“The Audacity of a Man Who Once Was Blind”

A long time ago, on a Sabbath day, a man blind from birth stumbles, shackled in a prison of darkness.  Jesus of Nazareth finds him, spits on the ground, creates mud and puts it on his eyes.  “Go”, Christ says, “wash in the Pool of Siloam”.

The blind man followed Christ’s instructions and on his way home something wonderful happened.  No longer did he stumble, but now he was sure of his footsteps, in total awe and wonder at the colors of the world around him. For the very first time he can see the blue sky, the golden light of the sun, the faces of his parents,  his very own face. His neighbors are perplexed, unsure if he is the same man who was blind from birth.

He boldly acknowledges, “I am the man”.

The neighbors brought him to the rulers of the synagogue, who immediately judged that whoever healed the blind man on the Sabbath was a sinner.

The Pharisees commanded: “Give God the glory by telling the truth. We know this man is a sinner.” John 9:24 NIV

Disregarding their command, he counters the Pharisees with a gripping response:  “Whether he is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” John 9:25 NIV

With hearts of stone, the Pharisees ask him again, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” John 9:26 NIV

Without fear of being disrespectful, the man who was blind replies “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” John 9:27 NIV

The Pharisees hurled insults at the man and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!  We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”  John 9:28 NIV

With the force of logic, he answers the religious authorities: “This is an amazing thing! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he healed my eyes.  We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he does listen to anyone who worships him and does his will.  Ever since creation it has never been heard that anyone healed  the eyes of a man who was born blind.  If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do anything like that.” John 9:30-33 ISV

In anger, the Pharisees retorted, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.”  John 9:34, NIV

For many at that time, to be thrown out of the synagogue would have meant a lifetime of tragedy and shame.

Not this man.  Acceptance into religious and social circles was no longer important to him. For years since birth he had been an invalid, but now, with the gift of sight, he has come to gain an inner power, a new perspective, a reversal of values. A new life.

 ~ *************~

Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, “I am the Light of the world. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12 KJ21

D. G. Vachal © 2015

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, “The Healed Blind Man Tells His Story to the Jews” by James Tissot (1836-1902). This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.

“Where is Your Faith”?

“Where Is Your Faith?”

“And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, Master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commands even the winds and water, and they obey him.
Luke 8:24-25

The Gospels talk about a great storm that arose while Jesus and His disciples sailed across the Sea of Galilee. After being awakened by the terrified men, Jesus rebuked the wind and the raging waters, and immediately, there was a great calm.

Jesus was astonished at the state of mind of His disciples in the midst of the storm: He asked them one pointed question: “Where is your faith?”  The Lord’s question seems to imply that He knows they have got faith, but where was it at the moment?  And this question gives us a key to understanding the nature of faith.

Faith transcends ordinary human reaction, and hence it is not automatic, nor is it a result of reflex thought or action; it is not a matter of feelings alone, but encompasses the whole person, which includes the mind, intellect and understanding.   Faith is an activity that must be consciously put into operation. It is a response to truth.

How do we put faith into practice?

The first thing we must do when we find ourselves in extreme difficulty is to refuse to allow ourselves to be controlled by the situation at hand.  Faith is a refusal to panic.  The disciples panicked in the storm,  with the cold, strong winds tossing their craft, the waters flowing in, and they thought they were going to drown and perish. They allowed their predicament to control them, instead of applying their faith and taking charge.

The second step to applying faith is to remind ourselves as Christians of what we believe in and what we know.  If the disciples had only considered that Jesus was with them, the same Jesus who turned the water into wine, healed the blind and the lame, raised the dead, fed thousands, and performed many other miracles, they would not have feared.  Faith grasps on to the truth and reasons what it knows to be truth.

But there is value even in the weakest faith.  With their little faith, the disciples did the right thing in the end.  They eventually went to Jesus, knowing that He was able to do something about the threatening  situation at hand.

Each of us has been given a measure of faith, and should we find ourselves in the midst of trials and testing, let us take it as an opportunity to put our faith into action, to make our faith clearly manifest, to bring glory to our Lord, as we live our lives on earth.

Reference: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, Lowe and Brydone Printers, Ltd, Glasgow, Great Britain, 1965, pp. 134-147.

Image: Christ on the Sea of Galilee, Painting by Eugene Delacroix, circa 1854, in the public domain, courtesy of Wikipaintings.org

Forsaking the Bread of Life

“I am that bread of life” John 6:48

The day after Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread and two small fish to feed the five thousand, a great rejection of the Son of God took place. It did not start out that way.  At the beginning of the day, the people searched everywhere for Jesus, getting into ships so they could be with Him on the other side of the sea in Capernaum.

Jesus knew their hearts. He told the crowd that the reason they pursued Him was not because of the miracles, but because they ate of the loaves the day before and were filled. Yes, filled to their heart’s content, so much so that there were twelve baskets full left over.

