This article was awarded 1st Prize in B.D. Preaching back in 2007 at the prestigious Serampore-affiliated Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute (GLTC&RI) in Chennai, India. The author who is currently pursuing Ph.D from Madras University passionately reminds us that one of the missions of Christ was the restoration of human rights. Read it all to get more insights from this sermon article.
RESTORATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
(Mark 10: 46-52)
By Moses C. Tehlo, Madras University, Chennai.
Winner of Bachelor of Divinity (B.D) First Prize in Preaching
Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, Chennai. Dated October 10, 2007
Critic by Dr. Jacob Thomas, Head of the Department of Theology
I came here from a distant place with great expectation in mind for four years back. By the Grace of God, all of the most of my expectations are met and now I am privileged to stand before God’s holy pulpit to preach His holy gospel of salvation before you all in this morning. I read in one of the Burmese Books where it is written whether the preacher or the listeners is more important. The author said that the listeners are more important because they are the people who can listen properly and understand the preaching. He continued to say that the people who could understand the preached massage would be called as the wise people. So, today you all are more important than me. At the same time, today I am preaching to you and you will listen to me and then tomorrow you will preach and I will listen to you again. It does not mean that I am going to stop preaching from tomorrow but it is my understanding of our Christianity. What I mean here is that the preacher and the listeners are the same because we all are human beings. But God is willing to speak to all of us this morning through me. The passage I have chosen for this morning meditation is taken from the gospel according to St. Mark 10:46-52. The Gospel of Mark is written to the Christian community lived under the threat of persecution of Rome Empire and looked upon incipient revolt in Palestine as a source of potential trouble for the Jewish and even the Christians at Rome. Mark portrayed Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer and miracle worker. The episode from this passage is the final healing miracle of Jesus performing outside Jerusalem in the last week of his life. This happened in Jericho which was situated five miles to the west of the Jordan River and about fifteen miles to the northeast of Jerusalem. Jericho was founded perhaps as early as 800 B.C. it was known as the oldest continually inhabited city on earth. We know that Herod the Great built his royal palace and died there. It can be said that the life situation in Jericho during this time was so hard and difficult. Jesus accompanied with the crowd came to that city. Mark tells us that there was a blind man Bartimaues who was dehumanized and sitting on the road side and asking Jesus for his basic rights. The crowd tried to make him keep quite but Jesus was willing to restore his life. So, I would like to entitle my sermon as “Restoration of Human Rights”. The first main point is:-
I. The Blind man was denied of his basic rights ( v 46)
Blindness in our time and blindness in Jesus’ time was so different from each other. Today a blind person at least has the hope of living a useful life with proper training. Many people have opened education institutions and some other training centers for the blind people. But in the first century in Palestine, blindness meant that you would be a subject to poverty. You would be reduced to begging for a living. There was no medicine for cure and treatment. There was no any person or any society or any organization that helped the blind people. We do not know how long this blind man has been sitting by the roadside for begging because we are not told about the exact background of him. We are only told that this man was sitting on the roadside and begging. The reason why he was begging was that he was socially isolated and oppressed, economically poor and physically challenged, politically voiceless and spiritually without shepherd. His daily expectation from the people coming near him may be money or food to eat. We are not told that how long he had been on the roadside, how much he had suffered and had pain, misery and sorrow. His suffering period may be long time or it may be short time. It can be said that this person was dehumanized as he could not exercise his rights. Many people all over the world today are like this blind man. Let us see this passage from the context of Myanmar (Burma): All civilians in Myanmar are dehumanized by the military dictatorship because all fundamental human rights were violated totally to them since 1962. We are politically voiceless, economically extremely poor, socially isolated and unwanted. We are out of main road and mainline. The present life situation of the civilians and the ethnic people in Myanmar are the same as the blind man in this passage. Equal treatment such as political freedom and social-economic justice are greatly demanded because we all are brothers and sisters who are created in the image of God. The second point is:
II. The Blind Man recognize Jesus as Messiah (V 47)
Verse 47 tells us that the blind man heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth. He cried out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”. It meant that he may have heard of Jesus from somebody before Jesus came to Jericho. In his heart he may be longing for Jesus for a long time. But he did not have a chance to see him. As soon as Jesus came to Jericho, he directly recognized him as Son of David even though he could not see him with his own eyes but he could see him with his heart. He saw his true identity. Mark would like to prove clearly Jesus as the Messiah, the coming king, and the descendent of David (Isa 9:7). According to the Jewish belief, the Messiah is the son of God who can save the people from their slavery and the one who has power to heal the people and do anything and everything. Here we see that the blind man recognizes Jesus as his healer. According to the book of Acts, “ God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy spirit and power, and he went around doing good and healing all who are under the power of the devil, because God was with him ( Acts 10:38). In each miracle we see not only how God was with Jesus, but Jesus was with human beings. The book of Old Testament told about how the people of Israel recognized God and how God liberated them from the bondage of the slavery in Egypt. This blind man also recognized Jesus as the Messiah who has the power to save him from his suffering. The civilians in Myanmar are spiritually blind to recognize that God is the only one who has power to save them from their long silent suffering.
