July 22, 2012

Pastor Joe Wittwer

Follow the Leader!

#7—Jesus stopped

 

Opening:

    How many of you are too busy?  Today’s story is for you!  I think Jesus was busy, and was surrounded by people who wanted His time and attention.  But while He was on His way to do the most important thing in the history of the world, Jesus stopped to help a blind beggar.  Jesus stopped!  We’re going to take a look at why Jesus stopped.

 

Greeting:

    Who do you think is the most important person in the world?

 

Interview with Samuel Polanco (after worship and prayer)

Samuel is a former Compassion International sponsored child who is now a university student through the Compassions Leadership Development Program (LDP).

 

  • You were sponsored as a child through Compassion.  How did that work?

  • Now you are sponsored as a university student through Compassion’s Leadership Development Program.  How does that work?

  • You have one shot to convince people that sponsorship works: what would you say?

You have an opportunity to change a life like Samuel’s!  Here’s how:

 

  • Sponsor a child through Compassion for $38 a month.  We have a partner church, Iglesia Elim, in El Salvador (pic of Laina and I there) where we sponsor kids, and we have packets for 40 kids there.  We have another 260 packets for other children in El Salvador.  

  • For $20 a month, sponsor a baby and its mother in Compassion’s Child Survival Center at our partner church in El Salvador.  This program teaches moms how to care for their babies, and is drastically reducing infant mortality rates!

  • If you want to help a student like Samuel get a college education, you can sponsor a student in Compassion’s LDP for $300 a month, and you can do this on Compassion’s website.

  • Finally, we will have a Compassion Child Sponsorship trip to El Salvador, March 15-22, 2013.   We are planning an information meeting on October 28th at 3:00 PM and the cost of the trip will be in the range of $2,200-2,500.  There is information available at the child sponsorship table.

 

Introduction and offering:

    I asked you to talk about who is the most important person in the world.  What did you come up with?  

    Here’s my answer: the most important person in the world is the one you’re with right now.  I am a future-oriented person; I am often guilty of overlooking the person I’m with because I’m already thinking about what is next.  God has really been working me over about this!  Each time I’m with someone, He reminds me, “This is the most important person in the world.”  I want to be fully engaged.

    Today’s story in Mark 10 underscores this idea.  Once again, we’re going to use the SOAP method, which many of us use as we read the Bible each day.  

 

  • Scripture: read the Bible.

  • Observation: what does it mean?  

  • Application: what does it mean to me?  

  • Prayer: pray it back to God.

So let’s dive in:

 

Scripture:

Mark 10:46–52

46 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. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

 

Observation: what does it say?

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, ostensibly to celebrate the Passover, but more importantly, to give His life to redeem all of us.  Jericho lay along the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea, and was the last stop pilgrims made on their way from Galilee to Jerusalem.  The city would have been crowded with pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover.  These pilgrims formed the large crowd that followed Jesus. When a distinguished Rabbi or teacher was on such a journey it was the custom that he taught as he walked, surrounded by a crowd of people who listened to him. This was the large crowd surrounding Jesus as He left the city that morning.

Blind beggars were a common sight in Palestine.  Like pan-handlers today who stand at busy corners or freeway exits, beggars then sat at high traffic areas, like the city gates.  It’s probable that as blind Bartimaeus took his usual spot, he joined a group of blind beggars that were long-time friends.  “Hey Bart!  Good to see you!”

Bartimaeus couldn’t see, but he could hear fine, and before long, he heard the tramp of feet and the sound of voices that told him a crowd was coming.  He hollered to someone going by, “What’s going on?” and was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

One of the advantages of begging by the city gate was that you heard all the news. For almost three years Bart had been hearing stories about this young rabbi from Nazareth, stories about Him healing the sick, even the blind.  Bart had made up his mind that if he ever had the chance to meet Jesus, he would ask Jesus to heal him.  Suddenly, here was his chance!  So he began to yell, as loud as he could, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  (Son of David was a term that was widely used in Jesus’ day for the Messiah.)

