Many of us were taught to ask God for what we need for each day — that is, we learned to pray as the Lord’s Prayer instructs, “Give us this day our daily bread.” So we pray for daily bread, and for daily milk, and for daily eggs. We pray for daily shelter, for daily caffeine, for the weekly paychecks so that we can afford daily bread & daily milk & daily eggs & daily shelter & daily caffeine. We ask for what we need for the days of our lives … and containing our list of prayer requests simply to what we need can be a significant faith challenge.
Even so, consider this contrast in faith: We ask for what we need to live our lives. Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) asks for what he needs to follow Jesus.
We ask for what we need for our lives. Bartimaeus asks for what he needs to follow Jesus! Now certainly it’s possible that what we need for our lives and what we need to follow Jesus can be the same, but not necessarily. Just the processes of figuring out what we need for our lives and what we need to follow Jesus tend to be vastly different: understanding what we need to follow Jesus requires time spent listening to Jesus … while what we need to make our lives work each day requires a grocery list and a full tank of gas.
Bartimaeus asks for what he needs to follow Jesus.
Even more challenging: Bartimaeus is ready to follow Jesus whether he gets what he asks for or not! When Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” and Jesus responds by calling him to him, the disciples relay the invitation to Bartimaeus saying, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you,” and then Bartimaeus immediately leaps up.
He leaps up in joy, even before his vision is healed. He throws off his beggar’s cloak even before Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Because for Bartimaeus, the good news isn’t whether he gets healed. The good news isn’t whether he is relieved from begging for his daily bread. The good news for Bartimaeus is simply that Jesus calls him. Jesus hears him, Jesus intuitively affirms his gifts & possibilities, and Jesus calls him. Bartimaeus leaps up, throws off his cloak, because Jesus calls and Bartimaeus is ready to follow!
He’s ready to follow Jesus regardless of his circumstances, because it’s so amazing that Jesus has called him! While he is still blind, Jesus calls him. While he is still begging, Jesus calls him. While he is still crying out, Jesus calls him. Before he is healed, Jesus calls him.
Before our lives are all together, Jesus calls us. Before the heartache is healed, Jesus calls us. Before the storm is finished raging, and even before the storm arrives, Jesus calls us. Before our bodies recover from illness, before our finances are in order, while we are still trying to make it — physically, financially, emotionally, relationally, spiritually — while we are still just trying to keep our lives together from one day to the next and crying out, “God have mercy!” Jesus is already calling us.
By God’s mercy, healing and daily bread will come, but the good news is that Jesus is already calling us. And because Jesus is already calling us, we are not meant to wait for our lives to be in order, for our bodies and finances to be strong, for our hearts to be healed, for our storms to finish raging, for our vision to be restored, before we leap up and throw off our cloaks and follow Jesus.
The good news comes before the healing: “Take heart! Get up. He is calling you!”
Excerpt from the sermon preached at Grace United Church of Christ, 10/28/12.