Across the Pastor’s Desk: Your invitation to “The Way”

Published 8:00 pm Friday, November 5, 2021

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Todd Walsh

The Bible is a rich witness to the life of God among us. Its writers were inspired, faithful and clever. They knew how to write with depth of meaning and put nuanced meanings on what they wrote. Their use of puns make a point and invite readers and hearers into the story.

Todd Walsh

Allow me to share with you one example of one of those invitations. Many of our churches a few weeks ago heard the inspiring story of the healing of a blind man named Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52. It is loaded with puns that send messages beyond the page.

The story takes place in Jericho. Jericho was the place where the religious leaders of Jesus’ day went for vacation. When Jerusalem was cold and damp, Jericho was warm and dry. It was also a beautiful oasis to get away from it all — if you had the means. Meet blind Bartimaeus. Anyone meeting him on the road to Jericho could not miss him or his need. The contrast of getting away to Jericho and the depth of human need could not be clearer. You can’t get away from human need.

Enter Jesus. Bartimaeus addresses Jesus, loudly, twice. He calls him “son of David.” Anyone on scene or encountering this story would react to that identification. The evangelist telling the story calls Jesus by his earthly name that everyone would have known: “Jesus of Nazareth.” Bartimaeus does not even call him “son of Joseph.” That would make more sense. Bartimaeus names Jesus as the son of Israel’s greatest king of ages past and their hope for the future. Bartimaeus has named Jesus as the Messiah. He knows Jesus’ true identity and what he is able to do. Another message is clear — Jesus is the one who has the power to provide beyond our human understanding.

The story ends dramatically and abruptly: “Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.” The miracle is enough to get our attention, but the final words draw us in.

It sounds like Bartimaeus becomes a disciple or something like that. He joins Jesus on his journey. The word that is used for “the way” is a word that is used for a road. But it has another meaning. “The Way” was the first name given to the followers of Jesus. The beginning of the story heightens the pun when we hear where Bartimaeus is outside Jericho; he is “beside the way.” That’s clearly a roadside. But the next time the word is used, the double meaning is clear. Yes, he is walking on a road. Yes, he is a believer and follower of Jesus.

Those first hearers of this story would have known the name of their new faith was The Way. And they would have said, “Hey! That’s us.” So it is with those who claim the faith of Jesus. We have met him and our lives are changed. We have met him and we walk in our lives with him and him with us. We are not alone. And we have new life each day. So it also for those who meet him and his followers and join in the journey of new beginnings and new life.

Todd Walsh is director of spiritual care services at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community in Albert Lea.