Sunday School Lesson

May 25, 2003


Bible Background—MARK 10:32-52

Focal Verses—MARK 10:37-52

Devotional Reading—JOHN 20:24-31




1.        We will be able to  retell the stories of James and John’s request for special places in JESUS’ kingdom and the healing of blind Bartimaeus

2.        We will be able to appreciate JESUS’ emphasis on humble service and faith, and desire to practice service and faith in our lives.



“JESUS said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed JESUS in the way” (Mark 10:52).



When James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked JESUS to grant them special places in the kingdom of GOD, JESUS asked the disciples if they were prepared to assume such great responsibilities (Mark 10:37-38). When James and John asked JESUS to let them sit at HIS right and left in glory, JESUS said their request was not for HIM to grant (vv.39-40). The other disciples became angry with James and John because of their boldness, but JESUS taught them about rendering service to others (vv.41-45). As they left Jericho, a blind beggar called out to JESUS, asking for HIS mercy (vv.46-47). Many persons rebuked the beggar, but JESUS told them to bring the beggar to HIM (vv.48-49). When the beggar asked JESUS to give him his sight, JESUS healed him and told him his faith had made him well (vv.50-52).

“How Bold Is Your Faith?” is the topic for this lesson. Faith is not abstract but involves life’s everyday concerns. A bold faith, demands that we press on to follow JESUS until we get what HE has for us. Bold faith, as in the case of this blind beggar, has the capacity to amaze even those who feel that they know us. Bold faith has learned to believe that GOD will act even when such belief is unexplainable. Bold faith holds on to GOD’S promise even when our circumstances and the opinions of friends and strangers suggest that we stop believing.

 By way of background, in our lesson JESUS is closing the second phase of HIS ministry. HE is on HIS way to Jerusalem where, as HE has prophesied, HE will be condemned by HIS own people and then handed over to the Roman authorities who will treat HIM cruelly and crucify HIM. However, JESUS assured HIS disciples that HIS death was not HIS final destiny and that on the third day HE would be resurrected (Mark 10:33-34).

How does it feel to have done so much good, to help so many people, and then to face such a cruel death and such a glorious resurrection? Only JESUS knows.

 Just as Socrates and Plato, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois, Maria Montessori, and Mary McLeod Bethune were teachers, there are two teachers in our lesson today. JESUS is an intentional teacher who used the questions raised by HIS disciples to teach them some lessons that they didn’t especially want to learn. The other teacher is Bartimaeus, an unintentional teacher who taught those around him some lessons they did not expect to learn—especially from a blind beggar. If we read carefully, it would be surprising if we couldn’t learn something of tremendous value from both of these teachers.


1.       JESUS TEACHES ABOUT MINISTRY (Mark 10:37-45)

 James and John must have been surprised and chagrined at the way things turned out. It seems they came to JESUS trying to play a little patronage game. They got JESUS off by HIMSELF and said in effect, “JESUS, YOU THE MAN. We know you just finished talking about suffering and dying, but we believe you’re really a king, and one day you’re going to be crowned as king. When you do, we want to be your Vice President and Secretary of State” (10:37).

 The challenge of Ministry—JESUS looked them straight in their faces and said, “You brothers don’t know what you’re asking for. Can you drink the cup of suffering? Can you go through the deep, icy waters of the baptism of death?”

They looked right back at JESUS and said, “We can” (10:38-39). WOW, the confident ignorance of youth!

JESUS didn’t blink but stayed in their faces and sad prophetically, “You shall.” Luke tells us in the Book of Acts (12:2) that James fulfilled JESUS’ prophecy, and church tradition tells us that John lived a long tome but might have also suffered martyrdom.

JESUS went on to say, “But to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared” (10:40, NIV). These were not the words James and John wanted to hear. But had they reflected a bit, they might have concluded that if GOD had prepared places for others, GOD had also prepare a place for them. JESUS could have made those additional facts clear to them, but HE wanted to give them the challenge of ministry, which is “no cross, no crown.”

 The Contrast of Ministry—The conversation did not end with JESUS’ prophecy because by this time the word was out that James and John were trying to pull a fast one. The other disciples were HOT. So JESUS called a special meeting of all the disciples. HE gave them a brief lecture on the contrast between Christian leadership and secular leadership. HE reminded the disciples that in the political arena, leaders used the authority of their office to make their subordinates serve them and their purposes. But as Christian leaders, HE said, “You are to use your authority to serve those who can benefit from your gifts, talents, resources, and positions of power” (paraphrased),  “If one of you wants to be great, he must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, he must be the slave of all” (10:43-44, TEV).

The disciples probably were not happy, but they shouldn’t have been surprised. JESUS was always doing that, wasn’t HE—making the last first, the strong serve the weak, and the rich serve the poor? JESUS INSISTED ON TEACHING BY CONTRAST.

 The Example of Ministry—JESUS closed HIS lesson on ministry by referring to HIS own ministry of commitment. HE said even the SON of MAN did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NIV).



 We don’t know whether or not Brother Bart was expecting JESUS, or whether he just happened to be in the right place at the right time to exercise his faith. It seems almost obvious that he knew who JESUS was and had probably heard about HIS healing powers. Had the news of JESUS’ encounter with Zaccheus reached his ears (Luke 19:1-10), or had the news of the healing of the daughter of Sister Crumbs drifted down from Tyre (Mark 7:24-30), or perhaps the healing of the deaf and dumb man from Ten Towns? (7:31-37) How could he not hear about the unusual healing of the blind man of Bethsaida? (8:22-26)

 Faith Uses Available Resources—In any case, when Brother Bart heard that it was JESUS of Nazareth who was passing by, he used his available resources to get his healing. He couldn’t see, but he could hear. So he used his ears. He couldn’t see, but he could think. So he used his brain to recall JESUS’ reputation. He couldn’t see, but he could use his voice. So he hollered, screaming, “JESUS, SON of DAVID, have mercy on me” (10:47).

 Faith Ignores Objections—Some people in the crowd started saying, “Shhh---be quiet, be cool.” But Brother Bart wouldn’t be quiet, primarily because he knew that the people who were shushing him could afford to be quiet because they could see! So he turned up the volume and kept turning it up until JESUS HEARD HIM AND CALLED HIM.

 Faith Makes Specific Requests—Notice JESUS asked Brother Bart the same question that HE asked the Zebedee Brothers, “What do you want me to do for you? (vv.36, 51) Brother Bart didn’t hem and haw; he said immediately, “I want to see again.”  Actually this was Bart’s second request. His first request was for mercy (v.48). Now that his cry for mercy had caught JESUS’ attention, he proceeded to ask for healing. Is there a lesson here? Do you want to get JESUS’ attention? Don’t scream about your virtues, your talents, your resources and assets. Ask HIM for mercy. If HE gives you mercy, as HE certainly will, HE will surely give you everything that goes along with it.

 Faith Follows JESUS—The little phrase that Mark put at the end of the story is so precious: “[Bartimaeus] followed JESUS on the road” (v.52, TEV). An unknown poet has written: “Many there be who worship at [JESUS’] shrine, but few there be who follow in HIS steps.”

Oh, I wish we knew more about Brother Bart. Did he follow JESUS the 15 miles into Jerusalem? Was he one of those shouting, “Hosanna in the highest” during the triumphal entry? (11:10) Was he at the cross? Was he in the Upper Room when the SPIRIT “fell?” WE don’t know. All Mark tells us is that “he followed.” ARE YOU WILLING TO FOLLOW JESUS? HOW FAR?




Spiritually Yours,

Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr., DD


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