This sermon explores Mark 10:32-52 and asks “What do you see when you look at Jesus?” So much of what we see, in anything, is the result of what we have been culturally conditioned to see. James and John saw Jesus as a tool to get them to fame, power, and glory. Bartimaues saw Jesus as a merciful healer. What do you see?
I want to play a little game today called “What Do You See?”
I’m going to show you a series of images and I want you to see what you see.
First, what do you see? Two carrots, or a cute little carrot giving Mommy carrot a hug?
Next, what do you see? A coat with a zipper and button, or a piranha face?
What do you see? Now, that is one happy bell pepper!
Those first three images were photos of actual found objects, with no manipulation.
These next three are pieces of art that are trying to mess with you.
What do you see? Two birds on a branch, or a fancy mustache on the moon?
How about this one, what do you see? A face, or a man kneeling on a rock painting a picture of a house? Look closely. Wild, right?
Finally, what about this one? What do you see? Two old people facing each other, or two people sitting in an archway playing guitar and drinking? Keep looking. Bam! So cool.
Isn’t it fascinating how we can quickly see something and then stop looking?
I have one last image for you.
What do you see?
- Is it a piece of gold jewelry, nice and shiny? Perhaps expensive. What kind of people can afford this?
- Were you horrified when I flashed this image because it is the Roman device used to torture, humiliate and execute rebels?
- Was your heart turned to sentimental goo because it is the symbol of God’s sacrificial love for the world?
- Or, were you offended because this is the symbol of the Empire that invaded your land and took your people into slavery?
All four of these are legitimate reads on this image.
I think it is fascinating how much power our cultural conditioning has on how we see things.
Today, we continue our journey through the Gospel of Mark, and the big question I want to ask is this, “What Do You See when you look at Jesus?” I think this is the question that the entire Gospel is asking of us.
Let me show you what I mean.
The text for today is Mark 10:32-52.
Before we dive into the text, here is a quick reminder of the flow of the Gospel of Mark.
Part ONE spanned three years of Jesus’ life. He hung out in the north region of Galilee, did amazing things, said amazing things, and the crowds loved him.
Things turned a corner a couple weeks ago at the mount of Transfiguration. Jesus is moving toward Jerusalem in this middle section.
Next week we will get to the City of Jerusalem and the last several chapters span only seven days of what we call the Passion Week.
So, today, we conclude Part TWO.
Each week Jesus has warned his disciples that he is going to die. This is the third time.
Please open in your Bible to Mark 10, beginning in verse 32.
Mark 10:32 (NRSV)
32 They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him,
Let’s read this part together, out loud:
Mark 10:33–34 (NRSV)
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34 they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
This is the third time he’s warned them. When you follow me, it’s going to get bad…really bad. Do you still want to come?
The next thing that happens fascinates me. Look at verse 35
Mark 10:35–37 (NRSV)
35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
The conversation continues:
Mark 10:38–40 (NRSV)
38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
So, James and John are jockeying for position. They have no clue. Notice what happens next.
Mark 10:41 (NRSV)
41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.
Let’s read Jesus’ response to them out loud:
Mark 10:42–45 (NRSV)
“You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
What did James and John see when they looked at Jesus? Here’s a guy who is obviously powerful. He’s my ticket to greatness.
But that’s not how God’s Kingdom works. Jesus came to show us that the key to greatness is to love and serve your neighbor.
Let’s keep reading.
Mark 10:46–52 (NRSV)
46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
What did this blind beggar see when he looked at Jesus? He saw a man who had power.
What did he ask for?
He wanted to see.
I believe the author of this Gospel very purposefully set these stories next to each other and structured them exactly the same.
Two people who are supposedly disciples of Jesus, who have the physical ability to see, are completely blind. When they look at Jesus they see a ticket to power and they ask for selfish gain.
A man who has been cast aside by society and is physically blind looks at Jesus and sees true power and asks for mercy and the ability to see.
He can already see better than the disciples.
What do you see when you look at Jesus?
I don’t know the answer to that question for you. I do know that many people who claim to be disciples of Jesus have not spent much time studying the scripture to know the full texture of Jesus’ life and teaching.
My prayer for us this Lent is that we will be like Bartimaeus. That we will recognize that our vision is often blurred by our cultural conditioning. That we would seek mercy, and that we would see Jesus and see the world through Jesus’ eyes.