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"He came to the outskirts of Jericho. A blind man was sitting beside the road asking for hand-outs. When he heard the rustle of the crowd, he asked what was going on. They told him, 'Jesus the Nazarene is going by.'
"He yelled, 'Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!'
"Those ahead told the man to shut up, but he only yelled all the louder, 'Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!'
"Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought over. When he had come near, Jesus asked, 'What do you want from me?'
"He said, 'Master, I want to see again.' Jesus said, 'Go ahead -- see again! Your faith has saved and healed you.' The healing was instant. He looked up, seeing -- and then followed Jesus, glorifying God. Everyone in the street joined in, shouting praise to God." Luke 18:35-43 (The Message).
This story is a wonderful illustration of how faith interacts with the power of God. Luke has not identified this insignificant blind beggar, but we know from the other gospels that his name was Bartimeus. From God's point of view he had a name; he had an identity; he was a person of value who had a disability which made him an outcast of society, but not of God. He was worthless to people, a parasite, but not to Jesus.
To the untrained ear, the sound of his voice begging for hand-outs mingled with the shouts of the rest of the crowd and was lost in the din, but not to Jesus. He always hears the cry of the needy, raised in hope and expectation.
Bartimeus was tiresome; he refused to be put off by the heartless people around him who ordered him to shut up. Why should he? He had a sudden hope and he wasn't about to let the opportunity to be freed from his blindness be lost because of other people. Instead of keeping quiet, he yelled all the louder. It's no wonder Jesus heard him! He didn't hear his voice as much as He heard his heart.
Isn't that just like Jesus! The gospels record many similar incidents -- Jesus responding to a heart cry. The outer covering of the crying heart didn't matter to Him -- lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, blind, lame, sick, deaf, rich, poor, Pharisee or sinner; He heard and responded to them all.
The interaction between the blind man and Jesus was very simple -- no long prayers, no beating about the bush, no reasoning or explanations, just a simple question, 'What do you want from me?' and an equally simple response, 'Master, I want to see again.' Interaction over, transaction done! 'Go ahead -- see again!'
How tragic that we, in the tradition of those who have gone before us, are perpetuating the terrible distortion of the gospel, which we call Christianity. We have turned this simple exchange between Jesus and us into a rigmarole, with religious paraphernalia, elaborate rituals, and teachings that twist and distort the simplicity of a partnership with Jesus in submission to Him and in the company of His redeemed people.
When I watch some of the goings-on on so-called Christian TV, sadly I ask myself, 'Is this why Jesus came?' and my heart bleeds for the people who are sucked into the deception and who are missing out on the beauty and simplicity of a union and communion with Jesus that shifts all the weight of living onto His shoulders.
Jesus sternly rebuked the disciples for getting between Him and the little children whom mothers had brought to Him for His blessing. Being drowned with a millstone around their necks was a better option than to hinder anyone from coming to Him, He said. What about the leaders who mindlessly perpetuate all the nonsensical practices that take ordinary people's attention away from Jesus? He came to set us free, not to tie us up in endless deviations from His pure and simple truth.
My plea to the people of God is this: Don't let people shut you up and keep you away from getting close to Jesus. All that matters is that you and He keep interacting so that you can walk close to Him in the confidence that you are hearing and listening to each other.
He will do the rest!
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