Location Is Everything

Jackson Snyder, August 7, 2004

Based on W. G. Carter

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Faith is “the determination to shed denial and face the world as it is, in order to struggle for what could be.”


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Go Directly to Message    On the Jericho Road (Gospel Song)


Mark 10:46.  And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, bar Timaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.  47.  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  48.  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  49.  And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; rise, he is calling you.”  50.  And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus.  51.  And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Master, let me receive my sight.”  52.  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. 


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Hebrews 5:12-6:1,9-12.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of G*d.  You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about the Messiah, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward G*d.  Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation.  For G*d is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.  And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.


Psalms 13

1. How long, Yahweh, will you forget me? Forever?  How long will you turn away your face from me?

2. How long must I nurse rebellion in my soul, sorrow in my heart day and night?   How long is the enemy to domineer over me?

3. Look down, answer me, Yahweh my G*d!  Give light to my eyes or I shall fall into the sleep of death.

4. Or my foe will boast, “I have overpowered him,” and my enemy have the joy of seeing me stumble.

5. As for me, I trust in your faithful love, Yahweh. Let my heart delight in your saving help –

6. let me sing to Yahweh for his generosity to me, let me sing to the name of Yahweh the Most High!


On the Jericho Road

1. As you travel along on the Jericho Road does the world seem all wrong and heavy load?

Just bring it to Christ your sins all confess: on the Jericho Road your heart He will bless.



On the Jericho Road there’s room for just two: no more and no less, just Jesus and you

Each burden He’ll bear, each sorrow he’ll share. There’s never a care for Jesus is there


2. On the Jericho Road blind Bartemaeus sat.  His life was a void so empty and flat.

But Jesus appeared one word brought him sight – on the Jericho Road Christ banished his night


3. O my brother to you this message I bring.  Though hope may be gone He’ll cause you to sing

At Jesus command sin’s shackles must fall.  On the Jericho Road will you answer his call?


Beautiful for Situation

     A realtor was driving a young couple around to find their first house. Listening to their banter about mortgage points, maintenance costs and school systems, he decided to give some advice. “I’ve been selling houses for 23 years and I’ve learned that only three things matter when you’re buying: location, location and location.”

     To prove it, he showed them two houses. The paint was peeling and the driveway was deteriorating at the first.  There some work to be done.  He took them into the living room over stained carpet to the one great feature in the house: a huge bay window with curtains.  “See, this house may be a handyman’s special,” the agent said, “but watch this!”  He threw open the curtains.  Immediately the concerned couple was awestruck.  Out that window they beheld ten acres of untouched forest before a purple mountain that reached into the clouds. Even the realtor found the view breathtaking, though he’d seen it several times.

   Then he took the couple to see a cute two-story stone farmhouse with five bedrooms, a big kitchen and plenty of closets. “Everything’s immaculate,” the bride cried after a brief tour. “It’s exactly what we’re looking for.”  Then the realtor pulled back the living room curtains to reveal a noisy interstate highway just beyond the back yard.  “And an airport runway is just beyond that freeway,” the honest agent added.

   Yes, location matters in buying a house.  It also matters in studying the Bible.  Anybody who wants the full view will do well to search the neighborhood.  For instance:


The Perfect Healing

   Bar Timaeus seems like a typical healing story.  Bar Timaeus is a blind beggar alongside the road.  At the word of Jesus, he regains his vision. This miracle fulfills the promise recorded in Isaiah, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened” (Isaiah 35:5). The fact that the blind man is named is unusual, but easily explained. Mark’s congregation knew the man, and he tells us as if to say, “¿You know Tim’s son who sits in the fourth pew by the window?  Here’s how he started to see.”

   Look at the story’s location: right before Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time.  This is the last healing recorded in Mark.  It’s probably the perfect healing.  Other healings were misinterpreted (Mark 1:21-28) or the person healed disobeyed (Mark 1:44-45 and 7:36-37) or healing led to opposition (Mark 3:1-6).  Some overreacted to hero-worship (Mark 2:12) or fear (Mark 5:15).  Yet, in this case, bar Timaeus followed Jesus “on the way”; that is, up the road, to his destiny.  The healing power of faith converted a blind beggar into a true disciple.