III. He Raises His Voice without Fear of Oppression
Verse 48 tells us that the blind man Bartimaues raised his voice to Jesus for help. The disciple and the crowd had sternly ordered him stop and to be quiet. The blind man faced directly of the opposition of the majority. This particularly verse tells us about the nature of the majority people is the same as the nature of animals like the beasts. The nature of the animal is that they do not have love, compassion, mercy and pity on the weak and the small ones. Instead of caring them, they are destroying their lives. Majority people are oppressing minority people. In this passage, the crowd are majority people who opposed and oppressed the blind man altogether. No one was willing to help him and do not want to hear him. Actually, he also has the right to come to Jesus and ask whatever he wanted to ask him but his rights to come to Jesus was still denied by the crowd not by Jesus. But, instead of being afraid of his opposition he even cried out louder to Jesus. Fearlessness of the opposition from the crowd is his main instrument for getting salvation from Jesus. The civilians of Myanmar have been suffering from the opposition of the military regimes for more than 45 years. It is true that they raised their voice so many times to the military regime but they do not raise their voice and they never cried out to Jesus bitterly. So their voice is totally still denied and then even some are killed, some are arrested and put to jail for long life, some are tortured, and some are persecuted and so on. Here we see that even though the majority people are oppressing the blind man to stop, he did not stop he cried out louder. If he has listened to those who around him and not cried out to Jesus, he would have died as his old condition. But the civilian in Myanmar used to stop from raising their voice because of fear of the opposition from the military dictatorship. The result is that nothing happens to change their lives. Bishop A. Azariah told that the problem of Dalits in India is that they do not know how to cry out to the Lord even though they were oppressed more than 2000 years. Even a child knows how to cry to his/her parent if he/she did not get what he/she wants something from them. The Bible tells us that the people of Israel were usually crying out bitterly to God as soon as they were captivated under the bondage of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Only after they had cried to God, God has come and delivered them from their slavery. Crying to the savior against oppressing majority is one of the best tools for liberation. It is indeed that raising voice without fear and crying out to God is very important for our freedom from oppression. Therefore, the civilians and the ethnic people in Myanmar have to cry out to God for getting their rights from the majority ruling people.
IV. He asks for His Former Life
Mark 10:50 says that the blind man did something to change his life before asking his need to Jesus. What he did was that he made a decision and determination to change his life. Today many people are not willing to make decision for changing. The blind man cast away his garment which he used to cover his body to keep warm at night and cool during the day because they cannot give him healing and change. This garment was symbolic of his lifestyle. It represented all the restrictions, limitations and impossibilities of his life. Today civilians in Myanmar cannot cast away their old garment of them. Jesus said you cannot put new wine into new wineskins, or put a piece of new garment into the old. That meant we have to be willing to lose the old to receive the new. Many of them are not really willing to change, they would rather be blind than change and rather beg than change. But the blind man stood up and went to Jesus and asked his rights not others’ rights. Jesus replied to him saying what do you want me to do for you? He said that he wanted to see again. The word “again” clearly indicates that he was not born blind. He was able to see before. But now he was blind. He was aware of the difference between before and after his blindness. Before he was blind, it is sure that he enjoyed his life like the people who oppressed him. There must be the reasons why he was blind. May be it because of eyes deceases, or it may be some incidents or someone has done wrong to his eyes. Now, he wanted to go back to his former life not to other new life or better way of life. Like the blind man, the civilians of Myanmar are not asking other’s rights but their own rights. They are not asking new rights but their old rights which they had from the beginning in their lives and lost to the military dictatorship. In their old lives, they had their own chiefs with their own administration and their own self determination. They enjoyed totally the political freedom on those days. But now all of their human rights were lost into the hands of the military junta. They are treated as animals like Donkey, Monkey, and so on. Sometimes, they are killed, raped in their own lands. It is good to know that the majority people will never give the minority people their rights if the minority people do not ask it. They will keep it secretly until and unless the minority people ask. It is also good to realize that the majority people will never say to the minority people “This is your right, come and take”. Every person has to try to get his/her rights like the blind man. Otherwise, he/she will lose it at all.
