One of the key reasons I don’t do conferences is that inevitably someone wants you to do some kind of “learning exercise.” I am a high-brain, verbal learner which means that I learn best by taking in information and teaching others, and most “learning exercises” do nothing for me. At the Biblical Imagination Conference we attended this weekend, we were asked twice to put our feelings on sticky notes and post them on a board. The first time, I actually wrote, “I don’t know what to write because the Gospel isn’t about me.”
Seriously, I wasn’t there to learn about myself. I was there to absorb the Gospel of Mark, to look at it in a different way; and that’s exactly what the teacher did. I felt engaged in Mark and felt that he really took the book to a fascinating place that will have me thinking, praying and changing for weeks. But it wasn’t about me. It was about Jesus. I wanted to learn about Him – from Him; and that was enough for me.
Anyway, the final “learning exercise” was to place ourselves in the place of Bartimaeus on the road out of Jericho. (Bartimaeus’ story is in Mark 10:46-52.) I think the purpose of the exercise was for us to think creatively about how the Gospel pertains to us. In reality, we are all blind like Bartimaeus; and the only thing we can ever ask Jesus for is mercy, which is what he does.
I get the idea. I really do. And when people started standing up and reading their “paradigms” as they were called, there was definitely a vibe of “Jesus saved me from ______.” I did not write about that at all. I think being “saved” is easy; but being transformed and remade is not.
When Jesus healed Bartimaeus, he literally remade him. Jesus did not simply make the man’s eyes work. He reactivated, repathed and reconnected millions of neural connections in his brain. Jesus implanted in Bartimaeus’ mind, body and soul the ability to not only receive light through his eyes but also how to interpret that light in meaningful ways. Jesus imputed into Bartimaeus a wholeness that otherwise would have been absent.
But there’s the thing. Bartimaeus was not the blind guy on the road. That was not the true Bartimaeus. When Jesus comes along and Bartimaeus cries out for mercy, Jesus recreated Bartimaeus as he was intended to be. For the first time, Bartimaeus was wholly Bartimaeus.
Too many of the “paradigms” I heard were essentially, “I AM the blind beggar, but Jesus made me a better version of that blind beggar.” This is the way Christians often share their testimony, and it is not an indictment of anyone who was there. They dwell on the person they once were – that broken, sinful person, and they imagine that Jesus somehow just improved upon that person.
Jesus does not improve or renovate. Jesus recreates. Bartimaeus was no longer the blind beggar. He was the seeing disciple. And when we cry out to Jesus for mercy and he recreates us, he does a NEW thing. He makes us as we are meant to be, the new creation. He is the NEW ADAM, the one who gives life.
We need to shift our thinking and stop defining ourselves as what we were before Jesus showed up with a little extra that Jesus is doing. We need to realize the new creation he has done and embrace the present reality of his workmanship in us. We must no longer be defined as ME+something Jesus did, but rather as Jesus+A NEW CREATION.
It is hard to communicate the emphasis, but consider it as if we mumble that we were blind and then SHOUT that we can see. The NEW CREATION is the reality, and the old broken person was just the shadow. The people who would not follow Jesus were those who embraced the lie of their current reality, who could not imagine that Jesus could make them truly new (the rich young ruler, the Pharisees, etc.). Don’t believe Satan’s lie that you ARE the sinner, the broken, the defeated. That is not who you ARE. You ARE who Jesus, in his mercy, makes you.
Those things have passed away, and BEHOLD he makes all things new.
Does that make sense?