Arts of Gospel Neighboring (Mark 10:32-52)

MOTIVATE

  • Interview questions help get to know about person/job.
    • Employers like to throw in a few odd questions to test the person’s thinking process.
      • How many tennis balls could fit in your car?
      • Why are manhole covers round and not square?
      • How would you spend one million dollars?
      • You’ve been given an elephant you cannot sell/give, what do you do with it?
      • What superpower would you want?
    • Hopefully we’ve not been too odd to Bloomquist… but let the fun begin this afternoon 🙂
  • Voltaire quote: It is better to “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

Today we continue our series on being a gospel neighbor with the 9 Arts of Neighboring. Last week we looked at Noticing & Praying. This week we will look at Listening & Asking Questions.

EXAMINE                       Mark 10:32-52          Neighboring: Listening & Asking Questions

Originally, I planned to only teach 10:46-52, but the more I studied I saw how the context gives greater understanding and application as a whole. Here are some observations to share together:

Jesus is always teaching but we may not always be teachable.

The Gospels show the journey of Jesus’s ministry; traveling around cities and villages to teach truth, proclaim the kingdom, and perform miraculous signs that indicate His identity, authority, and power. Mark says “they were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them” (10:32). The elevation difference from Jericho to Jerusalem was 3500’, so a strenuous stroll for the disciples. Yet, Jesus is not hesitant to head to Jerusalem, He’s leading the way. He’s set His face like flint toward the cross (Isa 50:7). He not only preaches humble servanthood, but practices it too.

From those who followed, some were amazed but others were afraid. Were they amazed at His walking pace (illus: me shopping with my daughters)? I suspect they were amazed and afraid for the same reasons – they knew Jesus predicted His death and were amazed at His resoluteness but were afraid what it might mean for themselves.

Jesus said, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise” (10:33-34).

Pause and reflect on the verbs. Further, this is the third prediction of Jesus’s death.

  • Mark 8:32 first prediction followed by Peter rebuking Jesus.
  • Mark 9:34 second followed by disciples arguing over who was the greatest.
  • Mark 10:35 third followed by certain disciples asking to sit on thrones in Jesus’s kingship.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory. Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:35-45)

In Jewish custom the place of highest honor was at the center of the company, followed by the right and left hands, respectively.[1] While Jesus poured out His heart teaching, the disciples were selectively listening to the parts they wanted to hear. They wanted to honor Jesus but only if it meant helping themselves. They sought glory while Jesus had His face set toward agony and the grave. Can you imagine the patience and mercy of the Teacher?

The cup to drink or baptism to be baptized refers to God’s wrath to be poured on Jesus.[2] Jesus affirms James and John will face a similar baptism in their future persecution and martyrdom. Then, Jesus reveals His purpose for entering the world – not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. The idea of ransom – a payment for rescue/deliverance.

I fear too many Christians have sat in churches and selectively listened to talk about God’s blessing and grace but neglect the path of obedience. Like the disciples, we can have a flawed understanding of the Messiah. We can expect God to grant us national prominence, military might, political power, and earthly kingship. But instead, Jesus calls us to humility. You see, while Jesus was not the king they envisioned, He was the king they needed.

Glaringly missed is the disciples not asking follow-up questions for clarity; not empathizing, grieving/lamenting with Jesus. The disciples were self-centered rather than Christ-centered; “enough about you Jesus, more about us!” Christians can view life as us the primary character in a small story in the world. Instead, we should view ourselves as a supporting character to God in a grand story of the world. Life is about God, not you. A person who understood this most was John the Baptizer, “Christ must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30). Until we view Jesus as a necessity, we will never have God’s design for our reality. We will constantly confuse greatness as power, pleasure, instead of servanthood.

