A significant barrier to developing healthy community within the Church is the degree of “fakeness” at work—putting on a happy face to keep up appearances. Christians ought to be happy, we figure—after all, we have that joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts! As the saying goes, “Appearances can be deceiving.” The problem not only arises from the bottom up, however. Often, church gatherings and services are organized in a way that does not allow for the healthy exposure of brokenness and depression. This top-down repression of emotional expression secludes the individual with his thoughts and feelings and forces them to stew unhealthily, below the surface.
Jesus, as usual, operates differently:
As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus [meaning, ironically, “son of honour”], was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:46-52; cf. Matthew 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43).
From the context of this passage (in all three gospels), we discover that Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem as a kind of symbolic prophetic act, proclaiming His kingship and evoking certain Old Testament prophecies. This event draws worship from hundreds (if not thousands), arouses the attention of the Roman guards and Pharisees and begins the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Few things could be more important at this point. Understanding this, the crowds around Jesus tell Bartimaeus to can it—“Jesus is about to make a key political move; he doesn’t have time for you.” Jesus Himself, however, has different priorities. Fully understanding the type of kingdom that He is inaugurating through His crucifixion and resurrection, “Jesus stopped” (Mark 10:49). Because the kingdom of God is a kingdom that seeks justice for the poor and oppressed, frees the political prisoner, and restores sight to the blind, Jesus stops. He creatively opens space for the suffering of Bartimaeus, and further, He alleviates it.
Returning to the original problem, the repression of suffering in the Church, we ought to learn two things from this event: first, we should cry out (from the bottom-up) for the reception and alleviation of our suffering, and second, we should create space (from the top-down) for that suffering to come out into the open, in order that it can be soothed and cured.
III: Creating Space for the Sufferer
II: Suffering in Community
I: Types of Suffering