WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE?
A sermon on Mark 10:46-52
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
October 24, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
So throwing off his cloak, he [i.e., Bartimaeus] sprang up and came to Jesus…He regained his sight and
followed him on the way. Mark 10:50, 52b
For most of my life, I have been a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I first remember encountering Holmes
in an anthology of assorted works for young people when I was in elementary school. The story in the
book was “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” That piqued my interest and I went on to seek out and
read all the rest of the novellas and short stories within a short amount of time. And I am still a fan…
As I was preparing this sermon this week, I was reminded of one of those Sherlock Holmes
stories. It is called “The Man with the Twisted Lip.” Like today’s text from Mark, it too is a story about a
beggar. And like Mark, there are some surprising aspects in the story. Maybe you remember reading it
as well. Let me summarize the story for you…
The story centers around the mysterious disappearance of a man named Neville St. Clair. He was
an affable, well-to-do man who lived on the outskirts of London. Every morning he would go into the
city and he would return by suppertime. He was described as a good man, an affectionate husband and
father, and one who was popular with all who knew him. No one knew exactly what kind of business he
was in, but it allowed him and his family to live comfortably.
One morning he went into the city as usual, but then he did not return for days afterward. His
concerned wife called in Holmes and Watson to solve the case. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a master
story-teller and the tale is one with a lot of twists and turns. In the interest of brevity, I’ll briefly
summarize the story…
Mr. St. Clair really had no business interests in London. The truth of the matter that he was a
professional beggar. He would go down into one of the rougher sections of London, near where there
were an abundance of opium dens. There he would use makeup to turn himself into a cripple named
Hugh Boone. Hugh was a filthy sight with a hideous scar on his face that twisted his lip in the most
grotesque fashion. He would then put on some rags and spend the day begging. Then, at the end of the
day, he would clean himself up and return to home and family.
But on one particular day, the beggar got mixed up in some business that caused him to be
falsely accused of a murder. Eventually everything turned out okay in the end. Holmes and Watson
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saved the day when Holmes discovered that Hugh Boone and Neville St. Clair were one and the same
It seems that, earlier in his life, Mr. St. Clair had been a newspaper reporter who was assigned to
do a story about the beggars in London. As part of his research for his story, he decided to play the part
of a beggar himself to get the inside scoop. As it turned out, he discovered that beggars could bring in an
astonishing amount of money each day. So not long afterward, he decided to don the disguise of Hugh
Boone on a daily basis and make his living as a beggar. A strange story, isn’t it?…and a most enjoyable
In today’s scripture text, we are introduced to a beggar named Bartimaeus. But unlike the
character in the Sherlock Holmes story, Bartimaeus is not a beggar out of his own choice. He has been
reduced to begging because he is blind. And he is a pitiable sight. But as he sits by the side of the road,
Jesus comes by. And as a result of his encounter with the Savior, he is healed…and his life is forever
This story in the book of Mark is unique for several reasons. First off, it is the only miracle story
in Mark where the recipient of the miracle is named. As noted before, the blind beggar’s name is
Bartimaeus. The name Bartimaeus means “son of Timmai.” That is more significant than it appears to be
at first glance.
The name “Timai” is derived from a much older Chaldean word taw-may’. Taw-may’ is variously
translated in the Old Testament as “unclean” or “polluted.” So Bartimaeus’ name actually means “Son of
the Unclean.” So what made him “unclean?” Good question…
Well, to start off with, the simple fact that he was blind made him unclean. The Old Testament
law declared that a blind person could not enter the Temple to worship because they were considered
to be ritually unclean. Leviticus 21 says “No one who has a blemish shall draw near [to God in the
Tabernacle], one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long or one who
has a broken foot or hand or a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching
disease or scabs…”
Secondly, he was poor. In First Century Jewish thinking, being poor was a sign of God’s
displeasure with you. If you were right with God, so the thinking went, then God would make you
successful and God would shower you with material wealth. Bartimaeus was obviously not a rich man.
He had been reduced to begging on the streets. He was poor and so, in the eyes of everyone, God was
And so look what happens: Bartimaeus—“the Son of the Unclean”—calls out to Jesus by calling
him “The Son of David.” Not once, but twice, in verse 47 and again in verse 48. Everybody knew what
1 www.sherlock-holmes.es/stories/pdf/a4/advs.pdf (Accessed October 21, 2021)
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that meant. The “Son of David” was a term that was used to designate the Messiah, God’s Son. It is an
irony not to be missed…
What a contrast—the Son of the Unclean meets God’s Chosen One! And yet, Jesus heard the cry
of the unclean beggar, had compassion on him, and healed him. The lesson is obvious, isn’t it? No one is
outside the realm of God’s healing power. Jesus was not put off by this unclean beggar. Not at all.
Instead of shunning him like everyone else, Jesus granted him healing…The love of God is just that big
and just that broad so that all may be made clean…
A second thing that is unique about this passage in Mark: this is the only time in the book of
Mark that a person who received healing actually followed Jesus. The last verse of the passage tells us
that, immediately after regaining his sight, Bartimaeus “followed Jesus on the way.”
Jesus, the disciples, and the crowd that followed them were on their way to Jerusalem. In fact,
the next thing that we read in Mark is the story of Palm Sunday.
One wonders what happened to Bartimaeus in the days that followed his miraculous healing.
Did he join in with the others when they sang and chanted “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father
David” when they entered Jerusalem? Did he join in the celebration? Did he follow Jesus along with the
rest of the disciples on that fateful week? With his newfound sight, did he see Jesus clearing out the
Temple of the moneychangers? Did he see and hear Jesus Teaching in the Temple later that week? Did
he see and hear the crowd scream for Jesus to be crucified? After being in darkness for so long, did
those eyes well up in tears as he witnessed the terrible spectacle of our Lord dying a hideous, gruesome,
bloody death on the cross? One can only imagine what he might have seen…and what he might have
felt, witnessing the last few days of Jesus earthly life…
In verse 50 of Mark 10, we are told that Bartimaeus heard Jesus calling out to him. And in
response, Mark tells us that he jumped up, and came to Jesus. Mark alone includes one detail that none
of the other gospel writers include. Mark tells us that he “threw off his cloak.” He left his cloak behind
by the side of the road. This points us to an important truth of the life of the Spirit that I want us to
consider during the remaining time that we have together.
This is the main thing that I hope you carry away from today’s sermon. Bartimaeus had to leave
his cloak behind in order to follow Jesus. Just like him, following Jesus also means that we will need to
leave some things behind as well…
In my experience, this is a truth that we as Baptist Christians have not always grasped. Or at
least we have not grasped it very well. We do a pretty good job of extending an invitation to those who
do not know Jesus by talking about how “Jesus died for all.” We love to sing that you can come to Jesus
just as you are. You do not have “clean up” in order to meet Jesus.
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[Side bar here: Years ago, I was flipping through the pages of a book of solos for church services
when I stumbled upon a song title that caught me by surprise. The song was called “Jesus Doesn’t
Care.”(!) I thought to myself, “What??!!” After I got over my initial shock, I read through the words. The
point of the song was that Jesus doesn’t care where you’ve been…Jesus doesn’t care what you’ve
done…Jesus doesn’t care how far away from God you have wandered. He still wants you to come to him.
After reading the text, I thought, “OK…Well, that makes sense”…]
Anyway, when you come to Jesus, it is not necessary to become “respectable” first—as if any of
us could ever become worthy of his gift of salvation by our own efforts. I am sure that you all remember
singing this hymn in church:
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
All of what the hymn says is true. 100%, absolutely true. You do not have to straighten out your
life before you come to Jesus. Everyone has to come to Jesus has come just as they are. The main reason
that you do not have to straighten your life out first is very simple. It is because you can’t. None of us
can ever clean up enough to be worthy of God’s gift of salvation. None of us will ever be good enough
on our own. None of us are pure enough. None of us are spiritual enough. The scriptures tell us that “All
have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That includes me. And that includes you.
But here’s the thing—once we become a follower of Jesus, God does not want us to stay the
way we used to be. He desires us to change. One beloved hymn that is a favorite of many Christians
describes meeting Christ in this way:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see. 2
But after we decide to follow Jesus, God does not desire that we stay “wretches.” No. God
wants us to leave our old ways of living behind. He wants us to give space in our lives for the workings of
his indwelling Holy Spirit. God wants to transform us into more of who he has created us to be. 2
Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has
come!” Just like Bartimaeus had to cast off his old cloak in order to meet and follow Jesus, so we too
must cast off our old manner of life…our old way of thinking…our old ways of acting and doing in order
to be open to the leading of God’s spirit in our lives. It is an ongoing, continual process that only ceases
when we reach the other side of glory…
“Just as I Am” by Charlotte Elliot and “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. Hymns are in the public domain.
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The sermon closes this morning by a consideration of the question posed in its title: “What have
you got to lose?” All of us have something in our lives that we need to “lose”—that is, something that is
holding us back from being all that God created us to be. What is it that you need to lose in your life?
Is it a grudge that you have been harboring that you refuse to let go?
Is it a sense of self-satisfaction that leads you into spiritual complacency—the mind-set that tells
you that you’re really okay just as you are right now…and that you don’t really have any room in
your life to grow spiritually?
Is it a hardness in your heart that refuses to let you forgive someone else’s faults and failings?
Is it a sense of pride and accomplishment that leads you to look down on others?
Is it a lack of generosity of spirit—an unconcern for those who are struggling in their lives?
Is it a negative habit…or a tendency to gossip…or a critical spirit…or arrogance…or a lack of
discipline that keeps you from taking your spiritual life to the next level?
I cannot tell you what it is for you. But I am convinced that each of us has something that is
holding us back from progressing in the life of the Spirit as much as God wants us to. If you take a
moment to reflect where you are in your life, it will surely become apparent to you. Hebrews 12:1-2
encourages us to “Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…and let us fix
our eyes on Jesus…” There are things that are hindering us in the life of the Spirit and entangling us so
that we are not able to progress as we should. And if for some reason you cannot see what is hindering
you, the Lord knows what it is. And he will be faithful to reveal it to you. You only have to ask him in
“What have you got to lose?” to further progress in the life of the Spirit? Whatever it is that is
holding you back, let it go. Leave it by the side of the road alongside Bartimaeus’ cloak. And having done
that, get up and follow Jesus even more closely than you ever have before…