Four Blind Men
Mark 8:22-26, Matthew 20:29-34, Luke 18:35-43
22They came to Bethsaida. Some people* brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ 24And the man* looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ 25Then Jesus* laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’*
This morning we have heard three passages of Scripture—from Luke 18, Matthew 20 and Mark 8. All three describe a miraculous restoration of vision. In the passage from Matthew, we are told that Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho. By this time, Jesus was something of a celebrity and a large crowd was following them. Two blind men are sitting by the side of the road. Probably they had been there for some time begging a few coins from passersby. And they heard that Jesus was passing by. That is, they heard the noise of the crowd and asked what was going on, and someone told them it was Jesus. Obviously, they already knew of this celebrated healer because they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David.” Now this is a prayer we could all pray for different reasons. Have mercy on me, son of David, because I am a sinner in need of forgiveness. This is a universal prayer of all humankind, but this was not the motive of the two blind men. They shouted their petition, over and over. They made a regular nuisance of themselves, so that eventually the crowd somewhat sternly and forcefully tells them to shut up. But that just made them shout louder. May be that is a lesson about prayer also, Keep on praying. No matter what other people think about what you are doing, keep on praying. In any case, in the passage from Matthew, Jesus eventually hears them. He stops and turns and asks, What do you want? They had said, have mercy on us, but that is not specific enough. That is not really what they want. Pray for what you really want. They say it. What they really want is to see. So in v34, Matthew says, that Jesus was moved with compassion for them, he loved them, and he touched their eyes, and immediately they could see and they followed him.
Now let us look at Mark chapter 8. Here we are told that Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida, and people brought a blind man to him and begged Jesus to touch this unfortunate individual. Notice that the people here have faith in Jesus as a healer. They believe if he touches this man, he will be healed, but here the healing is not exactly by touch and not instantaneously. Jesus led the man outside the village. Why? I don’t know. Then jesus spit on his hands and rubbed the saliva on the man’s eyes. That sounds yucky. He asked the man if he could see and the man said I can only make out indistinct shapes, and Jesus laid saliva coated hands on him again, and tghen his sight was fully restored. But this healed man does not follow Jesus. In fact, Jesus tells him to go home.
Then we come to our third selection from Luke chapter 18. Jesus is going into Jericho and there is a blind man sitting by the road begging. Understand that for people who were blind in ancient times, there was little they could do except ask for charity. Again, this blind man hears the crowd and asks what is happening. He is told that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. His cry is the same as that of the two blind men in Matthew. “Son of David, have mercy on me.” He is making a nuisance with shouting and again the crowd tells him to shut up. But that just maikes him shout louder. Finally, Jesus orders the man to be brought forth and asks him, What do you want? The man says, I want to see. In v42, Jesus says, “Receive your sight, your faith has saved you.” No touching, no saliva. Immediately the man can see, and he becomes a disciple and follows Jesus.
Now let us consider these 3 passages of scripture as 3 case studies and ask some questions about what they have in common and what lessons they can teach us. What they have in common is that Jesus healed 4 blind men. But we are struck also by the differences of his healing technique. He heals by touch, he heals by spit and he heals by just saying be healed. Two of the healings are instantaneous. One is not. In these three cases, the problem is the same. The men are all blind. But Jesus treats each case differently. Why? That is the question.
First of all, the gospel writers would probably say that if we get all involved in technique in these case, we are to some extent missing the point. It is not the technique Jesus used in each of these cases, it is Jesus himself. The one thing these three case studies have in common is Jesus--not so much what he said, not what he did, but who he was.
One question we always need to ask ourselves when we read an incident in scripture would be why did the gospel writers chose to tell us this about Jesus and not something else about Jesus. Why do Matthew and Mark and Luke want you and me to know that Jesus healed the blind.
Because we are the blind. I am the blind man on the road to Jericho. We live in this world. We think in worldly terms. We think we have things pretty much figured out. We understand what is going on. We are in the know. But the gospels are saying that we are totally wrong. We are blind to what is really real.
