Blind Spots

Delivered November 18, 2001 by Rev. George Antonakos.
Theme: Admitting that we often do not choose to see – repentance.

Sermon Text:
Mark 10:46-52
and Psalm 34

Our New Testament lesson is taken today from Mark, Chapter 10, Verses 46-52. This text comes after, again in context comes after a misunderstanding on the part of the disciples and also prior to the triumphal entry. And so, it is surrounded by people not quite understanding who Jesus is and yet we see from the main character of this text that he has some better understanding than the disciples and the crowd of Jerusalem. Listen now to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is the Son of Timaeus) was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard 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.”

Do you remember whom it was who taught you to drive? If you are younger than 16, your probably sitting there thinking, I wonder who is going to teach me to drive. But there are many serious responsibilities and instructions to remember when you are driving. And, one of the most critical instructions is sometimes even driver instructors forget to mention it, is to check your blind spot. Now, for those who may be under 16 in the crowd here, I am going to give you a brief early instruction. And. those of you who may be traveling this week remember this. It’s always good to be reminded, to check your blind spot. That’s the area between the side view mirror and the back of the car where you simply cannot see if you glance in your side mirror. We all know that you have to turn your head and look over your left shoulder if you want to go into the left lane. Many of us have been driving I’m sure, and seen a car that failed to check its blind spot and all of a sudden swerve back into the right lane.

A blind spot is an area that we can’t see, but that we can see if we simply take the time to look. We must turn our head in the proper direction. If we don’t, we will proceed and suffer needlessly. Every single person here today, every one of us, has blind spots. Areas of unawareness. And healthy people know that there are still areas of growth to be experienced. I mean I’m sure I can prove we all have blind spots by simply asking for a show of hands for those who believe that they have fully grown in every area of life. Nobody is going to raise their hand. And yet you know many are suffering needlessly because they fail to pay attention. They fail to pay attention to various blind spots. We can proceed without caution in relationships and decisions, behaviors and pay a terrible price. Kind of a relational wreck or spiritual wreck because we are unwilling to turn our heads in the right direction. And you know the funny thing about blind spots is that we can see other people’s just fine, it’s our own that we struggle with. We say, “Why can’t that person see how they are behaving?” Wouldn’t you just love to be able to hold up a mirror and all of a sudden they get it? Don’t they know how they are coming across to others? No, they don’t know how they are coming across to others; they have a blind spot. We’ve known of perhaps couples going through divorce, and they are so caught up in their own emotional turbulence that they don’t see what they are doing to their children. Where we say to somebody, “Your such a gifted person. I know that you would succeed at this thing if you would simply believe in yourself. Take a risk and step out.” But, the blindness of inferiority or low self-esteem or whatever keeps people from seeing what we so clearly see about them. Where people again get caught up into addictions and those who care say, “Why can’t you see what you’re doing to yourself?”

I had an encounter this past week. A woman had lost a friend and just trying to get that message across. This person just did not respect the limits of their behaviors and their addictions and died. People deny their own sinfulness all the time. Jesus taught parables because people couldn’t see, and if you spoke directly they would just clam up. He talked about laws in people’s eyes, that when we are judgmental and critical, we are unable to be able to help somebody else. You know a parent would never dream of inducing blindness in their child, but we can do it in another way. Once I read about a woman whose five-year-old son was looking forward to visiting a planetarium for vacation and upon arrival noticed a sign that said, Children under six were not admitted, and so mom said, “Let’s pretend you had a birthday,” because he was five. And if the ticket man asks you what age you are just say, “I’m six.” And she even made him practice so it would sound convincing. And so they bought the tickets and they went in. After the show they moved on to the museum and a large sign read Children Five and under admitted free. And the mother wrote in this article I had to now convince my son to forget his pretend birthday. And so they went into the museum. And as they walked up the steps to their third and final destination, the aquarium, the little boy got this puzzled look on his face and said, “Now wait a minute mom, how old am I now?” You see that’s an induced blindness. Thankfully this mom caught herself. She caught her error.

But, in deeper and more tragic ways we can teach our children to deny reality by misinterpreting. Your dad drinks beer all the time because it helps him relax. Why can’t the Branch Davidians see, why couldn’t they see through David Koresh? Why can’t the followers of Osama see that he is a madman? If not recognized, blind spots can mean the difference between life and death. And so we come to the gospel and a blind man teaches us how to become more aware of our unawareness. And this is so important because we all have room to grow. We all need to grow. I know there are people probably sitting here right now thinking, I just wish the people who live underneath my roof could just see the way they are behaving. I wish I could just sit down, you know sometimes have you ever had that as married couples you have that eyeball to eyeball thing. Okay we’re really going to tell each other what we want to change. That’s not easy. And sometimes we don’t even enter into that zone because we know that there is too much defensiveness and so we all have room to grow.

