Busting Out From the Crowd of Darkness: What You Want and What to Do When You Get It

Gospel According to Mark, Volume 5

Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, is touched forever by the mercy of Christ. The scene that he faces is often the very same that we face: The crowd tells us that we don't matter to God, but Bartimaeus' story teaches us otherwise. And his response of faith challenges us to look closely at our own response to the mercy of Christ.

Todd WagnerJan 27, 2002Mark 10:46-52; Mark 10:46-52; Ephesians 2:8-9

That song we sang comes from Psalm 84, and in that psalm, right after that little phrase, it says, "No good thing does he withhold." That's a great statement. It doesn't mean there's no apparent good thing that is withheld, because there are a lot of things that apparently would bless us or encourage us that we don't get to receive this side of the grave or we don't get to indulge ourselves in.

In fact, one of the great things about our Bible is it's so honest. There's an entire psalm dedicated to a guy who is confused as he sees those who have no interest in God prospering, by his account, and how that causes him to stumble and makes him wonder whether he should be an individual who continues to call people into a relationship with God, because the people who aren't living in relationship with God seem to be having all the fun. That's Psalm 73.

If you can relate to that, go read that worship leader, a guy named Asaph. Go read sometime his lament and his honest complaint before God that "It looks like, God, you're withholding a lot of good things from those who love you." But make sure you finish the psalm, because Asaph gets his heart set right when he gets eventually to the place where he works, which, for him, was the temple.

He sees the altar of God where sacrifice is required for sin as a reminder that God is just, and while right now it looks like injustice reigns, that those who do not do good prosper and experience good things while those who pursue him are denied much of what we would call good, that psalmist is reminded that there's going to be a day that God will make it right, and he'll make it right forever. That, folks, is our faith.

The truth is that living with him right now is better, but we do know there are some things this world offers for a moment that can give us physical pleasure and satisfaction in ways that sometimes the disciplines of walking with Christ don't offer us, and that's why they're called tempting, because they look good.

We have a high priest, the Scripture says, who can sympathize with that, because he has been here and walked among us. That, frankly, is where we've been for the last number of months as we've been looking at this person Jesus, who is God and man, who walked as we walked, was tempted as we are tempted and yet without sin, so he could be on the way to the perfect altar where he would sacrifice himself for us.

There is a group of folks who have been drawn to connect with us in a more committed way, and they spent most of that beautiful yesterday with us, about 100 folks going through discovering what it is we're about as a church. I want to let you know some of the people who are in the middle of processing of becoming a part of our family and some interesting things about them that you might not be able to believe. These are just a few. I just highlighted some of the 100 or so we had.

Somebody who was there yesterday who's looking to connect with us on a regular basis used to skydive, but they gave it up after a crash. I guess so! Somebody who says their greatest passion, other than knowing more about this King we sang about this morning, is snowboarding. Somebody who is a Julia Roberts impersonator and has made money signing her autograph. Now, I need to let you know right away so you don't hurt your head, single men, she's married, so it doesn't matter.

Somebody who prosecuted the rooftop burglar who appeared on America's Most Wanted for breaking into a man's house. Somebody who when they were a child sat on the Louisiana governor's lap and said, "You should not be governor." Somebody who tripped and fell in front of 300 people at college. Somebody who has 60-plus first cousins, and they don't even know all of their names. How many of y'all want to bet they're from Arkansas?

Somebody who races on a nationally ranked adventure team. Somebody who can play the harmonica and bark like a dog at the same time. Somebody who Prince Edward spilled a glass of water on. Somebody who delivered prescription drugs to Rob Lowe. Somebody who processed a mortgage for Jerry Lee Lewis. Somebody who carried John Wayne to his hotel room. Somebody who once sang "Leaving on a Jet Plane" to LBJ.

Somebody who two weeks ago Friday came home and their roommate had left, abandoned and wiped out and cleaned up their apartment. Somebody who just retired after 30 years of owning a mini storage facility. Somebody who was born on Christmas Eve. Somebody who caused an entire union to go on strike and set up a picket line. Somebody whose job is to spend time with current athletes and Hall of Famers.

Somebody who was asked out by Steve Wariner, the country music artist. Somebody whose roommate is related to Steve Holy, who has the number-one song in the country right now, "Good Morning Beautiful." Somebody who slept in a dome tent in their bedroom all through college. Don't make the bed; just zip the zipper, and no one knows. Somebody who ran track professionally for 10 years.

