Bartimaeus, Part I


Whether by the misdeeds of his parents or by some infantile sin of his own, the despite of Yahweh rested upon the beggar’s life. His very presence in the city gates of Jericho was a daily reminder to every passerby of God’s relentless displeasure with sin. So that others would not stray, Elohim had created Bartimaeus blind.

Or so he had always been told.

The son of Thimaeus was under the wrath of God, the rabbis said, and was therefore undeserving of their pity, much less the simple dignity afforded to any bearer of the imago dei. In the view of the sighted, Bartimaeus was the curse of Eden made flesh – a filthy, sightless corpse living out his cosmic death sentence in view of the world.

Because of this false perception, a passer-by was more likely to leave spittle in the beggar’s sightless eye than a farthing in his rusted coffer. Both practically and theologically, no employer would ever see fit to furnish him with a job. After all, what task could he do that a sighted man could not do better? And even if a kind-hearted soul would be so moved with compassion as to help the beggar at the gates, why would he risk bringing the curse of God upon himself, his family, and his livelihood? It was better to ignore Bartimaeus, and in so doing, reap the favor of God by abusing the one He seemed to despise.

Bartimaeus had been made to understand the uncleanness of his spiritual estate, but because his eyes had been dimmed since birth, he possessed no inclination that he was so visibly repulsive to all who looked upon him. His hunger he understood, but satisfaction was a concept that he could not even begin to comprehend. Abject humiliation he knew, but not compassion or friendship. To be certain, Bartimaeus realized the wretchedness of his existence, but with nothing good with which to compare it, his devastating handicap had left him broken and destroyed, filled with an unarticulated longing for the most basic human needs.

And so it was, into the never-ending midnight of a desperate man, Jesus came. Without human invitation, the Nazarene marched steadfastly toward Golgotha, and His journey took him through the streets of Jericho. But on the way to His destiny, there was one final stop to be made. This stop would serve a grand purpose – not only in the life of the beggar whose life He would change forever, but on the cosmic scale of God’s eternal glory. So that the world might know who Jesus was, His Father would orchestrate an encounter with a man born blind…

Let Them Give Glory Unto the Lord, and Declare His Praise in the Islands!

This is a missions letter that I am sending out to family and friends. Please read it and commit to pray for us! And if you are able, would you also pray about supporting us financially in whatever way that you can?

“Sing unto the LORD a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth, Ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles and the inhabitants thereof… Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare His praise in the islands.” ( Isaiah 42:10-12)

Dear Friends and Family,

In Isaiah 42, the prophet envisions a world transformed by the power of the coming Messiah.  With sweeping language, he speaks of every corner of the earth singing forth the praises of God – from the prison house to the mountain’s peaks, from the barren wilderness to the farthest reaches of the sea. Whenever I read this passage, it always strikes me that Isaiah would make specific mention of the islands when speaking of his vision of the earth. Having lived his entire life in the courts of Judah, the idea of these floating kingdoms doubtless stirred up images of far-off lands and exotic places in his imaginative mind. Even today, with all of our advancement in technology and travel, the idea of God’s name being extolled among the islands of the sea still holds a uniquely majestic sense of wonder.

Almost 800 years after Isaiah laid pen to parchment to record his vision, the object of his prophecy broke into the history of the world. Standing upon a mountain just east of Jerusalem, the Messiah of which Isaiah had spoken uttered his Great Command to the church: “Ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).” I can only wonder that the apostles heard Christ’s command and were drawn in their hearts to the words of Isaiah. The long awaited Messiah had finally come, not yet as the Victor of the world but as the Conqueror of sin and death.  And now, the Messiah Who had died and lived again was sending them out as the heralds of His majestic glory and saving grace.

It is with this command in mind that my family and I will be embarking on a unique opportunity to share the Gospel in February 2011. For fifteen days, we will travel with a group of more than thirty Christians from Church of the Open Door in Westminster, MD to the “uttermost part of the earth” in Carcar, Cebu, Philippines. There, we will partner with the ministry of Aaron and Gina Fuchs and the Open Door Baptist Church to tirelessly proclaim the Gospel of Christ in the heart of the Philippine Islands.

In addition to the daily work of soulwinning, the members of our mission team will also be working to train national pastors in the area of personal evangelism, as well as participating in a week-long series of evening revival services. Another area of ministry for our team will be in the local schools, where we will be given the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Having spent almost 12 years preaching and teaching in various youth ministries – including 3 years of ministering in the public school system of Knox County, TN – this particular facet of the trip is very near and dear to my own heart.

