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Blind Bartimaeus: A Sermon by Minister Marvin K. White

You know, I love using the Bible as a tool and I’m beginning to say more and more, “This is my Bible and sometimes I believe it, sometimes I don’t.”

So, when Jesus was leaving Jericho with his followers, a blind man named Bartimaeus called out to him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Then he said, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And he persisted to call Jesus’ name, even though the crowd was trying to shush him. Because you know, you don’t get to persist if you are blind and begging. You don’t get to persist if you got one hand out and the other hand rubbing your stomach, because you’re hungry.

You don’t get to persist, if you smell like urine and alcohol. You don’t get to persist if you have diabetes. You don’t get to persist if you are transgender and looking for gender affirmation surgery, and you definitely don’t get to persist, if you’re a woman in love with another woman.

Even when the throngs we’re trying to silence blind Bartimaeus. Even though they were trying to silence they and them and their, and theirs, and themself, they persisted. Even with the throng silencing him, he persisted because you can’t silence a blues man and Blind Bartimaeus is the greatest blues name ever. And blind people sing the best blues. Yes, Blind Bartimaeus was a blue singer.

Jesus hears Blind Bartimaeus singing his blues because Jesus has had the blues before, too on his way to the cross. Blind Bartimaeus is like Robert Johnson at these crossroads. So, Jesus calls him at these crossroads. And the people who were just telling him to be quiet and to shush, were, now that Jesus has called him, “He is calling you. Rise in good cheer.” And Bartimaeus just rolled his eyes at them.

Jesus had them bring the man to him and asked him what he wants and Blind Bartimaeus throws off his clothes and his garments. And he is blind and standing naked in front of Jesus. And he asked to be able to see again. That word, “again,” because “again” means that he once had sight.

That means maybe his diabetes was outta control and he went blind. That means maybe his meth pipe blew up in his face. Or that means that some trauma happened that he couldn’t even begin to look at. That means he didn’t have insurance or didn’t trust hospitals. That means he had sight once and he wants to see again.

He wants to throw off his clothes and return in front of Jesus to his birthright, to be called into the light, naked, into the healing, naked. He wants a new start. He wants to name his own body parts. He wants to remove the leg-prying eyes and reconcile himself to himself. “What you want me to do?”, Jesus says, “Rabbi, that I might have my sight back.”

And Jesus didn’t say, “This gonna be your last time.” Jesus didn’t say, “You gotta go stop sinning now.” And Jesus didn’t say, “You’re a bad person,” Blind Bartimaeus. Jesus tells him quite simply, “Your faith has made you well.” And to go his own way. “Go do you,” Jesus says to him. “It’s in the Bible.” And Jesus didn’t say, “Follow me.”

Jesus says, “Pick up where you left off, find the road that you were on before you went blind. Your dreams are still there. You have not missed anything. And if I restore your sight and your life and help you get your healing, stop the persecution of you go back to what you was doing because the system that let you go blind, the system that cut Medicare and created anti-trans laws, the bombings, the lead in the water, the Roundup, and the Monsanto. Go back there with this restored vision and keep fighting for the people.”

But Bartimaeus, when he regained his sight started following Jesus. But Jesus showed him that is his faith, not Jesus that restored his sight. Bartimaeus decided that this was the way to recovery. Bartimaeus, “kept it real.” Bartimaeus started following Jesus. Not blindly. Not on the opiates of the masses, not like a liming, and not sheepishly. Not blindly.

I love that Jesus can’t even take credit for Bartimaeus’ sight returning. He doesn’t cover up the transphobia anymore. Jesus says what we have always known as the elders in this world, as the voiceless black folks in this world, as the trans men and women and queer folks, in the differently abled folks of this world, as those whose bodies are finally fighting back against cancer and COVID and monkey pots, and shame, in the world. Jesus says what we have always known that not even Jesus and definitely not organized religion gets to take credit for something that you can do on your own.

Something that a woman in her body can do and has done of her own power. Something the enslaved with their own power to have done. Something that the poor and the disenfranchised discovered was in their own power to do. Jesus was just the catalyst. But we, and you, are the cure. You are the change. You are the lift.

You are the release. You are the unbinding and you are the liberation. Jesus was just the way, but we gotta put them 10,000 steps in every day. And here’s the thing about, about the Bible—Sometimes every puff of smoke, every angel blinding you, every darkening cloud, every descent off of a mountain, every transfiguration that a man survived, sometimes that’s meant to cover up, that we, all of us are miraculous.

We are the poetry of God. We are the one who God conspires with. We cannot be removed. We cannot be washed away. We cannot be erased. We are the indelible. We are the holy and when it all fades away, when capitalism and its cronies lose grip on this Bible, when their fingerprints are run and they come back mismatched from their grubby little paws, what will be revealed is our glorious signatures trying to correct everything that they got wrong on purpose to blind us. No more empire holding our hands, forcing us to blindly sign our lives over to oppression.

Jesus didn’t do Bartimaeus a favor. Bartimaeus did Jesus a favor. That’s the real Jesus didn’t perform a miracle for Bartimaeus, Bartimaeus performed a miracle for Jesus because he allowed Jesus to walk the talk. Bartimaeus had to yell to get Jesus’ attention. Bartimaeus had to.

Even if it was not politically correct, even though he was told it wasn’t his turn, even though the laws were written against him, even though everybody called him lazy for allowing himself to go blind, even if it was against all customs to shout out at a Rabbi—when your freedom is at stake, nothing, no custom, no law, no middling and meddling man, and no custom could or should keep you from getting your healing from the Jesus of your imagination. Scripture says they shushed him, but he started shouting all the more. So, I need to hear at least one person shout like you are ready for your liberation. Can somebody shout out, “I’m free. I’m free. I’m free.” Now say it like you wanna make sure that Jesus will get, you will get Jesus’s attention, “I’m free. I’m free. I’m free.” Say it like somebody’s walking down the street, out that window and needs to hear that people are getting free inside of here, “I’m free. I’m free. I’m free.”

Now this blind man knew who Jesus was, even though he was blind. He called him the son of David. He didn’t even know what David looked like, but he knew that Jesus looked like David. Maybe for you. It’s calling on mental health counseling, or maybe telling your doctors you’re ready for your meds again. Maybe it’s a safe house you need to leave an abusive workplace or relationship. Oh my LGBTQQIP2SAA, family. My lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender, queer questioning, intersex, pansexual two-spirited asexual and allies, if you want the gifts of your spirit to be activated, to be reactivated, to be turned on again, it’s about having faith that whether or not you are in the right body, that the state is trying to sanction and designate, you are always right on time.

They want you to be blinded by the lights of the right wing evangelicals, but your faith has made you well. Alright, Bartimaeus came and had a come to Jesus moment, when he came into his knowing that he needed something, he needed something to generate himself so that he can help himself. When he realized that the system was rigged against him, he got up and he got mad.

See when you’ve had enough and you’re able to be present enough to catch yourself in the lie that they’re telling about you, you simply have to say, “But my faith. But my faith. Yes, but my faith has made me well.”

Amen.

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