Remember, Jesus was probably teaching the crowd as He walked.  People were crowding around Him, trying to hear.  You can imagine what a distraction Bart was, sitting over in the ditch, yelling at the top of his lungs! So people in the crowd tried to shush him—“Quiet, Bartimaeus, you are making a scene.”

“Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Others were less kind.  “Shut up, beggar!”

“Son of David, have mercy on me!”

He was desperate.  And persistent.  And it worked.

Jesus heard his cries and stopped and said, “Call him.” So the people who had just tried to silence him now called him to Jesus.  They went from “Shut up” to “Cheer up…and get up and come!”  I wonder why Jesus didn’t just call Bart Himself; why did he tell the crowd to call him?  I think Jesus was teaching the crowd a lesson.  They had prevented someone from coming to Jesus—it seems to me whenever that happens, Jesus gets a little riled.  Remember earlier in this chapter when the disciples were trying to prevent the parents from bringing their children to Jesus?  He was indignant—got a little huffy!  I think he was teaching the crowd that you don’t ever keep people from coming to Jesus—you help them come.  Jesus wants us to be ushers, not bouncers—people who help others come to Jesus, not keep them away.

It says that Bart threw his cloak aside.  Normally a blind person wouldn’t do this; he needed that cloak and would have kept it within reach.  But he threw it aside because he was in a hurry to get to Jesus and was confident he would be able to see to find it later.

Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Now at first, that seems silly.  It’s pretty obvious what blind Bart needs and wants.  So why did Jesus ask the obvious?  Because He wants us to ask.  This is the essence of prayer.  Does God know what you need before you pray?  Yes.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:8, “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”  Jesus knew what Bart needed and wanted, but He wanted Bart to ask, and to ask specifically.  

“Rabbi, I want to see.”  The Greek word literally means, “to see again.”  Perhaps Bart had been able to see at one time, but had lost his sight.  With a word, Jesus healed him and Bart saw again, and the first thing he saw was the face of Jesus.  The story ends with the words, he “followed Jesus along the road”.  The beggar who sat by the road became the disciple who followed Jesus along the road.  Christianity begins with a response to Jesus.  

    I want to focus on one thing: two little words in verse 49.  “Jesus stopped.”

The Big Idea: Jesus stopped, and we must too.  The most important person in the world is the one you’re with right now.

 

Application: what will I do?

 

1. Jesus stops for you.

    Jesus stopped for people.  Jesus stopped for blind Bartimaeus, a beggar in a ditch.

    Mark places the story of Jesus healing Bartimaeus right after James and John ask Jesus to be His vice-presidents in His new kingdom.  If your Bible is still open to Mark 10, look at the verses just before today’s story.  Jesus answered James and John’s request this way:

Mark 10:42-45 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

They were seeking power; He taught them to seek service.  They wanted greatness; He offered them sacrifice.  They were thinking only of themselves; He told them to think of others.

    But then He showed them how.  Jesus stopped.   On His way to the Cross, He stopped to help a blind beggar.  “Whoever wants to be become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  

Remember where Jesus was going.  He was on His way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world.  If anyone had a lot on His mind, if anyone had a full plate, if anyone deserved to be preoccupied, it was Jesus.  

ILL:  Several years ago, I was at a leadership conference where one of the guest speakers was President Bill Clinton.  Speaking to thousands of pastors and leaders, the man introducing President Clinton told us that one reason he had invited Clinton was so that we could hear his thoughts on leadership.  Then he said, “You may not agree with him, but he is a leader.  If you think you lead a big deal, his deal is bigger than yours.”  True.

I think that about Jesus on His way to die in Jerusalem to save the whole world: His deal is bigger than yours.  If you think you are busy, His deal is bigger than yours.  If you think you are carrying a load on your shoulders, if you think you’re stressed and overwhelmed, His deal is bigger than yours.  We talk about carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders—Jesus did.  He was God’s Son, the Savior of the world, doing the biggest and hardest and most important thing that would ever be done in human history.  But He stopped.  His deal is bigger than yours and He stopped for one man.  

