The Bart Issue

Imagine if next time you bought a copy of The Big Issue the seller said, ‘Thanks for giving to God.’ You might do a double take. But suppose she or he then yelled at the top of their voice, ‘What a great person! They just gave God £2.50 for a copy of The Big Issue! What a wonderful, God-fearing, compassionate, well-cool human being they are! I applaud them and so do the angels in heaven!’

I guess you might be a little embarrassed? You might try and wear the mag you’d just bought on your head to hide your face. You might also think things had got a little too much for the B.I. seller.

But in Jesus’ day things were a little different. Poor people were seen as providing a service to the community. You see, it was expected that a person would give away. It was all part of their worship. So a person on a corner who could benefit from your money was providing a service. They were giving you a chance to worship and serve your God. And once you’d made your donation they would then announce your goodness to the other passers by. No embarrassment about slipping your 50p in the offering box, this was public stuff. It’d be all over first century FaceScroll by the end of the day.

So when Jesus meets a blind beggar on his way into Jericho he asks the guy a very serious question. ‘What do you want?’ The beggar, Bartimaeus, had called out to Jesus hailing him as the son of David, the righteous king that David had never managed to produce. His son Solomon had been wise and a good temple builder, but he had plenty of skeletons in his gold encrusted closet. Now here was a new king descended from David, a new kind of king, One that helps blind beggars.

Bartimaeus would most likely have not had any education or work experience, no internship or apprenticeship. His sole form of income was by providing this service for Godly people. Jesus is serious here. Does Bart want his sight? Does he want to lose his one form of earning money? Is he ready for his life to change gear? It might not be straightforward, the gears will probably be crunching for a while. The people with Jesus had tried to silence the beggar, ‘Shut your mouth,’ they had said to him when he called out. But Jesus saw a chance for them to share in the good news he had brought. He encouraged the very people who had tried to gag Bart to bring him over. Jesus probably had a wry smile as he watched the locals change their tune and become ‘all caring’.

Bart doesn’t bat an eyelid at the son of David’s question. He’s prepared. He wants to see. He wants to take the risk. He calls Jesus, ‘Lord’. He wants to step into a new way of life. Even if it costs him. Jesus has compassion. He is merciful. He doesn’t just feel sorry for the guy, he is stirred into action. The rest is history.

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