  This is the second healing of the blind in Mark. In chapter eight, a man located in Bethsaida needed to see.  Jesus touched him and the man said, “I see men as trees” (Mark 8:24). So Jesus touched him again. This time the man could see clearly.  The healing of bar Timaeus here in Mark 10 goes so much smoother.  Like other beggars, his cloak was both his blanket and his coin catcher.  As he sat along the road, his cloak was always spread before him to gather offerings from passersby.  But when Jesus drew near, bar Timaeus threw off the cloak and jumped up, expecting to be healed.  He was ready to give up the old for the new – give up begging for a less self-centered mission.


Blind Guides

   But it’s between the healings that the most striking condition is observed.  Though Jesus’ disciples have sound eyes, they don’t see a thing.  Again, let’s consider location.  Just before bar Timaeus, Jesus asks James and John, “What can I do for you?”  Ignoring Jesus’ predictions of humility and death, they say, “Let US sit at your right and left in glory(Mark 10:37). Then Jesus asks bar Timaeus the same question, “What can I do for you?”  He replies, “Just let me see.”

     There’s no greater distinction between people than what lies behind these two answers to the same question. Jesus, with all the power of Heaven, says, “What can I do for you?”  One response: “Set me ahead of others, put me in a high position, move me to a better address.”  But this is a request that Jesus can’t grant. “That’s not my business,” he says. “I came to slave away and exchange my life for many lives.  I didn’t come to put you boys or any other preachers in your own business” (Mark 10:45)! 

   As for bar Timaeus’ request:  Jesus has power to grant it.  He came to give the blind sight. 

   ¿In all our years on the pew in the blinding darkness of the church world, have we received sight?  ¿Or better, have we received insight?  ¿Do we really want to have our eyes opened?  Jesus’ own disciples didn’t.  We may be such disciples – too used to blindness to function in the bright new world that overlaps the dark.   {pause}


Preachers Wanted!

     There’s a fine magazine known as Christianity Today.  It contains articles about the Christian walk, world news and editorials.  In the back, there’s a classified ad section with lots of job openings for ministers.  In one (fictional edition), there were two specific ads seeking a new minister.  The first said:

We are a megachurch with a lot to offer. Our beautiful sanctuary has Tiffany windows that inspire worship. A large endowment enables us to maintain a full program. Committed to the elderly, we recently installed an elevator. Many members are influential, including business leaders, professionals and a former state governor. Our previous minister was a published poet, and we are seeking another polished minister to inspire us to high ideals.  The salary and benefits package are generous and negotiable for the right candidate.

The second ad says:

We are an aging congregation in a troubled city. There have been drug-related shootings in our parish. For the past decade, our church has been as a reconciling force. We minister to the poor, the illiterate, and the aging, as well as to a group home located across the street.  Our greatest need is to bridge the gap between affluent members who commute to church and the neighborhood where our building is located. Our last pastor helped begin a chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and we are seeking a new minister with similar energy, imagination and interest in urban ministry. People of courage are invited to apply.

  If you were a minister looking for a job, which would you pick?  {pause}

   ¿Would you be surprised to learn that these ads are for the same church?  Yes, it’s true!  But they read completely differently because of what the writers claim – to see.  And the ads challenge us in the matter of location.  ¿Is the assembly of Jesus-followers called to sit in the high places of stained glass glory?   ¿Or are we called to blister our naked feet on the rocky road up to Jerusalem?


People See What They Want

   People only see what they want. Mark provides plenty of evidence to substantiate this fact. 

   For all his service, his closest followers never see that Jesus came to serve. Jesus gives the deaf hearing, the dumb singing, the lame dancing. But the vision of some followers is clouded by expectations of their own advancement and assumptions about their own success.  The Jerusalem they see is like that of the psalm-singer:

Psalm 48:2. Beautiful for location – the joy of the whole earth – is Mount Zion on the north side – the city of the great King.   (Well, I’m movin’ on up – to the north side!  I’ll finally get my piece of the pie!)

They don’t perceive that their location on the road right now is lined on either side as far as they can see with carcasses hanging from Roman crosses – hundreds and hundreds – right up ahead. 

     The crowds around Jesus likewise don’t know where he’s headed.  When bar Timaeus heard Jesus was coming, he cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”  The crowd bawled, “Timaeus, shut up thy loud mouth.”   You see, he called Jesus “the Son of David.”  Israelites referred to their king with these words.  If Timaeus kept shouting for the Son of David, particular powerful political potentates might presently perceive.  Saccarii might sharpen swords, sickles and steel sling blades.  Timaeus was ordered, “Shut thy mouth.”   They relished no reasons for rousing riots or revolutions verses Roman regulars.