Look who He stopped for: a poor blind beggar!  Bart wasn’t a VIP, a very important person; he was a Z-I-P, a zip, zero, nada, nothing.  Bart was a nobody. He was at the bottom of the food chain—literally, living off the scraps of others.  Bart was a nobody by anybody’s measure…anybody but Jesus.  Bart mattered to Jesus.  He mattered so much that Jesus stopped—on His way to the Cross, Jesus stopped for this man.

Let that sink in, and let it amaze you, awe you, humble you.  Because when you cry out, when you call His name, Jesus still stops.  You matter to Him.  Yes, He’s busy running the universe.  Yes, there are millions of people calling His name, sometimes all at once.  But He hears you, and He stops because you matter to Him.  

ILL:  I remember when our five kids were little, how noisy it was.  They would all talk at once, usually in their loudest voices, like Bartimaeus, so they could be heard over the din.  Sometimes, they would all ask for things at the same time, and it would push me over the edge.  “Stop!  Quiet!  One-at-a-time, please!”

I don’t know how God does it!  But somehow, He hears each one of us, He hears you as though you were the only person calling His name.  And He stops.  God has time for you.  He wants to know what you want because you are so important to Him.

    You see, God is in the people-business.  People are God’s top priority, His highest value, His big deal.  People are what matter to God.  All kinds of people: rich and poor, black and white, Republican and Democrat, single and married, gay and straight, Americans and Cubans and Iraqis and Chinese and Ethiopians…you name it.  People matter to God.  Every single one.  That’s why He went to that Cross.  That’s why He let soldiers strip His back with a whip, and spit in His face, and press the thorns in His scalp.  That’s why He suffered, and bled, and died.  For you.  For me.  For all of us.  Because God’s in the people-business.  

That’s why He stopped.  

You matter to God.  He stops for you!  It could have been you or me in the ditch by Jericho’s gate.  It often is.  We get ourselves in all kinds of ditches, big and small.  What do you when that happens?  I hope you’ll do what Bart did.  Call on Him.  “Jesus, over here!  Have mercy on me!  Help me!”  I’ll bet I do that at least a dozen times a day.  I’m always calling on Him.

 

  • “Help me with this kid, Lord.”

  • “Help me love my wife.”

  • “Help me know what to say to this hurting person.”

  • “Help me lead this church, these people You love.”

  • “Help me speak.”

Help me, help me, help me!  Do you think God ever gets tired of it?  Do you think He has other, bigger things on His mind?  Do you think He ever walks on by?  No.  He stops…for you, just like He stopped for Bart.

    Maybe you’re thinking, “Look, this is one story—what does it prove?”  But I want to show you that this was not an exception; this was the rule.  Time and again, we see Jesus stopping for individuals, people that didn’t matter to anyone else.

 

  • The woman at the well in John 4.  The disciples were amazed to find Jesus talking with her because she had three strikes against her: she was a woman, she had a bad reputation, and she was a Samaritan.  But Jesus stopped for her because she mattered to Him.

  • The Gentile woman with a demonized daughter in Matthew 15.  She wasn’t a Jew, but she was a nuisance, so the disciples asked Jesus to send her away because she was pestering them.  But Jesus stopped, and healed her daughter.

  • The woman with the bleeding problem who touched Jesus’ cloak in Mark 5.  Jesus was on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter, a VIP, when this woman, a nobody like Bart, touched Him.  And Jesus stopped, for her.

  • The prostitute in Luke 7 that crashed a Pharisee’s party.  The religious people all wanted her tossed out, but Jesus stopped and forgave her.

  • The man with a legion of demons in Mark 5, a man so scary that everyone avoided him.  Everyone but Jesus, who stopped and set him free.

  • There’s Zaccheus, the vertically-challenged tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus in Luke 19.  When Jesus saw him up there, He stopped, and Zack’s life was changed forever.

