Rev. George Miller
“Once Was Blind but Now I See”
April 1, 2012
Good morning! Happy Palm Sunday! My name is Bartimaeus; child of God, follower of Jesus Christ.
Your pastor invited me today to share with you my experience of being there the day when Jesus entered into Jerusalem.
The day when people placed their coats about the colt, waved palm branches in the air and shouted out “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
What a magnificent day that was. What a magnificent day that was for all of us.
As I said, my name is Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus. Bart for short.
As you can imagine, I grew up with a variety of nicknames. When I was a child, my parents called me Baby Bart. When I was a teenager and shot up taller then all my classmates I was called Big Bart.
When I lost my job and lived on the streets of Jericho, people called me Beggar Bart. Then, when I completely lost my eyesight, Blind Bart.
People would often ask me what color I would see when I was blind.
It’s not an easy answer. Sometimes it would seem black; so dark and overwhelming.
Other times it would seem white; so blinding and full of emptiness.
But the truth is blindness does not have a hue. It just is. No color, no light, no life.
It wasn’t always that way.
I was born in a beautiful, lush garden with my parents. We were loved by God and had everything we could possibly need.
But you know how it is when you start to get older: as green as the grass was, I began to wonder if it was greener on the other side.
I began to grow blind to all the good things that were around me. Instead I longed to see what I felt I did not have; assuming that life would be better over the rainbow.
So I left the comfort of home and the beauty of the garden and made my way to the big city, seeing things I had never seen before.
Yet at the same time my eyes became blind to the things that had truly mattered.
I got a job. I slaved away. My parents died. I began to long for life back in the garden, knowing I could never return.
I felt like I was lost in the wilderness, lonely and looking for the promised land.
Feeling there was less and less good in my life, I found my eyesight growing dim and dimmer to the good things of God.
Then the economy tanked. I lost my job and became homeless. And then my biggest fears were realized: I became blind.
The only thing I had left was this coat, my father’s coat. Yes, it was worn, it was ragged, but it was mine.
It kept me dry when it rained, shielded me from the heat of the day and kept me warm at night.
Sometimes I could still catch traces of my father’s scent in the fabric, the smell of his cologne, the tobacco he smoked.
To survive, I sat on the streets of Jericho, in my father’s coat, begging people passing by for spare coins.
They were pilgrims, making their way into Jerusalem just a few miles away, where they would go to the Temple and make their sacrifice to God.
You’d think religious people would be mindful of me; you’d think they’d see me and want to help; to make sure I had a little something to eat, a safe place to sleep.
But they did not.
They were blind to me. They ignored my pleas for help; they ignored the person I am.
Instead of addressing me as Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, they called me Blind Bart, Beggar Bart.
That’s how I lived for many years, sitting on the roadside, hearing the pilgrims pass, begging for enough to eat; not cared for by the priests, not cared for by the politicians.
There’s an irony to being blind: my hearing became sharper then most, yet people talked to each other as if I wasn’t there.
So I heard about everything that was taking place in town. Soon I heard stories about a new Rabbi; Jesus was his name.
How he was unlike anyone people had seen before. How he called folk like fishermen to be his students.
How he astounded people with his wisdom, how he calmed those with restless spirits, how he offered healing to those who were on the fringes of society.
At first, I was like “Big deal!” It seemed like every year there was someone like him who would blaze through town, promising to change everyone’s life, but nothing happened.
But the stories continued.
From what I heard this Jesus was a man of compassion. He openly challenged the oppressive teachings of others; he wasn’t afraid to reach out to those who were unclean; he cared about the plight of women and children.
Then I heard stories of miracles and healing. How he quieted the storm, how he fed 5,000, and how he made the paralyzed to walk, the deaf to hear and the blind to see, allowing each and everyone one of them to enjoy life again.
I thought “If Jesus could do that for them, he could certainly do it for me.”
That’s when I heard the news: Jesus was coming to town on his way to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival.
It was all the talk for days among people like me: those who needed someone, something to believe in.
So with great faith I waited; we all waited…
…The day came; I sat in my usual location. I heard the excitement of the people.
Although I could not see, I knew he had arrived when people began to shout out “Look!” “See!” “There he is!”
