notre dame montreal


Sermon for Ordinary 25

Sermon Ordinary 30

The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

Who is Jesus?

Our readings this morning speak of the very nature of God and of His Son Jesus.

For Job, he comes to realise who God is, ‘I had heard You with my ears, but now I see you with my eyes.’ JPS translation.  He realises that knowing God in not just an intellectual exercise of logic and reason but seeing Him through the eyes of faith, acknowledging God for who HE is, the creator and redeemer of the world.

For the writer of the book of Hebrews, who Christ is and what He has done is of central importance to the letter.

The writer is probably writing to a mixed Jewish/Gentile community or small house church, probably in Rome.  Throughout the letter the clear emphasis is on who Christ is and what this means, rather than the teaching of Jesus Himself.

The theme from today’s reading, and last weeks is one which recurs throughout Hebrews, that of Jesus being the great High Priest of the order of Melchizedek.  (Hb = Zedek King, the King of Righteousness).

It was the role of the high priest to intercede on behalf of the people and once a year offer a sacrifice of blood for the atonement of sins.  Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins (Heb 9 v 19 – 22) from Lev 17 v 11.  Life itself was in the blood, its shedding proved death and it was given as atonement for sins.

The writer of Hebrews urges the readers (and hearers) to understand that Jesus has done this once and for all with His own blood so that we all can have a restored relationship with God.  No more are we separated from Him through our sins.

What God has done through His Son Jesus as the Great High Priest is the very basis for our relationship with God.

The gospel reading, with the familiar passage about Bartimaeus, speaks loudly of who Jesus is.  This sometimes gets lost in the focus on what Jesus does in restoring Bartimaeus’ sight.

Jesus in on His way to Jerusalem, to His eventual trial and crucifixion.  His encounter with Bartimaeus is His last specific encounter and conversation with a person before He enters Jerusalem, and its significance should not be overlooked.

Jesus restores Bartimaeus’ sight.  Why is that so significant?

The restoration of sight, the enabling of the blind to see was one of the central and identifying marks of the Messiah.  At least twice in Isaiah the prophet speaks of the blind being able to see, as the mark of the Messiah.
Is 35 v 5, ‘…then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped…’, and Is 42 v 6 – 7, ‘…I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind…’

As we read the gospels, the healing of sight happens more often than any other healing, announcing that the Messiah is here.  (e.g. Mt 9 v 27 – 30; Mt 12 v 22, 23; Mt 20 v 29 – 34; Jn 9 v 1 – 11; Mk 8 v 23 etc.)

When John the Baptist’s disciples come to Jesus to ask if He is the Messiah, Jesus replies saying, ‘…tell John what you see, the blind receive their sight…’

There are healings and miracles in the Old Testament, leprosy, raising from the dead etc. but never it seems the restoration of sight. 

We should not underestimate the miracle of the restoration of sight for Bartimaeus.  The gospel is clear, he was healed. 

Neither should we miss the fact that the last thing that Jesus appeared to do before He entered Jerusalem was heal Bartimaeus, restore His sight and in so doing made clear to all that He was the Messiah.

And as we read the Gospel, Bartimaeus confirms this with the words he speaks.  He calls out, Jesus, Son of David.  It’s the first time we’ve heard the title ‘Son of David’ in the gospel but it is one of the titles reserved for the Messiah. 

It’s a prophetic cry.  It’s as if Bartimaeus is saying, see you King is coming, the Messiah is coming, get ready.  And Bartimaeus is picking up a theme we’ve seen through the gospels - it’s often the outcast and the disadvantaged, those of low or no status who seem to recognise Jesus as the Messiah.  This is the sixth time we’ve seen it in Mark’s gospel

Those who we might expect to recognise Him, those who are better educated, the religious authorities, the scriptural scholars don’t seem to see Jesus for who He is, the Messiah who has come.

Yes Bartimaeus received His sight, but before that he had recognised who Jesus was.

There will be lots of sermons preached about how we need our spiritual Blindness cured, a blindness that can prevent us perceiving and following the call of Jesus.  Sermons which speak of opening our eyes to what we are doing to our world and environment and talks about how we should reach out to those who are suffering.  All of which are good and true.

Sometimes it’s easy for us to forget just who Jesus is and remember more the things he said and did.  But the gospel writer John reminds us that the miracles themselves are just signs, they are not the things we should be focusing on unless we do so in the context of who Jesus is, the Messiah.

Perhaps we should take a lesson from the early church.  All they seemed to be concerned about was not Jesus’ teaching, for example, love your neighbour as yourself, important as it is, but on what Jesus had done in rising from the dead.

If we think of the book of Acts it’s all about the early believers proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead and what that meant.  If they’d failed to communicate the good news of the resurrection and convince other that it had actually happened, we would not be here.

Do we sometimes get things the wrong way round and try to get people to believe in the teaching of Jesus before we explain what He has done for them, and us?

When we had Bridget and Adrian Plass with us some of what they did was read extracts from their books.  But they weren’t just reading passages that they had found meaningful or helpful, they were sharing part of themselves.  As they read, we could imagine them writing it or recalling the situation that stimulated it.

If anyone else had read the same passage it wouldn’t have been the same.  It might still have had impact but there was a genuineness about what they were saying because it was part of them

The readings today are an invitation for us to remember who Jesus is and be part of Him in a similar way.  Not just to read about His miracles and healings, but to let Him engage with us as Messiah.

So we can tell our own story as we share the good news of Jesus.  Not just ‘hear with our ears but see with our eyes’

Like Bartimaeus, recognise who Jesus is, truly follow Him, wherever it may lead.