Text: Mark 10:32-52
My wife Kelly has started what I call “clean living & clean eating” for Lent. She’s purging her closet of clothes she no longer wears, and is eating healthier. I guess a lot of people do that for Lent, but Kelly’s taken it to a new level. Kelly is into this method of decluttering called the KonMari Method where you say “thank you” to clothes you discard for a variety of reasons – keeping you warm, memories shared, stuff like that. Kelly has also started a diet called the “Whole 30” – but for 40 days over Lent instead – in which for 30 days you eat a strict diet of no sugar, no soy, no wheat, no artificial anything, no alcohol….pretty much just meat, vegetables, and fruits. I have to admit, I admire her discipline.
I especially admire her discipline because for me, while I consider myself a pretty disciplined person in general, am NOT disciplined when it comes to clean eating and sorting clothes. One, I like my Sunday morning breakfast sandwich and coffee from Wawa too much, and I don’t think I could part from all the wrestling sweatshirts and sweatpants I’ve accumulated over the years – a guy can never have enough workout anyway! So I concede to my wife in these areas…. I have to admit, it makes me feel a little inferior too, because as hard as I might try, I don’t think I could do the whole clean eating, clean living thing.
“Who is the greatest?” That’s the question the disciples ask today. They want to know who will sit in the place of honor next to Jesus…who’s earned it? And we have this blind beggar Bartimaeus, who seems to get rewarded for demonstrating great faith in his cry out to Jesus as he passed by him on the road. But I think we miss something if we think that they’re challenges to living the right kind of discipleship or having the right kind of faith. We lose something if we think the point today is to figure out how to be servant of all or to be last, or to demonstrate the kind of faith that will serve us in the hour of need. If that’s what we get out of this story, then the point is that some are really good at discipleship and some have strong faith…and others aren’t so good at it. In fact, those who aren’t so good, perhaps they shouldn’t even try.
But I wonder, what if our story today was more about describing who Jesus is?
We see that Jesus is one who will go to suffer, be mocked, die and ultimately be raised for our sake. Jesus is one gives his life as a ransom for many. Jesus is one who comes alongside blind beggars who cry out for mercy and not just heals them – he restores a sense of wholeness that brings about something altogether more wonderful than a simply restoration of sight. Jesus gives his life for petty, bickering disciples and heals blind beggars….Jesus has come for BOTH just the same.
It reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son….you know, the father accepts BOTH sons into his home. The older son…the one who has done everything right, worked his tail off, will get all of his father’s estate, and is resentful he doesn’t get the honor due to him. And the father accepts back his younger son….the one who’s blown his share of the inheritance and comes back as a beggar, only to be embraced and restored back to his place as a son.
If this is all true, that this Jesus is one who is for BOTH disciple and beggar, then there’s really only one question to ask:
“What can brown do for you?”
Maybe that slogan rings a bell….it is the long-used campaign of the United Parcel Service, better known as UPS. They are the folks who show up in the brown truck, dressed in the brown uniforms, and deliver our packages, right? However, UPS wanted to communicate to businesses and people that their services were much more expansive than that: capabilities into logistics, freight forwarding, customs clearance, and technology and finance. In many ways, “what brown could do for you” was only limited to the imaginations of their customers.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Maybe that’s the question we’re being asked today: “What can Jesus do for you?” What can Jesus do for the church?
And the answer to that question is much more expansive than we can imagine. It goes beyond the brokenness and narrow-mindedness of our past and present.
It goes well beyond the idea that discipleship is just an obligation with a blueprint for success pinned to it.
It goes well beyond the notion that faith is nothing more than the divine hailmary pass when there’s nowhere to turn; praying for a miracle as a last ditch effort, perhaps.
Things are much more expansive than that in the Kingdom of God and in Christ.
Faith instead is a response to how God restores us to wholeness in our deepest cries for mercy.
Discipleship instead is a life of sacrifice, suffering, and humility that gives immeasurable joy and meaning to our lives.
Our past and present don’t hold us captive, but rather our lives freed into the expansive hope and new life that comes to us in the promise of God’s future.
It is my prayer for you – and for me – this morning that in the deepest longings of our hearts and minds and spirits, our sight might be expanded to see all the ways this Jesus is not only with us, but is also for us.
What can Jesus do for you? Amen.