1079) Eleazar and Bart (part two of three)

A story based (loosely) on Acts 5:27-40, Mark 10:46-52, and Acts 3:1-10.

     (…continued)  After enough messiahs and their small armies were crushed by the Romans, the whole idea died down for a while.  Sure, the religious ones still talked about the messiah that God would one day send, but no one was still foolish enough to try and become one, or, to follow one.

     But now there was excitement again in Jerusalem on that day that you call Palm Sunday.  Jesus of Nazareth was coming into the city, and many people were saying that he was the real Messiah, that he was the one who would save Israel.  “We will see,” I thought.  I knew he would end up dead like all the rest, and so would his followers.

     This Jesus had been staying with friends in Bethany for few days, and now would be here.  Many people were happy about this, but we heard that the religious leaders were worried and angry.  I could not have cared less, except that he might throw a few coins in my cup on the way past; and then I would spit on him.  It was my faith in a ‘messiah’ that ruined my life.

     I hear much where I sit every day, and I must admit I had been hearing some puzzling things about this messiah.  First of all, he didn’t fight– never did and never would, he said, even when the radicals tried to talk him into it.  And, he moved openly among the people– all the people— leaders and peasants, Galileans and Samaritans, Pharisees and sinners, Jews and Romans, and even with tax collectors and whores.  You had a problem with segregation in your country, but segregation was not a problem for us.  It was a taken-for-granted fact of life.  Yet, Jesus mixed with everyone.  And he did not seem to have a political agenda.  He talked about loving everyone, even your enemies, and even the Romans.  Everyone was puzzled.  Many of those who still hoped for a military messiah were disappointed.  My opinion was that Jesus was either really shrewd and throwing everybody off as he secretly gathered his army, or, he was a complete idiot, getting into a lot of trouble for nothing.

      But everyone, it seemed, was fascinated by him.  He could do miracles, they said.  He even raised a man from the dead in Bethany last week.  But you hear a lot of nonsense around here, so I didn’t believe any of it.  Apparently many people did, though.  It was a huge crowd that welcomed this Jesus into town that day.  They were all waving palms and covering the path with branches and even with their garments.    

      Another strange thing was that he came riding on a donkey.   “What’s the matter’’ I asked Bart, the blind beggar who always sat next to me, “can’t he walk?”

     “He can walk,” Bart said, adding, “Don’t you know your Scriptures?  The prophet Zechariah said that the Messiah would come into Jerusalem riding on a young donkey.  Jesus is making a statement by coming in on that donkey.”  

     I guess he was, and by the talk at the gate, people were already forming into two camps– those for Jesus as the Messiah and those against him.  I could see trouble coming.  As I said before, messiahs were always nothing but trouble.

     The next thing I knew, Jesus was coming our way, along with the whole crowd.  We beggars were always excited to see a crowd like that.  We would have a good day of it, and our coin cups would be full.  But the crowd moved slowly.  Jesus, it seemed, stopped to talk to many people.  That’s what I heard anyway, but I could not see much from where I was sitting on the ground.  

     Then the crowd was all around us.  I even got stepped on a couple times, but the coins were filling my cup so I didn’t care.  All of a sudden, Jesus was right there ahead of me.  He was talking to Bart.  That’s when things got interesting.  Bart was the religious type, and I could hear him say, “Lord, have mercy on me.”  And in a kind voice, Jesus said, “What do you want?”

     Bart, always the fool, said, “Lord, I want to see.”  And then I heard Jesus say, “Go, your faith has healed you.”  Just liked that, Bart was not looking off into space with that blank look he always had, but he was looking right at Jesus, and then right at me.  It was with eyes that could see, eyes wide open with surprise and wonder.  Then the crowd pressed around us, and Jesus was gone, and then Bart was gone.  He was off running around looking at everything and telling everyone.

     About an hour later Bart was back. “Eleazer,” he said, “I can see.”

     “Yes,” I said, “I’ve known you for 25 years, and you’ve been blind all the while.  How did he do it?”

     “He is the Messiah,” Bart said.

     “But the Messiah is supposed to fight Romans,” I said, “not heal blind beggars.  Besides, what’s he going to do for me?”

     “I don’t know, Eleazer, I don’t know” Bart said.  “I just know that I was blind and now I can see.  Anyone who can do that is worth following.”  (continued…)

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Mark 10:46-52  —  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 begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up!  On your feet!  He’s calling you.”  Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.  The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.”  Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

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O Lord, mercifully assist us.  Direct our lives toward the goal of everlasting salvation, that, surrounded by all the changes and uncertainties of life, we may be defended by your gracious and ready help in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978, Augsburg Publishing House

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