We are locked into this prison that is a false perception of reality, and we need Jesus to restore our vision. Jesus can do that because of who he is. Jesus is not someone who has learned an astounding technique by which he does vision restoration. If that were so, someone else could learn the technique and set themselves up in the business of vision restoration. but that is not the point at all. The point is not the technique, the point is Jesus. Jesus is the healer of our spiritual eyesight because he is god incarnate.
But having said that we can still ask our question. Jesus is the healer, OK, I got that, but why in the three different cases before us does he use three different techniques? The answer seems to be that he is dealing with different people in different circumstances, and he chooses the best way to deal with each case, which means he chooses different methods and techniques. Jesus spoke and acted according to the needs and circumstances of each blind man.
Now if we took one case, one passage of scripture, and said this is the way Jesus has to act to cure blindness that would be totally wrong because we know that Jesus acted differently in other cases.
It is the same with our spiritual blindness. Jesus comes to us as our healer. But we are all different people in different circumstances and so he uses different techniques with each of us. One person has a glorious salvation experience as adult. Another is raised in the church, grows up in Jesus, so to speak, and never knows a time when she did not believe. Which is right. They are both right. Don’t tell Jesus what to do, he can heal people anyway he wants to.
And if you think about it, this is a much more wondrous way to build up the body of Christ. There is a uniformity to the body of Christ. All Christians have received their spiritual vision from one Lord, one Savior, one Christ. But there is also diversity in the body of Christ, in that Christ presents himself to us differently according to our differences. And Christ requires different things of us. So I cannot say, you must read scripture as I do and have a salvation experience similar to mine and pray like I do. That makes Christ to narrow, too little. He is a cosmic lord who is able to put all our differences together in one church. And we should not hinder the work Christ is doing in a brother or sister just because it is not like me.
We can apply the same idea to our understanding of the sacraments. The purpose of the sacraments is to make real to you and me the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Across all churches, across all denominations, that is the thing we all have in common about the Lord’s supper. It shows us Jesus. As we receive this bread and wine, we are reminded that he is our healer. But the way we receive this proclamation, the way we experience it and understand it, differs among denominations churches and individuals.
There are differences of technique as far as doing the LS. You may know that in some churches, the believer goes down to the front of the church to receive the bread and wine from the elder or priest or presiding official. In most Presbyterian churches, the elements are distributed to the people by the elders, and believers receive the elements sitting. In some churches, believers kneel to receive the elements. Some churches use one cup and one loaf, but most churches today use communion wafers and disposable communion cups. All these are just different techniques to bring to us the one reality that is Jesus Christ. I know that churches argue heatedly about different ways of celebrating the LS. Blood has been shed, wars fought over this issue, but all the argument misses the point. The ways of celebrating the LS are just different ways of making Christ real to us. And we should not be blinded by the techniques and miss the one Lord, one Christ, that the techniques are showing to us.
Make no mistake about it. The sacraments, LS and Baptism are absolutely essential to the life of the church. They show us Christ in a way that is beyond words. They proclaim the Lord and challenge us to respond in faith. However, we see that proclamation according to our circumstances, our perspective, and our needs at that particular time. For example, if you received a phone call this morning before church telling you that a good friend or relative had passed on, I hope no one did, but if that happened to you, you would have totally different needs and perspective right now than you have had on many other Sabbaths when you received that same sacrament. It is the same sacrament, but you are not the same, and so the bread and wine may have a somewhat different meaning for you. So God ministers to each of us where we are. That is the love of God for us.
But God’s love for us contains a challenge to us. The challenge is our response. The only way the sacrament of the LS can be meaningful to us is if we receive it in faith. Receive Christ as our Lord and savior, receive the healing he brings for our spiritual vision. Christ is the light that lights up our darkeness. Believe on that light alone. Trust in that light alone.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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