Sermon (Pastor Adrian Kitson), Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017, St Petri
Mark 10:46-52 and 11:1-11
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’
49 Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’
So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’
52 ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”’
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’[b]
10 ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
This guy was in the crowd the day that the King came to the city. But he did not lay his coat down before the king.
I wonder whether Bartimaeus was the only person who could truly “see” that day. The Jesus’ disciples, the Pharisees, the average city dwellers…. they were all responding to the question Jesus always raised; “Who do you say I am?”. Bart answers – “Son of David”; the first person to name Jesus that loaded name.
For Bart this was all very quick. He had only just been given new eyes to see, just hours before. That is when he lost his coat. Back near Jericho, Bart hears the way the feet of so many are sliding across the stones coming his way. All he can do is listen. They are yelling for this man they really hope is the Messiah.
Some don’t believe he is. But he hears others telling stories of what they already saw Jesus do. Bart concludes, it is now or never. He yells. In fact the words say he ‘screams’. He will not let the indifferent and judgmental crowd dismiss him ‘Kyrie Eleison‘, ‘Lord, have mercy’, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”.
This is royal speak. This what you would greet the Queen with when she came to Elizabeth. Bart seems like the only guy who can see Jesus, even though he can’t actually see him – yet.
Jesus hears Bart’s screaming. For the first time in years, someone actually takes in interest in Bart. “What do you want me to do for you? How can I serve you? Bart could have played it safe and just asked for mercy in the form of money or a better coat that is lying on the ground behind him. But he takes a big risk. He asks for mercy in the form of getting his sight back. “I want to see”, Bart says.
The mercy is given. Everything he ever imagined that he would never be able to see is right there in front of him. What a gift! Sheer grace.
For Bart the sight is more than just seeing. Now he can see a person; Jesus. He is drawn to the giver of the gift and not just the gift given. So much so that he leaves behind his prized and much needed coat to follow this man. Think about that. A coat to a destitute man with a major disability is shelter from sun, rain and wind. It is a shopping bag to carry stuff home. It is a matter of life and death on a bitterly cold night. It is even a bowl to put out when doing the only thing he can do; to beg. But he leaves this coat of safety on the ground! He sees beyond his eyes. He sees that grace of God at work in this man.
Bart, the beggar before God, is captured, captivated, moved and melted by the sheer grace of this man and so he follows. “Who do you say I am, Bart?”. “Grace”, responds the following man.
What does truly seeing Jesus mean for a person? It means that there is nothing Jesus could ask of Bart now – his best coat, his loyalty, his support, his devotion, his direction in life, his money, his conduct in relationships – there is nothing that Jesus could ask of Bart that Bart would not give or do – and gladly.
So, what are you asking for from God today and what is he asking of you and would you give it or do it?
People around Jesus were asking for God’s help. “Hosanna”, “God, save us!”, they yell.
Some in the crowd were asking God for a miraculous show of divine assistance (like Bart did). For some this was merely problem solving. “God, fix my problem, but don’t ask me for a relationship or to do anything or to follow you anywhere, just fix my problems”.
For many today this seeking of God’s help has little to do with a relationship, an ongoing serving, following, giving. It is simply asking God the magic Genie to fix something.
Of course deals might try to be made. “Fix our problems God, and we will follow you” they might say, only to find out that they end up like all twelve disciples inside a week – scattered, alone and ashamed of their inability to keep their end of the deal.
Then there were the people who were not joining in the chorus at all. They had no intention of singing this praise song. All they wanted was the noisy joy silenced and the man gone – and they were working on that!
They were keeping their coat on, thanks very much! It was there coat. They earned it. They had been very, very good. As far as they were concerned their place and status were assured by their disciplined following of God’s law and belief in the promised of God that they were already in, chosen, privileged to be sons of Father Abraham by blood.
Little did any of the people on the march across the bridge this day know that so soon, this man on the donkey would be stripped of his coat after it was destroyed by blood stains. His coat would be treated as mere booty for brutal work completed by a group of soldiers.
Jesus would lay down his coat for these people – yes – these people – all of them – the very, very good who thought they could see, the miracle problem fixers who thought they could see, and the disciples who had begun to see his grace, and one guy named Bart, who was beginning to see that many could not see Jesus because they did not experience his grace, even in the miracles.
Whoever you are;
- a person looking for a fix but not a relationship.
- a person with a big need for which you are cutting a deal with God to fix.
- a person keeping your coat on because you have earned it or have a right to it by name or membership or paying your dues…
This man Jesus lays down his coat on your path for you to walk on. He lets you trample all over his coat. He said so. he said he came to serve, not to be served and give his life a ransom payment for you.
There is another coat on offer here today– the garment of praise, the robe of his righteousness, a coat of grace and mercy for blind sinners.
You did not ask for this coat of life or deserve its safety or status and you certainly have not earned the invitation or the coat. By the stripping of his coat he has just given you a coat dipped in his holy and life-giving blood.
“Who do you say he is?” and will you take his coat of grace. You need it more than your job, your dreams, your plans, your vision, even your partner or your kids or grandkids.
Pause on the road you travel this Easter. Hear his scream from the cross. Scream out to him for new sight. There is nothing he has not done or given to you.
Leave that old coat of self-earning, working, striving, dealing and fixing. Put on the new coat of underserved love and a life of joyful serving – so much so that if someone asks you for your coat, give them your shirt as well (Matthew 5:40), for he is your clothing, your safety, your status and your sight.
Read the extended text slowly and carefully noting the people and especially Jesus’ words.
Jesus sounds like a general commanding his troops as he directs them to get tell those closest to him to call Bartimaeus over and as he orders his disciples to get that donkey. What do you make of this kind of directing from Jesus?
We said that this is all very ‘kingly’. The words, “Hosanna” and etc are a direct reference to words used for Israel’s kings and their coronation or welcome home after a great victory. What do you think people of our time are asking to save them and from what?
I suggested that some people in the crowd just wanted a quick fix to their problems without any thought of ongoing following and relationship. Some wanted this but knew there are ‘no free lunches’ and so probably tried to bargain with God to get their problems fixed. other did not think they had a problem and were keeping their coats firmly on!
- Chat about these three kinds of people and how you see this same kind of response to Jesus among people you know or in our culture.
- Think about these three kind of responses in your own life.
And then think about Bart. he seems to be a man who can now see with his eyes and see Jesus with his heart. What would this march into the city have been like for him? What might he have experienced when he figured out he did not have a coat to throw down because he left his only coat back on the Jericho road!? Who would you have been in the crowd that day – palm waver, coat thrower, onlooker, someone wishing it would all go away so you could get on with you day?
The question Jesus demand we ask is “Who do you say I am?” It is THE question of the gospels. This is the question they all respond to as they tell the story of Jesus. Who do you say Jesus is?
Jesus paused and stopped to notice Bart on the side of the road. Many people paused and looked at him dying on that cross. Discuss how you might pause this Easter and see him with the eyes of faith, and the ears that hear his scream “My God, My God, why have your forsaken me!”, and “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”, and “it is finished!”.
- Reflect on what these words from the naked Jesus whose coat is gambled away underneath him mean to you
Move and melt my heart, Lord Jesus, so that I truly see you this Easter and see my life anew.