Sermon Archives

Sunday, October 25, 2015
The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 25, Year B)
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
Mark 10:49
Jesus Stood Still

In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Gospel according to Saint Mark has several unique characteristic that set it apart from the other three accounts of Jesus life, and even from the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke – the other two synoptic gospels to which Mark’s account is most closely linked.  For one, it is the shortest, by far.  With under 15,000 words, Mark’s account is about half the length of Luke’s -- even the Acts of the Apostles (noteably composed by Luke as well) is significantly longer!

Mark employs a unique literary feature called by scholars as the “Markan Sandwich” – a feature by which we begins one story only to interrupt it with another similar or related story before completing the first. 

You may also not that Mark is not only the only Gospel, but the only book of the Bible, with two endings!  Scholars all agree that the longer ending, which is commonly set out with parentheses in the Bible, was added in the 2nd century and the earliest manuscripts that we have today end at the 8th verse of the 16th chapter:  “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  And, regardless of which ending you read, there is little to no account of the post-resurrection Jesus in Mark’s retelling.

Mark is also known for the urgency of his text.  Mark relates the story of Jesus with a sense of urgency and speed that the other gospels don’t possess.  Unlike Matthew and Luke there’s not birth narrative – even John, who doesn’t provide a birth narrative, offers an extended introduction to the life and ministry of Jesus – an introduction that Mark reduces to 8 verses about John the Baptist.  For Mark, it’s all about Jesus life and ministry, so let’s get on with it!

To further emphasize this urgency, Mark peppers his account with the word Eutheos – that is, immediately or straight away.  "And straight away coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him."  In fact, Mark uses eutheos, immediately, nearly twice as often as the other 3 gospels do combined.  In the first chapter alone, Mark uses “immediately” 7 times.  There’s an urgency to Mark’s text that sweeps us off our feet from the very outset and never, really, lets up.

With this backdrop of pace and movement set from the very first chapter of the gospel, we ought to pay attention to something seemingly so simple immersed within today’s Gospel.  Jesus and his disciples are on the move again.  If Jesus isn’t heading some place new, he’s leaving some place he’s recently been – in today’s lesson, Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho where it seems they’ve only just arrived.  But there they go again off to another town – what we don’t from today’s reading is that they’re headed to Jerusalem – the Passover is quickly approaching and Jesus’ passion is near at hand.

So, off he and his disciples go again, departing as quickly as they came.

But something different happens this time.  In the midst of his journey, as Bartimeus cries out and the crowds push Jesus on and others push Bartimeus to the side, Jesus stood still.  In the midst of all the urgency, in the midst of all that speed and movement, the jostling and noise, the hustle and commotion, Jesus stood still.

When do you stop?  When do you stop and put down the phone or turn off the noise and disconnect from all jostling and noise, the hustle and commotion of life?  When do you stand still?

All the studies tell us how important it is to our mental health to stand still, to stop and disconnect.  Meditation, prayer, yoga, even a short 20 minute nap works!  When we stand still our health improves, our relationships improve; even our productivity at work improves.  What the studies don’t tell us is that standing still is critical to the life of faith and Christian service.  Jesus didn’t stop here because he needed a break, a little Sabbath time in the midst of his walk – he does that elsewhere, but not here. 

No, here he stops, here he stands still, because only by standing still can he actually here and see what’s going on around.  Until Jesus stops, Bartimeus is only a loud, indistinct voice in a crowd.  As long as he keeps moving, Bartimeus would remain only a passing blurr along the side of his journey. 

It was only when he stopped, only when he stood still, that Jesus could really hear Bartimeus, and only once he had heard could he serve. 

Jesus stood still.  Jesus listened.  Jesus heard.  Jesus responded.

But it all began with a pause.

Now, there’s something more here as well.  I noted a moment ago that we don’t know from today’s reading where Jesus is going – but the very next verse reveals that this journey that Jesus has started today is no ordinary journey.  He’s not going from one town to the next on some long farewell tour a la Derek Jeter’s final year with the Yankees.  No, today, as he departs Jericho, he has begun his final journey to Jerusalem where he will undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and by killed.

So important is this journey, that he lays his harshest words and rebuke on Saint Peter – get behind me Satan – when Peter stands in his way.  No, this is no ordinary journey that he is on; it is, in fact, the most important of his life.

And still he stopped.  As important as this journey is, Jesus stood still.

He interrupted his priorities for Bartimeus.  He put his urgency to the side for Bartimeus.

The Christian life cannot be lived if we are not willing to do the same.  We cannot live the life of service and compassion to which we are called without putting our priorities and our urgencies to the side for others.  It cannot be done.At the heart of our liturgy this morning, at the center of our common practice of faith is the stark reminder that the Christian Life – modeled as it is on the life of Jesus – is the life of sacrifice.  As he stood still along that dusty road outside Jericho, Jesus put aside his priorities and urgencies for Bartimeus. 

And as he continued his journey to Jerusalem – the cross and to the grave – Jesus put aside his priorities and urgencies for you and for me. 

And Jesus stood still.  The way of Jesus is the way of sacrifice.  May his way be ours well.