Study in Mark’s Gospel. Presentation 26. The Need Of Revelation Chap 8v22-30. Presentation 26. Introduction.
The gospel writers have not simply set down various incidents from the life of Jesus in a haphazard fashion. Under the inspiration of God's Spirit they selected both incidents of importance and the method of relating them to one
another. If we fail to see the connection between
apparently isolated incidents, we let slip much
of the rich truth which they contain. The healing
of the blind man at Bethsaida points back to v18
where Jesus pointed out the blurred spiritual
vision of his disciples, 'Do you have eyes but fail
to see?' It also points forward to v29 where Peter
makes it clear that his eyes had been opened to
understand who Jesus really is, 'You are the Christ'.
Blindness is a terrible affliction. It is a disability that is profoundly limiting. Like the man in this story, blind people are aware that there is a whole world of form and beauty, which they have no access to. Can you imagine what it is like for a blind person ,who is unable to enjoy the wonder of a sunset or see the crisp patterns produced by a white hoarfrost, or to gaze upon the animated expressions on the faces of their children.
It would be a cruel to imply that if such a person would only concentrate harder they could pull
back the mists that obstruct their vision. The
blind man has no power to restore his sight!
Physical blindness is used throughout scripture to point to a greater and profoundly more devastating condition - spiritual blindness. It is a condition which we are all born with. A condition none of us have the power to change. A condition which can only be remedied by a touch from God himself.
William Tyndale, was put to death for translating the Bible into English. He prayed for Henry VIII, who was responsible for his death saying, 'Lord open the King of England's eyes.' Henry had a great interest in religion. He was a man of great learning but nevertheless he was spiritually blind.
Tyndale knew that in order for the king to understand spiritual truth God would need to open his eyes.
Spiritual blindness means that we are baffled by the spiritual realm. God cannot be clearly understood. Why?
1. In part, due to man's creatureliness. How can puny man understand God? Only God truly knows God. 1Cor.2v1
2. Man's major difficulty is due to his sinfulness. Sin twists our perception of spiritual realities, distorting
them a bit like the mirrors found in amusement parks.
3. There is a further dimension to this blindness, 'the
god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory
of Christ‘ 2Cor 4v4 .
Now as a result of all these three things;
The devil’s malevolence,
our grasp of God is distorted. Indeed, man often attempts to bring God down to his level to within the sphere of his own puny understanding. This happened in Jesus’ day. What did the crowd think of Jesus? Look at v28… They thought Jesus was just a man. Albeit a man on a pedestal, a great teacher, a charismatic leader, a vigorous social reformer but still ‘only a man’. Those who are spiritually blind are easily closed into that conclusion.
A crowd once gathered to hear a speaker in Hyde Park corner. He began, ' There's no such person as God, never seen him; no such place as heaven, never seen it; no such thing as life after death never seen anyone come back...'
When he'd finished an old man stood on his box and began, 'There's no such thing as a human body, I've never seen one; there's no such thing as flowers and trees... no such thing as houses and cars...' and he finished with these words, 'But I should tell you I am blind!'
He had made his point. A failure to see spiritual things does not mean than they do not exist but that man is spiritually blind to their existence.
Man is an inquisitive creature. He pursues knowledge with a relentless passion but when his mind begins to concern itself with God he is baffled. He finds himself floundering out of his depth. Herbert Spencer the agnostic wrote,
‘No more can a bird pierce the veil of heaven, so no more can the finite mind pierce the veil that hides the infinite. Therefore God cannot be known’.
Spencer's dictum is perfectly correct but his conclusion is woefully wrong. Man's sin and creatureliness prevent him from finding God [piercing the veil of heaven]but that does not prevent God from taking the initiative. He pulls the veil apart and opens the eyes of man’s spiritual understanding so that he can see. God is a God who reveals himself.
How did the man in our passage regain his sight? Was it but his owns efforts? Was is by a concentration will -power? No! it was by coming to Jesus for help. In order to heal this man Jesus gently led him outside of the village. Why did Jesus do that, when on other occasions he healed the blind under full public gaze.
We need to remind ourselves that Jesus treated everyone as individuals. Did he instinctively know that to heal this man in public would have been excruciatingly painful for him? Perhaps! Some people can cope with the limelight of God's work others cannot.
But there is surely another and equally important reason for Jesus behaving in this way. The symbolism of Jesus gently leading the blind man would not be lost on his disciples. As Jesus gently led this man until he came to a place where he would see physically, so too Jesus had gently led his disciples in a way that was enlarging their spiritual understanding.
When we begin to see spiritual things clearly it's important for us to realise that we do so only because God has patiently led and revealed himself to us.
Spiritual understanding isn't dependant upon high I.Q.s The Pharisees were a pretty intelligent bunch but they'd no idea who Jesus was. Nor is spiritual understanding the result of genuine interest and sympathy. The crowd, who followed Jesus had these qualities in great measure but remained spiritually blind.
How were Peter and the other disciples able to see with such clarity and how do we explain Peter's confession in v29. Peter was not allowed to bathe in a spirit of self-congratulation cf. Matt 16v17. God had taken the initiative in making Jesus known. Just as Jesus had given physical sight to the blind man God had opened the spiritual eyes of the disciples. All is of God!
In 1757, after being the minister of a parish in England for 8 years, John Berridge found that his preaching was making no impact upon his parishioners. And so he prayed concerning his ministry, 'Lord if I am right keep me so; if I am not right make me so and lead me into the knowledge of the truth as it is in Chjrist Jesus'.
He tells us that two days later the scales fell from his eyes and he began to understand for the first time God's plan of salvation through faith alone. It did not take his congregation long to see the dramatic change in his preaching
There is a unique element in this healing. Jesus spat on the man’s eyes and put his hands on them and asked, 'Do you see anything?’ v23. Clearly, Jesus did not expect the immediate and full restoration of the man's sight. This is borne out by the man's response,
'I see people they look like trees walking around.'
Then Jesus placed his hands on him again and he saw clearly. This doesn't mean the case was so difficult that Jesus needed two tries to get it right! Remember that the miracles of Jesus were also signs. What then does this progressive healing signify? Just as this man's sight was progressively restored, so spiritual understanding is something that grows progressively.
The disciples already had some spiritual vision but even that was like looking at something through a telescope which is not quite in focus. Those who are spiritually blind need to be able to see but those who have begun to see need to be able to see with greater clarity. Their vision needs its focus sharpened. This was the substance of Paul's prayer for the Ephesians;
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Eph.1v17ff.
Paul realised that for the Christian to begin to understand who Jesus is , why he died and the purpose of our being are all part of a process of seeing. Our constant prayer should be, 'Lord grant us more light from your word'. We live for that day when we will no longer see a poor reflection of Christ but see him face to face.
Jesus didn't abandon the man in this story when he began to see. He stayed with him until his vision was crystal clear. Similarly, Jesus does not abandon those who have come to some tentative understanding of spiritual truth. He stays with us and continues to work in us as our spiritual sight is sharpened and in focus.
To grasp that God works through process is important in an age that demands immediate results. We can be impatient with God wanting him quickly to draw individuals to himself. Jim Elliot wrote:
“let not him accept light in an instant despise him who gropes for months in the shadows... The natural, so often illustrative of the spiritual, teaches that healing and growth yes and even birth are processes and I think we altar callers often perform abortions in our haste to see results.”
We need to be patient in the church with those whose understanding is dim and yet whose lives have nevertheless been touched by Christ. He will persevere with them until they see clearly.
Man is by nature blind to spiritual truth. Into this situation of human helplessness God reveals himself through his Word and by his Spirit. How do we react to that enlightenment? Do we resist it or, pray for it to do its work. God's revelation of himself is a process. He draws us to himself, while at the same time revealing more and more of himself to us.
Has God begun to open your eyes? If not, ask him to do so just as John Berridge did those many years ago. And if God has begun to open your eyes do not be complacent , ask yourself are you growing in your knowledge of God and if not why not?