Another vital part of my family’s mission to the Philippines is the translation of our Gospel tract for children into the native Cebuano language.God’s One-Way Plan for Everlasting Life is a project that the Lord laid on the heart of my parents many years ago. Using my illustrations, they prayerfully worked to write a clear presentation of the Gospel to be shared with both the young and the young at heart. Thousands of copies of the tract have been published, and the work has already been translated into several other languages to be used by missionaries around the world. Aaron is now working diligently to add the Cebuano language to that list, and he is extremely excited to have these tracts coming to the work in Carcar: “We have NO children’s tracts at all here. About half the nation is under the age of 25! So these will be a great blessing!”

From the youngest member of our family (Noble, age 12) to the oldest, the Lord has placed upon our hearts the vision that Isaiah had for the world. It is our fervent desire that the glory of God would be proclaimed even among the far-away islands of the sea. But we cannot undertake this mission alone. Would you pray for our mission team and for the work that is already underway in Cebu? Pray that the Holy Spirit would enable us to carry out the work of Christ, free from our own vainglory and only unto His renown. And if the Lord so lays it upon your heart, would you also consider helping us financially to reach our destination? The cost for the seven members of our family to undertake this mission is just over $18,500. It is a large price tag, and we are working diligently to fund this trip through our own efforts. But just like any other aspect of the ministry, we are not meant to do it alone. It is God’s design that you would travel with us – through your fervent prayers and gracious generosity. We thank you in advance for your friendship, prayers, and support.

In the Service of the Savior,

Jeremy A. Watts (Hebrews 11:26-27)

Your tax-deductible gift can be sent to:

Philippine Mission Trip

c/o Jeremy Watts

3395 Schaefer Drive

Hampstead, MD 21074

Please make checks payable to The Church of the Open Door. Thank you!

You can also donate online by going here.

The Scandalous Lineage of the Son of God

Kings. Scholars. Prophets. Warriors. Patriarchs.

When it comes to the family tree of Jesus Christ, these illustrious branches are the ones that most observers would expect to find. After all, He is the only begotten Son of God. That Jesus would come from an earthly line of royalty, leadership, and divine calling only makes sense. Yet while the lineage of Christ includes both political luminaries and spiritual giants, it also contains a few seemingly degenerate limbs as well.

Consider this collection of unsavory characters:

Fools. Liars. Charlatans. Fornicators. Murderers.

While most people would try to hide the more embarrassing details of their family history, Jesus displayed them openly. Scripture records that even the most revered members of Christ’s ancestry were guilty of unspeakable crimes: Jacob was a thief, Solomon an idolater, and David a killer.

But perhaps the most amazing thing about the genealogy of Christ (Matt. 1) is not the sins of the men who are listed. After all, there are 56 generations of them; one would certainly expect to find a skeleton or two. What is most interesting are the few women that are mentioned – five of them, to be exact:

Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah who tricked him into sharing her bed as an act of revenge.

Rahab, a formerly idolatrous harlot whose great act of faith was telling a lie.

Ruth, a foreigner from Moab whose entire race was a lasting reminder of the incest committed between Lot and his oldest daughter.

Bath-Sheba, an adulteress whose dutiful husband was murdered by the king to cover up their sin.

Mary, a teen-aged girl whose “unplanned” (yet divinely ordained) pregnancy certainly raised more than a few eyebrows.

There are 56 generations of men in Jesus’ family tree, yet He chose to highlight a mere handful of women – and they are possibly the most sordid of them all. It’s as if He wants us to pause as we read the list of names and think about their lives. And when we do, it is impossible to ignore the grace of God.

God’s grace is always remarkable, no matter the recipient. But when we consider the lives of women like Tamar, Rahab, and Bath-Sheba; it is impossible to ignore that His grace is freely bestowed on the undeserving, the undesirable, and the unlikely. Their stories, once marred by scandal and sin, are really not much different from my own. I was once an idolater, an adulterer, and an outcast – but God saw fit to save me and graft me into His Family Tree. I was totally undeserving of His favor, but He adopted me as His own and drew me by His love into the lineage of Christ.

So, the next time you come to that list of names, don’t skip ahead to chapter two. Read it all, and as you read, remember this: the message of the Gospel is as evident in Matthew Chapter One as it is at Calvary. For, at its heart, the message of the Gospel has always been that God lavishes His grace on the unlikeliest of sinners – even the most scandalous of us all.