Psalm 34:1-8 and Mark 10:46-52
A man named Charley Boswell was blinded in World War II while rescuing a buddy from a burning tank. Charley had always been a great athlete and after the war, he took up golf. He was astoundingly good at it. In fact, Charley Boswell won the National Blind Golf Championship 16 times, once shooting a score of 81.
In 1958 Charley went to Ft. Worth, Texas to receive the coveted Ben Hogan Award in honor of one of the greatest professional golfers in history. Mr. Hogan agreed to play a round of golf with Charley. Charley said, “Would you like to play for money?”
Hogan said, “That wouldn’t be fair!”
Charley said, “C’mon, Mr. Hogan, are you afraid to play a blind golfer?”
Hogan was really pretty competitive so he said, “Okay, I’ll play for money. How much?”
Boswell said, “$1,000 per hole.”
Hogan said, “That’s a lot. How many strokes do you want me to give you?”
Boswell said, “No strokes. I’ll play you heads up.”
Hogan said, “Charley, I can’t do it. What would people think of me taking advantage of a blind man?”
Boswell smiled and said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Hogan, our tee time is tonight at midnight!” (1)
Charley Boswell was a remarkable man. He did not let his disability deter him from having a fulfilling life.
I don’t think the beggar in today’s scripture from Mark could even imagine the fulfilling life that Charley was able to live, because in Jesus’ day people with any kind of disability could only beg for a living. They depended on other people’s compassion and generosity. There may not have been much of that, because sickness or disability was considered a curse from God for a sin that person had committed.
Where do you think the people learned that any disability was a curse from God for the sin that person committed? I think it was from the religious leaders of that day and time, who added laws for the people to obey simply to oppress them, to lord their power over them.
That is not how Jesus tells us to treat the down and out.
We read in Luke 14:12-14, “Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
We all know about Helen Keller. She was brave and inspiring in her deafness and blindness. She once wrote a magazine article entitled: “Three days to see.” In that article she outlined what things she would like to see if she were granted just three days of sight. It was a powerful, thought provoking article. On the first day she said she wanted to see friends. Day two she would spend seeing nature. The third day she would spend in her home city of New York watching the busy city and the work day of the present. She concluded it with these words: “I who am blind can give one hint to those who see: Use your eyes as if tomorrow you were stricken blind.’
I don’t think we do that. We, who can see, take our eyes for granted. Can you imagine being blind and having to learn to live daily life a whole new way? I cannot.
Literal blindness In today’s passage in Mark, I see three types of blindness. The first is literal blindness represented by the beggar sitting by the road leading to Jericho. Mark tells us that his name was Bartimaeus. We don’t know much about him. We don’t know his age, length of blindness or what caused his infirmity. We know nothing about his family, his friends, his past life. We know him only because of the impact that Jesus had upon his life. He was blind Bartimaeus.
‘“—a blind man, Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”’ (vv.46b-47)
The second kind of blindness in the story relates to the men who followed Jesus, the disciples. When Jesus began his way into Jerusalem, he told his twelve disciples of the dreadful things that would soon befall all of them.
Mark 8:31, “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days and then rise again.”
Mark 9:31-32, ‘“—because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.”’
And then again in Mark 10:33-34, ‘“We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”’
Do you think the disciples chose not to see, not to understand that Jesus would be arrested, and die, because they had witnessed so many miracles and healings and couldn’t imagine anything like this happening to Jesus? They had followed him for three years and grew to love him. They didn’t want to think that he would suffer and die. They loved him passionately, but they did not understand him.
They were spiritually blind. They had sight, yet they failed to see. They were blind as to the meaning of the events that were happening around them.
Are there not times when we would prefer not to know what will befall our loved ones? Times when we deny that bad things happen to good people. I think we’ve all lived through times like this.
This spiritual blindness affected their behavior. Look what they did. They tried to keep this blind beggar from coming to Jesus. I don’t know why. I don’t know if they knew why! But they did. We expect such actions from the Pharisees and the Sadducees. But these were the disciples, the men who genuinely loved Jesus.
There is a third kind of blindness that is far worse. It is the blindness of you and me. Bartimaeus lacked eyes. The disciples were spiritually blind because they chose not to believe Jesus’ words. But we have both eyes to see and hopefully spiritual sight, and we still fail to see.
We don’t see the precious gift of life itself. Life can be wonderful. It should be. It can be. But it won’t be until we open our eyes.
We don’t see the blessing of physical health until a severe illness strikes. Then we wonder how it was that we could have gone so long without giving thanks to God for our health. We don’t see our loved ones, until we are on the verge of losing them. Then we wonder why it was that we took them for granted and why we never did the things that we intended to do. We take life for granted, that is until a diagnosis of a terminal disease is made. Then days, indeed hours become precious to us. All of those worries that bogged down our lives now seem so trivial and minor. We are blind to the preciousness of life, until we know our lives or the lives of a loved one may be shortened.
Have you ever read or have you seen Thorton Wilder’s memorable play “Our Town.” There is an unforgettable scene in that play which never fails to touch my heart. Emily has died. In heaven she is given special permission to come back to earth for just a brief time. She has arrived at the graveyard of Grover’s Corner, New Jersey, where the story takes place. She will experience her life as before, but this time with the knowledge of her impending death.
The day that she chooses to live over is her twelfth birthday. Her mother is preoccupied with preparations for the celebration. Her father returns home from work exhausted. Only Emily is aware of the few precious moments now remaining. She pleads: “Momma, just look at me once as though you really see me.” But her mother pays no attention. Emily can only relive the day; she cannot change anything. She goes to her father and tries to talk to him, but he is busy reading the paper and pays no attention.
Finally, she can stand it no longer and she finally cries out: “I can’t go on. It is going too fast. We don’t have enough time to look at one another. I didn’t realize what was going on. I never noticed it. On earth, you are too wonderful for anyone to realize you.” And then she turns to the stage manager who is a central figure in the play and says: “Do any human beings ever recognize life while they live it every minute of every day?”
We don’t see life. We don’t see the needs of others. We are like the disciples. We are too busy to stop and to care, and to be a friend.
Mark 10:51-52 we read, ‘“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”’
When I read of Bartimaeus regaining his sight I celebrate the power of faith.
I found a poem by Harry Kemp which talks about being blind even though we can see.
The Spring blew trumpets of color;
Her green sang in my brain-
I heard a blind man groping
“Tap-tap” with his cane;
I pitied him in his blindness;
But can I boast, “I see?”
Perhaps there walks a spirit
Close by, who pities me, –
A spirit who hears me tapping
The five-sensed cane of mind
Amid such unguessed glories-
That I am worse than blind.
Psalm 34:1-6 reads, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.”
I encourage you to open your eyes to the blessings that God has given to you; the gift of life itself, the people in your life, and this beautiful place we live in. Please do not take your blessings or the people in your life for granted. We only have so many days to praise God for all that He has given to us.
The first verse and chorus of hymn #454 is this, “Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God thy will to see. Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!”
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
1. Jon Forrest, https://www.fccclovis.com/blog/blindness.
2. Some ideas for this sermon came from a sermon by Brett Blair titled, Lord, I Want to See, found at eSermons.com.