Mark 10:46-52; 4:30-32
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, our God.
Healing is a tricky topic. Does God heal us? If so, why does God heal some and not others? Our lectionary reading for today tells us the story of a blind man by the name of Bartimaeus who was healed by Jesus and regained his sight. Two chapters prior to this story, the Gospel of Mark tells us a story of a blind man at Bethsaida, whom Jesus healed. The chapter between these two stories of restored sight contains a story of spiritual blindness when Jesus’ disciples argue over who amongst them is the greatest. Together, these three chapters give us a more holistic picture of healing that affects both body and soul.
The healing that Jesus offered was more than physical. His focus was on the bigger picture and poverty was foremost in his mind. When he offered healing, the recipient was not just healed physically. They were transformed and became bearers of Jesus’ message of shalom—a deep peace that walks hand in hand with justice. Usually, Jesus sent them back home to be living examples of his holistic healing. But in this singular case, Bartimaeus became one of Jesus’ disciples—a follower of “the way”.
Not everyone in the crowds pressing in on Jesus was healed. Only a few individuals were called out—perhaps because Jesus intuitively knew who would pass on their healing to others. Almost always, Jesus would ask the person begging for healing to do their part—whether that be faith, belief or repentance. When they returned to their homes, I imagine that he expected them to be the hands of healing for others. Jesus knew that physical healing was intricately connected to the will and to the heart; to giving as much as receiving.
Sometimes, healing comes through the hands of those who sacrifice their own health and healing. At the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, it was noted that every single commissioner had become ill in one manner or another. The stories they had heard were so traumatic, that their bodies were affected. They were vehicles of justice and of healing, but at great cost to their own health.
Jesus predicted that people would eventually hurl abuse at him, crying out, “Physician, heal yourself!” But, he showed us that suffering and even death can be part of the healing of the world.
There is a famous Buddhist story about a woman named Kisa who sought healing. Her son had just died and she was undone by her grief. She carried his body from place to place in the hope of finding someone who could give her medicine that would miraculously bring her son back to life. One of her neighbours told her to visit Buddha and so she went, fully expecting the miracle she sought.
Buddha listened to her pleas and told her to go and gather mustard seeds from every house that had not been touched by death. She was filled with hope that these mustard seeds would create the miraculous medicine for her son.
Very early the next morning, Kisa set off, going from house to house, asking if they had any mustard seeds to spare and if they not been touched by death. She found mustard seeds galore, but she also found great suffering. Sometimes, she would be invited inside for a cup of tea and told about a recent parting with a loved one. As she heard these stories of grief pour out, her compassion grew and she found her suffering begin to meld with theirs.
Eventually, she realized that every house has been touched by death—no one is untouched by the finality of life. She then went into the forest to bury her son. As she returned to the Buddha empty handed, she realized what he was trying to teach her. Only when she stopped grasping at what could not be, only when she accepted that suffering and death are universal elements of life could she find healing—a letting go, a peace within a broken heart.
Buddhists call this story the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Christians also have a story called the Parable of the Mustard Seed. In our story, a farmer plants an insignificant, wee mustard seed. From this little seed grows a plant that becomes large enough to cradle a nest amongst its branches. One little life begets another. This, Jesus explained, represents the kingdom of God—the realm of God’s shalom.
In other words, it doesn’t take a lot to become vessels of healing. We don’t have to perform some miraculous feat of strength. We simply have to open our lives to others, be vulnerable to compassion, and God’s healing love will flow through us. That little mustard seed is the spark of divine presence that is within each one of us. And if we are attentive enough to this divine spark within, we will become sensitive to the Spirit’s nudges about how we can become the healing hands of Christ.
On this second stewardship Sunday, let us consider increasing the seeds of our wealth that we sow in the church’s garden, that ministries of compassion might be multiplied. As we sow more monetary seeds, we will be able to watch them grow into meaningful ministry that might even become conduits of miracles.
One commentator wrote, “Miracles are those events that bring people from darkness into the light. Miracles turn our attention to what really matters in life and in death. Miracles claim no power, but reveal a Power who wills to be known.”
But how can we offer miracles of compassion, if we, ourselves are broken and in need of healing? The Buddhist Parable of the Mustard Seed suggests that we be the healing we want. Be the gift we seek. And how can our own contributions of monetary seeds even pretend to contribute to miracles of healing? The Christian Parable of the Mustard Seed suggests that what we give will be multiplied for the sake of the kin-dom of God. And as we give, so shall we receive.
 Barbara Brown Taylor, “Boundary Issues,” posted in The Christian Century Dec. 8, 1999 https://www.christiancentury.org/article/2011-07/boundary-issues?code=eDndQDeG2tqvchLZzWdT&utm_source=Christian+Century+Newsletter&utm_campaign=a620b4e8ee-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_09_11_08_32_COPY_11&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b00cd618da-a620b4e8ee-86206583
 Luke 4:23.
 Cynthia Jarvis, “Pastoral Perspective on Mark 10:46-52,” Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary Year B, Vol. 4, ed. By David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 214.