Somebody who broke their nose in five places. Somebody who hunts alligators every year. Somebody born in a thatched hut in the jungles of Colombia. Somebody who played high school sports with a Super Bowl MVP, the NBA's all-time assist leader, and a 10-time baseball all-star. Somebody who has driven a car onto a golf course. Somebody who has eaten two-and-a-half boxes of macaroni and cheese in one sitting.

Somebody who played football with President Bush (#43) and his Secret Service. Somebody who doesn't like gum. Somebody who will not eat any food that is blue. Somebody featured in People magazine in the December 2000 issue as one of the most intriguing people of the year 2000. Somebody who hiked 100 miles over northern Spain recently. Somebody whose grandfather was a Hungarian minister. Somebody who was an ambassador for the United States. And somebody whose grandfather started a Kentucky snake cult.

Now that is amazing! Those were just a random collection of some of the 100 folks who have started to gather here with us. You hear some of those things and go, "I want to know that story. I want to meet that guy. I want to know that guy. I want to understand. What do you mean they carried John Wayne to his hotel room? What were you doing in the year 2000 that was so intriguing that People magazine named you one of their most intriguing people?" And on and on, all of the interesting things that happened with just folks who are right here with you.

It's so fun to be in community and to find out stuff about people. I don't know if you're like me, but every now and then, when I'm just sitting there in large groups of people or even when I'm driving along and look in somebody else's car, I think, "What is the story of that life?" A friend of mine and I one cold rainy night not long ago were driving somewhere, and we were at a stoplight, and a mom and a dad and six kids were walking in the rain in the middle of a very industrial kind of section.

They were just walking. They were dressed just like I was and carrying backpacks. None of them were talking. I just go, "What is that story? What is that?" People are so interesting, and you're so drawn to them when you find out and take time to listen and learn about them. Well, we are in the middle of talking about the most intimately attractive and interesting person who ever lived, somebody that everywhere he went folks kept saying, "I want to know him. I want to be near him. I want to know him more. I want to understand. I want him to come and dine with me. I want him to know that I'm there."

Today, we have a great little chance to take a look at a guy whose name is Bartimaeus. He comes in Mark 10:46. Bartimaeus is a guy who was sitting there, the other gospel writers tell us, with another buddy of his who was blind, but the guy who wrote this gospel, Mark, just highlights on the one and his interaction with Jesus. Bartimaeus felt about this Jesus a lot like we do when we hear about some of these people.

He has heard a lot about this Jesus. He has heard the claims made about him, the things he has done, the things he has said, and he knows if anybody can help him in his state it must be this guy, or at least he's intriguing enough to want to say, "I need an audience with you. I want to understand you some more, and I want to ask you to intimately get involved with my life." We're going to learn a lot from this guy. Let's just read this little section.

It says, "Then they…" Which means all of the folks who are walking with Christ on the way to Jerusalem, many of them going there for the Passover Feast, like good Jews, who every year, very different than the way we worship or folks who worship today in the faith system we live under… We don't really make a pilgrimage anywhere. Muslims do once in their life. One of their pillars is to make a way to Mecca where they believe the foundation of Islam is.

Many Jews during their life want to make their way to the Holy Land at some point. During this time of God's revealing who he was, he had people who loved him make a journey once a year to one particular city, and that city was Jerusalem. So, many of the folks who lived up north were making their way down south to Jerusalem, and a bunch of them hooked up with Jesus. That's the group that was with him. It was a large group.

"And as He was leaving Jericho…" Which is about 18 miles northeast of that city we were talking about, Jerusalem. "…with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, 'Jesus, Son of David…'" Which in and of itself was a pretty powerful statement.

If you lived in first-century Palestine and you called somebody "Son of David," what you were saying was, "I believe you're the one my people have been looking for for centuries. You are the man who will eventually do for us what David, who was our greatest king and leader ever, really never did, which is put us in a place of national prominence and peace that fully delivers what God told our great-great-great-great-great-granddaddy Abraham he would do." David got close, but he didn't quite pull it off. God promised there would be a son of David who would eventually do that.

What Bartimaeus was saying was, "Listen. I've heard enough about this guy Jesus that if you're telling me he's walking through here, I'm going to say what I believe he is. He is the Messiah," which means Anointed One, which if you knew your Old Testament, as those folks did (it's all they had), one of the attributes of being the Messiah was not only were you considered wonderful, not only were you considered a great counselor, not only were you the Prince of Peace, but you were Eternal Father, which is to say Mighty God.