Knowing that humans labor for food and drink for the sustenance of life, Jesus directed the crowd not to labor for food that perishes, but for that which lasts unto everlasting life, which only He can give.

“I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)For my flesh is flesh indeed, and my blood is drink indeed”. (John 6:55).

The people, including many of His disciples murmured.  They were offended, saying these were hard sayings.  Who can accept it?  How in the world can one eat human flesh and blood, never hunger and thirst, and have everlasting life?

Jesus responded, revealing the central core of the truth:  It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. Jesus capped His statement with the resounding words, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” 

Herein  lies the answer why one must not labor or put prioritized value on feeding the flesh.  The body perishes. Man is an eternal being.  He has a soul that needs to be redeemed to life eternal. Jesus claims that only He can give this everlasting life through faith in Him.

But after Jesus spoke these words, many of His disciples walked away and no longer followed Him.  They rejected His words.  They determined that they would rather live and perceive things as they did before they heard the words of Jesus:  to labor each day for the meat and drink that perish, and be hungry and thirsty again before the very next meal,  to ignore their souls and be mindless that their lives on earth are finite, to overlook the fact that they are appointed to die one day.

Will you also walk away from the Bread of Life?  I pray that your answer will be as the apostle Peter’s: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

Men As Trees, Walking

23And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.  24And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.
Mark 8:23-25 King James Version

The healing of the blind man at Bethsaida illustrates a miracle of Jesus that was not instantaneous, but unfolded as a two-stage process.  There is a marked difference in the healing of another blind man Bartimaeus of Jericho just two chapters away in Mark 10, who immediately received his sight.

Why the variation in the healing method? It was not because of the lack of  Jesus Christ’s powers that the healing was not immediate. It could be surmised that in the first instance, the blind man did not personally ask Jesus to heal him – other men at Bethsaida brought him to Jesus, requesting for the blind man’s healing; however, this may not be the reason for the two-step healing process because in another miracle, a paralytic whose friends brought him to Jesus was healed instantly. One can only infer that the Lord had a message to illustrate — that this particular miracle was a parable in itself.

What is significant here is that Jesus led the blind man out of the town, and it was outside Bethsaida that Jesus initiated the healing process.  It was a personal, one-on-one encounter with the Son of Man.

After Jesus first put His hand on the blind man’s eyes, Jesus asked him what he saw.  The blind man answered,  “I see men as trees walking”.  It required a second touch from Jesus for the blind man to be fully restored to see every man clearly.

The metaphor that is often described here is that of getting to know God and having one’s spiritual “blindness” healed — to be able to discern the truths of God’s Kingdom more clearly.  A lot of expositions on this subject refer to the first step of this healing process as a “lack of clarity” in the perception of spiritual truths. This is the stage when, after an encounter  with “The Way, The Truth and The Life”, the darkness dissipates; however, one’s comprehension of the Truth is still very much blurred and indistinct, leading to uncertainty and double-mindedness.

The saving grace of the blind man at Bethsaida was his honesty.  He could have told Jesus that he was fine, and went on his way, half-cured.  Not only his honesty, but his desire to see more precisely was what made him whole.

It is thought-provoking that the first object of vision after the first touch of Jesus was that of men.  “What do you see?” That was what Jesus asked the man.  The man from Bethsaida could have mentioned other objects that he saw: the pebbles on the road, the animals, plants,  flowers, even his own hands and feet; however, he straightaway focused on other people.  When he was unable to see, how he must have longed to see other people’s faces, their expression as they talked, laughed, or cried.  After the first touch of Jesus, he listened for sounds where the people were, and set his eyes upon them.   But how did he know what trees looked like?  How did he make the resemblance? Perhaps by touching trees, or through other people describing trees to him.  But he was confused. Trees were supposed to be stationary while men were mobile; his blurry vision identified men with trees.

Trees are tall, rigid and upright.  The man must have been kneeling before Jesus because it is described that he “looked up” after the first touch.  It was a daunting sight for the man: other men, like trees, loomed large (appeared imminent in a threatening, magnified form .. dictionary.com)  But that did not look quite right to him. He was not satisfied with the fuzzy images, the blurriness and the shadows that he saw. He wanted to see men as they really were.

After the man’s response, “Jesus put His hands again upon the man’s eyes and made him look up, and he was restored, and saw every man clearly”.

What do you see? As Jesus asks, “Do you see as you ought to see?”  Do you see clearly, do you know where you stand in your relationship to God and man, or is there uncertainty, vagueness, or double-mindedness?  Are you on fire for the things of God, or are you  neither hot nor cold?  If your vision is blurry,would you be honest to admit this?  If so, then draw near to Jesus and have Him touch you again so you can be at the place where God wants you to be — not in a state of confusion, brokenness and uncertainty, but rather healed, made whole, and “seeing each man clearly”.

*** Photography by James Insogna — jamesinsogna.com

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