     The onomatopoeia is that, even in his blindness, bar Timaeus clearly sees Jesus as the promised Son of David, the table-turner.  “Give me eyes to see it,” he cries again.   Jesus used that kind of shouting faith to do it.

    Ched Myers  says that faith is “the determination to shed denial and face the world as it is, in order to struggle for what could be.  Remaining clear-eyed is a constant struggle.”  (Ched Myers, Who Will Roll Away the Stone? Maryknoll, NY:Orbis Books, 1994, p. 46.)

   The world that we see as “real” can “really” distort our ability to see clearly.  Like little blue-haired princess who’s been wearing the same spectacles for forty years, we may’ve gone out of focus some and not even known it.  We begin to enjoy our fuzzy delusion, our importance and comfort, OR we protect ourselves from being criticized as a fanatic, OR we start believing we’ve seen it all.  Whatever the case, our vision and perception can grow accustomed to all kinds of distortions. Maybe we compromise ideals we once held dearly.  OR we defend our tired old opinions from any new supernatural act or authoritative teaching.  OR one day we wake up to discover we’ve become content to live without dreams and without vision. 



   OOOOO!  Let me see again.  Let me perceive through eyes of faith!  Let me observe through spiritual opt’-o-met’-rics!   When bar Timaeus regains his sight, when he’s free to go wherever his eyes lead him, he chooses to follow Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem.  Of all the places bar Timaeus could have gone – including back home – he follows Jesus between all the ignoble crosses to THE noble cross at Calvary.  {pause}


Overdressed for the Occasion

   Once upon a time a woman received eyes. With the aid of a church offering, she established a halfway house for recovering female drug addicts.  She schedules twelve-step groups, arranges for childcare and tries to get the women back on their feet.  To see her, you’d never expect her to be involved with such work.  She’s even-tempered, gentle, affluent and articulate. But something happened earlier that opened her eyes.

   She was a college student in Pittsburgh looking for a part-time job.  The paper listed the need for a bookkeeper in a restaurant.  She clipped it, put on a smart business suit, grabbed her résumé and out the door she flew with great expectations.

   She made it to the address of the “restaurant” offices at about noon.  Above the door was a sign with the words, “East End Cooperative Ministry.”   “Is this the restaurant office?” she wondered.  She knocked on the door and someone inside shouted, “Come on in.  It’s unlocked.”  Inside, she discovered a long line of people waiting.  Disappointment washed over her.  She couldn’t believe the competition for her job. 

   She looked at the ones in the line ahead more closely.  Oh, how they were dressed – and for an interview!  Most were nearly in rags.  A few of the men looked like derelicts.   Some turned to look at her in her prim business clothes.  She began to feel really self-conscious. 

   The woman right in front of her sensed her anxiety.  She was much older, wearing a torn sweater that smelled like mothballs.  The nameless woman turned to her, looked her right in the eye, toothlessly smiled, and said {in dialect}, “Don’t worry now, honey.  The soup here’s always good – and coming here gets easier and easier, day-by-day.  You’ll find out for yourself.  And you’ll be all right, too.”  {pause}

   Years later, the student-turned-social worker reflected on the experience.  “The scales fell from my eyes that day,” she said.  “I went for a job and ended up in line at a street mission soup kitchen.  The dear lady in front of me thought I was there for soup.  Despite the way I was dressed, as far as she knew the world had been as cruel to me as to her.  But in the kindest way she could, she welcomed me as a fellow human being just as desperately in need as she – which I really wasand still am.  That was the day my conversion began.” 

   Looking around the halfway house ministry she’d built since, she smiled and said, ¿”You see all of these wonderful things G*d’s doing, even in this location?  They began when Jesus gave me faith to see where he was leading me.” {pause}


Three Things

   “What do you want?” asks Jesus today.  We can answer that we want more prestige, more blessings, more power, more influence, more ability, more peace, more money.   We want just exactly what we want and we cry out to G*d for it.  But those who can see by faith make their answer clear.  

   Let us pray:

Dearest Lord Jesus, Savior and Friend, three things I pray:

§        To See thee more clearly,

§        To Love thee more dearly,

§        To Follow thee more nearly,

Day by Day.  Amen.  St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)

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