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I got my eyesight from my dad. Earlier in the story that the gospel writer tells about Jesus, Jesus heals a blind man, and the first time he touches them, and doesn’t take. The man who’s been blind says yeah, yeah I can see but it’s like trees walking around. And I get it. Throughout this journey with Jesus, we have stories of people who don’t really see, who hear but do not understand.

This is the third time that disciples have heard Jesus talk about his inevitable death and that turned to Resurrection and Glory. And well they don’t approach Jesus like Peter did tell him it’s not going to happen don’t say terrible things like that, he often missed the point. Like they just want to hurry up with the good stuff sort of skin past all the terrible stuff that is to come. And it’s a little manipulative to start with do whatever we ask hoping that the person will agree to the promise or the deal before they even heard the arrangements. And Jesus asked them what is it that you want me to do for you. Almost generous reading might say they just want to be close to Jesus when this is all over; reading is that they want to sit in the positions of authority on either side of you. It’s a bold request in light of the conversation they had just had a light of what Jesus had just told them.

A little further down the road or maybe right there, was a man crying out for mercy. Unlike the disciples who exactly what they wanted from Jesus it seems the blind man was just asking for whatever Jesus could give him, at least at first. Jesus asks the blind man same question he asked James and John, what do you want me to do for you? Says he wants to see.

Our theme for this season is questions. The questions that are asked during Lent the questions that the stories bring up for us. Their questions that don’t have easy answers, rather invite us into deep reflection. Their questions that might take 6 weeks as we wrestle through and prepare for New Life.

There are, of course, the questions that we have for the characters and for the story. Conversation between James and John sound like before they ask Jesus to do whatever they wanted him to do? What was their focus? What was their reason for asking? Were they just wanting to be close to Jesus? Were they looking for power and authority? Did they really not understand that before the glory was going to be all of this pain, did they just miss the whole point of what Jesus had just said? Did they think that there was a prize at the end of the journey for being the ones who were with Jesus from the very beginning? Mark doesn’t give us the telling of the story of The Prodigal Son but is this kind of the idea? Did they think they had earned prize the party at the end? If that’s true, were they following Jesus was it just for that prize? Which seems like a mistake, given what Jesus keeps telling them is going to happen.

I wonder if they thought really highly of themselves. Jesus had taken them up the mountain, taken them to see Jarius’ daughter healed, and Peter might not be so bright and has said some dumb things, so they must be the favorite, or at least certain they were in the front of the pack of disciples, doing all the right things, earning their spot next to Jesus in glory.

I think about the folks in grad school who raise their hands to ask a question but what comes out of their mouths is a story that seems to point to how great they are and completely lacking a question…

And so, I wonder what they thought of this healing. And why the author thought they needed to be told together.

Questions are important to who we are as a church. They invite us to consider, to wonder, to admit we don’t know, and to learn something new–whether facts or experiences. A good question reminds us that we are humble, we don’t know everything, we can’t do everything, that we have needs–like James and John, and Bartimaeus. It means we don’t always have the answers, we live in ambiguity, we struggle. We live in and with the questions.

And that is… uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to live in uncertainty, discomfort, lack of answers.

It’s why some religious communities are so appealing–ones that offer black and white, right and wrong, unquestionable answers. It makes things easier, it makes that need to reflect significantly less, it makes things simpler. Then there is a cause to fight and an enemy to point at and defend against because it becomes so clear.

Having answers, being certain of the answers makes one confident, sure. There is the confident Christians, the winner Christians. Christians like James and John who were so convinced of their place in the whole system, who were so certain of the win, the glory, end.

There is a world of winning and certain Christians. Especially the pastors, the leaders of the certainty and confidence.

When presented with the confidence leaders of the future church, Jesus told them there was suffering to come, there was struggle to come, they would have a hard time. There was no skipping the hard stuff to get straight to the glory, there is no fast-forwarding through the pain to get to resurrection. You’ve got to go through it.

There is a reason so many people want clear answers, living this life is hard. And when things get hard it’s nice to know what the truth is, what is to come, what to expect, and that everything will end happily ever after.

Bartimaeus asked mercy in humility, uncertain of the outcome, and hopeful for the future. But he doesn’t know. He may not even be sure what Jesus could do. He certainly wasn’t sure of the outcome. What he did know was that Jesus heard him, listened to him, wanted to know what he wanted, didn’t for anything on him. Like several other healings, it seems Jesus spent time with Bartimaeus, learned about him and from him, and gave him what he needed, what he asked for.

I wonder how long it had been since Bartimaeus had really been seen by someone else.

When he could see, Jesus told Bartimaeus to go back to living his life, to go on his way, as he had said to all the others. And from what we have seen, most of the time they do! We don’t know how long he was blind, we don’t know what kind of life he had before or of there was any life to get back to. And here’s the thing, he can’t imagine any life that isn’t following Jesus. He gets up and follows Jesus to whatever comes next. He couldn’t imagine a life that wasn’t following Jesus. He didn’t know what was to come. He didn’t know what the future would hold. He didn’t know the cup Jesus was going to drink from and that those who followed him, would feel some of that suffering. He had none of the context but was prepared to say yes. He had only questions, uncertainty, and he leaned into it, knowing that life going forward was going to be with Jesus.

What does it mean to follow? To seek glory? To be prepared to drink the cup? To make demands? To request humbly? To answer yes? To imagine only the world with Christ as the leader?

Does it mean always winning or sometimes living with the consequences of generosity and loving and going against the structures of the world?

Does it mean looking only at the end of the story or learning to live in this moment?

Does it mean being certain of the answers or living in the questions?

And over the centuries it has meant any of those things, but I tend to think our example is Bartimaeus, being humble and curious and hopeful for what Jesus can do. Trusting and celebrating and following. Learning to follow in the midst of uncertainty, asking questions and struggling with the answers, loving abundantly in this moment, and living in the hope for the next.

So we give generously, we seek to care in the moment of need and seek justice, we fight the systems of oppression, and we love. And it’s going to be hard. And some days the simple answers won’t satisfy, and the love that is always an answer may cause us trouble by a world that doesn’t understand, and the questions will challenge us. But that is who we are–people of the questions, people of love, those who follow Jesus.