Encounters: I can see clearly. Mark 10 and Mark 8. Jane Coates’ “first person” take on two sight miracles

Bartimaeus of Jericho. I live in Jericho. I spend my days sitting by the roadside, unable to work or provide for myself. It is lonely by the roadside, but I have learned to listen carefully, to read the mood of passers-by and to know if they will help or ignore the blind man begging at their feet. I have learned to listen to the crowds, to the children with their games, to the mothers scolding or singing to their children. I have also heard tales of the Teacher Jesus, the Jesus of Nazareth who people called the son of David and who they hope will be the One to save Israel. I will never forget the day it happened. On that day there would be a breakthrough in my life that I could never have thought possible. Let me tell you how it happened. I was begging by the roadside as usual when I heard the noise of a very large crowd. Someone shouted across to me that it was Jesus of Nazareth and His followers on their way out of the city. So, I started to shout out for help. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” I got louder and louder. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd tried to shut me up. They told me to stop, to leave the roadside. They would have kicked me into silence if they could have. But I shouted even more and called out even more loudly. I would not be silenced. I would not be rebuked or held back. He had such a gentle voice. I heard Him say “Call him.” He had heard my cries and called for me. I was helped up to my feet and throwing off my cloak I was directed into the presence of Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” He asked. My words were brief. “Rabbi, I want to see.” He simply said, “Go, your faith has saved you.” It was instant, dramatic, life changing. I saw the crowd. I saw the face of Jesus, the Teacher, the One who had healed me and at that moment I made the decision to leave everything and to follow Him. The man of Bethsaida. I live in Bethsaida. One thing that you should know about me is that I am blind and so I depend on others to lead and to help. One day, news spread in the town, with great excitement, that Jesus, the healer was travelling through with His disciples. He had been this way before and so His reputation had gone before Him. The news was now out there and could not be silenced. My friends had heard of this Jesus and were determined to get me to Him. “Surely He will heal you” they said, “as He has healed others”. So, they almost dragged me out of my home, leading me hurriedly to the Healer. They brought me before Him and pleaded with Him, begged Him, urging Him to consider my situation and to show mercy and to heal. What happened next was strange beyond words. The Healer gently took hold of my arm and carefully led me out of the town to a quiet place, away from prying eyes. I am used to this kind of help, but His hand, His touch was different- gentle, sensitive, loving. What happened next was even stranger, almost bizarre and totally unexpected- a shock really. I was aware of Him spitting on my eyes and gently touching them. Then He asked me “do you see anything?” Things at first seemed to be blurred, unclear, hazy and indistinct. Once again, He touched my eyes and as I looked intently into the far distance I could see clearly, perfectly and the realization of what had just happened began to dawn on me. I could see men. I could see clearly. And I could see Jesus. But the strangeness continued as He told me not to go straight back to town. “Do not enter the village,” He said. I believe that He did not want me to immediately broadcast what had just happened to me. But surely within days the news would spread? How could I keep this quiet? Thoughts It was after this event that Jesus took His disciples to one side and asked them some very significant and searching questions. “Who do people say I am?” and then “Who do you say I am?” Jesus. I believe that He was asking them to deeply consider what kind of Christ they thought Him to be. What was their understanding of Jesus as Saviour or Messiah, and could they understand the nature of the suffering that He would encounter? Often, I lose sight of Jesus. I don’t have my eyes fixed on Him. Quite often my vision is blurred, out of focus or just short sighted. Like the man of Bethsaida, I need to look intently, carefully and to keep looking. I need to see Jesus for who He is and to keep Him in my sights. The Message version puts it this way. “The man looked hard and realized that he had recovered perfect sight, saw everything in bright, twenty-twenty focus”. v 26 May we have Jesus in twenty-twenty focus and follow Him. Jane Coates

Encounters, the Good Samaritan, Luke 10. Another of Jane Coates’ superbly crafted Monday morning thoughts

Perhaps I was foolish for being a solitary traveller on that mountain road, but my journey was urgent. The attack, when it happened was brutal, shocking and I lost everything that I had including my clothing. I was left for dead with no means of identification, little chance of discovery or help. Although barely conscious I was aware of two people who had passed on the road without stopping. I was frightened for my life, fearing that it would end here, battered, abandoned and alone. But then my rescue came and from someone who would be regarded as my enemy, the ‘other’, the outcast, the infidel, the foreigner and the despised one. It was life-saving compassion. He had no regard for my ‘otherness’, my tribe, status, religious connection or observance. He dealt with my wounds and made plans for my care. The Injured 

