What do you seek?

Last fall, our church’s two bible study groups went through the video series and book titled, Sacred Rhythms which covers seven spiritual disciplines and how to apply it in real life. I’ve heard glowing reviews from those who attended, so I’m glad that we’ve started this series in our Life Group*. —February 23, 2020

The first session covered the story in Bartimaeus:

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), 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!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”  Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.“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.

Mark 10:46-52 (ESV)

Today we would classify Bartimaeus as belonging to the vulnerable population or groups. I’ve come across this story a number of times, but I haven’t really given it a second-glance until now, not unlike the many in the same groups today whom we tend to overlook. And when they do call us to attention, we do follow those who rebuked him and told him to be quiet, whether it’s because we feel like they’re being disrepectful or not following social conventions, or just not providing a chance for them to be heard. I even thought about the number of times my children want the attention of a certain adult, but we interrupt them, readily dismiss them, don’t really listen to what they’re trying to tell us, or re-interpret what they’re saying.

Already in a vulnerable and humiliating position of being reduced to beg on the street, he needed to shout loud enough for Jesus to hear. He was humble enough and be even more vulnerable to shout all the more (louder!) to get the attention of Jesus. And he heard!

Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” or as the study emphasized, Jesus asked, “What is it that you want?” “What is it that you seek?” The artwork that they chose showed his vulnerability: him kneeling in front of Jesus without any clothes on (because he casted off his cloak). I wonder if he knew that by asking to see, not only did he end up seeing physically, but he might have also ended up seeing clearly spiritually — the story ends by him following Jesus on the road.

As we went around closing the night in prayer, I saw a common theme emerge, we were also Jesus to help us see, to provide clarity. When Jesus asks, “What is it that you want?” I’m not sure that’s an answer that comes easy to me either, I know what I don’t want, more than what I do want, but Bartimaeus knew; he wanted to see.

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*Update: as of June 14, we either have paused or stopped the series entirely, likely in part due to the covid-distancing, and maybe likely also in part due to a reasonable critique and valid point that these practices seem very subjective and “feeling”-based, or what many critics call, “mystical”.

3 Comments

  1. Lawrence Lam

    June 15, 2020 at 10:48 AM

    There’s nothing wrong with Christian mysticism. It is a thing.

    1. Emily

      June 25, 2020 at 10:34 PM

      Firstly, thanks for commenting – I’m surprised that there’s still readers other than me! Secondly, thanks for that label – I didn’t realize that “Christian mysticism” was the formal name for these monastic disciplines. I looked up that term briefly and learned that practices like Lectio Divina has Catholic roots (which this book also covers), and that these practices are more common in orthodox and charismatic churches (what I see as a bit of an irony), but yet often lacking in more conservative evangelical denominations/groups like baptists. I recognize that God uses the Holy Spirit to reach different people in different ways: God might use dreams to reach one person, but it wouldn’t work at all for another person. On the other hand, I too am guilty of boxing God into our constraints. Appreciate that you commented on this which has nudged me to reflect further on this topic.

      1. Lawrence Lam

        June 26, 2020 at 12:09 AM

        Messages in dreams furthermore are very biblical.

        Lectio Divina…try it out!

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