This week we in Davao City have the privilege of having a dear brother in Christ from the other side of the world, Michael Card. This Monday evening, Mike spoke to an audience of around three hundred people on the Gospel of Mark. On Tuesday night, he sang his songs before several hundreds of people and led in a solemn singing of the classic hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness."
One of the things that struck me both in his talk and concert is his focus not on himself as a singer or speaker but on the message of the gospel and how it impacts our knowledge of God in Christ and ourselves.
If I am to highlight and summarize his message, I think it is captured by his song, “The Paradigm,” which is based on Mark 10:46-52, and has now become one of favorite Michael Card songs. The song focuses on Jesus’ encounter with the blind Bartimaeus. When Jesus and His disciples were about to leave Jericho on His way to Jerusalem, blind Bartimaeus shouted at the top of His voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Many tried to silence him but their attempt to hush him only yielded with a more vigorous shouting from the blind man. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to suffer many things, to be rejected by the religious leaders, and to face His impending death and to rise again in three days. Yet on this occasion, Jesus took the time to serve and save this suffering blind beggar.
When Jesus stopped and called for him to come, Bartimaeus left everything he had, which practically nothing but a cloak (v.50). The blind man pleaded for mercy before the One whom he knew is able to grant him. He asked, “Let me recover my sight.” With no delay, Jesus said, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he received his sight and did the best thing he could ever do, that is, follow Christ.
While this story of blind Bartimaeus presents the paradigmatic image of who we are without God – blind, beggar, outcast, shamed, and rejected, it really highlights the real person and work of our Lord Jesus as the Christ, the Promised One who came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Yes, on the one hand, this story portrays Bartimaeus as the perfect model of an undeserving sinner, one who is blind and poor and outcast, and pleads vigorously for mercy. Yet, on the other hand, it truly underscores the authority and power of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David. He is the One who gives sight to the blind, restores the outcasts into fellowship with God and the community, grants mercy to undeserving sinners, like you and me, and equips the powerless to become His faithful disciples.
So the Bartimaeus story is really a beautiful portrayal of our greatest need – sight to see God in Christ and salvation to serve Him by His Spirit – and a wonderful depiction of the our merciful Christ Jesus.
In our natural and sinful state we wallow in our shadows, self-pity and shame yet at the same time boast in our shining moments of success and self-elevated status which, compared with the glory and riches of Christ, are worthless rubbish, stinking dung.
Christ calls us to acknowledge who we are - blind, beggar, and braggart - and beg for His mercy, which is something that we don’t deserve. He tells us to leave behind our sins and darkness and follow His holy calling and walk in His glorious light by His strength and grace. He bids us to travel in the power of His might on the road that He trod – the road of suffering and shame that leads to grace and glory!
Here’s the lyrics of Michael Card’s “The Paradigm,” from his 2012 album, The Beginning of the Gospel:
He is poor, he is blind
He will be a paradigm
One of Jesus’ greatest finds
There beside the road.
Calling out, he has the nerve
To want what he does not deserve
All the beggar’s begging for
Is mercy from the Lord.
So come all you beggars
Up on your feet, take courage
He’s calling to you
Surrender you striving
And find the nerve
To boldly ask for
What you don’t deserve.
A timeless moment caught in time
The beggar leaves it all behind
Then the perfect paradigm
Calls Jesus by name.
Falling down upon his knees
With one request, he wants to see
He could see immediately
When Jesus said, “Go.”
©2012 Covenant Artists ASCAP