Bartimaeus is a sign of faith and an example of how we can get help with our own blind spots. And he did three things that will help us adjust our attitudes if we are willing, our relationships bring clear sight. In one sense to do these three things is like turning our heads and seeing what we can’t see at the moment. First, in Verse 47 it says, as the crowd of people were going by where he use to beg or where he sat begging, Verse 47, “when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout.” When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth. I wonder how many days Bartimaeus sat along that road. I wonder how many uneventful things occurred in his life and yet that day he was tuned in for something different. You want help with growing, then listen for God. Listen for God. Through the normal means that we use scripture and prayer, but also listen to God through others because God comes and speaks to us through others many times.

Ellen and I still have an old issue of focus on the family magazine, we keep in our night stand, because it has an article called, “Working through Marital Conflict, Six Steps or Principles that will help couples and that they should use in a love fight”. And the first two, here’s the first two principles of those six. One and this is extremely hard to do many times, adopt a learner’s posture. And the second is, listen with your heart. It’s not natural. We want to win. And one of the prayers in this article says, “Lord help me to have a teachable spirit. Relieve me of my defensiveness and self-righteousness and my anger and help me to learn something that will cause me to grow.” What a humble prayer. And then under listening with our hearts, the writer says, “My normal response is to show my spouse how unreasonably she is acting.” To correct her inaccuracies, to refute her logic, to pick at details and explain why I spoke and acted as I did. And yet the Proverbs tell us, “He whose ear listens to life giving reproof, will dwell among the wise.” Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus and to get real help with our blind spots we have to listen for God through those who love us the most.

Secondly, it says that he began to shout in Verse 47. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” It’s the only time that the term Son of David is used in Mark’s gospel. It is a term that believes that God would come through the Messiah, that salvation would come from God and he recognized in Jesus something that was going to help him to change. And he shouted and many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy upon me.” Besides listening, we can also overcome blind spots by taking personal initiative. I can think of all sorts of reasons why Bartimaeus could have stayed in the situation that he was in. He could of just been satisfied with the status-quo. He could have caved into the opposition of other people who were trying to keep him from Jesus. He could have been caught up in the emotions of bitterness regarding his blindness or his anger. His social status always kept him in sort of a one down position. He could have said, “I’ve had this problem so long, what’s the use. It won’t get any better.” You know how you can shrink blind areas if you really want to? Not just by listening for God through others, but there is another four letter word TALK. Talk. I am speaking to men now more than the women. But, sometimes it’s hard for us to talk about what’s going on inside of us, what we are fearing, what we are needing. We don’t communicate our feelings. You know, I say this often times to people who come in for counseling. And I truly, and I don’t just say this to bolster them in any false way, I truly believe it in the depths of my being, that those who enter into counseling and therapy are the most courageous people on the face of the earth, because they are willing to be vulnerable, and to be seen as weak and talk through what it is that’s troubling them so much.

You know sometimes we can sit here and say of our loved ones or our friends or whatever, I just wish they would open up. But one of the things that God may want to do in us is to soften us up so that people might open up more. You see in our lives there are hidden areas that we don’t want to reveal to other people. And if we come in contact with a person who is judgmental or bitter or angry or critical, that’s certainly not going to make us open up. And so in order to help people with their blind spots, we need to be softer and need God’s help in that. But Bartimaeus spoke, he cried out, he kept yelling and then look what happens. Jesus stops and he calls for Bartimaeus. What a wonderful moment when the Lord notices us and he is always noticing us, but there are those special moments when we know that God is focused on us and look what he does. Verse 50, “throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.” This was a moment of repentance. I will tell you why, because when a blind man or a beggar sat on the side of the road and he had his cloak over his knees or on the ground, that’s how he caught the alms. And so when he threw aside his cloak, probably change flying everywhere, he was saying, “I am going to try a new way of making it through this life.” “I’m going to turn to the one who I think has the answer.” And he didn’t just get up and come, he jumped to his feet. Was he turning from his old ways even before he received his sight? And when Jesus said, “What do you want?” You won’t pick this up in the text, but he says, “Rabbi” and it’s a very respectful form of the word rabbi, it’s almost like master. He didn’t say sir or teacher, he said master. He was already in a mode of saying, I think this is where I can get help that I need. And he said, “Master, I want to see. I just want to see.” And he approached Jesus humbly in repentance and faith and Christ questioned, “What do you want me to do for you?” was designed to provoke and bring out that faith even more so that he could speak it out forthrightly.

Every one of us here today, every single one of us here today is blind to something. Maybe it’s blind to something about our relationship with God. Maybe it’s blind in an area of a relationship with somebody else, maybe somebody even close to us. Maybe something blind even to our own qualities and our own strengths, which we continue to diminish and it’s ironic that today a blind man has pointed the way for those who wish to grow past their blindness. If we will turn our head in Jesus’ direction, if we will hear him, speak our needs to him and humbly put ourselves at his feet, we will see. And the proof of that seeing is at the end of the text. We will follow Jesus along the road of life. Do these things and your vision will improve dramatically.

Let us pray. Gracious Lord, we are so needy and we recognize that we are, and we also gratefully recognize that it’s your great power and love and grace that has brought us this far. Keep us Lord from an unteachable spirit. Keep us from thinking we have arrived somehow. Help us to humbly turn to you again, for whatever our struggles are in life, and present them to you. Speak to us Lord even as we continue in our worship. Amen.