of the way both men see and sense God’s revelation in their midst.
This is a story about perspective. Perspective is all about how we see and interpret life. Jesus’ perspective is grounded in a keen trust, awareness and response to who God is and as to what God is revealing through Peter in answer to His question of who He is. Jesus sees with the eyes of faith and the eyes that reveal the spiritual nature of common and everyday life. Peter becomes the vehicle of such revelation for Jesus.
Jesus’ invitation is one that informs and challenges us to see and live in a different way. We are charged to deny ourselves. We are challenged to a life of cross bearing and following. By example, Jesus once again articulates that which He has just demonstrated and will demonstrate in the days and weeks to come.
Like Peter, many times we human beings only want to see what we want to see instead of what is really there. Our responses to life are so many times statements and decisions based, not on the revelation of God in our midst, but on our own selfish nature, “not on the things of God, but the things of men” (v. 33). We can know the power and joy of sensing God and surrendering to God’s will and God’s revelation. And yet, we also know what it is like to selfishly act to life and miss God and what God shares in our midst altogether.
Several years ago my wife brought home a book with pictures within a picture. She and my children would marvel as they flipped through the pages and viewed the picture hidden within the page. I would look and look and yet, could not see what they saw. Finally my wife said that I was looking at the picture in the wrong way. She instructed me to relax my eyes and to look beyond the page as if to see through the page and the hidden picture would reveal itself to me.
I did as she instructed. Sure enough, the picture appeared before me, and I was elated. I saw as I surrendered to the picture and allowed the picture to reveal itself to me. This story is all about seeing. The story reminds us that in terms of seeing God in the routine and everyday life we lead it all depends on how we look at it. Jesus is inviting us to look by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following His lead. Such seeing determines not only who we are, but also what we do. (Travis Franklin)
Proper 20 (B)
September 24, 2000
Are You Sure You Want to Be Greatest?
The theme of discipleship continues in these passages following Mark 8. Mark identifies the place of this instruction on discipleship as Galilee, which for Mark is the place where Jesus calls persons to follow Him. Again the ministry of Jesus has shifted from His authority and power as Messiah to clarifying and defining the nature of who He is as Messiah and as to what He is to do.
Once again He identifies His Messiahship as His being delivered into the hands of men, His death and His rising again. What is different in this definition of Messiahship is its broader context as He now includes all men in reference to His being delivered up. All humanity becomes implicated in His death. And once again, the disciples are depicted as not getting it, which is a common trait of Mark’s gospel in terms of how he portrays the disciples. Here again they misunderstand what Jesus is trying to teach them in regard to who He is and what He must do.
The misunderstanding of the discipleship to which the disciples are called is further illustrated when they reach Capernaum. Jesus has overheard them talking during the journey. As they reach their destination He asks them the nature of their conversation on the journey. The disciples never answer Him, but Jesus knows the nature of their topic, which was who would be the greatest. Then He sits down which signifies that this is going to be a time of teaching. He begins to share with them the theme He introduced earlier: in order to be first one must be last, and servant of all. He then embraces a child and shares that whoever welcomes one of these children in His name welcomes Him and the one who sent Him.
Jesus, with this teaching, turns the accepted values of the world on its ear. Children were not valued in the culture of His day. They were among those considered the least in the class of society. Once again Jesus seeks to identify that following Him means to reach out to those who are least and the forgotten ones in the world. The nature of true greatness in the eyes of Jesus is to be understood in embracing those that have so little. In doing so we not only welcome Him, but the one who sent Him.
As we think about our own culture of one-upmanship and of getting to the top we, like the disciples, become somewhat embarrassed about our role and place in such a society. Everyday people are measured by what they own, where they live, the jobs they have and who will be number one. T. S. Elliot once said, “Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people who want to be important.” It seems our culture has made a habit of pressuring people to be important.