When I saw the tangled mess of flesh and blood how could I turn away and not stop to help? Here was a desperate man struggling with injuries that could cause his death. His identity, status, racial group became irrelevant. At that point, he became my neighbour, my family, my brother – a relationship not defined by any normal boundaries – but by his sheer need. I had the means to help him. The risk to my own life on that road was hopefully small. I knew the road, the Inn and I had the means to help. The Inn keeper knew that I am a man of my word and that I would be good for the money when I next returned. My heart stirred and action followedThe Rescuer 


The Samaritan offered a costly compassion. He could have acted out of fear and so taken no action but to move along, considering his own safety. But he did not act out of fear. He acted out of compassion for ‘the other’. It was scary, involved physical effort and energy, was financially costly, took initiative, planning, promises and assurances. 

“Who is my neighbour?” My neighbour may be one to whom I would least expect to be a neighbour. Jesus changed the question round completely to “what does a neighbour do?” Jesus showed a very clear picture of what a neighbour does. His final words are “Go and do likewise” further reinforcing the message “Do this and you will live”. May we never act out of fear but always out of love. 

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9 v 36 

Pray Our Afghan neighbours are experiencing acute distress and terror. Afghan Christians are vulnerable and fleeing to the hills to hide as escape routes out of Afghanistan are closed to them. There is the constant fear of being reported to the Taliban. Women, and girls over the age of twelve, avoid going out on to the streets. Those who worked for NATO and western countries may be left behind as the August 31 deadline approaches and evacuation concludes. Families who are re-settled in the west face dramatic adjustments to their circumstances, culture and language. We pray for compassion and practical care for those in Afghanistan and those who are re-settled in a new life in western countries. 

Jane Coates – Monday 30th August

Encounters: The alabaster jar, Luke 7v 36-50

The alabaster jar has been sitting on the shelf for as long as I can remember. Just sitting there, unopened, gathering the dust of years. I can barely look at it. The jar is meant to be so full of promise – a gift from a parent to a child to be given to the new husband and broken at his feet as an act of commitment, honour and devotion. But I have no need of such a gift or promise. There is no one who would consider me as a bride. My hopes are unfulfilled, wasted, as the jar sits there accusing me, as I have given myself to so many different men. I have lost count of the number of men who have used and abused me. I do not know their names and I am now nameless and ashamed, my entitlement to marriage gone. But the jar of precious perfume, the oil that should be poured out as an act of extravagant love, sits there still.  

I heard that a new teacher had arrived in town. It was said that He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners, that He loved the un-loveable, that He touched the untouchable, that He could heal and that He could forgive sin. My sin lays heavily upon me and burdens my soul and my very being. The weight of it is crushing me. Could this teacher lift the weight of my guilt and sin and set me free? I was no longer afraid of those who judged, accused, tormented, hurt and spat at me in the street. I would walk past them and their taunts and find this Jesus. I would pass their doors and windows and seek the mercy of the One who says that He can forgive and redeem. 

But how can I enter the house of the Pharisee? I have met with so much rejection that it is an old friend to me. so, I will not knock at the door to be turned away. I have decided. I will take my precious jar, the one thing that I have and enter secretly, quietly, unnoticed. My one thing I will give to Him, pouring out the precious oil from the jar, as my act of love. I am nothing. So, I entered the room secretly, hiding my face and settled at the feet of the prophet, the One on whom all my hopes were laid as He reclined at table. My heart was bursting with emotion – my overwhelming need, my longing for forgiveness and relief, my love and devotion for the one who could turn my life around. And so, my scarf falls away and as my tears fall freely, I wash His feet, dry them with my hair and pour out the precious perfume on His feet. The room is filled with the perfume but also the angry silence of the onlookers and the Pharisee. He says nothing. He does nothing. They are all stunned by the sight before them. 

The horrified silence is broken by the gentle words of the teacher Himself. “Simon, I have something to say to you”. A story of forgiveness followed, a story of two debtors, one who owed little and one who owed a great deal. Both were relieved of their debt and released. Then a gentle rebuke to the Pharisee. “You gave me no warm greeting, water for my feet, or oil for my head and yet this woman has not failed to wash and kiss my feet and anoint them with oil.” He knew me. He had seen my need and my love, my silent pleading and repentance and gave His forgiveness and His peace. I will remember His words until my dying day: “Your sins are forgiven.” “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” Those words are written on my heart. 

My precious alabaster jar with its perfume is gone – but so is my sin. 

The Pharisee had seen my lifestyle, my notoriety and my many sins. He had not seen me. The teacher had seen my heart, my sorrow, my desperate need for change and my longing for a new way of love. He had found me. I left that place in peace. 

Jane Coates. 16 August 2021

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