They Came to Jericho

Singing at Bible School Rehobeth Mennonite Church IL

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)

Hebrews 7:23-28

Mark 10:46-52

46 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 beggingNIV

Recall that Jesus and his Twelve, plus many more disciples, had turned south for the last time. It was in verse 10:32 that Jerusalem was mentioned as the destination. Last Sunday’s lesson regarded the hubristic request by James and John to sit on either side of Jesus when he established himself on David’s throne. That exchange took place while they were walking along the road parallel to the Jordan River.

Today, we see them entering Jericho, a common stop for people headed to Jerusalem. It was a good place to rest and refresh before starting the last 15 miles to the city. That distance was not normally much of a hike for the ancients, but these 15 miles were all up hill—3,439 feet up.

We should also note that the majority of the 18,000 priests and 18,000 Levites lived in Jericho. They were divided into groups of about 700 and called to the Temple twice a year for one week of service. But Passover required all 36,000 of them, so, as Jesus walked through, most of the priest and Levites were already in Jerusalem, or soon would be. Because the road was well known for its robbers, most people waited in Jericho for just such a group as Jesus’ to tag onto for safety.

Luke 10:30-35;“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ NIV

Mark specifically adds the detail, together with a large crowd, so we should read that to mean others had joined him and his disciples. We should not consider them to be disciples; more likely they were seeking safety. Still, they would likely have heard of Jesus, and many may have decided to join the group just to learn more about the man of mystery.

Sadly, priests were mostly Sadducees. Few of them believed in life after death. They accepted only the Pentateuch as sacred, rejecting the prophets and other writings. As much as Jesus criticized the Pharisees, their beliefs were largely in agreement with what Jesus preached. At one point, Jesus said to his followers, listen to what they say, but do not do as they do. He seldom said anything about the Sadducees, good or bad.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke call Jesus’ miracles ‘miracles.’ John however, calls them ‘signs,’ and he included only seven of them. In total, there are about 40 in the four Gospels, but there are disagreements about some of them as well as with the total. Forty is a nice round number which also happens to appear frequently in the Bible.

Bartimaeus is unusual in a couple of ways. The identity of the person healed is rarely given. Even Peter’s mother-in-law is not named. Now, we have Bartimaeus and his father, Timaeus, both named. Why? We don’t know. It is wide open to speculation. I have read some of the common ideas, but we don’t know. Matthew reports this incident as two blind men, unnamed. Luke reports one unnamed.

All three report the man/men begging. All three report the man/men using much the same words. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” NIV

The title of Son of David is common in the NT, but used only twice in Mark, here and in 12:35 where Jesus uses it in connection with Psalm 110—yet another debate with the Pharisees. The title is the oldest one associated with the promised Messiah and the one held by nearly every Jew.

Once again, Jesus followers—probably including the Twelve—tried to get the man to shut up. Jesus is on his way to claim the throne of David. He doesn’t have time for a filthy beggar.

Once again, Jesus stops them. 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” NIV

The Greek word, tharseo, translated as: cheer up, take heart ESV, have courage BET, it’s your lucky day MSG, be of good comfort KJV, you lucky fellow TLB, cheer up NLT, take heart RSV, courage CJB. All contain the same message. Is it possible that the thick-headed disciples are starting to understand their Master?

50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51 What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

There are many speculations on how Bartimaeus was able to find his way to Jesus, but such questions miss the point. He was focused on Jesus as Jesus was focused on him. Besides, ninety percent of all blind people have some vision.

I am more struck with Jesus’ question. What do you want me to do for you? Jesus always listens without assuming he knows what someone wants, even though he always does know. Such an important lesson that nearly all of us fail to observe most of the time. There are times when no question needs asking, as when he healed Peter’s mother-in-law.

The response should be read on two levels—I want to see. Yes, he wanted his eyes repaired, but I wanted to see the truth within the Rabbi. He received both. Jesus told him to go, but Bartimaeus followed Jesus to Jerusalem, and I like to think he was still there at Pentecost and beyond.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Cup of Jesus is Service

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b

Hebrews 5:1-10

Mark 10:35-45

It is important that we reread the verses which set up today’s reading. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” NIV This is the third time Mark records Jesus telling the Twelve what to expect.

And yet….

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” NET James was the first of the Twelve to die—about 10-12 years after the resurrection. But John lived some sixty years after the resurrection before he died of old age. In all that time John had to remember what he and his brother had done as they walked to Jerusalem. What a shame to have to bear for so long.

Why did they do it? It is helpful to remember Mark 3:17James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”)NLT The boys were what we might call today, social climbers, or up-and-comers. They knew they were destined for greatness and were never afraid to push their causes. That and their self-centeredness.

Jesus, on the other hand, had God’s plan on his mind. ‘I’m on my way to a hard death.’

Given that, look at how Jesus reacted to the Sons of Thunder. 36 He said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” NET Jesus knew what they wanted, yet he gave them the opportunity to do the right thing. They did not. 37 “Give us permission to sit one on each side of you in the glory of your kingdom!” Phillips

We must give them some credit for believing that Jesus was on his way to claim his kingdom, even if their ideas about that Kingdom were very small k.

38 Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?” MSG The Greek wording on baptism here uses only present tense, but clearly Jesus is looking ahead to his baptism on the cross; thus, The Message has the better translation.

Jesus did not get angry and berate the boys for their lack of understanding, nor did he call them Satan as he did with Peter. Even with his mind on far greater things, he treated them kindly. He said, ‘You have no idea what you ask.’

The boys missed his message. 39 They said to him, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism I experience, 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give. It is for those for whom it has been prepared.” NET

Jesus does not tell them that they will suffer all that Jesus will suffer. He does say that to walk in his footsteps will result in suffering. The cup of Jesus is a cup of service, not glory. The baptism is one of death. Only by dying can we have life.

Jesus cannot hand out privileges in Heaven to anyone on earth because that is up to God. Even if Jesus knows who would be on his right and left, he will not speak it here on earth.

41-45 When the other ten heard about this, they began to be highly indignant with James and John; so Jesus called them all to him, and said, “You know that the so-called rulers in the heathen world lord it over them, and their great men have absolute power. But it must not be so among you. No, whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be the slave of all men! For the Son of Man himself has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others free.” Phillips

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence