Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Beg to Differ

Beg to Differ

By Brenda Black

Vulgar phrases spewed from her mouth as she taunted all who happened down her Brazilian sidewalk. Just as horrifying were her massive deformities that indicated why the verbal assaults from her were self-empowering. The stranger's mouth took the place of arms, hands, legs, feet -- even body. She was a mere stump with a cursing head.

I was a college co-ed on a missions trip. And on the streets of Belem I passed the partial woman with piercing eyes and forked tongue. On every corner beggars pursued me. They graveled and groped or waited to snatch my purse. Our host missionary families warned us and protected our group with wariness and knowledge. But nothing could have prepared me for the shocking site of that pitiful woman, sold into slavery as a beggar and placed out on the street to stare helplessly up at uncaring people who passed her day after day.

The bucket that collected dropping change matched her entire body for size and sat inches from her chest, yet forever out of reach to a limbless, sad life. She did not beg for mercy. She did not endear merciful people. Instead she insulted and cursed them, driving away anyone who might lovingly assist.

Contrary to this woman, a blind man in Jericho found a better way to get the right kind of attention. He was a beggar as well.

“As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus...was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'

“Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'

“Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.'

“So they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you.'

“Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked him.

“The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see.'

“'Go,' said Jesus, 'your faith has healed you.' Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:46-52)

While the Brazilian woman was merely crude, Bartimaeus was desperately bold and his faith was noted by Christ. The fact that the blind man called Jesus “Son of David,” demonstrated his knowledge of Jesus as the promised Messiah. His begging was a confession of belief. And he dared to proclaim in the midst of a large crowd who had disregarded him and presently rebuked him. Yet he “shouted all the more!”

Maybe the wide-eyed woman daily watched feet glide past her without promise and their indifference ultimately smashed her hope. But blind had its benefits for old Bartimaeus. Concern for the opinion of others vanquished when he sensed help and hope was near. Blindness closed his eyes to pride and shielded him from the impossibilities. As a result, he jumped to his feet when Jesus called him!

If the destitute woman stationed on hard concrete had a hard heart, maybe it was because she never cried out to the One who could soften it. James 4:2 says, “You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.”

Bart, on the other hand, got specific. He cried out and spelled out exactly what he desired of the Christ – he wanted to see! And Jesus answered his plea.

The haunting sight of that vile woman swearing at well-intending folks who would drop a coin into her pail still crosses my mind. She did not smile nor did she thank them. She just kept swearing. Are we as ungrateful when people try to help? Are we as prideful when we have nothing to offer but our heart and mind and refuse to yield them to Christ? The blind beggar who met Jesus received sight for his eyes and salve for his soul because he surrendered. And he expressed deep gratitude by following the Savior.

The difference between the beggars is belief. “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”

The difference between the beggars is hope. “The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.”

The difference between the beggars is eternity. “When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun.” (Amazing Grace, John Newton, 1831, public domain)

Believers are all beggars saved by grace. We once were lost, now we're found; we were blind, but now we see.

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