Jesus wanted his friends to know the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven in their lives, and he wants the same for you and me. When the rich young man walked away, he left behind what Jesus offers us all at the cross: Eternal Life. But don't mistake what eternal life is; it does not only mean some future life in a far of place that we call heaven. Eternal life actually means life without beginning or end, that which has always been. Whether the rich young man meant 'how do I get to heaven' I'm not sure, but what Jesus offered him was real eternal life, abundant life, kingdom of heaven life here on earth as it is, always was and always will be in heaven. Jesus was offering his life and the man passed it up for trinkets and treasure, fame and fortune. From the disciples perspective, they surely thought Jesus would want this guy on the team: he's got money, power, respect, authority and from his own perspective had followed the rules pretty well. Seems like an upstanding guy, sign him up for team eternal life. Unfortunately, it's harder to follow Jesus than following the rules and being popular because living as citizens of the Kingdom means most everything is backwards to the kingdom of the world.
Here's what the disciples (and 1st century Jewish people in general) had in mind; the Messiah is coming to overthrow the Romans, re-establish Israel as God's chosen representatives on earth, and live under the rule of their new king, milk and honey for everyone. This is likely the motivation for the disciples walking away from their life in order to follow Jesus. Somewhere in the back of their mind (or right in the front of there mind in some cases) they thought, if we stick with this guy who is obviously the messiah, we're going to have it good. In fact, James and John are very upfront about what they think. Jesus wanted to be sure that his friends didn't miss the point on this one. He wanted them to know that Eternal life and daily life was going to be one and the same and look different for them from what they had in mind. He lays the future on them again, and it isn't pretty. He tells them what's about to go down when they get to Jerusalem; they're not on their way to kick out the government, they're not on their way to take over the city, they're not on their way to worldly power and influence. They are on their way to see their fearless leader, the messiah, lay down his life, to be betrayed by cream of the crop of his own people, turned over to the enemy, beaten, mocked and killed. And then something incredible, raised from the dead. If they were astonished by Jesus not inviting Mr. Rich on the team unless he gave up being Mr. Rich, this little tidbit that we call the Gospel, surely did not sound like good news to them at the time. From a worldly perspective it looks like Jesus is saying 'I'm going to Jerusalem to flush this whole movement down the toilet.'
James and John, however, are still thinking... well I'm not sure what they're thinking. But they're still looking for the place of honor. Maybe they thought, if this dude comes back from the dead nothing can stop him, the priests, the lawyers, the Romans, he'll be like some kind of super king, everyone will listen to him, so lets make sure we're on his right and left. Everyone gets in a tizzy because everyone wants to feel important and have influence. And Jesus sets them straight, cause that's what he does.
'first of all, you have no idea what you're asking for, you're going to get what's coming to me, but it's up to our father in heaven how that plays out. get ready for it. Secondly, and most importantly, if you'd been listening these past three years we've been hanging out you'd see that the world for you guys is about to work differently than it does right now. the world uses it's power and influence to hold people down, to control them, but it's not like that for you guys. If you want to have influence and power and life in my kingdom you've got to serve people, even the ones you don't like. If you want to be important you've got to be a slave. If you want to live, you'll have to be willing to lay down your life for someone else to have life.'
Then Jesus shows them, because it seems that the disciples at times were not good listeners and had a hard time figuring out what he was talking about. And because the Kingdom of Heaven is about action not ideas.
So they're walking along and this guy starts shouting, "son of David, have mercy on me". The crowd is annoyed because this bottom of the barrel, unimportant scourge of society is interrupting rudely with his shouting. Dude, here's a nickel, be quiet. And Jesus says, here's what I mean boys, get ready. He calls Blind Bartimaeus over, son of Timaeus, the "highly prized one". I bet this kid was teased his whole life, he didn't even have a real name, he didn't even have a real identity. Not Bob son of Timaeus, just son of Timaeus. I can hear the bullies now, Hey there 'highly prized one', how many fingers am I holding up' He was the least important kid on the block, his dignity was stripped away, his position in life was set, beggar, his identity was secure, that blind guy.
But not to Jesus. To Jesus he was the highly prized one. Earlier he let the one who was highly prized in the world just walk away; the one with money and prestige and power walked away. Jesus didn't want to send him away, he offered him eternal life in the kingdom, he offers it to everyone, but the he could here Jesus' call over the call of his riches. So Jesus called the one who'd never been shown favor to come and talk to him. The son of David heard Barimaeus's call for mercy and responded; the kingdom of heaven is about action. This man who'd worn a cloak to signify his status as a nobody and cover the shame of his brokenness threw it off and went to Jesus. He revealed to the entire crowd that he was broken and maimed and crippled by the afllictions of sin in the world and in that moment was willing to do whatever it takes to get to his rescuer, to experience the mercy of the kingdom.
"What do you want me to do for you Bart" Jesus says.
"I want to regain my sight, to look up to my Father, your Father." This was more than a request for physical healing, though it was that too. This was a plea for soul healing. The word used for sight is the same word Jesus used when he looked up to heaven to bless the food in feeding the five thousand. Jesus on that hill wanted to see the power and mercy of the kingdom of heaven poured out on those people who were physically hungry and spiritually hungry, hungry enough to sit out in the wilderness and listen to Jesus talk about the Kingdom without any food. Jesus knew that the kingdom was about action not ideas. If they walked away in the wilderness after hearing about the kingdom but not experiencing it, they would walk away for good. Blind Bart needed more than to hear that God loved him (although he probably hadn't heard that much except maybe from his mother), he needed to see that the spiritual realities of the kingdom are real; action not ideas. Jesus stopped in the crowd and took time out of his day to respond to a man that everyone else was telling to be quiet, he showed him mercy, he showed him love. He served this unimportant nobody who'd never been given the time of day by anyone to show everyone in the crowd that everyone is important, not because of their power or influence or ability, but because they had the same father in Heaven who loves them. Bart got his request, his sight was restored, physically and spiritually. He got to lift his head, throw off his shame, leave behind the brokenness that had held him captive his entire life and see the reality of the kingdom of heaven. The disciples learned a very important lesson that day. If you want to be important in Jesus kingdom you have to look past what the world holds as valuable and see what God sees as valuable: all people being restored, given their dignity back, experiencing God's love through the mercy of people who've experienced God's love and mercy.
The Kingdom of Heaven is for real and we don't have to be dead to see it, we have been forgiven and given new life to see it.
"But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:22-23).
Throw off your cloak - Jesus already knows what's under there anyway - and come to him, he'll give you new sight to see that your father in Heaven loves you and the Kingdom is in action all around you and you get to be the one who serves people to show that the mercy and love in Kingdom of Heaven is real. Don't wait to open that free gift he's offering and don't wait to give that gift to someone else.