10/24/21 – Pentecost 22 – “Approaching the Lord” – Mark 10:46-52

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel Reading—Mark 10:46-52. In this text we hear the story of Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus, which is his final act in Mark’s Gospel before the events of Holy Week begin to unfold. What is particularly notable about this text is that at the end we see Bartimaeus being commended by Jesus for his faith and thus the attitude with which he approached the Lord. This begs the questions, What attitude should we have when we approach the Lord?

1. Some people approach the Lord as if he were a genie whose sole reason for existence is to cater to your wants and needs. I suspect that most of us can immediately see the problem here. Yet it is an attitude that some people do have. When I am in need, I’ll ask for the Lord’s help, but otherwise I’ll just keep to myself and do my own thing. It’s undeniable that this is how a number of people think about God, but why? Why are some people inclined to approach God as if he were a genie when all of the Scriptures and centuries of church teaching repeatedly claim the opposite? There’s actually quite a simple explanation for this. We live in a culture and a time which teach us to think about “me first.” If God is all-powerful and life is all about me, then the self-centered attitude of treating the Lord like a genie is justified. But life isn’t all about me. Any self-respecting person knows this. Approaching the Lord as if he were a genie is not the proper attitude with which to approach him.

2. Some people approach the Lord as if he were their friend. On the face of it, this approach sounds great, doesn’t it? Jesus is my friend. I can talk to him about anything. I don’t ever have to worry about him not having time for me. Jesus is my friend. This approach seems even more justified in that Jesus calls his disciples “friends” more than once. But there’s an important nuance to this discussion that needs to be considered. Yes, Jesus calls his disciples “friends” on more than one occasion. That is not being disputed. But do you know how many times Jesus’ disciples refer to Jesus their “friend”? Exactly zero times. Never do Jesus’ disciples, or anyone for that matter, speak to or of Jesus as their “friend.” So, why do we? Well, there’s a combination of reasons. One of the primary reasons is the theology we absorb through modern worship music. I’ll spare you a rant about that for now except to say that there is a certain appeal to this way of thinking. If Jesus is my friend, then we’re buddy buddy. I like that idea. I can relate to Jesus. We get to hang out. We do everything together. He’s my best friend. We’re . . . equals. Oh, wait. That crossed a line, didn’t it? I shouldn’t say, “I’m an equal with Jesus.” But if I shouldn’t say it, then I shouldn’t act like it either. And this is precisely the problem with approaching the Lord as if he were my friend—I start to act, whether consciously or subconsciously, as if we are equals. Guess what, you’re not an equal with the Lord of the universe, so stop pretending like it! It’s no coincidence that one of the most common ways people address Jesus in the New Testament is by calling him, “teacher.” There’s a certain level of respect there. And there should be a certain level of respect for teachers. We know this intrinsically. You don’t call your teacher by their first name. Again, I’ll spare you a rant on this. But it is important to maintain a certain level of respect for teachers and others who have authority and we are not equals with. But back to the topic at hand. Approaching the Lord as if he were a friend is not the proper attitude either.

3. Another way that people approach the Lord is as if he were their lover. The whole concept might sound absurd to you, but it’s all over American Protestantism, especially in modern praise and worship music. To prove my point, let me share some lyrics of “Christian” songs and let’s see if you can tell the difference between them and a secular love song. Here’s the first one: “So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest. I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that he loves us…” Here’s another one: “In the secret, in the quiet hour I wait only for You ‘cause I want to know You more. I want to know You, I want to hear Your voice…” I’ll stop there because it just gets worse. In fact, I’m not going to waste any more of your time on these “Christian” songs. I think you get the point. Much of “Christian” praise and worship music disciples it’s hearers to view Jesus as their “boyfriend.” I won’t spend a lot of time debunking this because I hope its absurdity is fairly obvious. But I will say this: This approach of Jesus as my lover is only a slight distortion of true biblical teaching. That’s why it is so captivating and deceptive. The Scriptures do teach that Jesus loves us. The Scriptures do use the language of Jesus and his bride. But guess what. Jesus has one bride and it isn’t you. The Church is Christ’s bride, which makes us his children. That is the way Jesus loves us. He’s not a genie in a bottle, he’s not our friend, he’s certainly not our lover. These are all very individualistic ways to approach Jesus. These approaches embrace the false narrative of American Christianity that faith is about “me and Jesus.” We have a tendency to approach the Lord with this “me first” attitude. Approaching him like a genie or a friend is not proper. So, approaching the Lord as if he were our lover is also not proper.

4. So, what attitude should we have when we approach the Lord? To answer this question, we finally turn to our text for this morning. Let me read the text one more time. As I do, pay attention to the attitude of blind Bartimaeus. And they [Jesus and his disciples] came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 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!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way (Mark 10:46-52). There are several beautiful things happening in this story. We’re going to pay special attention to two of them. First of all, notice the attitude with which blind Bartimaeus approaches Jesus. He approaches him in humility as a beggar. He has concerns about his own personal needs and he brings that concern to Jesus, but he does so in humility, not demanding, not with a “me first” attitude, but with a humble request, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” Here’s the other thing to notice—notice how Jesus responds to this humble, beggar-like attitude. Jesus responds to Bartimaeus’ approach by opening his eyes. This is what’s amazing about Jesus—he responds in the same way to us. Even when we don’t approach him properly, even when we approach Jesus with a “me first” attitude, he responds by opening our eyes—not our literal eyes, but our eyes of faith. And he does that every week here in the church. Through the Church, Jesus opens our eyes of faith to see and receive his forgiveness in Word and Sacrament. And as we receive that forgiveness, we see the Lord for who he is. He is our Father who desires to give us all that we need for this body and life. And he invites us to humbly approach him in prayer, laying all of our concerns and needs before him as we trust that he both hears us and will answer our prayer according to his good and gracious will. That’s how we approach the Lord—in humble confidence knowing and trusting that we have a forgiving God who loves us and meets our needs in Jesus.

In the name of Jesus. Amen

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