Friday, March 8, 2019

Substance with your faith

We continue our exploration of faith, so let’s begin with what should be a very familiar defining verse from the King James Version.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Last week we talked about being faithful even in trying times.  That faith in those times produces perseverance and perseverance helps us grow.  It matures us.  It helps us get to where we are complete.

Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking, “I sure do hope my faith is put to the test and I get to persevere through something today.”  It’s hard to imagine that attitude of looking forward to having our faith tested, but James told us it was something to be joyful about knowing it produces growth.

We have looked at the evidence of things not seen.  Now let’s consider the substance of things hoped for.

Today we join Jesus and his disciples as he works his way back from the Jordan heading to Jerusalem.  The road goes through Jericho.  Many are following and excited that Jesus is passing through.  They have heard of the Jesus of Nazareth and there is excitement in the air.

Sitting on the side of the road is a beggar.  We don’t really know his name.  We know his daddy’s name so that’s how we will address him.  He is the son of Timaeus, or in those days would have been called Bar Timaeus.

In today’s circles, we call him blind Bart.  For the purpose of this encounter with Jesus, we don’t need to know what name his parents gave him.

Jesus and the disciples are passing through.  There’s a buzz in the air.  People are surely saying, it’s Jesus.  It’s Jesus of Nazareth.  People have heard of this guy by now.

And there is this beggar just sitting there, wrapped in what the biblical authors describe as a cloak.  Today, people only wear a cloak with tuxes and evening dress uniforms.  But two millennia ago, it was likely a versatile coat, blanket, and general-purpose outer garment.

Oh by the way, this beggar is blind.  We don’t know how long he has been blind.  That part doesn’t seem to be a factor in this story, but we know he is blind.

He also happens to be very vocal and when he hears that Jesus is nearby, he cries out, Jesus of Nazareth help me! Right?

No.  He calls out to Jesus, Son of David.

People tell him to hush.  They have this celebrity in town.  Jesus of Nazareth is coming through and they didn’t need Timaeus’s kid messing everything up.  So, they tell him to be quiet.

It had the opposite effect.  He cried out all the more.  Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

Jesus has been on the move, but he stops and tells the crowd to call him.  The same crowd that was telling him to be quiet is now excited that Jesus wants to see this man.

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 

This is some stuff.  The man packs up his belongings, tidies up his area, and meanders over to Jesus.  Not!

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  There is no hesitation.  There is no preparation for not getting what he wants.  He jumps to his feet.  He was blind, not lame.

He throws his cloak aside and heads to Jesus.  I’m guessing that the crowd helped him get there.  He got to Jesus and Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do?”

This blind man replied, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

I want to see!

The Son of Timaeus didn’t have a list.  He didn’t say that he needed a year’s provision. He didn’t say he needed a new cloak.  He didn’t say that his accommodations were substandard.  He knew what he wanted.

Jesus replied, “Go.  Your faith has made you whole.”  The man was healed immediately.

There was no asking if Jesus could do this.  If you go to the 9th chapter of Mark’s gospel we see a man ask Jesus for help with his demon-possessed son.  Well, he asked for help if this was within the skillset of Jesus.

The Son of Timaeus had no doubt who he was talking to and what he could do.

Rabbi, I want to see.

Your faith has healed you.

Jesus could have been a bit more eloquent.  “In the name of my Father and that Spirit that goes wherever it wants, I pronounce you healed. You had better not miss another synagogue lesson.”

Instead he says, “Your faith has healed you.”

He didn’t have to put mud on his eyes.  He didn’t have to make a house call.  He didn’t even have to touch the man or even know his name.

Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.”

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Let’s talk about the substance of things hoped for.  The Son of Timaeus didn’t wish he could see.  He had hope that he could.

How is hope different from having a wish list?  It is stuff that we wish we had or would come true.  It’s like a biblical fairy tale sort of thing, right?

For some people, that’s what they believe, but we know that hope is real.  Much like faith we must have eyes to see what we hope for.  Last week we talked about growing in faith through our struggles.

Paul makes a parallel discussion.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Hope is the crescendo of this process.  It all begins with faith so that when we encounter trials and tribulations, we see this process in action:  suffering, perseverance, character, and then hope.  It all begins with faith.

So consider again the first half of Hebrews 11:1. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for.

Did the Son of Timaeus have faith?  Did he have hope?

He just needed to get to God.  If he could somehow get to God, he would see again.  Now we are back to believing is seeing.

The crowd was excited that Jesus of Nazareth was passing through.  The Son of Timaeus knew that this was the Son of God.  This was the Anointed One.  This was the Son of David.  This was the long-prophesied Messiah in the line of David. 

This was the man who could give him his sight.  He was passing by.  He would be gone soon.  The thing about faith is that it requires action. 

You can’t just say, “I sure hope that Jesus swings by where I have my begging station. That would be so cool.”  You must act on your faith.  I will go so far as to say our faith compels us to act.

This whole Son of David business had not been the topic of the day, but it sure got the attention of the Master.

And when the Master called him, the blind man did not hesitate.  In fact, I would say he acted with abandon.  He threw off his cloak.  That wasn’t a big concern.  If he needed it later, he would be able to see where he left it.

When Jesus asked him what he wanted, there was no hesitation.  Rabbi, I want to see.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for.  The blind man’s faith was more than wishful thinking.  It was hope that would materialize.

We all have ailments and things that need fixing.  Some more than others.  Some of you keep getting the same things fixed over and over.  Some prefer to spread the repairs around.  Most of us have something that we would love to hear Jesus say, “Your faith has healed you.”

Those words ring true for all of us who have proclaimed Jesus as Lord and know for sure that God raised him from the dead.  By his stripes we are healed.  We will not need Medicare or Medicare for All or Tricare for Life in eternity.

But we would like some healing in this life as well.

So, does our faith have the substance of things hoped for?  I’m not asking if we have faith and a wish list.  Does our faith tell us that what we hope for in the Lord will materialize?

And our old self creeps in and says, “You had better have a Plan B.”

The Son of Timaeus didn’t have plan B.  He had faith and hope and knew that all he had to do was present his request to God.

He didn’t care if he embarrassed himself.

He didn’t care if he never got his cloak back.

He was not timid in asking for just what he needed.

He didn’t want a tether back to where he was in case this faith stuff didn’t work out.

Today, we laugh at such boldness.  Why?  How many times have we seen people set out to do bold but crazy things?  How many Emergency Room visits have followed the words, “Here, hold my beer?”

With our modern cynical attitudes, as a spectator to this encounter with Jesus, we might think:

Does he seriously think that Jesus has time for this?
He’s going to need that cloak later.
How’s he going to find his way back to his spot?
He had better think this through.

But the Son of Timaeus had thought this through.  This was the time for action.  He would cry out to his Lord and ask him for mercy.  He would not delay.  He would not be timid.

Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!

His faith was as real as any substance.  Rock, sand, wood, water, salt all have distinctive feels to them and his faith in what he hoped for felt as real and tangible as anything else he had held in his hands.

But Bartimaeus was missing something.  It’s something that we have a lot of these days.  The blind man had no doubt.  He was blind not double minded.  He was governed by faith and not tossed about like a wave in the ocean.  Doubt was not an issue for this man.

Understand the faith of this man we know only by his dad’s name.  It was the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Can you touch your faith?  Can you feel it?  Can you taste it?  When you can do with faith what the Spirit did at creation—put form to formlessness, then then you can touch and feel and taste and know that it is substance.

At that point you will be so ready to do what God has called you to do.  You will also be ready to ask him for what you need.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


No comments:

Post a Comment