Jesus seems to have another idea in mind in terms of the kingdom He is initiating and establishing. If you want to be His disciple and a part of God’s kingdom, greatness is measured by being last, by being the servant of all and by accepting and embracing the least, the lost and the forgotten of society.
I attended a workshop not long ago and heard this marvelous story. It took place at one of the Special Olympic events that are held for kids who are handicapped in some way. As you may know, the children compete against one another just like in the Olympics. As the story goes there was one race where at the beginning one of the children became disoriented and stopped in the middle of the race. The child who was leading the race at the time noticed that the other child in the lane next to him had stopped running. The boy stopped running, gave up the lead, turned and ran back to where the other child had stopped. He reached out, grabbed his hand and they walked victoriously across the finish line together.
Jesus reminds us that the kingdom of God is not about winning and losing; it’s not about being number one; it’s not even about wanting to be more important. What living in the kingdom is about is being last as we allow others to go before us; it’s about service to those who need us; it’s all about reaching out and joining hands with those who are the least, the forgotten, those who have become disoriented and who have stopped running altogether.
Jesus has taken time once again to help those of us who would be called His disciples to learn what following Him means in the everyday life we live. In terms of greatness Jesus brings a new meaning that, once understood and lived, reorients all of life for now and forever. Now, in light of what Jesus says about greatness, are you sure you want to be the greatest? (Travis Franklin)
Proper 21 (B)
October 1, 2000
Effectiveness is a major concern in business and education. A popular book describes the seven habits of highly effective people. James’ emphasis on practical, useful faith involves an effective prayer life. We have the assurance that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (v. 16).
I. Prayer is effective when applied to life. (vv. 13-15)
When we suffer it is time to pray. James may be refering to the “various trials” mentioned earlier (1:2). Prayer changes the perspective on suffering from our pain to God’s power and sustaining presence. When cheered by success, don’t forget to pray. We are often most vulnerable to defeat after emotional high points. Sickness calls us to prayer and to seek healing from the Great Physician. Sin is another reason to pray. Pray to help “save a soul from death” (v. 20). Does your prayer list contain the names of individuals lost in sin? I often heard a pastor preach about being “prayed up” in reference to spiritual resources that we need when we are tempted to sin. Prayer enables us to see the “way of escape” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Prayer is effective when applied to all of life. “Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer” (Joseph Scriven).
II. Prayer is effective when grounded faith. (vv. 14-16)
The “prayer of faith” (v. 15) comes from a person made “righteous” by Jesus Christ and living in a right relationship with him. “For the eyes he Lord are on the righteous, and of His ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12).
A deceived Nevada prostitute described her prayer life: “A lot of people think working girls don’t have any morals, any religion. But I do. I don’t steal. I don’t lie. The way I look at it, I’m not sinning. He’s not going to judge me” (Life, March 1994, p. 59).
We pray “in the name of the Lord” (v. 14), trusting a sovereign God to work according to His will. James earlier reminded us to “ask in faith, with no doubting …” (vv. 1:6-7). A sailor sets the sail to catch the wind, and we lift our prayers to catch the Spirit of God that will move us forward in faith.
Prayer grounded in faith is faithful to persist. Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow to illustrate the need “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1-8).
III. Prayer is effective when nurtured by God’s family, (vv. 13-16, 19-20)
The church is the context for the phrase, “anyone among you.” The first prayer hymnal of God’s people was the “psalms.” Sickness should encourage us to “call for the elders of the church” for prayer. Relationships broken by sin can be overcome when we confess “to one another, and pray for one another” (v. 16).
I answered the telephone and heard the question, “Pastor, do you believe the Bible?” I wondered what was next, but answered, “Certainly!” “What about James 5:14?” she queried further, the question coming from a church member coping with cancer. It was the only time anyone ever called me to come and “pray over” them. I took our deacons to the home for a prayer service that may have done more for the “elders of the church” than the cancer patient. We prayed in faith and waited upon God. Our lives were different after that prayer meeting, for we experienced the rich dynamic of God’s family submitting life to God in faith. That is effective praying. (Bill Whittaker)
Proper 22 (B)
October 8, 2000
Hold Fast to Integrity
Job 1:1 & 2:1-10
In case you haven’t noticed, this is an election year. Millions of dollars will be spent by candidates telling the voting public their record, or interpreting the other candidate’s record. Economic factors motivate more than character. J.R. Miller observed, “The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried is the character of a man” (John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998, 62).
