Archive for April, 2013

BARTIMAEUS

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Occasionally a passage of scripture bursts through the narrow confines of what can be a mechanical rereading of often read passages. Recently, for me, the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar in the gospel of Mark was one of these events.

Jesus was starting out from Jericho for what was to be His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, He was flanked by His disciples and was also attracting a great multitude and the whole spectacle was passing Bartimaeus as he sat begging by the road.

How long had he been blind? It doesn't say, but obviously a long time. Here was his one opportunity. He had nothing to look forward to, in this world, but a life of begging – a wretched, heartless, difficult lonely future. But here was the Christ!

Calling out with all of his strength Bartimaeus cries, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” All of the crowd, intent on the circus of the sight of Christ, had no time for a blind beggar and tried to shut him up. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David have mercy on me.”

Jesus seeing what was happening stops and calls him to Him. The crowd, who up until this time had no thought, or pity, for this blind man, suddenly changes its tune, “Take courage” they say “He is calling you.”

Bartimaeus jumps to his feet and comes to Jesus. Jesus says “What do you want Me to do for you?” Bartimaeus responds, “Rabboni I want to regain my sight.”

Everything in his heart was in those words. How long had he dwelt in darkness? What pain of soul was he struggling with? What emptiness had filled his life up until this point, and how difficult was it for him to hope for that which he asked? Especially when the whole world was seeking to silence him!

And Jesus, who Himself was full of the knowledge of the trials which He faced ahead in Jerusalem, looked with pity on Bartimaeus. “Go your way, your faith has made you well.”

And the man who had suffered so long in blindness, who had weathered many a season in solitary darkness, suddenly had received a blessing beyond measure. All of the years of pain, all the tears, the indignity of begging, the nothingness of existence, was transformed in the blink of an eye. The wonder, the joy, the glory of it all though, paled into insignificance as he opened his eyes for the first time and beheld the image of the glory of the Son of Man. Jesus the Messiah, the one man on earth able to help him.

This then is the miracle of the story. Bartimaeus did not just regain his sight, he beheld the One whose love could make him whole, complete, perfect. And also, it says to me, that no matter how dark, how lonely, how desperate you might feel, keep hoping, keep asking, keep seeking, even if the world closes in against you, and in the end you will receive far more gloriously than any pain and confusion you have thus far felt.

Seeking God

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

In the letter to the Hebrews it says “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must have faith that He is and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him”. It does not say that He is a rewarder of those who interpret scripture wisely or prudently or fundamentally, but of those who seek Him. This then is the problem of the church there is none that seek Him.

We only seek that which we need, not just what we think we need, but that which we in our depths cannot bear to live without. Love of God is not merely a nodding at Him in order that He might be mercifully disposed towards us, but it is a thirsting after Him that we might truly know and behold Him. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness”. We can read scripture diligently, know every book by its verse numbers, be able to cross reference texts, speak Hebrew and Greek, but if we don't have love we are nothing!

Jesus said that the Father was seeking those who would worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is not those who are rich towards texts and bible studies who please Him but those who are rich towards Him. The scriptures that men like to quote and parade their knowledge of, were written by men like ourselves, whose heart was so deeply attuned to God that His words flowed from their lips to be recorded, not that we might venerate the words, but rather that we might seek with our whole hearts the face of the Author of these words. We might love the words of a person, but it ought not compare with our love of the person who speaks them, so it is with God. The words of a wise man might last through history, but God's words stand forever. A man dies and his life is hidden from us, but God speaks and He is near to all who call upon Him. Though we cannot see Him, yet we can know and love Him. Though our eyes might be blind to His presence, yet our hearts can be on fire with the joy of His presence and the wonder of His love.

No one comes to the Father but through Me”, Jesus said on the night that He was betrayed. Only He had the witness of the Father in all of His fullness. “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father”, He said to His disciples. “After a little while the world will behold Me no longer, but you will behold Me, because I live you shall live also.” So the world can behold His words, but they cannot behold Him. The church can believe they have Him because they have His words, but they do not know Him! They have not taken seriously His words to the Pharisees, “You search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life, but you will not come to me that you might live.”

The pursuit of God is an all consuming passion. “Many are called, few are chosen. Make sure of His choosing you!”

ABSOLUTE TRUTH

Monday, April 1st, 2013

There is no absolute truth!” was an argument that I have recently heard. Which is to my way of thinking no different from Pilate asking “What is truth?”

If there is no absolute truth, truth does not exist, for truth is that which is fixed, unchanging, immutable, indisputable.

To say that there is no absolute truth is also to admit that truth, in some sense, exists. It is a bit of a back handed compliment. It is like saying “I'll grant you that truth seems to exist but because I have not got a clue what truth is I will declare that truth is not absolute.” It is all a bit of a fudge, a giving up on the search, a deciding to pick daisies instead!

All the elements we live by, the decisions we make, are based on some presupposed certainty. In fact there is a direct link between faith and truth. For all men live by faith in the truth that they have discovered through the reasoning faculty we each have. So an understanding of perceived truth is essential for us to function in any consistent or coherent fashion. We live on the assumption that our home will be, barring a catastrophe, where we last left it awaiting our return. It is the barring a catastrophe that has us decide that truth is relative, for there seems to dwell within reality the notion or even the substance of change.

All that this means, however, is that we are impermanent in an impermanent world, but this has no bearing on whether or not truth is absolute. For truth to be absolute it has to dwell in a realm other than the impermanent world that our senses perceive. That this is possible should not be too difficult for us to consider for the very world that our thoughts inhabit cannot be discerned or reached by the senses.

It is curious that in our search for truth we choose to reflect more upon the observable universe than upon the world our thoughts inhabit. For it is the world of our thoughts that direct the way we live. It is the thoughts of man that have built our cities and culture, our cars and industry, our war machines and madness, our philosophies and religions. All of these things dwell in a realm that is both within us and yet also outside of ourselves.

How is this so? It can be illustrated quite simply. I can receive an idea outside of myself into myself. So while the world of ideas exists in the lives of men not all the ideas are present in any individual yet they exist somewhere outside of ourselves in such a manner that we can access them. Not much different from our seeing a piece of fruit and eating it.

So where is this leading? Just as a man's physical health is influenced by his diet so a man's spiritual health is influenced by whatever he ingests from the world of ideas. What we believe to be true affects how we live our lives. So if we believe, for example, that there is no absolute truth then we certainly won't go looking for it, just as if we believe the world is flat it is unlikely that we will venture to sail around it. And staying with the question of absolute truth, is it truthful to say that there is no absolute truth? For if there is no absolute truth we can't declare at all on the subject, for as soon as I proclaim that there is no absolute truth I must qualify my declaration by adding but I cannot declare this absolutely!

It is a very strange thing indeed that there should ever exist within us the question, “Is there truth?” Stranger still that we should declare truth a virtue, that we should pursue truth in the courts and in the media, rue the fact that there is no truth within our political leaders and then declare, “But of course there is no absolute truth.” We should drop the word absolute, for there is either truth or there isn't. Truth isn't relative, but we are relative to truth!