Will You Throw Off Your Cloak?
As Jesus set out on his journey to Jerusalem, he met a rich man who asked what he could do to inherit eternal life. That man went away sorrowful, for he had many possessions. Then, while they were on the road, James and John asked that one be granted a seat at Jesus’ right hand and the other at his left, in glory, to which Jesus responds, “You don’t even know what you are asking.” Then, as they continued their journey to Jerusalem, and were passing through Jericho, just on the outskirts, outside the city wall, they pass a beggar. He’s a nobody, an embarrassment; we don’t know his name. We call him Bartimaeus, “bar” means “son of,” so he was the son of Timaeus, which was important to identify in that culture because a blind child was a judgement on his parents, so his father’s name was remembered more to be certain and remember the shame that his father was to be regarded with than to remember who this blind beggar was. As Jesus and the disciples, and the large crowd following him, were leaving Jericho, he was sitting just outside the city gate along the road that runs uphill from Jericho to Jerusalem.
Even though he doesn’t have a name, he knows Jesus’ true identity. “Son of David” was the designation for “Messiah.” “Son of David, have mercy on me!” he shouted. And Jesus stops and says, “Call him.”
And he throws off his cloak, springs up and comes to Jesus. This is incredible! The rich man went away sorrowful for he had many possessions. His cloak is likely the only thing that this beggar owns. He uses it every minute of every day. Jericho is a desert climate. It is hot in the day and cool at night. The cloak keeps the beggar warm. During the day, he spreads it out and it is his seat in the sand. As he works, since he can’t see, he listens to hear where a coin lands on his cloak so that he can reach for it and gather it to him. And when Jesus calls him, he throws it off. He leaves it behind.
Jesus asks what he wants and he answers that he wants his sight, but this blind beggar already sees better than the crowd and the disciples. “Go your way,” says Jesus, “your faith has made you well.” Having confidence to throw off your cloak when I called you has made you well. And immediately, the blind beggar could see. But, he didn’t go his way. Instead, he followed the path of Jesus toward Jerusalem and the cross.
How would you have responded? Jesus calls you. Would you leave behind your livelihood? Would you leap up and throw off your cloak of comfort? This is the response of faith, the faith that makes us well.
Scholar and author N.T. Wright says about this passage, “We all have something, by no means necessarily a physical ailment, that we know is getting in the way of our being the people we believe God wants us to be and made us to be.”
Do you hear Jesus calling you? Will you throw off your cloak and go where he is?
Next Saturday we begin our fourth season of hosting homeless men, women, and children on Saturday evenings through the winter. It is outside all of our comfort zones. We sit down beside our neighbors and eat together. They are wary of us; we are wary of them. Strangers, sitting down together to carry on polite conversation. But before long, we are getting to know each other, we laugh together, share our stories, and welcome Jesus in our midst. Do you hear Jesus calling you? Will you throw off your cloak and go where he is?
In a few weeks, as we celebrate Stewardship Sunday, you will have the opportunity to make a pledge to the work of Jesus accomplished through Farmington Presbyterian. It is outside all of our comfort zones. We sit down and write our name on the card and wonder how much we should give. What is enough? What will I have to give up? What could I do instead? Yet, as we come together to share our gifts, we realize that we are growing in faith together. Couples, families, friends come to the front of the Sanctuary and lift the roof of the little white church model and we welcome Jesus in our midst. Do you hear Jesus calling you? Will you throw off your cloak and go where he is?
Or maybe God has gifted you with the ability to write or organize or preach or with a passion for children or handicapped or elderly or youth or with a heart for people who are suffering or for addressing a particular injustice. Do you hear Jesus calling you? Will you throw off your cloak and go where he is?
Perhaps you have abilities to share with the body of Christ here at Farmington. Whether it is serving as an usher or greeter or hosting Fellowship Coffee or singing in the choir or opening and closing the building on Sunday mornings, or some other role, Jesus is calling you. Will you throw off your cloak and go where he is?
“We all have something …that we know is getting in the way of our being the people we believe God wants us to be and made us to be.” When we take that leap of faith and leave it behind, we are healed to live life abundantly.
And then we have a choice. Jesus says to the healed beggar, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” But he doesn’t. He follows Jesus on the way. This is the way up from Jericho to Jerusalem. In 18 miles, the road ascends from 825 feet below sea level to 2500 feet above sea level. But, that is not the hard part of choosing to follow Jesus on the way. When Jesus enters Jerusalem, he will be met by crowds shouting “Hosanna!” And soon those crowds will be shouting “Crucify him!”
Will we choose to follow Jesus on the way or go our own way? Following Jesus on the way leads us to speak out against injustice, to stand up with the oppressed, to take unpopular positions, and to sacrifice not just our comfort zone.
Following Jesus on the way is stopping someone who is being racist mid-sentence. Following Jesus on the way is grieving with victims of hate crimes and then speaking out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and white supremacy. Following Jesus on the way is engaging, walking uphill into the face of the establishment to challenge it with God’s Kingdom. It is a way that sacrifices being acclaimed with shouts of “Hosanna!” and accepts shouts of “Crucify him!” from the crowd.
New Testament scholar and professor Douglas Hare writes, “Because ‘the way’ along which Bartimaeus follows Jesus is the way to the cross, it seems likely that this restored sight serves as a foil to the continuing blindness of the disciples. They will be able truly to ‘see’ and ‘follow’ on the way of humble self-sacrifice only when their eyes have been opened by a miracle – the miracle of the resurrection.”
Friends, Jesus is calling you to him. Will you throw off your cloak and go where he is? And if you do, when you receive your sight, when you see the world as he sees it, will you follow him on the way?