Sermon for the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 10:46-52
Dear people clinging to the promises of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This is not a cry of despair. Rather, it is a prayer of faith. It is a prayer confessing who Jesus is, and a request for mercy to the only one who is all-merciful; a request to the one who is all-powerful and thus able to show mercy.
Blind Bartimaeus, as he sat begging on the roadside, could have cried out many things when he heard that Jesus was passing by him: Jesus, why me? Why am I blind and begging in the dirt? What did I do to deserve this? Am I being punished for something? Don’t you care?
These are the prayers we are tempted to pray, and perhaps even sometimes do pray: prayers that question God and His will for us; prayers that doubt God’s ability to help; prayers that doubt God’s love for us. Such prayers lift ourselves up as if we don’t deserve anything bad to happen to us. Such prayers raise our eyes too high, seeking to understand God’s hidden counsel and will. Such prayers occupy ourselves with things too great and marvellous for us to understand.
But the prayer, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” is none of these things. First of all, it acknowledges who Jesus is. He is the Son of David; the offspring promised to King David whose throne is established forever (2 Sam. 7:13); the Son of David who will cause God’s people to dwell in everlasting peace, bringing in rest from all our enemies in His eternal kingdom (2 Sam. 7:10-11). It confesses that Jesus is the promised Saviour of the world.
Praying thus to Jesus for mercy also confesses that mercy is needed. Praying for mercy is praying for compassion and pity. It is praying to God to act according to His nature – that of loving-kindness and faithful graciousness – since He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Ex. 34:6). Bartimaeus confesses in his prayer that there is nothing in him deserving anything from Jesus, but that out of His steadfast love and mercy He would give it anyway.
Only someone who recognizes his sinfulness can pray in this way – one who realizes that in and of himself he has no right to ask God for anything, yet at the same time clings to the fact that God is merciful and does not want to give us what we deserve since we deserve only punishment. Only someone can pray this way who has learned from the Law of God that because of our sin we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, and yet knows that God is merciful, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression, not retaining His anger forever because He delights in steadfast love; knowing that God will have compassion on us and tread our iniquities underfoot; that He will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18-19).
Bartimaeus’ prayer did not question God or His will. His prayer did not doubt God’s ability to help or doubt God’s love. His prayer did not lift himself up as if he didn’t deserve his blindness or poverty, nor did Bartimaeus raise his eyes too high, seeking to understand God’s hidden counsel and will by seeking to know why he was suffering.
Bartimaeus’ prayer does not seek answers to those things which are too great or marvellous to understand. It is a humble prayer that Jesus would not leave him helpless. It appeals to Jesus’ nature as God – abounding in steadfast love. It confesses that Bartimaeus cannot help himself, but needs the Son of David to intervene.
Bartimaeus’ prayer of faith could not be squashed even by the crowds that told him to shut up. The rebukes and chiding of the crowd only got Bartimaeus to cry all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus’ faith clung to the promises of God as we heard from Jeremiah, that the Lord will save His people, gathering even the blind and the lame from the farthest parts of the earth as they come with weeping and pleas of mercy (Jer. 31:7-9).
And indeed, Jesus did show mercy to Bartimaeus. He said, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” What Jesus really said is, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Yes, Bartimaeus could now see with his physical eyes, but even more, Jesus had given him faith that opened his spiritual eyes even while he was still physically blind. Bartimaeus had faith in Jesus to save even while he was physically unable to see. It was this faith that enabled him to pray a prayer of faith, asking for mercy.
Bartimaeus’ prayer is right in line with our introit of the day from Psalms 130 and 131:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
You too can pray the prayer of faith that Bartimaeus prayed. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” In your suffering, loss, or hardship do not ask “Why?” and seek answers that God has not given you, raising your eyes too high and occupying yourself with things too great and marvellous for you. Do not question God’s will for you or doubt His ability to help. Do not doubt God’s love for you. Rather cling to His promises and pray for mercy. God is by nature loving and merciful. He desires to show compassion and pity on you. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
God loves you to the point that He sent His only begotten Son into the world to bear your sins and take the punishment of your sins. Jesus, God in the flesh, took your sins to the cross and died for them there. Your sins were buried in the tomb and remain there even though Jesus arose. Your sins can no longer accuse you.
So you can pray to Jesus for mercy because you know that He is merciful. You know that He has shown you mercy and will continue to show you mercy. He will not give you what you deserve for your sin because He took what you deserve for your sin. The Son of David has brought you into His eternal kingdom in which He gives you everlasting peace and rest from all your enemies – especially sin, death, and the devil. He gives you faith and then tells you, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” So cling to His promised mercy and pray, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.