And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus (Mark 10:50)
Jesus hears your voice.
That's easily the primary take-away as we consider the story of blind Bartimaeus. Ol' blind Bart was persistent in his calling out to Jesus. The crowd couldn't silence his voice. The entourage couldn't keep Jesus from noticing a man who wasn't able to join the parade. Jesus hears us when we call. This is our hope when darkness defines our days.
Now for the real question: Will you hear Jesus when he calls your name?
In his book The Voice of Jesus, Gordon T. Smith opens with these words:
Every Christian should be able to answer two questions: First, what do you think Jesus is saying to you at this point in your life, in the context of the challenges and opportunities you are facing? Second (and just as critical), what indicators give you some measure of confidence that it is indeed Jesus speaking to you rather than someone or something else? (p. 9)
Those are good questions. My condensed version of them would ask "What is Jesus saying to you these days, and how do you know it's Jesus?"
From a very early age, when someone took us by the hand and helped us cross a street or intersection, we were taught a lesson that would do far more than help us navigate busy streets: "Look both ways."
A failure to look both ways can be dangerous. Intersections in England are often marked "Look Right" or "Look Left" - a gracious gesture to those of us who can't remember that Brits drive on a different side of the road. Over there, looking both ways isn't enough. You need to look in the right directions.
Prayer is two way traffic with God. There is great encouragement and comfort for us in knowing that Jesus is close and hears us when we call. But once we've called to Jesus, Jesus may have something to say in return. Will we discern what he wants to say to us? And how will we know that what we hear is indeed his voice?
In holding up the example of Bartimaeus my aim is not to explain how to discern the voice of Jesus in your life. I'm still learning that one myself - and besides, Gordon Smith's book will be far more helpful to you than anything I can write here.
What I notice in the story, and what I'd like to hold up for your consideration, is the way Mark tells us thatBartimaeus "sprang up" when he was told "Take heart. Get up. He's calling you." The NIV Bible says he "jumped to his feet." I don't want to read too much into the text, wringing out meaning that isn't there, but it is remarkable that a blind man jumped to his feet.
A man who couldn't see with his eyes sprang up in response to what he heard, a voice calling him.
The main take-away this week might be that Jesus hears your voice. But the traffic of prayer moves two ways. The Jesus who hears you is also the Jesus who calls. Listen for his voice. The best way to do that is to open his word. Someone has said that if you want to hear God speak in an audible voice, read your Bible out loud. That might overstate the matter - but the underlying conviction is sound.
Jesus still speaks. He summons you by name. Be ready to respond, to rise your feet and follow.
We give you thanks, O God, that you still speak to us. You call us and make us whole and invite us to live our days in glad response to your mercy. We confess that we are often far more aware of our need than we are of your voice. So give us ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us today, we ask in the name of the one who calls us, Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Mark H. Crumpler
Pastor for Worship and Formation