Thursday, October 25, 2012

Too Many Roads!

Our texts for this week, our last in our "Road Less Traveled" series on discipleship centered on Mark chapters 8-10, are Mark 10:46-52 and Job 42:1-17, which can be read here.

In the Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken," which we have been alluding to over the last month or so together in worship as a visual way to think about Jesus' call to discipleship, he speaks of "two roads diverging in a yellow wood."  The problem with this week's gospel text, however, is that it does not present to us two roads of interpretation; as I read what seem like 7 very basic verses from Mark, the roads we could take into and out of this story seem almost infinite.  Seriously, I think I could spend 6 or 8 Sundays preaching on this passage and preach a radically different sermon every time.  I'm sitting here this morning, trying to decide which road to take for Sunday, and I feel kind of overwhelmed by the options.

We could talk about the significance of this story taking place outside of the troubled and historic city of Jericho--anything here bring back memories for you of the famous story from Joshua 6?

We could talk about the significance of Mark giving this blind beggar a name--Bartimaeus--when the characters Jesus heals are almost never named!  Furthermore, he emphasizes the meaning of Bartimaeus' name--"son of Timaeus"--and Timaeus was the name of a famous dialogue written by Plato--one that also talks at length about seeing and blindness.  Coincidence or not?

And speaking of names, we could talk about the names given to Jesus in this story--the crowd calls him "Jesus of Nazareth," while Bart (as I like to call him) names him "Son of David"--the first person in this gospel to do this.  There's all sorts of stuff here.

We could talk about the crowd trying to silence Bart, and the fact that they only pay him attention to scold him, while Jesus stops to engage him.  Ouch...there's an indictment of Jesus' followers.

We could talk about the parallels with the two stories of faltering discipleship that preceded this one--the man who came to Jesus and was told to sell everything (notice how Bart threw down his cloak without even being told to do so!) and James and John, who like Bart were asked, "What is it you want me to do for you?"

Then there's this whole metaphor of seeing, so crucial in the Gospel--so tightly tied to believing.  We see it also in the Job passage, where what has changed in Job's heart is that now he not only hears about and knows but SEES God; and we see the irony here that a blind man is the only one who sees Jesus clearly.

We could talk about how this whole section is bookended by stories of blind men being healed--and how different the healing in Mark 8:22-26 looks from this one that happens right before he enters Jerusalem.

And speaking of that, we can talk about how this is the last healing Jesus does before he enters Jerusalem for his final week--what's the significance of this being his final act?

Overwhelmed yet?  I am.  But the multitude of threads here--and I haven't even named them all--tell me above all else that this is more than another healing story; this is a story that has many significant things to teach us about discipleship, about Jesus, about ourselves.  I don't know where we will end up walking together on Sunday, but I am glad we are on the journey together.

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