“The 5 ‘R’s”
October 25, 2015
By John Partridge
Scripture: Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Hebrews 7:23-28 Mark 10:46-52
I want you to go back in your memory and remember second grade. Can you picture it?
I will be willing to bet that education looks different now than when you were in school and the same has often been true for much of history. Education keeps changing as society, and the needs of society, change. When the pioneers were migrating west, they often lived far from other families and, out of necessity, simply educated their children at home as best they could. When enough families lived within a few miles of one another, close enough for the children to walk, or ride horseback, to a school, then the parents would do their best to pay a teacher for their children, even if some of them could only pay their way by contributing chickens, eggs, or other farm produce.
Much of the news today seems to keep coming back to the benefits or the problems in education due to a program called Common Core. Before that, everyone was up in arms about “new math.” But those of us who have been around for a while can all remember that before all the politics, education was all about the “Three ‘R’s.” The spelling is terrible, but of course the three ‘R’s are Readin’, ‘Rightin, and ‘Rithmetic.
Some things, however, do not change over time. This morning we are nearing the end of the story of Job, and there we find a model, a map of sorts, that describes the path from sin to forgiveness. That path, which we find in Job, can itself be described by four ‘R’s and then later, the writer of Hebrews will add one final ‘R’ to our list. And then there is a test. Jesus meets Bartimaeus, a blind man, and asks a hard question that all of us, regardless of education, must be prepared to answer.
We begin by returning to the story of Job. Of course, last week we heard God reprimand Job, verbally taking Job to the woodshed, for assuming that he had any right to make demands upon God. We rejoin the story this morning to hear Job’s humble reply (Job 42:1-6, 10-17):
Then Job replied to the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters.
Job’s reply outlines the first four steps along the path from sin to forgiveness. First, Job says “I know that you can do all things.” Job recognizes (Recognition) that he has made a mistake. Second, Job says “ I… repent in dust and ashes” and so step two is Repentance.
Third, many of Job’s friends had stayed away from him because they believed that he had done wrong and that God was punishing him. But after Job repented, these friends realized the truth of Job’s innocence. I am calling that step “Redemption,” because it returned to Job the friendships that should have belonged to him all along.
Fourth, God poured out blessings on Job and returned to him twice as much as what had been taken from him. While God doesn’t always bless his followers with money or tangible things, or especially not to this degree, there is always a blessing that comes to us because of our repentance. This step, in which we are blessed by God, I will call “Restoration,” in which we are restored to God’s kingdom and favor.
But, all of this happens in the Old Testament and so, no matter how wonderful it is, and no matter how well it describes the path from sin to forgiveness, it remains incomplete. Because Jesus Christ came to complete the work that God began with the people of Israel, we cannot complete this transformation from sin to forgiveness without him. In Hebrews 7:23-28, we find the fifth ‘R’ and complete the path from sin to forgiveness.
23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely [the meaning of “completely” in the original Hebrew also means “forever”] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
Because Jesus Christ is our high priest forever, he is able to save completely and forever. He is always there to intercede for us, to stand up for us, before God. Because Jesus is able to save us, I call this last ‘R’, Rescue. We committed high crimes and treason against God and all of our priests, and all of our pastors, were humans that were full of human weakness and imperfection. But Jesus was perfect and so he alone was able to sacrifice himself in our place so that we could find forgiveness and rescue.
But once we meet Jesus, what is it that we really want?
In Mark 10:46-52, a blind man named Bartimaeus cries out help, but before Jesus will help him, Jesus asks him an obvious, but very difficult question. Once again, this is a story we have read many times and in our familiarity, we often skip through it without realizing that there is a hard question for us as well.
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus by shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” There are two reasons that Bartimaeus would have used this title. First of all, it is genealogically correct. Jesus is a descendant of David and so, technically, is a ‘son of David.” But we don’t often see people in scripture refer to one another by their family names. We don’t see the disciples described by which of the twelve tribes that they were born into except for a few rare occasions. So why here and why now? Because not only is “Son of David” genealogically correct, it is also a title that recognizes that Jesus is from the family of kings. In calling out to Jesus as the “Son of David,” Bartimaeus calls out, not only to the man who is walking past, but also to the king that he will become.
Jesus hears, stops, and calls the man to him, but when he comes, Jesus asks a hard question.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
This is the question that, at first, seems so incredibly obvious that we just skip right over it. But this is the pivotal question in the entire story.
What do you want me to do?
Bartimaeus has already asked for Jesus’ help. He has already expressed some belief that Jesus would be the king of Israel or at least some other position of power and authority. But what is it that he really wants? It could be that, being accustomed to begging, what he wants is some kind of financial gift. Or maybe food. Or maybe some other gift that he might ask from any other human being that walked past. But Jesus wants to know, is Bartimaeus asking for something that men can give, or something that only God can give.
Jesus wants to know if Bartimaeus believes in who he really is.
And Bartimaeus asks Jesus, not for money and not for anything that humans could give him, but for the one thing that he truly needs, and the one thing that only God could give him.
“Rabbi, I want to see.”
And so, we arrive at the hard question that Jesus asks from each of us.
“Why are you here? What is it that you want?”
Jesus wants to know what you want from him. Jesus wants to know who you think he is. Do you want something that the world wants? Do you want something that you could get through hard work, or from other human beings? Are you just asking so that you can take a short-cut?
Or are you asking for something that only God can give?
When we come to Jesus, the path from sin to forgiveness may include redemption and restoration, but those things may, or may not, include financial blessings. God may choose to bless us with money and material things so that we can pass them along and be a blessing to others.
But he may not.
Jesus wants to know if you are asking for the one thing that only Jesus could pay for, and only God can give you.
Job was blessed, but only after he repented and surrendered to God.
Bartimaeus was healed of his blindness, and more than likely was able to get a job, provide for his family, and live a better life. But only after he recognized that Jesus could give him the one thing that only God could give.
Whatever God has in store for us, however much, or however little, will only come to us when we recognize who he really is, and ask him for the one thing that only God can give us.
Jesus is asking us, “What is it that you really want?”