So, what this guy is saying… This blind guy who can't physically see made a great statement of spiritual insight. He goes, "Are you guys nuts? All I've heard about is what this man has done, and the Scriptures tell us what the Messiah should do and what he should look like." One of the names for Messiah was Son of David.

Bartimaeus is saying, "That's the guy! That's the guy who's supposed to come and deliver us from our oppression as a nation and, for me, in my oppression wherever I'm at. I know the promises of the Old Testament, that when he comes the blind will see, the lame will walk, the deaf will hear, and the dumb will speak. I've heard he has done that, so why not me? Hey, you, one of the most intriguing people in the first century, how about paying some attention to me?"

The crowds just told him, "Shut up, man. You're just one of a noisy group of beggars who are near Jericho." Camping out near Jericho as a beggar would be a lot like camping out near Palm Springs. It's where the leader of that day had his winter vacation home. It was a wealthy area. People who depended upon others to care for them would pick strategic places to be. That's why you don't see a lot of people "working the sign," as the adage is called, down in certain parts of Dallas, but they work the sign a lot in North Dallas, where they perceive there to be people who would, out of their abundance, be able to help them.

Now, the folks who were around there were filled with disdain for these beggars. This Jesus is a pretty popular guy, and a lot of folks are trying to get near him. They tell this guy to shut up. "Listen. Don't even try. There are folks who have been walking with him for 5, 10, 15 miles, trying to get close enough to him to have a dialogue. Why don't you just shut up? We can't even hear what he's saying to those people because you're yelling." But Bartimaeus didn't care. He didn't care that folks told him to be quiet. He just kept on yelling louder and louder. "Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, come on over here." Verse 48 says:

"Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' And Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him here.' So they called the blind man, saying to him, 'Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.' Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. And answering him, Jesus said, 'What do you want Me to do for you?'"

Have you ever heard that before? If you were here last week, you heard that very statement when two guys who ran with Jesus all the time said, "Hey, Jesus, we want you to do for us whatever we ask." That's an amazing statement. Jesus' response was just like his response to Bartimaeus: "What do you want me to do for you?"

Bartimaeus knew exactly what he wanted, and he said, "Rabboni…" I'll talk about that in a minute. "'…I want to regain my sight!' And Jesus said to him, 'Go; your faith has made you well.' Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road." That is a great little section of Scripture.

In a way we don't typically do, we're going to move hopefully a little tighter through this passage because of all that's surrounding our day today, but I want to give you some principles and some truths I see in this little portion of the text that are instructive to my life and, I think, yours, and we can decide how we're going to respond to this intriguing person we've been talking a lot about.

I want to say right now, today, I know there are some of you all who have been tracking with us for some time who have come and have never felt like you could get to a place where you were ready to commit to who this Jesus was and were never ready to say, "You know what? I want to discover more about what it means to be a part of any local family, because I'm not really sure who my father is."

I want to challenge you today to think about making a decision today based on things you've heard and processed with us. There are some who are here for the very first time today, beginning to process who this Jesus is, and it may not be natural for you yet to get to that place. I hope you do. I hope you see enough today that you're moved to respond to this one who withholds no good things from those who love him.

If you need some more time, as you saw when you first came in, we have these things called Explore Groups where you can ask any question…nothing is off limits…in a very safe place where we gather just to let you go, "You know what? I have a problem with you saying this Jesus is the only way to heaven. How can you say that? I have a problem with you guys saying you have to make a decision about this Jesus and proclaim his name in dependence upon him.

What about those in Africa who have never heard? I have a problem with you saying your Bible is unique among all books that claim divinity. How do I know that book is divine as opposed to the Qur'an or Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants that the Mormons put out or other sacred writings?" There's a place for you to continue to process who this King of Glory is.

But if you're here today, I want you to imagine the question Jesus asked Bartimaeus. What do you want him to do for you? If you had that chance, if the one who had done the things Jesus had done was there and he looked you in the eye and said, "What do you want me to do for you?" what would your response be? Let me give you a couple of applications.

Here's the very first one I threw down there. The next time the crowd tells you that you don't matter and God doesn't care (you're goingto hear that), I want you to remember Bartimaeus. I want you to remember this section of Scripture, and I want you to remember that the crowd is often wrong. The crowd doesn't always get it right. In fact, the crowd, when you look at them throughout the Gospels, is almost consistently pulling people and steering people in the wrong direction, yet we're all very influenced by the crowd, are we not? You bet we are.

