"Be encouraged! Get up! He is calling you."
The Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus' mission in rapid style. As you may know, he doesn't often give a lot of attention to detail, so the details he provides often are key to the message.
This Sunday we will hear, from Mark chapter 10, the story of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar who sat on the side of the road as Jesus passed by. He called out to Jesus to have mercy on him. Those around Jesus tried to silence the man because they defined him as somebody of no account. But he persisted, calling all the more loudly for mercy. Jesus notices him and calls him. Here's the strange detail Mark includes -- Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak and came running to Jesus.
Folks who live on the street guard their few possessions. They would never just walk away from the little they have. But Bartimaeus does. It seems this cloak is a sign of his identity. He has been a blind beggar, part of the masses who didn't matter. Yet Jesus notices him and heals him. He turns his identity around. He counts for something. He is somebody. He is God's beloved. Bartimaeus matters. Mark tells us he "began to follow Jesus on the way." He became a disciple, one who has new vision and a new identity.
This is also a story for all of us. Whenever we are blind, or when we feel ashamed or that we don't count, Jesus calls us. However we have been defined, we are not the single story of those who define us. We are beloved children of God, disciples of Jesus Christ. Even when we might stumble on the way, Jesus invites us to leave behind whatever labels or identities hold us back and blind us. Hear the words of the disciples once Jesus invited Bartimaeus: "Be encouraged! Get up! He is calling you."