Jesus loves the Oppressed and the oppressor
WE tend to see the world as black and white, us and them, Your ether with us or against us... But Jesus doesn't see it quite that way.
Two stories that take place at the edge of Jericho provide us with an opportunity to see how Jesus seeks a third way, a way to rescue the oppressed and restore the humanity of the oppressor.
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.
In the middle east village people show honor to an important guest by walking a distance out from the town to greet and escort them into the village. The popularity of the honored guest can be measured by how large the crowd is and how far they walk. Large crowds have been known to walk up to ten miles for political and religious leaders.
In 1972 the united states lost the Olympic gold in basketball for the first time ever (and under a dark cloud)... Basketball had been invented in the united states and was as popular as soccer is in most of the rest of the world. So when The original U.S. basketball Dream Team dominated the Olympic competition, beating their eight opponents by an average of 44 points and won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. They captured the attention of the world. More important to my point here, when they came home people came out to the airport to greet them, And not just to wait in a line to politely wave at them... It was chaos as excited fans screamed, cried, waved flags...
But back to our story...
Part of the tradition would be to welcome the guest with a banquet and public celebration. The famous Rabbi would be expected to stay the night and perhaps teach a little.
Jesus turns this offer down, but that's more important to the second half of our story.
When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening.
The beggar hears the crowd and asks whats going on.
They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."
He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Son of David? Where have we heard that before?
The beggar is asking a question...
"What kind of son of David are you?"
"Are you like Solomon who ignores the cry of the oppressed,
"Are you the kind of son of David the prophets talked of"
Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Mark records the crowd as saying Shut up! and also says the mans name is "Bartimaeus" which means son of filth...
Jesus stops and commands the beggar to be brought to him...
WHO has to bring the beggar?
One would expect Jesus to stand up on a large rock and yell "You idiots, don't you know I'm here for the poor, the sick, the lost... Stop demeaning this man, get out of the way so that he might find me."
But he doesn't!
He makes the very people who were insulting the beggar escort him through the crowd to Jesus for an audience.
Jesus makes people see and touch the oppressed, he brings them into a place where they have to serve them.
And one might think the story ends there, the man has found Jesus...
But once the beggar gets to Jesus, he is forced to face an exam, a pop quiz.
"What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied.
The question seems heartless,
Duh Jesus THE GUY IS BLIND! What do you think he wants you to do?
In traditional middle-eastern society beggars are recognized as an necessary part of the community, they are seen as offering a service to it.
NOT like today when we may say something like "Get a job"
In that culture Pious people are expected to give to the poor.
The traditional beggar did not say "excuse me mister can you spare some change for a crust of bread?"
Instead he would sit in a public place and challenge passersby with something like "Give to God"
He is really saying "My needs are beside the point, I am offering you a golden opportunity to fulfill one of your oblations to God (a mitzvah), furthermore in this public place everyone will see you and you will gain a reputation as an Honorable and compassionate guy."
If the beggar receives money he usually proclaims in a loud voice the givers greatness. " this is the most noble and generous person I've ever met."
The important thing with this profession is that some handicap be visibly present. In fact the worse the condition the better... A man with one leg or arm would get by.
But a blind man was golden to those who needed to be seen giving.
Being blind meant that the man would have been left out of the educational system, he wouldn't have inherited his family's land/home, he wouldn't have been trained in a trade... His only means of supporting himself would have been begging, which would require being blind.
If hes healed his only means of self support goes out the window.
Whats he going to do?
He can't beg anymore...
He has no education...
He has no employment history...
He has no employable skills...
Every hope for food, housing, survival is tied up in his blindness.
And Jesus asks "What do you want me to do for you?"
The man doesn't even hesitate
He responds "Lord" acknowledging Jesus's authority, and moves from requesting a vague "mercy" to expressing a yearning need to be healed of his blindness.
Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you."
Jesus sides with the oppressed beggar, but who is oppressing him?
Who has lost sight of his humanity and is using him as an object to boost their own standing?
The crow, the people of this town who are trying to shove the beggar away the way you would shoe a dog who is begging for food at the table.
They assume the beggar is only wanting this traveler to give him a few coins. And they think they are already giving Jesus honor, which they think is greater since they are giving it. So they tell the man to shut up!
And so Jesus gives the crowd a verbal slap, by making them bring the man to him. He gives the oppressor a chance to be transforms , to repent, to change their direction in this matter...
And they do
They join their fellow human being in celebrating and praising...
Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.