There were intermediaries between Jesus and a man named Bartimaeus. Mark (chapter 10) called them the crowd. When Bartimaeus, who was blind, heard that Jesus was passing by, he shouted out to him for mercy. He could have meant many things by that plea: maybe he needed a few coins to buy his next meal since he was unable to work; he thought if Jesus paid him some attention maybe others would also; or, he’d heard Jesus was a healer and perhaps he had the faintest hope that he might be healed.
The crowd shushed him. Jesus is too busy for you. He’s too important for you. All these people have pressing needs; why do you think he will make time for yours?
They thought they were protecting Jesus. Maybe they also thought they were protecting Bartimaeus from false hope and disappointment.
Jesus heard Bartimaeus’s cry, and he heard the crowd’s shushing. “Tell him to come here,” he said.
To their credit, the crowd changed their tune right away. Take heart, Bartimaeus. He’s calling for you. Come on, get up, we’ll help you.
The man who had sat still by the side of the road asking for alms leapt to his feet. He threw off his coat and went to see Jesus. Whether or not he even heard Jesus’ call, it was the words of the crowd, words that had turned from dissuasion to encouragement, that gave him energy to take those first hopeful steps.
There are intermediaries between God and everyone else. We are “the crowd,” the ones who either dissuade or encourage. Sometimes when a person is in any kind of pain, we really don’t want to hear about it. We may think they whine too much. We may have heard all about it before. We may even think that God, who cares about everyone and everything, just might have other more important things to tend to. Everyone has pressing needs, we think; why do you think God will have time for you?
Over time, we stop listening to the hurt, stop hearing the need. Over time, the sound of the cries for mercy become tinny to our ears.
But never to God’s ears. Just as Jesus stopped in his tracks and asked the crowd to call Bartimaeus to him, God always has time in the middle of tending to the problems of world hunger and peace and global warming to listen to the individual’s cry for mercy.
Like the crowd, if we are paying attention, we can also turn our notice to those who are in need. Like the crowd, we realize that the hurting are being called, and we change our tune from trying to downplay their pain to encouragement. Take heart. He’s calling for you. Come on, we’ll help you.
We just have to pay attention.
A few months ago our church started a prayer shawl ministry. You may have heard of this sort of thing. Individuals knit or crochet shawls or afghans which are then given to those who are experiencing some kind of need: illness; a loss; loneliness; some difficult turn of events. When a shawl is delivered, it is a gift from the congregation as well as from the maker. It is a symbol of the prayers of God’s people, a tangible sign of encouragement. It wraps the receiver in the hopes of the crowd, the call to take heart.
When we are paying attention to God’s heart for the individual, then our words and actions will be ones that will help the hurting know they can draw close to God, because God has already turned toward them. We are God’s intermediaries.
Give heart, so that others may take heart.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2009