I remember it like it was yesterday- my first pair of glasses. I was about 40 years old and a woman who was a member of the congregation I was serving then worked as a tech in a Lenscrafter’s kind of place. I was starting to struggle to read things, so she encouraged me to come in and be tested. The eye test went fine and they took the new prescription to her so that she could actually make the glasses. She looked at the numbers on the screen, looked at me, looked BACK at the screen, then BACK at me. “Pretty bad, huh?” I asked. “Bad? I can’t imagine how you saw to even GET here today!” Then end result was a quantum leap to bifocals- a jump that I certainly have never looked back from!
Seeing is one of those things we take for granted. As long as our eyes work right…and for most of us, that is at least relatively the case…then we simply assume that it’s always there- we don’t have to think about it. But when that is NOT the case, we are suddenly thrust into a different light. Due to my current health circumstances, I am struggling with an eye issue. The nerves around my right eye are simply not working as they should. This means that my eye doesn’t blink like it should, thereby not adequately hydrating the eye as it is needed. So I have to work the eye drops and eye gel on a very regular basis to make sure that no damage comes to the eye…hopefully until the nerve sensation and action kick back in. But “seeing” is MUCH more than simply a physical task. Yes, we see with our eyes. But we also “see” with our minds…our hearts…our souls.
Today we begin a new Sunday sermon series that will lead us through the weeks that I am “banned” from the real pulpit! Seriously, during my recovery and absence from the church I currently serve, there are incredibly capable and committed folks who will be “guesting” in the pulpit…and doing a marvelous job! I am eternally grateful to them for their willingness. So I offer this series NOT for their benefit…or frankly even yours! I offer it as a challenge to…ME…to get back in the saddle and push forward…Breathing Life. Each week, we will focus on some aspect of our faith that we can intentionally “breathe” into our day-to-day life, with the ultimate goal of breathing new life into our souls.
Mark 8:14-21 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
On the surface, eyes are just these simple things that we take horribly for granted. But the fact is that they are VERY complex. Did you know that the average eye blink lasts for about 1/10th of a second and you blink about 12 times every minute? Eyes also heal quickly. With proper care, it only takes 48 hours to repair a corneal scratch. The act of seeing requires that fully half your brain be involved. Out of all the muscles in your body, the muscles that control your eyes are the most active. And around the world, about 39 million people are blind, with roughly 6 times that many with some kind of vision impairment. A full 80% of the world’s vision problems are avoidable or even curable. Vision is what we see…both with our eyes and our heart. And today’s Scripture cuts right to the meat of that fact.
John 9:1-12 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His followers asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused this man to be born blind—his own sin or his parents’ sin?” Jesus answered, “It is not this man’s sin or his parents’ sin that made him be blind. This man was born blind so that God’s power could be shown in him. While it is daytime, we must continue doing the work of the One who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
A man goes to a bar with his dog. He goes up to the bar and asks for a drink. The bartender says “You can’t bring that dog in here!” The guy, without missing a beat, says “This is my seeing-eye dog.” “Oh man, ” the bartender says, “I’m sorry, here, the first one’s on me.” The man takes his drink and goes to a table near the door. Another guy walks in the bar with a Chihuahua. The first guys sees him, stops him and says “You can’t bring that dog in here unless you tell him it’s a seeing-eye dog.” The second man graciously thanks the first man and continues to the bar. He asks for a drink. The bartender says “Hey, you can’t bring that dog in here!” The second man replies “This is my seeing-eye dog.” The bartender says, “No, I don’t think so. They do not have Chihuahuas as seeing-eye dogs.” The man pauses for a half-second and replies “What?!?! They gave me a Chihuahua?!?”
This man suffered from congenital blindness- he had been blind from birth. He had never seen and, as far as he knew…he WOULD never see. He surely couldn’t cure himself and, after years of proof, it seemed obvious that no one else could cure him either. And so…he made a living near the temple, just like so many others in his position. Why there? Because so many people passed by that spot and MANY of them were highly encouraged to be charitable. But as those people passed by the blind man, they were faced with a very real theological question, “If, as we have been raised to believe, sin is the cause of our suffering, then how could someone be born with such a handicap? Apparently, either his parents sinned and he is paying the price OR he somehow sinned in utero. So…whose sin caused this eternal blindness- , his or his parents? It HAD to be one or the other…right? And LOOK at him- what a sin THAT must have been! I am SO glad I’m not like him!”
The people, even Jesus’ disciples, simply couldn’t see this blind man as an object of mercy. Instead, for them, he was nothing more than a topic for theological discussion. And let’s be honest- that the “go to” response often, isn’t? I mean, it’s a LOT easier to discuss an abstract subject like “sin” it is to put it in context and actually minister to a concrete need.
But Jesus, in true “Jesus fashion” sees things differently. He says, “Well, if My choices are either A. his parents or B. him, then I choose…C. None of the above!” Jesus says that the problem doesn’t exist as a result of sin. Instead, it exists so that mighty God’s power can be shown in and through….manifest in…him.