  • Or how about just a little earlier in this chapter, Mark 10:13-16, where parents bring their children to Jesus so He can touch and bless them.  But the disciples shoo them away.  “Jesus doesn’t have time for kids.  He’s a big shot!”  Jesus was indignant—not at the kids or their parents, but at His goofy disciples who still didn’t understand what was important to Him.  “Let the children come,” He said.  Jesus stopped…for kids.

That was Jesus.  And it still is.  He’s in the people-business.  He stops for us.  

    Can you see the heart of Jesus?  It’s a heart that beats for one thing: people.  It’s a heart that beats for you, and when you call, Jesus stops.  (Say it)

    But I want to take that thought one step further.  I want to challenge you to have the same heart as Jesus.  I want to challenge you to make people your top priority, your highest value, your big deal.  I want to challenge you to stop for people.

 

    2. We must stop for others.

    Jesus made heroes of those who stopped for people.  He did it in one of His most famous stories in Luke 10, the story of the Good Samaritan.  You all know it: a Jewish man is ambushed by robbers, stripped, beaten and left for dead.  A priest (the equivalent of a pastor) comes along but just walks on by the man; he doesn’t stop.  Then a Levite (the equivalent of church staff member) comes along and does the same thing.  Neither of these two religious professionals stopped.  Then along comes a Samaritan, a hated half-breed (the equivalent of an irreligious person).  He stops, helps the man, and takes him to a hospital.  Who is the hero of the story?  The one who stopped.  

We get so busy that we’re often like the priest or Levite.  We just walk on by.  We don’t have time.  We can’t be bothered.  We’re late.  We’ve got other more pressing business.  But God is in the people-business and we ought to be too.  We need to learn to stop: stop for our spouses, kids, friends, neighbors, family, co-workers and classmates, strangers, and the poor.  We’ve got to remember that the most important person in the world is the one you’re with right now.

ILL:  I’m too busy.  I am a type-A personality, and I can get intensely focused on my tasks to the exclusion of people.  If I were Jesus, I would have marched right by Bartimaeus on my way to Jerusalem.  I’m too busy.  

Sometimes I’m too busy for my wife.  One night I got so absorbed in reading a Newsweek magazine that I didn’t even notice that she had brought me a bowl of ice cream—it sat there and melted into a puddle.  When I finished reading, I headed for bed, where she met me and asked if we could talk.  “Talk?  Why now?  Why didn’t you ask me when we were in the living room?”  

“I couldn’t even get your attention with ice cream,” she said.  “You were zoned out in your magazine.”  

Sometimes I’ve been too busy for my kids.  I can’t tell you how many times when my kids were young they wanted to play or talk and I was too busy.  Too busy working, doing, going, to just stop and ask, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I could go on, but it’s ugly!  I’m too busy.  

Can anyone else relate to this, or is it only me?  Misery loves company!

ILL:  Twelve years ago, I gave this same message—don’t worry, this is the revised and improved version! I usually stay home and write the Sunday message on Friday.  But on this Friday, twelve years ago, I had to stop by my office for a few minutes.  While I was there, I was writing the outline—in fact, I was just writing down this point, “Jesus stopped for people”—when the door to my office opened and a man walked in, thinking it was the front door to the office.  

    “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, apologizing for barging in.  

    I had met this gentleman before, but didn’t know him really well.  “It’s ok,” I said.  “What can I do for you?”  

    He said, “Have you got a few minutes?  I was hoping I could talk with you.”

    Now I was busy, really pressed for time, and I wanted to say, “Not really, I’m swamped.  But I can steer you to another pastor.”  But I had just written these words—“Jesus stopped for people”—and I knew the Lord had me in a headlock.  “Are you going to just talk it, or are you going to live it?”  If Jesus could stop on His way to the Cross to help blind Bart, I could stop my sermonizing to help this brother.  So we talked and we prayed—it was good, and I’m glad I stopped.

    I have never regretted stopping for someone; but I’ve often regretted not stopping.  

If you are too busy for people, you are too busy.  God is in the people business and so are we.  The Lord has really been working with me on this. The most important person in the world is the one you’re with right now.  Stop.  Listen.  Be fully engaged and present.  

 

Prayer: