I’ll be the first one to tell you that it can be really difficult for me to do the things that I don’t want to do.
The yard work that’s been piling up outside, the “check engine” light that’s been angrily glaring at me from the dashboard of my minivan, the next few episodes of that famous podcast that walks you through the Bible in a year – when I find myself struggling to get started with something, even if it’s a good thing, I know how easy it is for me to kick the can down the road and silently mutter to myself, “tomorrow!” Now, just because I’m aware of this fault doesn’t mean that I have any greater mastery over it, it’s far too easy for me to give in to laxity and, frankly, procrastination. While delaying the yard work, or that slightly overdue oil change, by one more day might not be that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, procrastination in the spiritual life can be deadly serious. When the Lord speaks to our hearts, it can be just as easy to look the other way and say, “tomorrow, Jesus!” In fact, this is so serious that the Gospel of Mark gives us an extraordinary example of the need to be alert, aware, and ready to respond to the call of Jesus without delay.
In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark Jesus is drawing closer toward His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and He is approaching the threshold to Holy Week and the events of His Passion. He’ll perform one final public miracle before He enters into the holy city of Jerusalem, and it’s on this dusty road outside of Jericho, a city once known far and wide for its unconquerable walls. The miracle that Jesus is about to perform carries considerable symbolic importance, and is a sort of summary of all Jesus’ active ministry. Jesus is about to give sight to a blind man, and that’s a perfect image of what Jesus wants to operate in us. As Jesus is leaving Jericho with His disciples, followed by a large crowd, they pass by a blind beggar on the side of the road, a man named Bartimaeus. There’s no procrastinating for Bartimaeus – as soon as he hears that Jesus is near, he begins calling out to the Lord, imploring His mercy. At first, the crowd derides Bartimaeus and tells him to keep quiet, but Jesus hears his cry, and tells the disciples to call Bartimaeus forward. I always find it amusing that the ones who might have been ignoring Bartimaeus, or even telling him to be quiet, may be the very ones who then listen to Jesus tell the poor blind man, “Take courage, get up, he is calling you.” The disciples don’t think that a blind beggar is worth the teacher’s time – but Jesus does. Perhaps Jesus, a poor man Himself, not having anywhere to lay His head, identifies with the beggar, and wants to be present with the blind man just as much as Bartimaeus wants to be with Him. There’s certainly an analogy to be made between those disciples and ourselves, members of the Body of Christ, who are quick to look past the poor beggars in our life, whether spiritual or temporal – but that’s an analogy that will have to wait for another day. Instead, I want to focus on the immediacy of Bartimaeus’ response.
Upon hearing that Jesus was calling to him, Bartimaeus springs to his feet and throws behind him his cloak – he doesn’t wait for a second invitation, and he doesn’t let anything that would hold him back get in the way. When Jesus calls him, he doesn’t procrastinate, he doesn’t think twice. By throwing off his cloak, he expresses a hundred things at once; he wants to go as lightly as possible to Jesus without anything holding him back, he wants to leave the rags of his old life behind, and he doesn’t lose a single instant giving himself cosmetic touches to meet the Lord, Bartimaeus just wants to come before Jesus as he is. Even more boldly, when Bartimaeus reaches Jesus, he responds with alacrity to the prompt of Jesus, who asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” If Jesus proposed that question to me, I don’t know how I would respond, but Bartimaeus does. Bartimaeus trusts Jesus immediately, and replies, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus responds to the raw cry of Bartimaeus’ heart, and says, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately Bartimaeus follows Christ on the way – the way to Jerusalem, and Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection.
Bartimaeus is a perpetual reminder to me that I don’t have any time to waste, I don’t have the luxury of saying, “tomorrow!” to my spiritual life, as I might say to taking the garbage out, or whatever other myriad chores I need to attend to. Whenever I feel the pull of procrastination or laziness in my prayer life, I think of Bartimaeus – eager, waiting, ready to respond when Jesus draws near. What a shame it would be if I sat outside of my own Jericho and let Jesus walk by, or let others convince me that I could wait until tomorrow to listen to the teacher. Maybe you’ll pray, with me, that Jesus would give us hearts that are waiting for Him, hearts that are ready to call out immediately, as soon as He passes by.