  • Have you ever felt like you failed the Teacher/Lord? The disciples did and look at how the grace of God transformed their lives and turned the world upside down. Don’t allow your past failure to define your aspired future.
  • The disciples were frequently trying to give Jesus lessons when they should have been learning and asking questions. What would it look like if every time you or someone opened God’s word, you came with eager expectations and questions to learn?
    • Disciples instructed Jesus to send crowds away to find food, but Jesus wanted to feed them and teach them He is the bread of life (Mk 6:35, ff).
    • Disciples couldn’t help a demon possessed boy and wanted to send him away, but Jesus wanted them to learn about faith-filled prayer and fasting (Mk 9:17, ff.)
    • Disciples viewed children as a distraction and unimportant, but Jesus viewed children as primary and a welcomed priority (Mk 10:13, ff).
    • Discipled viewed women and people of other races (Samaritans) as inferior, but Jesus was available and extended grace to all persons (cf John 4; Luke 9:54-55).
    • Wisely, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Lk 11:1)
  • Jesus just predicted His excruciating death and the disciples want a favor, but Jesus still asked “What do you want me to do for you?” In our interactions with others, we may be tempted to teach them with a harsh tongue, but instead Jesus shows us the way of grace and gentleness (cf. Prov 15:1). We must learn that Questions > Accusations if we want to help people grow and guide them toward Jesus.

Jesus is always visible but we are not always ready to see. 

Previously in the passage, Jesus and disciples met a wealthy and moral ruler who sought salvation (10:17-22). The ruler loved his earthly riches more than a relationship with Jesus, so he missed eternal life. A contrast in social status occurs when Jesus and the disciples meet a blind, begging man sitting by the roadside. Unlike most of the people Jesus healed, this man has a name – Bartimaeus. It is likely that this man became popular in the Roman church with Peter and Mark, and so Mark shared his name to an audience who would have been able to identify him.

46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a begging blind man, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.

47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry [shrieking shout] out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”

50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.

51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

What Bartimaeus lacks in eyesight, he makes up with insight. There are several characteristics about Bart that are helpful for Christians today:

  • Bart knows he needs help and mercy.
    • Note the verbs: begging, sitting, hearing, crying.
    • God’s kingdom of heaven is not for the spiritually healthy, but the sick. Until we are ready to confess our sin, God will never give us salvation. Salvation starts with surrendering to Jesus.
    • Desperation is the doorway to faith. If you’ve hit bottom, your only hope is to look up to God.
  • Bart positioned himself in a place where he could receive help.
    • If you spend your time in the wrong places with the wrong people, then you will likely never receive what you need.
    • Many people say they want help, or want to change, or want to grow spiritually, but then they don’t make themselves available to the resources that can help. They don’t prioritize time in God’s word or with God’s people. So, they stay blind.
    • For Christians, God blesses the humble and the holy.
      • Ps 34:9 “fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack.”
      • Ps 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
      • Ps 84:11 “No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
      • Isa 66:2 “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”
  • Bart doesn’t use his weakness (eyesight) as an excuse but uses what he has (hearing & voice) to help cause.
    • It’s convenient to complain what we don’t have and overlook what we do have. 
    • What do you have that you could give to Jesus? A little in Jesus’s hands can be multiplied with great impact.
  • Bart believes Jesus is the “Son of David” – the Messiah (cf 2 Sam 7:11-14; Isa 11:1; Jer 33:15).
    • Many people have different views about Jesus; make sure you’re following the genuine Jesus and not a counterfeit Christ.
  • Bart persevered in faith, despite opposition from the disciples. 
    • “many [disciples] rebuked Bartimaeus, telling him to be silent / shut up” (10:48)
    • Remember, Jesus just explained His mission and purpose was to serve, and those who would be great must serve others (10:44-45). Yet, the disciples viewed servanthood as inconvenient and irritating.
    • Unfortunately, Christians/church can become an opposition to unbelievers coming to Jesus. Believers are a barrier to the faith of others when they are too busy to see people as God sees them.
    • Too often the church is pursuing rich, young, ruling, Bible buffs when they are called to reach blind Bart’s.