We need leaders with integrity more than charisma. Job exemplifies an individual with an uncompromising commitment to moral and ethical principles. His example probes our life with the question; “Do you still hold fast to your integrity?”
I. Do we possess integrity? (1:1)
The standard for integrity isn’t the opinion held by the majority of the latest poll. Tony Evans tells of a man who received too much money from a Dallas bank teller. The man came back to return the extra cash. The bank officials were elated and asked the honest man to bring his wife in for a photo session. He declined, “No photos! I’m married, but that woman isn’t my wife.” Do we measure up to the standard of integrity that describes Job?
The person of integrity is blameless and upright. This is not a state of sinless perfection, but wholeness; a healthy complete life that brings no accusations of inconsistency. Honesty and moral fidelity characterize integrity. I once heard it defined as “who you are when all the exterior is torn away.” Job had everything torn away but still held fast to his integrity. The person of integrity turns away from evil. Job pictured his life, “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me,” (29:14). Righteousness turns one from evil to do what is good (19:15-17).
“One who feared God” is the final test of authentic integrity. The fear of God involves submission to Him in faith, reverence and awe before His powerful presence and obedience to His guidance. If we walk to please God we are in the will of God (1 Thes. 4:1)
II. Do we make integrity a priority? (2:2-20)
Is integrity more important than possessions? On a teaching assignment in Russia I toured St. Petersburg with Alexander. He trained as a chemist and secured a good job during the Communist era. He was offered promotions and higher wages if he would renounce his Christian faith. For 19 years he earned the same wage and was repeatedly passed over for jobs he was more qualified to fulfill. “I could not renounce my Lord, nor deny the heritage of my godly parents,” he testified.
Does integrity have higher priority than family? Are we willing to physically suffer rather than jettison your integrity? Job lost everything, but integrity was his highest priority. Job’s wife encouraged him to curse God and die. She would feel at home in the contemporary culture of death that takes the “easy” solution to suffering. Paul affirms Job, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
There was a man in the land of Uz a man who held fast to integrity. What about where we live? Am I a person of integrity in my town? Are you the man or woman of integrity on your street? Are you a teenager who has it all together through faith and can make difference in your school? Can our family, our church, our work colleagues count on us to hold fast our integrity? (Bill Whittaker)
Proper 23 (B)
October 15, 2000
Loop Holes and Needle Holes
When I was a college student, I went to every “good teacher” I could find and asked basically the same question that was put to Jesus. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Or, “What must I do to find ultimate happiness?” I was really asking, “What is the least I have to do? What is the minimum I must give? How much sin can I have and still go to Heaven?” I tried worshipping at the altars of science, humanism, Eastern religions, New Age spirituality, anything. I even tried Christianity, but I found the demands too high.
After Jesus answers the Rich Young Ruler, he tells Jesus he will keep the Law, but he’d keep his wealth, too. He is looking for a religion he can control, not one that would control him. He, like me, wasn’t really looking for answers; he is like the famous story about W. C. Fields reading the Bible on his deathbed. When asked if he was “getting religion,” he replied, “No, just looking for loopholes.”
How many ways can you get a camel through the eye of a needle? I have heard two suggestions. One theory is “The Eye of the Needle” was a gate, and the other that it was a rock formation, similar to a narrow pass at Chattanooga, Tennessee’s “Rock City.” A camel could get through by removing its burden (allegoric symbol of a burden of sin) and getting on its knees (humbling itself). Sounds doable. Only two problems. Mark uses the Greek word for a sewing needle, and Luke (a doctor) uses the word for a surgeons’ needle. In other words, they weren’t talking about gates or rock formations. They were talking about a very tiny hole through which you could pass a camel hair, but not a camel. And second, the hearers didn’t say, “That’s tough. You have to remove the camel’s burden.” They said, “That’s impossible.”