Sick and tired and being sick and tired I lifted my voice and I yelled as loud as I ever yelled “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Those around me told me to be quiet. “Shut up Beggar Bart!” they demanded. “Be silent Blind Bart!” they scolded.
I was not going to let them shame me into submission; I could care less what anyone had to say, so I shouted out even more “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
…Then I heard his voice. Straight forward and strong, “Call him here.” I could tell he was standing still; he was waiting for me.
For years many people: pilgrims, priests, politicians, walked right past me, but he stopped, and he waited, for me.
Jesus had seen me.
He asked what I wanted. The answer was simple. “My teacher,” I said, “Let me see again.”
And so he said “Go, you faith has made you well.”
…and I could see.
And what was that like? I’ll try to explain it to you.
First the black/white nothingness I had been living with for years…began to disappear. I began to see the good things of God once again.
First thing I saw was the blue of the sky. So vast, so limitless, so many possibilities, I had forgotten what that could look like.
Next I looked over and saw the purple in the field. So royal and majestic. I thought “How did God do that?”
Next, I saw the clothes of the people. Many of them garbed in red, so lush, so deep; I marveled at the creativity of the hands that made them.
Then I looked up and I saw the palm branches and leaves on the trees, so green, so full of life.
Blue, purple, red, green; life.
Then I saw him: Jesus.
The one who saw me when no one else would. The one who cared about me when the pilgrims, priests and politicians walked on by.
And I knew, I knew it was true: he was indeed the real King; the Messiah; the one the prophets had spoken of; the one we had been waiting for all of our lives.
And I knew that I could not go and leave him behind. Now that I could see, I knew I wanted to follow.
And let me tell you what I saw.
We approached Jerusalem, Jesus, the disciples, and followers like me.
And people, catching word of his arrival, ran out to see him. The crowds gathered, lining the streets.
Two of the disciples went up ahead and came back with a colt. And when they did, people began to lay their coats upon it.
I realized what they were doing: this was an action that was usually reserved only for kings and great leaders.
I looked at my coat. The coat that had belonged to my father. I realized that for the first time in a long time I could see it…
And I knew that unlike our local politicians who cared about nothing but themselves, Jesus, THE TRUE KING, cared about the people.
So, with nothing else to give, but wanting to show my thanks, I joined the others and lay my father’s coat upon the colt.
I watched, as he sat on top.
I watched as others lay their coats down on the road before him, like a carpet.
Others ran to the green, green trees and into the fields and began to clip and pull branches and flowers and leaves and palms, and spread them on the road.
With songs of jubilation, people sang out “Hosanna!” “Hosanna!’ “Hosanna!”
And I realized that my coat wasn’t the only thing I had to offer; I had my hands; I had my voice.
With a branch in hand, I raised my arm; I raised my voice, and with all the others shouted out:
“Hosanna in the highest heavens.”
All of us singing as one voice: “Hosanna!” “Hosanna!” “Hosanna!”
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
“Hosanna!” “Hosanna!” “Hosanna!”
I never thought I would live to see such a sight. This was a celebration unlike any I had ever experienced.
This is what happiness looks like!
This is what community means!
This is what seeing the joy of the Lord does!
Jesus had entered into our lives and none of us would ever be the same again.
And I saw it, I saw it with my own two eyes.
In conclusion, I believe that we all have an experience with Jesus.
Sometimes it seems to happen unexpectedly; sometimes it seems as if we have been waiting a long time, blind and on the side of the road.
So I ask you: how will you respond when Jesus enters your life?
How will you respond when he frees you from that which paralyzes you?
How will you respond when he opens your ears so that you can hear?
How will you respond when he opens your eyes so you can see?
Will you go your own way? Will you try to go back to the way things were?
Or will you show your thanks by following him; giving and doing what you can?
I know what I chose…
Now when people stop me on the street and say “Hey, don’t I know you? Aren’t you Blind Bart, the beggar?”
I say “That’s what they use to call me, but that’s not what they call me anymore. My name is, Bartimaeus, child of God, follower of Jesus Christ.”
“I once was blind, but now I see.”
And for that we can say “Hosanna!” and for that we can say “Amen!”