And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus stopped. Jesus knew Bart’s problem, but His question provides the man dignity. Jesus did not assume what was needed without first listening.

  • Asking questions and listening expresses love to neighbor. Listening is Incarnational as it reveals God’s heart for people and enables us to understand. Good listening is not only a “channel through which God continues to pour out his grace into our lives, but it’s also his way of using us as his means of grace in the lives of others.”[3]
    Proverbs 20:5 “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

Illus: In 1816, a young French physician named Rene´ Laennec fashioned a cylinder from a sheet of paper and used it to examine a patient. He discovered that internal sounds could be isolated and amplified through a tube, making examinations less intrusive and easier to interpret. This exciting discovery paved the way for the modern-day version of the stethoscope. Doctors use this instrument daily because they’ve learned that listening well is a powerful tool for healing.

Relationally, listening is equally as powerful for connecting and bringing healing to people. In a society full of people who would rather talk than listen, people are starved for someone who is willing to move into their life as a listener and learner.

Most evangelistic training for Christians focus on giving gospel presentations, persuasive apologetics, creative illustrations, and even visual aids. However, few share the art of listening. As we enter a culture that is filled with the noise of talking heads and the plethora of beliefs and opinions, the need to listen well will increase. Alvin Reid said in terms of evangelism we are to “think less of giving a presentation and more of having a conversation.[4] Imagine a world where followers of Jesus are known for being great listeners and learners, with the courage and willingness to engage others. Maybe we are just one listening moment away from a meaningful conversation about God with someone who would never darken the doorway of a church. It’s worth listening for, isn’t it?

  • Bart boldly seized his opportunity, “throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus… Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
    • Illus: In previous church I was invited to speak to MOPS (mothers of preschool) – a large group of ladies (not a group of large ladies!). I began message acknowledging I had never spoken to an only female group before, and an older lady in back spoke up, “Son, take your chance while you got it.”[5]
    • Bartimaeus didn’t know if he’d ever have a chance to see Jesus again. So, he called out a unique name – “Son of David” (not used in Mark) for Jesus to gain His attention.
    • Some of us may never get a chance again to hear God’s word or respond to Jesus. The consistent call of the gospel is in the present tense with urgency – do so today (Heb 3:7). What’s your unique name for Jesus?[6]
    • Don’t delay or let anything/one deter you.
    • Ask/Pray boldly.
  • Bart followed Jesus. Previously he was beside the road, now he’s on the road.
    • How many people get what they wanted from God and then walk away from Him or do not attempt to grow spiritually?
    • Get on the road…!

APPLY/THINK

Colossians 4:5-6, counsels us to be wise in the way we interact with outsiders, making the most of every opportunity, and that our conversation should be always full of grace, seasoned with salt. Salt makes food appealing; it causes us to desire more. And asking good questions has the same effect in a conversation.

As we close today’s message, I want to ask you some questions…

  • What brings you joy and meaning in life?
    • Where do you turn when you face life’s most difficult challenges?
    • Do you ever wonder how people get through life without knowing God hears our prayers?
    • A lot of people have various views about Jesus. Would you say you know who Jesus is or still in the process of discovering?
    • Have you ever considered that Jesus is ready to STOP and listen to your questions, cares, and cries?
    • What do you think God thinks when He looks at you? I believe God thinks about how much He loves you and wants you to seize your opportunity of help and hope by receiving the grace of Jesus Christ.

[1] Edwards, J. R. Pillar NT Commentary: Mark, 10:37.

[2] See Psalm 11:6; 75:8; Isa 51:17, 22; Jer 25:15-28; 49:12; Hab 2:16

[3] David Mathis, “Six Lessons In Good Listening” (April 3, 2014), http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/six-lessons-in-good-listening

[4] Alvin Reid, How To Share Jesus Without Freaking Out: Effective Evangelism In The 21st Century.

[5] This story is mildly exaggerated for humor and relevance to make a point.

[6] https://growinggodlygenerations.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/god-has-a-name.pdf

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