I am still thinking about how Jesus treated Bartimaeus in Mark 10. We must learn to treat people the way Jesus treated this blind beggar if we want to impact our world. Jesus was able to hear the plea of a helpless, desperate man even though he was surrounded by his groupies. The roar of the adoring crowd did not drown out the cries of the needy. He had the burden of a violent death on a cross ahead of him but it did not prevent him from responding to the plight of the desperate. We must train our ears to hear, and our eyes to see, the needs of those near us — in spite of the distractions around us.
To be honest I have to admit that being surrounded by a crowd is often enough to make me oblivious to the needs of others. Crowds can be distracting. Crowds have a way of keeping us focused on ourselves, particularly if you are a leader. One day they’re telling you how wonderful you are, and you get intoxicated by their praise. You start thinking, “You know what? They’re right. What a good bunch of people I have around me. These folks are all I need.” Then the next day they’re telling you how inadequate you are, and you get wrapped up in self-doubt and you start to think, “Hmmm, maybe they’re right.” Either way, you stay focused on yourself, not on others. At least that is my experience.
We must learn not to listen to the crowd — when they cheer us or when they jeer us. An important verse in this regard to remember is found in the gospel of John 2:23-25: “Because of the miraculous signs he did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many people were convinced that he was indeed the Messiah. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew what people were really like. No one needed to tell him about human nature.”
Jesus didn’t allow the crowd to distract Him. Neither did He allow the burdens of His mission or the certainty of His impending death prevent Him from hearing the cries of the needy. This is another way in which we would do well to follow the example of Jesus.
It’s not easy. We all carry burdens. We all have problems. But if we are to follow Jesus’ example we have to learn to set aside our needs and our worries so we can attend to the needs of others. It’s tough to do – when you’re struggling with a financial situation, or a health crisis, or tension at home — and people keep coming to you for help. There are times when you want to say, “Back off! Leave me alone. I’ve got problems of my own to deal with.”
I used to live in a small town in North West Georgia, the kind where everyone knows everyone. I was at the grocery store one morning, in the meat department, waiting in line to buy some fresh ground beef. One of the doctors in the community was in front of me. The woman behind the counter greeted him with, “Good morning, Doctor. I’m glad you’re here. I’ve got a question. There’s this bump on the roof of my mouth — can you tell me what it is?” She then tilted her head back and opened wide so he could get a good look. He very politely said, “It looks like a [some kind of medical term]. I can give you something for it if you drop by the office.”
One thing I know about doctors is that they don’t like to diagnose patients over the meat counter at the grocery store. Something else I knew about this doctor, since Adairsville was a really small town, is that he had recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He no doubt had a lot on his mind that day, and yet he very graciously responded to this woman’s request. I was impressed. Even though he was facing a crisis, even though she had broken protocol, he treated her with kindness. That’s what doctors have to do sometimes.
An others-oriented lifestyle requires that we never lose sight of our mission — in spite of success or setbacks, in spite of criticism or praise, in spite of our problems or our fears — like Jesus, we can’t allow anything to drown out the cries of those we are called to serve.
Evaluate yourself honestly. Have you allowed the burdens of the day and the noise of the crowd to drown out the cries of those in need? I hope your evaluation is prettier than mine. Thank God Jesus has more time for me than I have for others!