So THAT’S why bad things happen in the world? Just to make God look better? I don’t know about you, but that seems a bit…egotistical, doesn’t it? It wouldn’t fl
y if I did it! The truth is that stuff simply…happens in a fallen world. People have afflictions, illnesses, pain and loss because life is hard and our bodies are fragile. But the healing that happens…and healing DOES happen, if you are willing to broaden your understanding of “healing” than that healing glorifies God.
Did you notice that? Jesus’ disciples, as well as the others gathered around, are safely ensconced in a harmless theological discussion that keeps them, and their hands, clean. But with one seemingly simply observation, Jesus calls them instantly from idle speculation straight into the middle of to action. That is ALWAYS His goal! And then…He goes to work!
After Jesus said this, he spit on the ground and made some mud with it and put the mud on the man’s eyes. Then he told the man, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” So the man went, washed, and came back seeing. The neighbors and some people who had earlier seen this man begging said, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “He is the one,” but others said, “No, he only looks like him.” The man himself said, “I am the man.” They asked, “How did you get your sight?” He answered, “The man named Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. Then he told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” They asked him, “Where is this man?” “I don’t know,” he answered.
When I was a kid and hurt myself, my dad would say, “Spit on it. Rub dirt on it. Walk it off.” Real “guy stuff”. Jesus does real guy stuff here- He spits in the dirt, makes mud and then smears it on the man’s eyes. None of this holistic, waving your hands, spectral aura stuff for Jesus- He gets right down to it.
Notice what He uses to carry out the miracle. It is NOT coincidentally that Jesus heals life using dirt- the very same substance that He, in the form of God, used to create it in the first place. Interestingly, spit was sometimes used in forms of pagan healing. But it was MUCH more often considered, as you might imagine, coarse, vulgar and gross. And that MIGHT have made this man most uncomfortable…if he had even known…or cared…what it was that Jesus used. But let’s be honest- the spit, the dirt and the mud were not medicine. Instead, they were, all combined, a too, used to develop the man’s faith. When you are experiencing irritation, what you often need is irrigation.
Jesus then tells the man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. A structure called Hezekiah’s tunnel was used to channel water from the nearby Gihon Springs inside the city walls to that pool. It was used as a water supply, as well as for baptizing converts to Judaism. And, as they were around the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacles, the water was being used for the feast. So the man was supposed to go and wash off this…MUD…in THAT Pool of Siloam? Would he even be willing to obey under those circumstances? Well…he DOES! He foes to the Pool of Siloam, washes in its waters and then goes home…seeing! The Name Siloam originated as a means of sending waters from a spring to a pool. But now, the name suddenly spoke to a MUCH higher calling- the calling of a man sent by Jesus…Who had been sent by God.
Did you notice? When the man was healed, he looked so different that he created an ID problem. So much so that the people begin to argue, “Is this the same man who used to sit around and beg?” Maybe it was a case of mistaken identity. But the previously blind man insists, “I’m the guy!” But the people are unconvinced, “How?” It would have been easy to hide his confession and avoid the controversy. Or he simply could have chosen to embellish the story. But he DOESN’T. Instead, he fearlessly stands his ground, “It was Jesus that made the difference. I can’t deny it…and I wouldn’t want to even if I could!” His eyes were opened and the light of Jesus Christ poured in. And yet the light that lets one see can be the SAME light that blinds another. The people bring the man to the Pharisees. And they IMMEDIATELY point out that healing, unless someone’s life is in danger, violates the Law of the Sabbath. Even making mud violates that Law.
Here we are- Sabbath healing. It seems to be Jesus’ almost intentional approach. And He again upsets, even deliberately challenges, the religious leaders of the day. The Pharisees can’t face the fact that Jesus healed a man- they can’t even acknowledge the possibility. But the facts don’t lie- healing happened! They SEE the miracle…but they openly reject the evidence; they simply won’t receive Jesus.
Joel 2:28-29 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
In this story, people keep asking, “How?” They continue to either miss the obvious or they are afraid to speak…and face…the truth! And to boot, they ALL asked the wrong question! The question to ask in this story is NOT “How?” but “Who?” They want to understand the mechanics of the miracle- how it was possible- instead of simply trusting THAT it was possible.
But understanding the process, even if they COULD, would be NO guarantee that they have actually experienced the miracle. The power of Jesus Christ brings different reactions from different people: the blind man receives the truth and sees while the self-righteous reject the truth and become even more spiritually blind.
Jesus’ choice of the blind man in this story is significant- his life seemed hopeless. And that fact tends to resonate with our own spiritual blindness. We have much in common with this man- we are spiritually 1. Blind, 2. Begging and 3. Helpless. But look what Jesus did in this story. He:
1. Came to the man in grace, when no one else would
2. Stirred things up and pushed the man FAR out of his comfort zone
3. Healed him, which glorified God
And, on top of that…other people noticed.
To the disciples and the others gathered there, the blind man was simply a chance for theological speculation. To the Pharisees, he was nothing more than a violation of the Sabbath Law. But to Jesus, he was a human being…a child of God…in need of real help, real transformation. Jesus came to him in his time of need and breathed sight into him. And, through that act, He breathed new life into the man. He can do the same…for you.
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- More Stories of the Magic Table