The reading was Mark 10:46-52 -
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
- - - - -Props for "multi-sensory" demonstration: lemon slices, small teddy bear, ticking timepiece (I used a wind-up stopwatch), mint candy, and cloth or a bandanna to make a blindfold. Keep props hidden until later.
[Suggestions and comments are in brackets - I like to ask the children a lot of questions in my talks!]
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Did you know that if a person looses one of these senses, their other senses get heightened - their other senses work even better? Someone who's blind will use their senses of smell, touch, hearing and taste to understand and make use of their environment. We're going to have a little multi-sensory demonstration right now. I need a volunteer, someone who doesn't mind putting on a blindfold... [procure a willing volunteer. After volunteer is blindfolded, uncover the props for the others to see, but tell them not to say what it is they see! Then, one-by-one, give the props to the volunteer to work out what the object is. Lots of applause for right answers!]
To 'see' usually means to be able to see things with our eyes. But how about when we're listening to someone describe something, and we say to them 'I see what you mean', or 'I hear what you're saying' - what we're really saying then is, 'I understand', or 'that makes sense'. See what I mean?
Let's get into the bible reading then - all of this does relate to the reading, trust me!
Does anyone remember where the scene of the reading takes place? It was mentioned at the very beginning of the reading, so you had to have been paying attention! [Jericho] And does anyone remember what happened long before this in Jericho? Perhaps some of the grown-ups remember? [Joshua, the walls came tumbling down, God delivered Jericho to the Israelites etc. It became a place of honour for the Israelites] Well, remember the main character of our bible reading? [Bartimaeus]
The name 'Bartimaeus' means 'son of honour'. But it seems at the beginning of the story that Bartimaeus didn't have much honour at all, because, what was he doing? [sitting at the side of the road begging] Why do you think he was begging? [blind, no job, poor] So he was really 'down-and-out' - and when you're really down, it can be hard to have faith in anything or anyone.
But Bartimaeus was able to sense and understand who Jesus was, even though he didn't have all five senses. As Jesus approached, Bartimaeus shouts out to him: 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'
All the other people around Jesus shouted back at Bartimaeus to be quiet! Why do you think they did that? They didn't think Bartimaeus had any right to speak to Jesus. They felt ashamed of Bartimaeus. Have any of you ever been told to 'be quiet'? [this question drew laughs from the parents!] What do you do when you're told to 'be quiet'? Well I'll tell you what, it made Bartimaeus shout even louder! 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'
And that's when Bartimaeus is given the greatest honour, as Jesus calls Bartimaeus to come to him, and asks him' what do you want me to do for you?' Here's another question: If Jesus asked you right now, 'What do you want me to do for you?', what would your answer be? [at this point one of the group leader's pointed out one of her Rainbows and said 'she has a good one' - I asked the little 6-year-old what it was, and she said 'For Jesus to come into my heart'! - couldn't have had a better answer than that!]
What did Bartimaeus want from Jesus? Bartimaeus wanted to see again. He asked Jesus to help him. Even though Bartimaeus was blind, he could still 'see' that Jesus was the Messiah. He put his faith in Jesus, and Jesus gave him back his sight. Then Jesus said 'Go. Your faith has saved you'.
At the end of the story, Bartimaeus is no longer sitting in the dust begging. Now, he is following Jesus on 'the way'. The early Christians were called 'Followers of the Way'. Bartimaeus, the 'son of Timaeus', the 'son of honour', began to follow Jesus 'the Son of David', the 'Son of God'. Bartimaeus became a follower of the Lord, the Saviour of the world. And that was the beginning of a whole new life for Bartimaeus. And when we trust in Jesus with our whole heart, we will 'see' that it's the beginning of a new life for us, too.
Prayer at the end: Jesus, we thank you for the story of Bartimaeus and how his faith saved him. Thank you for his example of following you. May our faith continue to grow so that we can always believe and trust in you, so that we can see and understand better the meaning and purpose that you have for our life. Amen.
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I received a lot of positive feedback after this talk, and it was especially encouraging when a Dad who doesn't usually attend said that it was really good, and that he noticed it held the children's attention from beginning to end. I love working with children - especially some of the answers they give!