“Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.” (Mark 10:52)
Slowly the lectionary is making a turn toward the final days. The Season after Pentecost ends with the vision of Christ the King, who comes to render judgment and restore God’s kingdom in its ultimate fullness on earth. Appropriately, Advent begins with a similar sense, for we wait in joyful anticipation for Jesus’ first and second comings! Today’s text recounts a restoration for God’s people after the horrors of Jerusalem’s destruction and Babylon’s exile. Not only will a remnant be allowed to return, but even those we might otherwise leave behind are included: the blind, the lame, and the pregnant. What’s more, the Lord now claims a fatherly love for the scattered flock, hinting at a deeper intimacy that Christians would later come to experience in the Incarnation. The hope this passage evokes refreshes all those to whom it addresses.
The psalmist who penned these verses perhaps read Jeremiah’s text minutes before. How do you experience God’s salvation in light of the pain, anxiety, and turmoil in your life and in the life of the world? As we weep, do we remember to bring along the seed for next season’s harvest? What joyous mystery to witness our teary water irrigating the fields of our healing redemption!
The term “sacrifice” seems to have faded from of our day-to-day vocabulary, reserved now for somber announcements of the human tolls of our overseas wars. Yet the concept is integral to our worship and theology. In the text above, we consider the difference between the daily temple sacrifices of Jewish high priests and the Paschal Lamb who is broken for the sins of the world.
The Jewish provenance of Christianity is unmistakable and inescapable. Instead of glossing over the tension within the New Testament between Jews and Christians, or the scribes and Jesus, we ought to engage these texts with a gracious and critical eye. Such was the approach Jesus took, as a faithful Jew, in confronting the theology and religious practices of his time. He cared so much for the traditions of his ancestors that he sought, through the Holy Spirit, to share his relationship with the Father and its implications with all those whom he met. Our embarking on a lifetime of study to avoid anti-Jewish preaching and teaching may be a sacrifice, but it is a worthwhile one.
As a bystander that dusty day, it’s easy to imagine the feel of cringing embarrassment as Bartimaeus makes a fool of himself in order to catch Jesus’ attention. Did Jesus hear him on the first or second shout and keep walking? Were others vying loudly for a healing moment as well? There is paradox here: Bartimaeus, newly sighted, follows Jesus’ growing company on its triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This looks, sounds, and feels a lot like Jeremiah’s vision of return and restoration. The people’s hopes are shattered, however, by the brutality of crucifixion. Only resurrection could possibly convince such despairing folk that God was still with them, and would be, until the end of the age.