I see my junior high friends over here, and I know how incredible those junior high years can be for a lot of us, because so much of how we perceive our worth and value is made up from what our crowd that we run with says we're worth. There are a lot of us who get pretty hopeless and filled with despair and, in fact, begin to change our life so the crowd will accept us, and we find the crowd never really accepts us unless we're tantalizing them on that particular day.

The next time the crowd tells you, and tells you, businessman, and tells you, housewife, that you don't really matter, I want you to remember this guy. Next time you feel like the world doesn't value you and say you're significant as an individual with what you do, I want you to remember this guy. I want you to remember Bartimaeus, and I want you to remember that the crowd is often wrong.

Let me give you an interesting and fun illustration of this that I came across a while ago and was saving. I pulled it this week. There was a guy who went around, and he asked a group of people… He did this for a project for the science fair. What he did is he asked people to sign a survey protesting this awful chemical called dihydrogen monoxide.He told folks, "Here's what it can do," and he showed them this petition.

It says, "It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting. This chemical is a major component in acid rain. It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state. Accidental inhalation of this chemical can kill you. It contributes wildly to erosion. It decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes and accelerates many accidents, often leading to death, because this chemical often gets on the ground. And it's the largest part of what makes up most tumors found in the body of terminal cancer patients."

That's some pretty awful stuff. He went around and asked the crowd, "Do you want to sign a petition to get our government to move to outlaw this stuff, this dihydrogen monoxide?" Of the 50 people who, as a young man, he got a chance to show that to, 43 said, "Yes." Six were undecided. They wanted some more information. Only one said, "Are you kidding me? If we get rid of dihydrogen monoxide, what are we going to drink? That's water." We commonly know it as H2O.

But you get a bunch of folks there… You get 43 out of 50 (86 percent) saying, "Absolutely, man. That is some awful stuff. You mean it causes brakes on automobiles to not work? You mean it's a major component of acid rain? You mean it's causing erosion in our wilderness?" Yeah. It's water. It's what it is. But, boy, couldn't you see people getting worked up in a tizzy and the crowd telling you, "You'd better get rid of that dihydrogen monoxide"?

Think about some other things the crowd has often told us. In just science, for about 150 years, the science crowd really brought Christendom to its knees, telling you, "You'd better back off your ideas of a creative God who spoke the world into existence. Don't you know the scientific crowd is more enlightened and that science people know this happened through a natural process called evolution?"

That was a pretty intimidating crowd. They got a lot of media time, and they got a lot of coverage in national magazines, and the Christians were like, "Oh man. How are we going to stand against that crowd of intellect?" Well, you let the generations go and you let science check itself a little bit, and we find that there is absolutely zero scientific evidence for this thing called evolution. The crowd was dead wrong.

In fact, scientists will now tell you there's more scientific evidence for the fact that there was a Creator, a one-time creative act that brought life to be more than there was this process that brought life to be, but it was an intimidating thing for a while. How about the crowd that tells you that you can't have a conviction about morality and people's sexual choices, because science has done its work and shown you that some people are predetermined to be bent sexually a certain direction?

The scientific crowd again will tell you, "You need to stand back from your little faith system where you get to make decisions about what is right and what is wrong." The crowd is going to tell you, "Your opinion and your convictions don't matter. What matters is us and our intellect and research and understanding." But once again, science checks itself a little bit. There's no credible evidence, no gene, no predetermination in anybody that they have to act and behave a certain way sexually.

The pro-choice crowd… This week, I was doing some reading about that topic again, and that crowd has been pretty vocal. None of us, no matter where you stand on that issue, want to see millions of people have to go to back-alley butchers, and for years, the pro-choice crowd has been very vehement about talking about how before Roe v. Wade 30-some-odd years ago, over a million women obtained illegal abortions each year.

Many, they would say, were performed with rusty coat hangers in back alleys, resulting in 5,000 to 10,000 deaths. That was a statistic they would constantly throw out. The crowd would say, "Oh man. How can you say you're pro-life when you, in your pro-life stance, are encouraging millions of women to feel like criminals and 5,000 to 10,000 to die because they're getting some abortion from a rusty coat hanger?" That's a pretty intimidating crowd, and it's so easy to be backed down and to stand down and go, "Wow, man. I can't face this crowd."

Well, again, as more information comes out, we find out that the year before Roe v. Wade, only 39 women died from illegal abortions, not 5,000 to 10,000. The way they got those statistics is they would go back to the 20s and 30s, and they would take a percentage of the women they could find who would have abortions who had any sickness at all, and they would extrapolate it out through population studies and say, "Well, if this many women died from it then, then this many women, because our population has grown, are clearly dying from it now."

