In the name of God, who is love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Peter can take hard work. Lugging all those nets and fish for so long got him in shape. He really doesn’t mind when it’s his turn to push one of the carts transporting what they need on the road. It is heavy, especially those logs and fabrics for making shelters when no one offers a place to stay the night. But Peter doesn’t mind this work. In fact, it gives him time to think. And there’s a lot to think about while following Jesus.
Oh, Peter’s mind is settled about who Jesus is. He must be the Messiah! Just listen to him. He teaches with authority, unlike everyone else. Just watch him. He heals and feeds and controls nature in ways no one else can do. Yes, he must be the Messiah!
But ever since Peter said that out loud, Jesus has been talking about being killed! And now they’re headed to Jerusalem. Well, that has some sense to it, anyway. Where else would the Kingdom of God come? But Peter’s not sure about establishing the Kingdom at the Passover, just when Roman security will be at its height, not to mention how upset the Jewish religious leaders will be. He wishes Jesus would explain the plan.
As he toils along, Peter spends most of the time thinking about what it will be like to be part of the Kingdom of God. They’ll throw out Rome and those who support Rome. When they’re in control, they’ll put everything right!
Approaching Jericho, the disciples switch jobs. Peter moves to crowd control. Very necessary job. The crowds grow as they move through Jericho, and everyone always wants to get at Jesus. Don’t they understand he has bigger things to attend to? He’s heading to Jerusalem. The Kingdom of God is coming!
They finally make it through Jericho, but a lot of the crowd is still following. Peter has to focus to keep Jesus from being intercepted.
Then a voice pierces the general clamor. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Not now,” thinks Peter. Looking around, he finally locates the source of those words. A beggar! A blind man! No wonder he waited till they were outside the city. Jericho doesn’t want him inside. No one wants him. He needs to be quiet.
But again, even louder, this blind beggar calls out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“No,” Peter moans to himself. “We have bigger things to worry about. We’re heading to Jerusalem. The Kingdom of God is coming!”
But Jesus is focused on the blind beggar now. He becomes a man with a name—Bartimaeus. Jesus calls Bartimaeus to come to him, and he comes running. Jesus looks at him, asks him what he wants, listens to him, and heals him. Restores his sight and restores his place in the community.
Later, Peter remembers the day Jesus healed Bartimaeus. Later. After the tumultuous time at the Passover in Jerusalem. After Jesus is brought to trial, heading for that death he predicted so often. After Peter betrays Jesus and himself by denying—three times—any association with Jesus. After the seemingly endless days of trying to make sense of life again. After Jesus, their risen Lord, comes back to them.
Yes, later comes a day—a day when Peter remembers Jesus’ healing Bartimaeus. A day when Jesus calls Peter by name—not once, but three times. A day when Peter feels forgiveness wash over him. A day when Jesus gives Peter a job to do in the Kingdom of God, a job that sends him into the community with new purpose. It’s a day when Peter is healed.
And that’s when Peter starts to understand the Kingdom of God—not the kingdom he imagined, but the Kingdom that fits with all he has experienced while following Jesus. The Kingdom that’s not about power, not about control. The Kingdom in which everyone has value and purpose. The Kingdom in which everyone is offered healing and community.
Not many weeks later, Peter again remembers the day Jesus paid attention to Bartimaeus and healed him. Peter remembers the day Jesus healed Peter himself. By this time, Jesus has ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to guide the disciples. Peter is heading toward the Temple again, a place where he has spoken to thousands and seen God work mightily.
On his way to do big things for God, Peter sees a lame man lying near the gate. He’s been carried there by friends. He’s on the edge, not really part of the community. To most, he’s a nobody.
Peter looks at him, sees him as a beloved child of God, and proclaims that, in the name of Jesus, he is healed. And the lame man walks toward community.
The Kingdom of God came near when Bartimaeus was healed. It came near when Peter was healed. It came near when Peter reached out to offer God’s healing to another.
The Kingdom of God comes near each time we accept God’s healing. It comes near each time we stop and reach out to the person in front of us who needs God’s healing now. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.