V. Jesus Restored the Rights of the Blind man
Verse 49 tells us “Jesus stood still and said, “Call him”. The crowd, who are oppressing the blind man, went and called the blind man to Jesus. This indicates that Jesus has the power to stop the crowd and the crowds were also listening to Jesus. Here we see that Jesus stopped the oppression of the crowd as oppression is not acceptable to him. Jesus opposed the oppression of the crowd totally. And then Jesus asked the blind man by saying “What do you want me to do for you?” Actually Jesus knows his need before he asked but until and unless he expressed his needs; Jesus did not give anything to him. According to 10:52 after asking his need with faith, Jesus of Nazareth healed him according to his faith and he regained his sight and see thing clearly again as before. The book of Hebrews chapter 11:1 says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Faith is human response to God for what he has done to him/her. The problem of civilians in Myanmar is that they may not see Jesus. They need Jesus not only to heal them physically like the blind man but also to heal them spiritually. Now the blind man can walk on the main road in which he used to walk before with his blindness. His former life came back to him. John 1: 2 tells us that the purpose of the coming of Jesus to this world is to make the people to become the children of God. Luke 4: 16 clearly describes the purpose of the coming of Jesus is to proclaim the good news to the poor, to open the eyes of the blind, to restore human rights of the dehumanized people.
Jesus’ compassion and power are once again demonstrated in the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus. In this episode Jesus put into practice what he had just taught his disciples. He gave his time and his attention to one of the blind and lowest members of the society to restore his rights as restoration of human rights is the authentic mission of Jesus of Nazareth. He healed according to his faith. The blind man firstly recognizes Jesus as the Messiah and then he cry out to him with full of confidence and faith until he regain his former stage of life. He knows the right time and the right thing for him. He did not miss his chance. At last he enjoyed his rights along with his brothers and his sisters. His life is telling us that he totally depended on Jesus alone not on other people. The political freedom fighters like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Ethnic leaders and all of political freedom fighters in Myanmar are appreciated. At the same time, the international political interference to Myanmar by United Nations, EU, ASEAN and other countries are also appreciated. But it is very important to realize that God is above them all. They also need to have to cry to God for help because human effort is needed to be affirmed by God. The blind man in this passage is the very good model for the civilians of Myanmar in their struggle for basic rights. The blind man knows the right time, the right person and the right thing. Friends, I would like to conclude my sermon through an old proverb “Strike, while the iron is hot”. That proverb basically has the meaning that when the time is right, you had better act or you will miss your opportunity”. The metaphor is taken from a blacksmith working a piece of iron into shape. That piece of iron must be struck with the hammer while the iron is red-hot. If you wait too long, the iron will get cool and you won’t be able to mould it into shape. They had to strike while the iron was hot until the shape has been made according to their desire. At the same time, the entire civilian especially the Christian in Myanmar have to reread the Holy Bible critically and interpret it from human rights point of view.
Thank you, May God bless you all. May God bless the People of Myanmar!
(Author's Note: Respected Friends, I was deeply touched with the Burmese Buddhist Monks’ Peaceful Political Demonstration in Myanmar in 2007. I expected that it would bring a political change to free the oppressed people there. Sadly my expectation was very far away from the reality. So I prepared this sermon and preached to Gurukul Community on Wednesday 10, October 2007. Unexpectedly and undeservedly, the First Prize was awarded to me. I was so happy for that. At the same time, I lost this sermon’s paper for the last four years and found it again inside my very old note book recently. I am so very happy for that too. I honestly confess to you all that I retyped this original sermon and post here for the Glory of God. There is no any other purpose or intention apart from this. Thank you one and all).
Maraland.net's note: The author of this article Puhpa Moses C. Tehlo successfully graduated B.D. from the said theological college and went on to pursue secular studies; he is currently Ph.D student at Madras University, Chennai.