Throw Off Your Cloak!

bartimaeusI don’t know about you, but Easter always makes me feel renewed.
After six weeks of Lent and then the drama of Holy Week, Easter comes
along like a long deep breath of fresh air.  It’s as if the whole
world inhales and drinks in the sunshine and new life of His
resurrection.  Easter affirms and strengthens us like no other season.
 Easter invites us to shake off our old ways and put on the white
garment of our baptism.  Every Easter Christ invites us again to
follow Him.  That need for a connection with God is hard-wired into
us.   As St. Augustine ways, our hearts are restless until they rest
in Him.  So how do our hearts “rest” in Jesus?  There are several
examples in the Gospels that show us how different people find their
rest in Christ, but this is one of my favorites.

Bartimaeus is a blind beggar we see sitting on the road near Jericho
(Mark 10:46-52).  We remember that Jericho is a sinful city that the
Israelites had to conquer in their quest to possess the Promised Land,
 The early Christians would hear this Gospel story and associate
Jericho with sinfulness.  Then we learn that Bartimaeus is blind.
Being blind was a terrible affliction in Biblical times because you
couldn’t earn a living to support yourself and your family.  You had
to beg.  Begging is an act of profound humility.  You are saying to
the world: “I can’t make it on my own.  I need your help.”  And that’s
what Bartimaeus did when he heard that Jesus was passing by—he
begged Him for help.  “Jesus, Son of David, take pity on me”(Mark
10:47).  The people around him told Bartimaeus to be quiet, but he
didn’t listen to them.  He kept begging Jesus to help him.  So Jesus
stood still and called for Bartimaeus to come closer.  Bartimaeus
threw off his cloak, leapt up, and ran to Jesus.  Christ asked him,
“What do you want Me to do for you? And the blind man said to Him,
“Master, that I may see.”  Jesus said, “Go, your faith has made you
whole;”  And immediately, Bartimaeus could see and he began to follow
Jesus.

This encounter between the blind man and our Lord can teach us a lot
about what it means to live in God’s grace.  First, we have to know we
are sinners.  Like Bartimaeus, we can’t see the good, the true and the
beautiful.  We’re weighed down in the dirt by our sins.  When we can
acknowledge our sinfulness, we know the only way out  of it is to beg
for help.  We can’t fix ourselves.  This is a real temptation in our
“self-help” culture.  But it’s not the Lord’s way.  THe only way to
gain our sight is to beg.  And we have to persist and never stop
asking.  This can be uncomfortable because friends and family, like
the crowd around Bartimaeus, don’t think we need to look to Christ for
help.  It goes against our cultural self-reliance.  And it’s exactly
what Jesus loves.

When we call out to Him, He stands still.  Christ is the center of
creation, the still point of the turning universe.  Everything
revolves around Him.  He calls to Bartimaeus—just as He calls to
each one of us.  The Greek word that expresses that calling is the
same root word as the word for “church.”  Christ calls us into His
Church.  It’s never just a “me and Jesus” experience as some may
think.  Our calling is to love and follow Him in the context of His
Bride, the Church.  And when He calls us we should respond like the
blind man does, by throwing off our cloak (our sins, our doubts, our
old ways of doing things) and leap up to go to Jesus.  Bartimaeus
doesn’t hesitate or ask advice or call a committee meeting:  he hears
the call of Jesus, he throws off his old life and he runs to Him.  And
then Jesus asks him the central question of his life and of our lives.

“What do you want Me to do for you?” Imagine if your Savior asked you
that right now.  What would you tell Him?  Think about that for a
moment.  What can Jesus do for you right now, today, right where you
are in your life?  Bartimaeus tells Jesus that he wants to see.  This
is a great answer!  He wants to see like Jesus sees.  He wants to BE
LIKE JESUS.  And Jesus tells him that his faith has healed him.  When
we run to Jesus and accept His calling, following Him wherever He
leads us, His grace will make us whole.  Christ frees us to become all
that He created us to be.  But that freedom comes with a great
price–the Cross.  When we embrace Jesus, we must also embrace His
Cross.  Easter is the great invitation to leap up, throw off our old
ways, pick up our cross and follow the Lord.  Our faith has healed us.
 His Cross has redeemed us.  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him,       everything   else
thrown in.”
                                              —–C.S. Lewis

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