The Disciples, on the other hand, had done exactly what Jesus asked. They had left all to follow. Now they expected some words of assurance and a promise of reward. Instead they only hear how difficult it is for anyone to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
To both, Jesus is simply saying, “It is impossible for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” I could point out that with the exception of some homeless people, virtually everyone living in the United States is “rich” compared to the average person Jesus met. Even the Disciples who had left all to follow felt they are being counted among the rich. So it will suffice to say it is impossible for anybody to get into the Kingdom of God. We can’t do it. Period. There are no holes, loop or needle, through which we can pass into the Kingdom of God.
You cannot work your way in, you cannot buy your way in, you cannot get in because of your family connections. But: “With God, all things are possible.” We can’t do it, but He can. God has established a way, through Jesus Christ, for us to come to Him. That is the Good News of the Gospel. No loop hole is necessary, because a way has been provided. (Bill Groover)
Proper 24 (B)
October 22, 2000
Final Answer? Final Question!
Job 38:1-7; 34-41
Job’s friends are not dead. At least, their ideas aren’t. For thirty-seven chapters they sat around discussing the ways of God. Basically they simplify life into an understandable and controllable paradigm: all suffering is caused by sin. The problem is, they are right so much of the time they think they are right all of the time.
Yes, much suffering is caused by sin. Most patients with lung cancer were smokers. But not all. Most people who drink heavily damage their livers. But not all. And what about those people who abused alcohol and tobacco and never suffered any health damage? They, like Job, ask, “Why me?” Often life defies such neat categories.
By turning generalizations into absolutes, they leave themselves open to misunderstanding God. Job, unwilling to admit sin caused his suffering, questions God’s fairness, goodness and love, thus compounding the situation.
These early theologians and philosophers sound like many voices today. Some people think they should be able to systematize the ways of God, understand life and explain everything in terms of justice and fairness which they can understand and like. They try to hold God and His claims of authority accountable to standards they approve. Proponents of post modern concepts of relativism, sitting around academic environs like Job’s friends, publish books encouraging people to choose for themselves whatever truth and source of authority they wish. The only test of veracity any world-view must stand is if it is true for someone. Since all philosophers cannot agree on one ultimate absolute truth, none exists, and all truths are equally valid.
Then God speaks, and out of a whirlwind! “Who are you to question me? Hang on, and if you can answer MY questions, I’ll answer YOURS!” And then He poses a set of questions arty source of truth should be able to answer. “Where were you when I created the world? Do you even know the dimensions of the universe?” Something astronomers still debate. “Can you make it rain on command? Can you even count the clouds?” We’ve only scratched the surface of meteorology, and we think we can judge God?
Often in doing evangelism we run into people who think the Judeo-Christian concept of God is insufficient. God doesn’t come up to their standards. “A god of love wouldn’t judge people and condemn anyone to eternity separated from himself.” As though they designed just one of the planets. “An all powerful, all knowing and all good God would not allow evil to exist.” Call them next time a drought threatens the crops.
Unfortunately, sarcasm won’t bring them under conviction. But the message of this text raises a very important question for people looking for a god they can fully understand and who’s every will they approve. If you could understand all of God’s thoughts, and if God could meet your standards, you would be as intelligent as God, and He would be no more moral than you. Personally, I want a God who is smarter than I am and more moral!
I don’t have good answers to the questions God put to Job. Where was I when He created the world? Nowhere. I want a God who was there. Can I make rain? Well, I understand a little bit about seeding clouds and such, but really, no. I admit, for all our great scientific knowledge, we can’t create an amoebae, much less a human.