What they discounted was the introduction of this little thing called penicillin. The government has been a little bit more clear. The U.S. Bureau of Vital Statistics reports that the reduction in deaths from abortion didn't result so much from making the procedure legal as it did from the introduction of the use of antibiotics. In fact, now there's a gentleman who has, if you will, crossed out of the abortion industry who used to be one of the national spokesmen for the National Abortion Rights Action League, and this is his.

He said, "I confess that we knew the figures were totally false, but in the morality of our revolution it was a useful figure that we widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics? The overwhelming concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything which had to be done to us was permissible," including getting people to be scared of dihydrogen monoxide.

Let me remind you one of the reasons I feel so comfortable talking about this whole issue of abortion as one of the many ways the crowd says, "Hey, man. Who are you to tell a woman what she can do with her body?" Well, I'm nobody, but the God we've come to know and worship who has revealed himself clearly in history and time, most fully through this one we're studying right now, has made it pretty clear to a fair-minded person where he stands on this issue.

There are some folks who, like Bartimaeus, are blind, and whenever anybody asks them the question, "What do you want from me?" they say, "I want you to always approve of what I want and what I figure is going to make life for me the easiest and most convenient. Right now, this unwanted pregnancy is not convenient, so what I want from you is a guilt-free solution to make my life easier and to cover some of the shame I know I'll experience if I go forward with where I am."

Let me tell you something about this Jesus. Not only does he say that's wrong, but Jesus identifies with the temptation that led you to that place and the temptation which begs you to make a decision to get out of that place. He died for that sin that temptation led to, and he wants you to know that while he grieves at the pain you've brought yourself through that decision and the life you expended through that decision, he loves you and tells you, like Bartimaeus, "Come here. Come to me, and let's talk. Let me let you see truth."

One of the greatest gifts God has given to our body is creative people who have a passion to see ministry grow and expand in areas that we, as leaders, are not best wired to, and Lulie and Herb Thomas and all of the other women and men in this body who have come alongside them in our post-abortion recovery ministry. We want to let you know something. If you've made that decision, if you've gone that direction, this is not a group of folks who are going to say, "You're bad, nasty people."

We have people in our body who have made that same decision and who feel that same imprisonment and bondage and pain you feel. The crowd now, maybe the crowd of your conscience, says you'll never be loved again, certainly not by a holy God, and certainly not by people who say they love that holy God, so you'll never walk into a church. And, my gosh, you finally came, and "Here he is. He's talking about it. I knew he would. I knew he'd condemn me."

Listen. Don't let the crowd of folks who want to make Jesus and those who love Jesus out to be finger-pointers and hatemongers blind you from what I'm saying right now. Hey, what you did is a sin, just like stuff I did this week was a sin, maybe not to that level of murder, but it grieved the Father. If he wasn't forgiving and gracious toward me and didn't deal with me in a way that was allowing me to confess my sin, make restitution for my sin, and do all I can to clean my conscience before him and receive the forgiveness and the hope he wants, despair would be mine, like maybe it has been yours.

If you're out there today and you've been locked up in that one area and the crowd tells you, "You've made that one decision, so you may as well make it as many times as you're confronted with that problem, and you'd better make sure you fight for other women to have that right so you don't feel bad about your decision," we want to tell you to "Come on," and we want to tell you that in a very anonymous way we want to introduce you to some people who have sat right where you've sat and have found the freedom I'm about to show you Bartimaeus found from that blind, hopeless, dark place.

This Jesus is walking by you right now, and he loves you and is saying, "Come here. Just come here." Don't pretend you're not blind. Just for a moment, take a step of faith to say, "Man, if you are the one who can deal with this hole in my womb, in my heart, I need to talk to you," and he would say, "Come." Don't let the crowd keep you away. Don't let your friends, don't let your conscience, don't let your enemies keep you from meeting this Jesus. The next time somebody tells you you don't matter, remember Bartimaeus and remember the crowd was wrong.

Let me give you another quick little application. The next time the Lord tells you that you matter and God does care, I want you to remember Bartimaeus and remember that there is no guarantee the call will come again. Bartimaeus was just sitting in one place, and had he let this opportunity go by for him, who knows if that blind man would have ever made his way again into the path of one who knew and loved this Jesus.

