The Path to Eternity:
Submit, Trust, Follow
October 28, 2018*
By Pastor John Partridge
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Mark 10:46-52 Hebrews 7:23-28
Have you ever used a map?
Today it seems like everyone uses GPS, or Google Maps, or some other electronic format, but still, it’s a map. We’ve told our kids that it’s still useful to keep a road atlas in their cars because technology can, and does, fail from time to time. Batteries die, cell service is lost, cell towers get overwhelmed, and as we’ve seen in Florida recently, disaster does happen.
But, even when the worst happens, perhaps especially when the worst happens, we still need to know how to get from here to there, from where we are, to where we want to go.
And while finding the map that’s been buried under candy wrappers and a pile of gas receipts in the back pocket of the car might be a challenge, that kind of a map isn’t going to help us find our way to our seat at the dinner table of God’s house. So today, let’s consider that journey for a few minutes.
We could, quite literally, spend days, even weeks, talking about the path to eternity, or how we get from where we are, to where we want to, eventually, be. But for this morning, we’re just going to hit a few highlights from our scriptures from this week’s lectionary selection and from those, we begin at the end of the story of Job. In this passage we hear Job reply to God following God’s answer. All through the story, Job has been demanding justice and demanding that God answer him. But when God finally answers, he thunders at Job and asks questions like, “Where were you when I laid the cornerstone of the earth?” or, “8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, 9 when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, 10 when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, 11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?” (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. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.
Job understands God’s message and God’s answer. Job understands that God is God and we are not. Job understands that we are in no position to dictate terms to God, that God will do what God will do. God is not a genie that does our bidding and answers to our beck and call. The creation of the universe is so far above our pay grade that rather than demand that God behave the way that we want or expect God to behave, God will, instead, behave as God wishes and our place is not to demand, but to submit.
But please note, that in submitting to the will of God, God blesses Job and returns to him twice as much as he had before Satan was allowed to torment him.
From there we jump to Mark 10:46-52 where we hear this story:
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 knew who Jesus was and he knew what Jesus could do. He calls out to Jesus by addressing him as “Son of David.” Jesus was, literally a descendant of David by lineage, both from Mary and from Joseph, but this seems to be far more than an identification. Since Bartimaeus is calling out to Jesus for mercy and, ultimately, for healing, it isn’t difficult to understand that his calling Jesus is an appeal to authority, that he recognizes that Jesus is an heir to the throne of David, but also, perhaps that Jesus is the promised Messiah, or at least a prophet of God who has the power to heal his blindness. In crying out to Jesus, Bartimaeus has already submitted to God, but when Jesus calls him, he throws aside his cloak in his excitement. Why is that important? Let’s consider that for a moment. Remember that Bartimaeus is blind. He cannot keep an eye on his coat once it leaves his possession and neither will it be easy for him to find it once he leaves it behind. But Bartimaeus doesn’t set his cloak aside neatly, or hand it to a friend, or take it with him, he throws it aside and jumps to his feet. Either Bartimaeus is so excited that he has completely forgotten habits that he had formed over a lifetime, or he already trusted that Jesus was capable of, and likely intended to, heal him of his blindness. At the very least, Bartimaeus trusted that Jesus would care about his well-being and the return of his cloak.
And Bartimaeus is healed.
But rather than responding to Jesus’ command to “Go” by going home and getting back to his family and the business of living his life, Bartimaeus chooses instead to “Go” and to follow Jesus along the road. Bartimaeus had no idea where Jesus was going, and it didn’t matter. He knew who Jesus was, he submitted to Jesus, he trusted Jesus, and he was willing to follow Jesus wherever he went.
And if that is the path, from surrender, to trust, to following, then where does the path lead?
And in Hebrews 7:23-28, Paul answers by describing who Jesus is:
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 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.
Jesus is the high priest, the leader of the church, but because his sacrifice was truly and totally perfect, his sacrifice need not ever be repeated. Jesus’ sacrifice was done once, for all of humanity, for all time. And for that reason, Jesus has become our high priest, the perfect man, the king of the universe, the leader of the church, the shepherd of his people, and all we need to do, is to trust him, and follow him forever.
Job had no guarantees that God was going to bless him, but he submitted anyway and was willing to follow God no matter where that path took him.
Bartimaeus had no idea where Jesus was going to lead him. But he trusted Jesus enough to follow him anyway.
Our call, as servants of our great high priest Jesus, isn’t to demand justice, to demand answers, or to demand that God do things our way, our call is to submit to the realization that God is God and we are not. God will do what God will do. God will behave as God wishes and our place is not to demand, but to submit.
Our call isn’t to obsess over what heaven looks like, or what we will do, or where we will go, or who else will be there, or what heaven will be like. Our call is to trust Jesus, our high priest, to stop demanding to get our way, to give up trying to control everything, and to follow him wherever he chooses to lead us both now… and forever.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.