Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17th

I read about Blind Bartimaeus on the road into Jericho, how he called out to Jesus- “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

And Jesus kept walking, and the others told him to hush, and how he couldn’t see. He didn’t know what Jesus looked like. He couldn’t see His face, but he heard the sound of the crowd all around him, the excitement, the anticipation and asked, and his heart must have leaped at the answer.

Where was Jesus, exactly in that crowd? The blind begger didn’t know. He didn’t care. He lifted up his voice and shouted. He shouted out into the sightless confusion, the babbling noise. Somewhere in there was Jesus.

Jesus, hidden amid the swirling people, flanked by His disciples, kept walking.

The blind man, determined, called the louder. He is on the side of the road, rocking back and forth in desperation, crying out in his blindness to God, stretching out his hands into the dark, piercing the crowd with his cries- “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

And Jesus stood still.

Why did He wait until then? Sometimes He waits to refine our desires, to let the silence whittle them down to their barest essentials.

He does this sometimes- waits, holds back the gift. The weight of the need presses down through the first things into the real things. Sometimes they are the same things, and they rise to the surface, one pressing need and we cry out with renewed and focused passion. That’s as much as I know.

Jesus stood still and commanded them to call him to Himself. I saw Him bend His head, speak to Peter or John, the phrase spoken in Aramaic. They know Him so well, they can understand Him even in the noise of the crowd just by catching His eye, the compassion in it.

They go their way through the crowd. Someone sees them coming, speaks comfortingly to the blind man, to him to rise, that Jesus is calling for him. Bartimaeus throws off his cloak and stands, half stepping forward, reaching for the hands that are taking his. It seems almost quiet, after. Everyone waits to see.

Jesus stands still, composed in the crowd, the center of so much speculation, excitement, apprehension, but He is perfectly at ease in His own skin, in the bones and muscles aching from the journey, His shoulders back slightly so He can take a long, slow breath, knowing He will rest soon that evening. He doesn’t know where yet, but that doesn’t matter. He’s doing the one thing He must do then, the next will come later.

They lead the blind man through the crowd to Him. Bartimaeus’ heart must have been pounding, each step taking him closer through the dark. He can feel the people around him, hear their murmuring, their breathing, their shuffling feet.

Does he know, somewhere in him, just before they reach Jesus, by some quality of that atmosphere, or does he know merely when they stop? He is standing before Jesus in flesh and blood, and still can’t see Him. But He’s right there, Jesus is present and available, having stood still to pay attention to him, to hear him.

“What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus asks him.

This question is so direct, no preamble, no chit chat. For Bartimaeus, the question comes out of the darkness.

“Rabboni,” Bartimaeus calls Him. In the Bible I read by the side of the bed, the note explains that this means “my great one.” In this Bible, it's the same word Mary uses in the garden. It’s a word that sounds like it could be spoken in one long breath.

“Rabboni, that I might receive my sight.”

I’m reading this propped up in bed, reading it slowly, going over and over the lines. This Bible I’m using used to be my mother in law’s. It’s heavy with floppy leather covers and a whole concordance in the back, a red letter edition.

She’s marked it up quite a bit, and I wonder sometimes what secret stories those lines and highlights are hiding, but I don’t pry. It’s not for me to know.

I wish that it wasn’t a New King James version- I’d prefer the New Jerusalem Bible or the Amplified, but they’re expensive and anyway, when once I asked Jesus which version I should use, He said it didn’t matter. He could speak to me, teach me and guide me regardless.

And it is true, He is with me as I read. I’ve always loved this passage. He’s spoken through it to me through it before and He’s speaking to me through it again. I am Bartimaeus. I want to receive my sight. I want this because I want to see Him.

Jesus is both revealed and hidden from me in the things of this life, the things I see and hear, touch and smell. They are all around me, a murmuring, an evidence. Sometimes I wait there. Sometimes I can't; my heart cries out and I can’t keep silent.

Jesus is passing by and I know He is there, at the heart and I want to see Him. I want Him alone. I am willing to throw off my outer layers, to cry out ardently, to persist in bothering Him, to knock at the door; my request refined by waiting.

“Go your way, your faith has made you well,” Jesus tells him. To see by faith is to be made well, that is what Jesus is saying to me. It is wholeness and life to my spirit.

I sometimes think Jesus is saying these things with a sense of humor hidden just under the surface. After all, Bartimaeus’ way was His. Bartimaeus just followed after. So with me. I’m going nowhere, unless Jesus is going there too.