The verse that connects with this… It says when Bartimaeus heard Jesus call him, and the crowd said, "Hey, man, he's calling for you. In the midst of all these important people, he's calling for you," which is one of the greatest signs of, again, the leadership of Christ… This is a guy who's on the way to die, and in the midst of going on the way to die, he's not surrounding himself with people who can validate him and make him feel good. He's always looking to serve and love.

We've talked a lot about leadership lately and held up Jesus as a great paragon of leadership. One of the greatest attributes any man or woman can have and one of the greatest ways to tell if that's a person you should love and follow and trust with your heart is you watch the way an individual treats those who can do nothing for them.

Girls, you're out there, and many of you will someday find a mate you'll share your life with. I've heard many women say, "Man, this guy is so kind to me. He's sensitive to me. He treats me with such importance and value. How can I not be drawn to him?" I go, "Well, listen. There's a reason that guy will pursue you that way. How does he treat those who can do nothing for him, who aren't soft and warm and sweet like you? How does that guy treat those who really…?"

Not when you're watching him is he nice to those who can do nothing for him, because sometimes he's going to bring you around people he can be nice to just so that person can serve him by being a means through which he elevates himself. How does he really treat people he perceives as less important than him, not as women he's on the make with?

I'll just throw this in right here as we move to warmer weather, which always brings out that little heart looking for somebody to hold hands with in the park. It's a known fact that women give sex and physical affection in order to get love, and, women (if you don't know this, you need to know this), it's a known fact that men will give value, affection, tenderness, and attention to get sex.

So you have to remove yourself from that category and that class when you go, "Well, he's nice to me, and what can I do for him? I mean, he's Mr. Big Businessman. All of the girls like him." Well, I'll tell you what you can do for him. Don't be impressed with the way he treats you and looks in your eyes. Watch the way he really treats those he doesn't value and esteem. Where does he put himself?

Jesus is a great leader because he treats those who can do nothing for him with incredible tenderness and value, even as he models right here. The crowd was saying, "You don't matter." God was there in the person of Jesus Christ, and he looked at that guy and said, "You do matter. Come here. You matter. You want my audience? You hunger and thirst for truth and righteousness? You will be satisfied, even as I said when I first came. You come here."

The next time God is calling to you, do what Bartimaeus did. Remember Bartimaeus and respond. As I said at the beginning, I want you to think about today that God is putting a call on your heart. He's saying to you, "It's time for you to make a decision. When you call out for me, what do you want me to do for you?"

I love what Bartimaeus does. It says he left his cloak behind. For him, that's where he had all he owned spread out. It's where he caught his money. He didn't try and gather up his money. He just left it there. He said, "Oh man. I'm going to go to the one who can give me what no amount of begging can ever give me: real mercy. Not a small provision that would get me through the time but real mercy." Remember what he did.

There's a verse in the Scripture that simply says, "The Spirit of God will not strive with man forever." A number of us in our body have been affected recently by the death of somebody we knew well, a young girl just instantly gone. The Scriptures say, "It's appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment."

We don't know how many times Jesus and his Spirit will pass by you and say, "Would you come? Would you deal with who I am? I'm calling you to make a decision about me and respond to what I've offered you." Jesus asks, "Who do you say I am?" He asks, "What do you want me to do for you?" You leave it all behind, just like Bartimaeus. You remember Bartimaeus.

I love the statement somebody said centuries ago. "There's often a second chance…" Sometimes Jesus passes back by. You might think, "Well, I'll deal with it again next week, Todd." "There's often a second chance, but there is always a last chance." For Bartimaeus, this might have been his last chance, because Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to get nailed to a cross to die for that man who right now he's offering a relationship with.

Let me give you one more. What you do when you can see is just as important as what you do when you're blind. Remember Bartimaeus. Let me give you the verse that draws me to this place. Here's the deal. "And the blind man said to Him, 'Rabboni…'" That is a personal profession of faith.

He's saying, "I'm going to call you my Master and my Lord. You're not just the Messiah of Israel, Son of David. You're going to be my King." That's what that word means. It's a profession of faith. "You're the one. You're my Teacher, Leader, and Lord." That's what that word means. "You're my Master. I'm making a decision about who I think you are."

"…I want to regain my sight!""I want to see." "And Jesus said to him, 'Go; your faith has made you well.'" Watch this. Immediately, two things happened. "Immediately he regained his sight…" Just like his loving Savior took him out of darkness and into light, which I think is very symbolic. Just like it says in Colossians, that God through his Son has taken us from the kingdom of darkness and put us into the kingdom of light.

