Jesus Pays Attention to Outsiders: Mark 8:22-26; 10:46-52
Do you feel marginalized in the Christian world? Despite your clear vision of Jesus, due either to your handicaps, color, gender, income level, lack of education, singleness, or a messy past, do you feel second class or ignored in Christian circles? Take hope. Jesus pays special attention to men and women whose vision of Him is clear but whose feet may step daily into the mud puddles of our society.
Mark’s Gospel takes special care to highlight the muscular faith of outcasts. The marginalized are not ignored but, astonishingly, receive Jesus’ special endorsement. That’s right. Jesus pays special attention to the faith of society’s “outsiders.” Perhaps you are due for the same commendation. I hope so.
Encouragement for Outsiders
Consider the following portraits from Mark’s Gospel and I think you will find great encouragement.
Mark explains to us what it means to be a Christian, what it means to follow Jesus as a disciple in the central portion of his Gospel. That section begins in Mark 8:22-26 and concludes in Mark 10:46-52. That middle section about following Jesus as a disciple is like the tasty beef slices placed in the center of a sandwich.
What’s important to understand, though, is that Mark intentionally places two unexpected stories at the beginning and ending of that beefy middle portion. The stories act like the top and bottom slices of the sandwich.
Front Cover Folk for Christian Illustrated
Surprisingly, both stories, both slices, focus on blind men, marginalized in the culture, and viewed as outsiders. But Mark intentionally brackets the middle section about following Jesus with the episodes of these blind outsiders. That’s unexpected.
Of all people, outsiders are chosen to introduce and conclude what it means for us to follow Jesus. The marginalized, not the inner circle, not the advantaged, the talented, the glamorous, the star or the gifted, are Mark’s front and back cover features. That’s outside the expected Christian box. The front and back covers of Christian Illustrated feature not the wannabe celebrities or professionals, but the blind. Their cases are worth examining.
The First Example
The first example is of a blind man (Mk 8:22-26) whose sight was restored by Jesus in stages. He illustrates how slow Jesus’ disciples are to grasp His true identity. Their understanding of Jesus’ identity is turtle-like, frustratingly so, but gradual. Yet we shouldn’t miss the blind man as the example. Jesus paid attention to him and healed him, despite the handicap.
The Second Example
Then, after reading Mark’s teaching of what it means to follow Jesus in the middle section of the sandwich, we reach the back cover, the bottom slice of the sandwich, another man visually impaired.
Mark’s example is Bart (Mk 10:46-52), a blind beggar sitting on the muddy roadside outside of Jericho. Despite his severe handicap, and sitting at the rock bottom of society’s trash heap, blind Bart has the clearest vision of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. Mark loves dramatic irony. The lowest of the low in the culture has the highest and clearest view of Jesus’ identity. Observe how clearly he sees Jesus’ identity with blind eyes. Blurting out, he cries
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me.” Mk 10:47
The crowd tried to scold Bart into silence; but Bart, undeterred and driven by a passionate and clear-sighted faith, only shouted all the more:
“Son of David, have mercy upon me.” Mk 10:48
That outburst stopped Jesus in his tracks. Blind Bart’s clear vision of Jesus as the rightful Davidic heir to Israel’s throne was compelling to Jesus. And Jesus didn’t correct Bart’s audacious confession. He was impressed by it and validated his faith and request by restoring his sight. Jesus spoke to him.
“Go, your faith has healed you.” Mk. 10:52
Blind Bart: The Paradigm for Faith
Bart, the blind beggar, not the banker, is Mark’s paradigm for the faith necessary to follow Jesus. His example of faith in Jesus, from blindness to sight and following Jesus on the way in response, is meant to be our model. Recognize Jesus’ true identity as the rightful heir to David’s throne and then get up and follow him.
Imagine, the marginalized in the culture, not one of Jesus’ disciples who craved the show business stage, nor one of the professional priests, elders, or teachers of the law, nor any self-focused celebrity, is the example of what it means to be a Christian, a Christ-follower. The dramatic irony can be an encouragement to all who feel like outcasts on the muddy side of the road.
The unexpected pattern of Jesus’ commending the faith of the marginalized is characteristic of Mark’s Gospel: the leper (1:40-44); the woman who suffered a hemorrhage (5:25-34); the Syro-Phoenecian mum (7:24-30), the dad of the boy with an unclean spirit (9:14-29).
Jesus commended and rewarded these outcasts for their faith in him. This pattern can be an encouragement for all who feel like beggars, ignored in Jesus’ church. Outsiders are important to Jesus, the Son of David, heir to David’s royal throne. What a compassionate and wonderful king is Jesus.
We Have Much to Learn from Outsiders
Jesus paid special attention to the faith of the outcasts. He teaches us to do the same, to pay respectful attention to their words of faith, their clear vision of Jesus, and their obedient response of following Him.
We have much to learn about Jesus’ identity from those on the side of the road, the ones we might normally dismiss or ignore. Mark uses Bart to teach us that the blind may have the clearest vision of Jesus. Fanny Crosby, blind but clear-sighted about Jesus in Gospel songs, has been a blessing to many of Jesus’ followers. We will be better people if we listen and take to heart what they say and do about the Savior.
Do You Feel Marginalized?
And if you feel marginalized in the Christian world, be encouraged. Due to handicaps, color, income level, lack of education, singleness, gender, or if you have a messy past, you don’t need to feel like an outsider. Jesus won’t ignore you. He pays special attention to you and your rich faith in Him. He listens to your voice. Bart’s irreverent shout to Jesus on the side of the road stopped Jesus in his tracks. Yours will too.
We Can Learn Much from You
Like blind Bart, you just might be the prime example Jesus wants to use to encourage others in their journey to follow Him. You might be just the example we all need to see and hear. We can learn much from you.
Shirley Murray’s hymn resonates with Mark’s encouragement:
Community of Christ,
Look past the church’s door
And see the refugee, the hungry and the poor.
Take hands with the oppressed,
The jobless in your street,
Take towel and water,
That you may wash your neighbor’s feet.
 The rightful heir to King David’s throne is called “the Son of David.” In Greek nomenclature, this royal figure would also be known as “the Christ.”