Paul was subtler when he told the Romans that just as God’s weakness is mightier than human strength, so the most unintelligible thing God does (what would appear to be “God’s foolishness”) is really far wiser than the most intelligent thing of which we could conceive. (1 Cor 1:20-25)
To put things even more bluntly, God doesn’t have to come up to our standards; we have to come up to His. God won’t answer all our questions, but we must answer His. And His first question is, “Will you trust me?” (Bill Groover)
Proper 25 (B)
October 29, 2000
In his book, Visioneering, Andy Stanley discusses the role of faith in the development and sustenance of a God-centered vision. He writes that “faith is confidence that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He has promised to do. It is simply an expression of confidence in the person and character of God.”1 In our text today, we meet a blind man with just this sort of vision. Though his circumstances brought opposition, he put his confidence in the Giver of sight.
I. Desperate for Vision (vv. 46-47)
We enter the story with Jesus and His disciples leaving Jericho. With a large crowd following, they pass a blind beggar on the side of the road named Bartimaeus. As he heard the news of Jesus passing, he cries out with a loud voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 47).
Bartimaeus’ debilitating condition forced his occupation to be one of dependence upon others. Yet, his cry to Jesus was more than a plea for healing; he proclaimed Jesus exalted position as Messiah. There was only One worthy to offer mercy, and Bartimaeus desperately put his life in the hands of Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, we have the opportunity to put ourselves in the same position as the blind beggar — one of humility and desperation. Our Lord desires to direct our every step in our walks of faith. Do you depend upon Him for guidance and perseverance while recognizing the constrains of pride, or is your hope placed in self? When our very lives aren’t a cry for sanctification, the desire to be molded into the image of our Savior, we walk through life like one who has left the paved road to cut his own path through a thick and endless forest.
II. A Faith that Endures (vv. 48-49)
As Jesus continued on His way, the cries of Bartimaeus became louder and more persistent: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 48). Many in the crowd turned towards the beggar sternly telling him to be quiet. After all, who did he think he was? But even as they spoke, Bartimaeus’ determination was evident to Jesus. So He called him to come.
Bartimaeus disregarded the scolding shouts of the crowd; he knew his need, and he knew the One who could heal him. Bartimaeus was putting his trust in the person and character of Jesus, believing that He was who He said He was.
We find ourselves in many circumstances that seem hopeless, and, apart from our confidence in the person of Christ, they are. But we have the promises of a faithful Savior to put our trust in, giving us the strength and ability to endure. Will you accept His invitation to come despite the scolding voice of life’s afflictions?
III. The Joy of Sight (vv. 50-53)
Perhaps most of us will never know the joy of regaining our sight, at least physically. But we do know the blessings a life of faith brings. Though we see as through a glass, we will one day look upon the face of our Lord in person. And we know that He works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.
What a blessed privilege it is to put our confidence in Jesus. The blind beggar in this passage did so and regained his sight. As Luke’s account tells us, Bartimeaus followed glorifying God. As the people watched this display of God’s greatness, they too joined in giving praise to Him (Luke 18:43).
I remember several years ago at a missions conference in Chicago during our evening worship and celebration service, a young man spoke of his difficulties with drugs, alcohol and depression prior to his conversion. Now he was standing before hundreds of people that he couldn’t see due to his blindness and was sharing the testimony of God’s grace in his life. I’ll never forget his last words before he was led off stage: “I once was blind, but now I see!”
We too can share in the joy of God’s amazing grace. And that joy shines brightly in a dark world inviting others to join in and praise. (Jonathan Kever)
1Andy Stanley, Visioneering. (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 1999), p. 63.
Sermon briefs in this issue are provided by: Paula Fontana Quails, Mooresboro, NC; Travis Franklin, Chaplain, Methodist Children’s Home, Waco, Tx; Bill D. Whittaker, President, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Pineville, KY; Bill Groover, Pastor, East Hill Baptist Church, Tallahassee, FL; Jonathan Kever, Managing Editor, Preaching.
Proper 17 (B)