It says that immediately he could see, and immediately he responded by following Jesus on the way. En te hodo is the Greek phrase. It shows up all the way through this book where it talks about that Jesus set his face toward the cross for his people. He was on the way. In other words, what this is saying is that as soon as Bartimaeus could see, he didn't go, "Thanks. Got what I wanted," and check out. He said, "I'm going to walk in your steps."

As we talked last week, it says in a book called Peter that Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. That's what it means to be a fully devoted follower, to walk where he walked, to pursue his path, which is the way of the cross, which is the way of not living for the world to say that you're great by giving yourself comfort but by achieving greatness in God's eyes, which means giving yourself for other people in the way your Master gave himself for you.

What you do when you can see… This relates to those of us who have made a decision about who this Jesus is, and we're here. Now that you can see, what are you doing? You made a decision to do what Bartimaeus did at some point, and you said, "You know what? You're the one. You're my Rabboni. You're the Messiah, the hope of all the world, and you're mine." What are you going to do now that you can see that? What you do now that you can see says a lot about whether or not you were just saying something or whether, in fact, he is your Rabboni.

Let me give you the arithmetic of salvation. Here's what some people think it is. They think if you work long enough and hard enough you will be saved, and that is a view that is espoused by a lot of people: works equals salvation. In other words, the view there is God won't do something for you who can do nothing for him. If you're good enough, God will say, "Hey, you're good to be on my team, and I'll accept you."

That's the view of religion. Religion, very simply, is man's effort to work their way up to God and to make themselves useful to him and acceptable in his sight. That's not a biblical view. The Bible says you're saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves; it's the gift from God, not as a result of works, so that nobody can boast. Works doesn't equal salvation, then.

Some people will tell you this is the other equation: faith equals salvation. Now I'm going to make a statement today. You have to listen really closely. That is an incomplete equation. "What did Jesus just say, though, Todd? Aren't you contradicting what Jesus himself said in Mark, chapter 10, that 'Faith has made you well'? 'The righteous shall live by faith.' 'For you have been saved by grace through faith.' 'Without faith it's impossible to please God.' 'Therefore, having been justified by faith…'"

Let me make this very clear. Faith in God's provision for our sin…not what we do but what he has done…is ultimately what makes us acceptable in God's eyes, but that isn't the whole equation. We're missing an element there. What you do when you can see has a lot to do with what you said when you were blind.

Now let me show you another equation: faith plus works equals salvation. That's what a lot of people want to do. "Let's get works in there. It's good that you believe who Jesus is, but then, in right response to what he has done, you live your life a certain way, and that will mean you will get the salvation you wanted when you declare that he is your Master and Lord and the Holy God of Israel. So, you believe, and then you act like you knew what you meant, and then you'll be saved." That is wrong. It's unbiblical, and it's even a more subtle error than the first one. I'll tell you why.

Being the good math students you are, you know when you have something that's a positive on one side and take it onto the other side of the equation it becomes a negative. For you folks who are here with me today, if it's 2+2=4, it would then become 2=4-2. Right? If faith plus works equals salvation, then faith should equal salvation minus works, and, folks, you just can't find that in the Bible. The Bible suggests that, as a rule, this is what salvation looks like biblically: faith equals salvation plus works.

You are justified by grace through faith, and having been justified by grace through faith, you are taken out of the kingdom of darkness and put into the kingdom of light, and now that you were correct in your blindness to say, "I can't see. I'm going to continue to stub my toe on sin and self-destructive decisions and self-opinionated lifestyles that bring me down and hurt others. I am lost and hopeless and dark, and I need somebody who can come and deal with my pain, and by faith I make that man Jesus, who is unique among men in history in that he was raised from the dead as evidence that he is without sin and who he claimed to be…"

The Bible says when you make that decision by faith, his Spirit indwells you, that you become a child, that you are a new man. The old things have gone. The old self-serving ways are gone and new things have come. Those new things that have come is a heart that increasingly loves and serves the things God loves and serves…still without perfection, but in increasing ways you become more like your Savior and your hands evidence what has happened to your heart.

Now if that equation is true, what must also be true? What must also be true is that faith absent of works equals salvation. Folks, this is scandalous, but that's true. I want to tell you something very, very seriously this morning. If you say that last equation is your life, I just want to say, "Grace be with you." I hope you're right.

What God says is the normal equation that he posts when somebody comes out of the crowd to him is this one. Is this a mathematical, theological possibility? You bet, but it is a very dangerous one to live in confidence that you have yourself added up correctly. I want to say it this way this morning: profession does not equal the same thing as a possession of his Spirit.

The possession of his Spirit should bear a certain fruit in your life, which is not absent good works. If you're saying you're a tree that is rooted in this way and that you are, in fact, a tree that is a fruit-bearing tree and you bear no fruit, you might well be a sick, poison tree, but God knows that, and I can't give you the assurance that you are.

Lucky for you, God is not going to phone me up and say, "Hey, Wagner, how did so-and-so do when he hung out with you those 10, 15, 20 years? Would you say this guy really made a genuine decision of faith?" I'm going to say, "I don't know. I can tell you what I saw." He's going to say, "You don't need to tell me what you saw. I saw it all anyway. I saw what he did in his heart, whether it was genuine or not."

You're in a very precarious place, folks, if you say you have a faith that Jesus is King who enables you to see and yet you live without the light and continue to go as a habitual pattern and decision toward darkness. Is that a mathematical, theological possibility? I have to tell you, "Yes." It's scandalous grace, but it's grace that is often abused by people who think because they signed some card, walked forward at some conference, made some decision quietly, they did what was required of them.

What God says is, "When you do what's required of you, I'll do an amazing work in you that all the world will behold as a work of transformation and glory to me." Are there exceptions to the rule? Are there prodigals who die with the pigs? Surely. I just don't want to be one, and neither should you.

The guy who really was part of the entire reformation of the world understanding that faith plus works does not equal salvation was a guy named John Calvin. Calvin has a beautiful statement, and he says it this way: "Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone." Here's what I want to challenge you with this morning: What do you want God to do for you? How you answer that question determines everything about who you are.

That question appears four times in the Scripture. Once it appears with Herod who said to his daughter-in-law who had just danced before him, "What do you want me to do for you?" She said, "I want John the Baptist's head." Once it was asked of Jesus by James and John, and Jesus said back to James and John, "What do you want me to do for you?" They said, "We want to be head of the class."

Once it was asked of the people of Israel by Pilate. He said, "What do you want me to do for you?" and they said, "Give me Jesus' head." And once it was asked of Bartimaeus. "What do you want me to do for you?" "Blessed are the poor, for they shall see God." Bartimaeus said, "I want you to fix my head. I can't see. I don't want somebody else's head. I don't want to get rid of you because you bother me and convict me with your holiness. I don't want to be put to the head of the class. I just want you to give me what I can never get on my own. I want to see."

Now here's the next question if you make that decision: What are you going to do now that you can see? We want to be a body here that helps you with both of those questions, and it's our goal to do everything we can to lift up Christ in a way that you would clearly see him for who he is so you can make a proper response to who he is, and then to do all we can to come alongside of you so you can be fully successful at all God intended you to be once you say, "Now that I see, how can I live my life for him?" This is a place of grace to introduce you to him and to walk with you as you increasingly respond rightly to him. Let's pray.

Father, this morning we had a great chance to look at this guy who we can identify with in so many ways. We've been intimidated by the crowd before, and many of us believe even now that we don't matter because the world tells us we don't look the way we should look and don't live our lives good enough for God to think we're important. "I don't even have enough money to give that the church would even care about me." Father, I pray you'd drive that lie out of their minds and today they would lose the world's opinion of them and see for the first time your value for them.

Today, they are literally the ones sitting there by the side of the road, and you're saying, "Come on over here. I know you haven't said it out loud while Todd is talking, but in your heart you just wished God would reach out and say to you, 'Come here. Come over to me. What do you want me to do for you?' Don't ask for something too small, but ask that I would take that brain, that will of yours that is bent toward evil and transform it, that I would take that pride, which is scared that others might know, that you could humble yourself and I could touch it so you would be a meek person, strong but bridled in your strength."

Father, I pray that today there are some folks who are going to see for the first time and are going to have the courage to not care what the crowd thinks but to make their way through, stumbling, as they will, in their blindness to you. I pray for those of us who have been touched, Lord, who now see, that we would get en te hodo, that we would get on the way, and the faith which alone saves would not be alone in our lives and that we would be intentional to pursue being equipped, being in community, and being effective in service.

Father, I thank you that you have made us holy and blameless in your sight. I thank you, Father, that we can now know, as the eyes of our hearts are enlightened, the hope of the calling that you've given us, the riches of your glory, and the greatness of your power in Christ Jesus. Would you continue to open our eyes now in worship? In Christ's name, amen.

About 'Gospel According to Mark, Volume 5'

The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. <strong></strong> This volume covers Mark 10:35 through Mark 12:44.