David Kolander

What Bartimaeus Got to See When Bartimaeus Got to See!

by David Kolander on March 28th, 2021
Mark 11:1-11

We can’t say for absolutely sure that he was part of that Palm Sunday procession, but it is very possible he was there – and if he was there, he would have been extra happy to have been there, because where he had been before was not a happy place. I’m talking about a man named Bartimaeus. The reason I am mentioning a man named Bartimaeus, when he is not mentioned in the words of our Lesson from Mark’s Gospel, is because in the verses right before our Lesson, this is what Jesus asked him: “What do you want me to do for you, Bartimaeus?” The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Go,” said Jesus, “Your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” And then the very next words are the words from our lesson about a crowd following Jesus along the road toward Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. Even if that formerly blind man wasn’t part of that crowd, let’s think about What Bartimaeus Got to See When Bartimaeus Got to See, even if he only heard about it afterwards – and, most importantly, let’s pray on this Palm Sunday that we see the very same things with our own eyes of faith on this special holy day that begins what I pray will be a most meaningful Holy Week.

So, what do you see when you see Jesus get ready for that entry into the city of his death, the city he had referred to at least three times before when telling his disciples, “The Son of Man must go to Jerusalem and suffer and die at the hands of the chief priests and elders of the Law – and on the third day be raised to life?” Don’t you see someone who was in complete control of what was going to happen — someone who is the all-seeing, all-knowing Lord God of heaven and earth? That’s what Bartimaeus would have seen. Jesus knew there was going to be a colt which had never been ridden before in that community ahead of them, and he knew that the people who owned that colt were going to see no problem handing that colt over to two strangers when they told them, “The Lord needs it,” which is exactly what happened.

Did you notice the little phrase Jesus told them to add? “The Lord needs it — and will send it back shortly.” The enemies of Jesus who started yelling at Jesus for all the yelling of praise that was coming his way were not going to stand in the way of Jesus doing what he was going to do – but it wasn’t yet time for them to grab him and begin that ghastly process. That would start in four more days after Jesus left this same Mount of Olives, from which he had given the command to commandeer a donkey. With all the things that would happen between that Sunday and the coming Thursday, there would still be time to return to its owners their little donkey, so in control of even the so-called little things of life is the Lord of the universe.

But what else do you see when you see Jesus riding on that road covered with the people’s coats and with branches they had cut in the fields? You see someone who was now accepting the people’s praise for who he was and what he had come to do. That may not sound like a very remarkable statement to say that he was now accepting the people’s praise for who he was and what he had come to do, but what had Jesus said at other times to people he had healed, for example. “Don’t tell anybody about it.” The one who now tells us to tell everybody about it, early in his ministry said don’t tell anybody about it, because he didn’t want the hatred of him by those who rejected his miracles because they rejected his message to get to the boiling point until it was time to get to the boiling point, when his enemies would finally say, “We can’t deny the fact that he’s doing the miracles, but we have to deny the miracle worker’s claim that he is the Son of God,” even though that was the very thing Jesus was proving by doing those miracles. But now that boiling point was getting closer to the time God himself had determined four days hence, so when the crowds sang out, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” Jesus did not tell the crowds to be quiet, even telling the Pharisees who demanded that he do so, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” “Now is the time for the Son of David to come in the name of the Lord, so let them sing, ‘Hosanna in the Highest.’” So said the Lord God who had come from the highest heaven to do this very work.

Hearing the crowds praise the “Son of David” would had to have meant something extra special for Bartimaeus. After all, as he earlier had sat by the roadside begging for people to throw him a few coins, and then heard that all the commotion on that day was about the one known as Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout — and then shout all the more — “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Calling someone the Son of David meant you knew this was the Promised One; this was the one descended from the great King David who would be the king – the king who would never die – the king whose rule would never end – the king whose control would be one of love and peace in the hearts of people and not one of hate and force over the lives of people. Bartimaeus knew the Son of David had had mercy on him by the very fact that he came to be the Savior of the world, and now that mercy extended to allowing him to be able to see as one more proof that that was just who he was – the who truly came “in the name of the Lord.”

That, too, was a reason for singing Hosanna, because coming in the name of the Lord is not just a line in a song. It’s an expression that refers to someone carrying out what the Lord’s name was all about – saving people from their sins. Just think about that for a moment from the vantage point of whoever might have seen him later that special day, when Jesus went to the temple, as noted in the last verse – verse 11. What does that verse tell us Jesus did? It tells us that in the temple Jesus looked around at everything, but that he went back to Bethany for the night because it was getting late.

In other words, Jesus saw something that day, too. One thing he saw was the temple – the temple that the Old Testament prophets said would someday be filled with the glory of the coming Christ. These were those days those prophecies would be fulfilled. But what did Jesus see that day? It was not glory. What he saw was what led him to clear out that temple the very next day when he came back to Jerusalem, because it had become a den of thieves, he said. Earlier this Lenten season Pastor Casmer preached about the time Jesus did the same thing near the beginning of his ministry, but now I want to just make one point to help us see what Jesus saw as his ministry was coming to a close. The prophet Jeremiah hundreds of years earlier had spiritually accosted the people of Israel by using that same language about what so many of them had done to the temple – making it a den of thieves – because they had stolen from the temple its purpose of declaring the need for the forgiveness of sins and the reality of the forgiveness of sins in the coming Savior – and had replaced it with worshiping other gods of their own imagination, which they felt was so much better than having to admit that someone else needed to die so they would not die forever.

That’s what Jesus saw when he looked at the temple that night – people like you and me who so often set up as our god not the Savior God of heaven and earth, but the false god of loving self more than others and using others for the sake of self – people like you and me whom he so desperately wanted to save from the guilt which that kind of idolatry deserves to be punished for every single day, knowing that the only way to do that was to let himself be taken to that hill outside the city where criminals were put to death, even though this “criminal” was dying for crimes he had not committed, but that instead, even though we all like sheep had gone astray, the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all, so that by his wounds we would be healed.

And that’s what Jesus ultimately saw – the dearly, dearly loved children of his creation, who today join those many people in the crowd that day – and quite possibly, Bartimaeus of old – in singing those same Hosannas for the very same reasons. We have seen by faith that Jesus of Nazareth is the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-controlling Son of David, the King of All, who came in the name of the Lord as the Savior of all – something which will become all the more clear – just as it did way back then – four days from now – and five days from now – and one week from today, when the temple of our Savior’s body was restored to the expression of its fullest glory. Someday, maybe soon, we will get to see the glory of the special temple with our own eyes. By his confession, so will Bartimaeus. Amen. 

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