On this upcoming Reformation Sunday at Trinity we once again take a moment to give thanks to God for the gift of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Word of God (that brings us Jesus Christ!) alone. As I sit at my desk writing this week’s devotion, I’m looking at our friend Martin Luther (a PlayMobil version of old Marty that I received from one of you last year, on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation). There Marty stands with writing instrument in one hand and the Bible he translated into the vernacular of his countrymen in the other. It would be easy to get things mixed up and assume that LUTHER was the hero of the Reformation movement. The truth is, it was the Holy Spirit, working through the life-giving Word of God, that’s the real hero of the story. The Word of God delivered and lived through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, continues to raise up, forgive sins, and bestow the gift of faith—hearts that see Jesus—-to people 500 years later.
This week the Holy Spirit, God’s gift to the Church which He is always reforming, helped me see something I had never seen before: the question Jesus asks of one blind beggar named Bartimaeus on a lonely road between Jericho and Jerusalem (“What would you like me to do for you?”) is a really important question. Some scoff that Jesus would ask such a thing of a blind man. Shouldn’t it be obvious? Maybe not. You see, in a society without a ready-made safety net, a blind or otherwise disabled person asking for mercy would usually be thought to expect a MONETARY hand out (cf. Acts 3:1-10). Bartimaeus wants something more. Money, though it would have carried him along and allowed him to survive another day, was not an adequate gift from the One Bartimaeus knew to be a healer! So it is not cash he asks for, but new eyes: “Let me recover my sight,” he says…and Jesus heals him. And while Jesus’ words still ring in his ears (“Your faith has made you well”) this formerly blind beggar begins what could only have been an exciting and yet terrifying new beginning. He leaves the life to which he had grown accustomed and follows Jesus “on the way”…all the way to Good Friday and Easter Sunday!
Helen Keller, the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree once said: “Better to be blind and see with your heart than to have two good eyes and see nothing.” This Reformation Sunday, together with Bartimaeus and Martin Luther, we see the merciful Healer whose Word lifts us up and brings us, ultimately, to the place God won our salvation once-and-for-all: Jesus’ cross and empty tomb. “What do you want me to do for you?” the Healer asks you and me again, today. Receiving God’s forgiveness and restoration though we’ve done nothing to deserve it, we join Bartimaeus in receiving and living out the joy of possessing a heart that sees Jesus.