Here we go again. Jesus is pulling another miracle out of his bottomless bag of wonders. It’s not as spectacular as raising the dead, curing a whole crowd of lepers or feeding multitudes. In fact, in Mark’s gospel, this is the second time that Jesus cures a blind man. But the real miracle in this gospel is a lot more than a rerun.
Jesus cures Bartimaeus with the words: Your faith has saved you. In the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, there is reference to the word faith only twice. Yet in the far briefer New Testament, faith is cited scores of times…and never more powerfully than Jesus does in this week’s gospel.
After a lifetime of blindness, Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus in desperation. Jesus hears his cry. He clearly sees the blind man’s faith fighting through the darkness. Like Bartimaeus, we turn to Christ in disappointment and pain when all else has failed. Jesus is used to that. He knows our frailty, our shaky mix of fear and faith. And that’s as it should be. It is the human condition. Our faith is not a destination. It is a journey. And the journey is fraught with detours and potholes.
First there are the roadblocks we build ourselves…our doubts, our inhibitions, our reluctance to let go and put things in God’s hands. Then there are the obstacles that others erect. Some were quick to tell Bartimaeus to pipe down and stop bothering Jesus. They thought Christ had better things to do than bother with this nuisance. Today these are the same folks who tell us that it’s definitely not cool to publicly proclaim Jesus. But being uncool is at the very core of our faith. So uncool in fact that Paul writes to the Corinthians: That we are fools for Christ’s sake.
We know that electricity is a powerful force that changed the world in the 19th Century. But today we take it for granted. And we’re only aware of it when it fails and the lights go out. But the force is all around us… pulsing through power-lines, buried in the walls of our homes… powering systems that feed us, shelter us, inform us, protect us, transport us… sustaining life as we know it. Yet we never see it unless it arcs in the atmosphere.
Faith is the electricity of the spirit. It informs our hopes. It inspires our love. It is the foundation of the New Covenant. We do not come to God through genetic descent from Abraham. We come to God through our faith in Jesus Christ… through our belief in a miracle that took place 2000 years ago. Far greater than the discovery of electricity, the internet, the theory of relativity and the mechanics of the universe… all the acquired wisdom of the ages… far, far greater is the transformative miracle of faith. Yet it is a miracle we have grown up with… that we take for granted. Like electricity, we only see it when it arcs in the atmosphere… in the lives of the saints around us… in the sacrifice of martyrs… in the testimony of survivors.
For such a simple, familiar word, faith is a highly complex concept that has humbled great intellects over the ages. It is a priceless gift from God. Yet it is worthless unless we actively accept and exercise it. That requires getting and keeping our minds and hearts in sync with God’s grace. Endless stacks of theology books have been devoted to sorting out the many aspects of faith. But you probably have a pretty useful insight on faith tucked away in your pocket or purse right now. Fish in your wallet for a dollar. On the flip side you’ll see the words: In God We Trust.
That’s what Bartimaeus did. In his blindness he saw in Jesus the face of God. After years of doubt and discouragement…in the teeth of ridicule and abuse… through the grace of God, he had the will to believe. He trusted in God’s gift of faith and called out to Jesus. And that’s the real miracle in this gospel.
I could use a miracle today. I bet you could too. And we’ll get one, if we lay our blindness on the Lord…. if we call to him in our frustrations… in our temptations and resentments. And don’t forget the good stuff… give him your hopes and your dreams, too. The age of miracles is not over… if we live in the faith that God gives us. If we call out to him today.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.
Image: Carl Heinrich Bloch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons