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WHAT DO YOU SEE?
Intro: In his book “The Servant Who Rules”, Ray Steadman shares the following illustration. Jazz pianist George Shearing was blind from birth. The composer of more than three hundred pieces, including the jazz standard “Lullaby of Birdland,” Shearing toured continually throughout his long career. He could often be found in busy downtown areas, navigating crowded sidewalks with his dark glasses and white cane. On one occasion, he was at a busy intersection at rush hour, waiting for help in crossing the street. Finally someone tapped him on the shoulder. What Shearing heard next was not an offer for help but a request. “Excuse me, sir,” a stranger said to Shearing, “would you mind helping a blind man cross the street?”
Shearing was about to tell the other man that he too was blind. Then he thought, Why not give it a go? So Shearing said, “Certainly, my friend. Here, take my arm.” The two men set off across the street together, the blind leading the blind. Shearing heard many unnerving sounds as they crossed the street--tires squealing, horns blaring, the angry voices of cab drivers--but they made it safely to the far curb. Later Shearing recalled the incident and said, “I'll never do it again, but I'm glad I did it once. It was the biggest thrill of my life!”
Our text today introduces to us another blind man. He is about to experience a thrill far greater than crossing a busy intersection with blinded eyes. He is about to experience one of the strangest miracles in the New Testament.
Jesus and His men return to Bethsaida, v. 22. The last time they were here, Jesus had healed many of their sick, Mark 6:53-56. Now He has returned and a group of people bring a blind man to Jesus, begging Him to perform another healing miracle.
Their request is for Jesus to “touch” their friend. These people were Gentiles and they had come to believe that Christ’s power to heal resided in His touch. They failed to understand that He was able to heal with a word, or with a thought, if He so desired.
As we watch the Lord bring sight to this blind man, there is more going on here than meets the eye. Like all of Christ’s other miracles, this one seems to be for the sake of the disciples as much as it is for this blind fellow. You see, all of the Lord’s miracles are really “parables in action”. Jesus has been trying to teach His men that He is the Messiah; that He is God in the flesh. They have failed to get the message! In spite of seeing Him do the amazing and the impossible again and again, they just don’t get it.
This miracle reveals the way God opens the eyes of the spiritually blind. This miracle teaches how God is able to take someone who cannot understand spiritual truth and how He works patiently with them, step by step, to being them to the place of full comprehension.
As this process unfolds, Jesus, at one point, asks this man what he sees, v. 23. As I preach through these verses, I want to pose the same question to you today. “What Do You See?” Is your spiritual sight as keen as it should be? Do you have the Lord in sharp, clear focus in your heart and life today? Do you know Who He is and understand what He is doing in your life? What Do You See? Let’s examine the steps revealed in our Lord’s healing of this man’s blindness. As we do, I believe there is a word of hope, help and blessing for our hearts today. I want to preach on the thought: What Do You See?
I. v. 23a THE PREPARATION
FOR HIS HEALING
· The first thing Jesus does when He hears the request of the people is to take this blind man by the hand. Jesus touches him as requested, but nothing happens! Or does it?
Nothing visible took place. Nothing took place as far as the crowd in concerned; but something very profound occurs here.
· Jesus takes this man by the hand and begins to lead him out of town. Just as He did with the deaf and mute man in Mark 7:31-37, Jesus leads this man to a place away from the crowds to do His healing work.
Now, get this image in your minds. Jesus walks up to this man and takes him by the hand and begins to lead him away. They begin their journey in the middle of town, v. 23. I can imagine Jesus leading him around the obstacles that were in his path. I can hear Jesus as He patiently and kindly leads this poor blind man along one step at a time, all the while holding his hand. Can you see this in your mind’s eye?
· Think about this, we are a people accustomed to touching one another. Not in inappropriate ways, but in ways that demonstrate a connection between us. For example, since I have been here today, I have shaken dozens of hands. It is a simple greeting. It is a common gesture. A handshake allows us to make a physical connection that is not threatening, aggressive or uncomfortable. A good firm handshake says, “Hello, it’s good to see you,” or “Hello, it’s good to make your acquaintance,” and nothing more. A handshake is something many of us experience on a daily basis. It is just a little physical connection with our fellow man.
But, holding someone’s hand for a long period of time and be a very intimate experience. Remember how thrilling it was to hold your girlfriend or boyfriend’s hand when you were dating? Think about how special it is just to hold the hand of your spouse as you walk from place to place. There is something intimate about that gesture that communicates far more than a simple “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.” Holding someone’s hand says, “I care!”
Just this week, I was at the hospital with Brother Don while the surgeons worked on Sister Ruth. While we waited in the waiting room, an older woman approached me.
She said, “Are you a preacher?”
I said, “Yes Ma’am, can I be of help to you?”
She began to weep and told me about her loved one who was in a bad way. As she spoke, this lady grabbed my hand and held on, squeezing it in her own hand.
She asked me to pray for her relative, and I said, “Let’s just pray for them right here.” And that is what we did.
All the while, she is holding my hand. I did not pull it away from her because she needed that physical connection. Just for a moment this hurting woman needed to feel like someone cared. That’s what we see in these verses.
Jesus takes this man by the hand and leads him to the place his miracle will take place! When that truth sinks in it becomes a real blessing!
· You see, there is a great, spiritual truth buried in this image and I want to share them with you before we move deeper in our text today.
I see here a clear portrait of how the Lord leads lost, blind sinners and brings them to the place of salvation. We don’t recognize His touch until our blinded eyes are opened, but throughout our whole lives, Jesus was working and leading us to bring us to the place of saving faith. Every event, every circumstance, every tragedy and every blessing was the Lord taking your hand and mine in His grip, as He brought us to Himself. You can believe what you want to, but you can’t get to God on your own! In you natural state you are dead, Eph. 2:1. He comes to you, John 6:44. He rescues the sinner from the dangerous byways of sin, Luke 15:3-5. He leads us to Himself. If you are saved, can you now look back and remember? Can you see the tender way He brought you along until your eyes were opened and you saw yourself for what you were and Him as your only hope? Can you remember how He lead you and worked in the events of your life to bring you to that place of faith and repentance? What a blessing it is!
II. v. 23b-25 THE PROCESS
OF HIS HEALING
· One of the things that makes this miracle so unique is that this is the only time in the Gospel record where Jesus healed someone in stages. Usually, Jesus either touched them or spoke to them and they were healed. Here, Jesus uses a two step process to open this man’s blind eyes.
This just reminds us that you can’t out our God in a box. God works with individuals and each one is important to Him. Jesus raised three people from the dead over the course of His earthly ministry. Each one was different. He touched the daughter of Jairus. He touched the stretcher on which men were carrying the body of the widow of Nain’s son. He spoke to Lazarus.
His healing miracles were also different. He healed one leper by touching him. He healed a group of ten lepers by speaking to them. Sometimes Jesus would go where the sick individual was, other times; they would bring the sick to Him. Sometimes Jesus went and touched the sick one, other times; Jesus would heal from a great distance. You just can’t shove God in a box and say, “That’s how He does it every time.”
Some people have problems right here. They hear someone’s testimony and, let’s say the person they hear was saved out of deep sin. That redeemed sinner goes into great detail about how God worked in their life through extraordinary events to bring them to Jesus for salvation. Maybe the person listening to them got saved in Vacation Bible School when they were a small child. Sometimes that person might think, “Well, I didn’t have an experience like that other person, so I must not be saved.” Not so!
Folks, it is not experiences that save souls, it is “grace through faith.” If you had one of those earthshaking, amazing, awe-inspiring conversions, praise the Lord! If you didn’t, praise the Lord! Just so you have it settled in your heart that your faith is in Jesus Christ and Him alone. It is not about the experience, it is about genuine, saving faith.
Jesus tailors His work to the individual! How He worked in my life is not how He will work in your life. We each receive a personal, individual ministry from the hand of the Lord. You are special to Him! Praise His name! Let’s watch how Jesus works in this blind man’s life to give him back his sight.
· The first thing Jesus does is to spit in the man’s eyes. I imagine this man’s eyes to be diseased, mattered shut and crusted over. Jesus just turns to him and spits in his eyes! To us that sounds disgusting. If someone were to spit in your eyes, you would be ready for a fight.
In ancient times, people thought differently than we do now. They believed there was healing power in human saliva. We still believe that to a certain degree today. If you get a small cut on your finger, what is the first thing most people do? That’s right; they stick it right in their mouth. Why? Saliva has soothing qualities. Of course, it’s full of deadly germs, but that is another story.
So, Jesus spits in his eyes and immediately touches the man. Jesus was saying to the man, by His actions, “I am about to do something for these eyes of yours.” I would imagine that someone spitting in your eye would be a disturbing thing, but the spitting is immediately followed by the Lord’s tender touch. This man can’t see, but he can feel. The Lord is working in a way that makes no sense to us, but it was understood by the blind man.
Then, Jesus asks him if he can see anything. When the man opens his eyes and looks around, he says, “I see men as trees, walking.”
This tells us a few things we would do well to notice. First, it tells us that the man hadn’t always been blind. He was able to identify the people around his as people. Second, it teaches us that he healing was far from complete. He could discern light and shapes, but he could not see clearly. Third, this partial healing does not suggest, as some commentators like to imply, that the healing powers of Jesus were failing. They actually say that the opposition to His ministry is so great, and the power of the devil so strong, that Jesus is having a hard time healing this man. Rubbish! Jesus is using this man’s healing as a living parable! Jesus could have healed him with a thought, but He chose to do it this way to teach His disciples, and us by extension, a valuable lesson.
Then, Jesus touches him again, and this time, everything becomes crystal clear. His healing is complete. His eyesight is restored.
· As usual, there is a spiritual application in these events. Let’s not miss what the Lord is trying to teach us here.
This blind man is a living illustration of the spiritual condition of the disciples. Ever since they had been walking with the Lord, in a sense, He had been “spitting in their eyes”. He had been using one shocking, amazing, miraculous event after the other to teach them that He was the Messiah, the very Son of God.
They had seen Him heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, walk on water, and multiply bread and fish, along with many other powerful proofs of His identity and deity. But, these fellows never did get it!
He had “spit in their eyes and touched them”, but they never would fully comprehend just Who Jesus was until after He died and rose from the dead. Jesus led His disciples from a place of total spiritual blindness to a place where they could see Him clearly. In this passage, they are just like the man was in verse 24. They had been like the man in verse 22 when He called them to follow Him. He wants to lead them and grow them until they become like the man in verse 26.
That is our Lord’s goal for every one of His children! When the Lord first begins to work with us, we are totally blind in our sinful condition. Jesus comes along and He “spits in our eyes”. He brings conviction and totally shakes up our world, John 16:7-11. He uses this conviction to open our spiritual eyes and point us to Jesus, John 6:44. When we come to Jesus and are saved, we are like the man in this miracle. We see some times, but we do not see them clearly. Like Paul said in 1 Cor. 13:12, “…we see through a glass, darkly…”
As we spend time with Him in His Word and in prayer, He develops our spiritual sight. He causes us to “…grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ…,” 2 Pet. 3:18. His goal is to take us like He finds us and make us more like Jesus, Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 4:13-15.
We are still just like the disciples, aren’t we? The Lord has proven His power and His glory to us in more ways than we can name, and sometimes we still don’t get it. We have seen Him do the impossible, the incredible and the astounding time after time and we still doubt. He has “spit in our eyes” on more than one occasion. May the Lord help us to “be not faithless but believing”, John 20:27.
· Are you growing in the things of God? Is He leading you along, one step at a time? Are you making progress in Jesus?
When you are first saved, you are a baby in Jesus. That is why salvation is called the “New Birth”, John 3:3, 7. But, we are not supposed to remain babies. We are challenged to grow in the things of the Lord, 1 Pet. 2:2. He wants us to make spiritual progress! None of us have arrived spiritually, but we should all be gaining ground in Jesus. When we aren’t, something is terribly wrong!
· There may be someone here today who has never trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. You are waiting until you can figure this Christianity thing out. Friend, you should not wait to come to Jesus until you have all the answers. It is very likely that you will never have all the answers. If He is dealing with your heart; if you sense that He has taken you by the hand and is leading to you Him; you should surrender to His will and come today. It may be that the Lord has been “spitting in your eyes” lately. If He has been disturbing your slumber, He is merely trying to call you to Himself. Come to Him today. Let Him take you where you are and lead you to where He wants you to be. You don’t have to know everything to be saved; you just have to know Him!
III. v. 26 THE POSTSCRIPT
OF HIS HEALING
· Jesus heals the blind man. He also teaches His disciples a lesson that they probably never really grasped. This is a powerful miracle with a powerful message. Unfortunately, this miracle ends on a very sad note.
· Jesus tells the healed man that he is not to return back to Bethsaida, nor is he to tell anyone there about the miracle.
Now, this isn’t the first time Jesus told someone not to tell others about a miracle. When He did this it was usually to prevent great crowds from gathering, or to prevent the people from getting caught up in a frenzy over miracles. This time, I think the Lord’s reasons are different.
Bethsaida is near the place where Jesus fed the five thousand, Luke 9:10-17. They were given clear evidence that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, but they refused to believe in Him. As a result, Jesus pronounced a curse on the city of Bethsaida.
Matthew 11:21-22, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.”
The town of Bethsaida had been rejected by the Lord because of their unbelief. They had rejected the great light they had been given, and they would receive no more light. That is why Jesus took the man out of town to heal him. That is why Jesus told the man not to return to the town. The town was off limits, but Jesus was still willing to deal with individuals. The community had been judged, but individuals could still be saved.
· This is a picture of our nation. As a whole, I would say that God has rejected America. As a nation we have turned away from Him and His Word. We have rejected Him as our God and we have turned a deaf ear to the call of the Gospel. America has been abandoned by God, Rom. 1:18-28.
However, God will still save, bless and use individuals. If you will hear His voice, you can be saved from your sins. You can become a child of God. You can miss Hell and you can go to Heaven. That is His promise, Matt. 11:28. If you will come to Him and ask Him, He will save you, Rom. 10:9, 13. He will not turn you away, John 6:37.
· He will not call forever, Gen. 6:3. The time to come is while He is calling you to come to Him. The time to come is right now, 2 Cor. 6:2. If you refuse, there will come a day when He will call no more. He will abandon you to your choice and allow you to go off into Hell. Don’t let that happen in your life! Don’t let your story end like that of Bethsaida! Come to Jesus and be saved while there is time, come while He is near and calling you to Him, Isa. 55:6.
Conc: So, what do you see? Have the eyes of your soul been opened? Have you seen yourself as a lost sinner headed to Hell and Jesus Christ as your only hope of salvation? Have you seen the truth that Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of His people and that He rose again from the dead to provide eternal salvation to all who would believe in Him?
Have you see the truth that you stand in need of a Savior today? Has the Lord revealed your condition to you? Is He calling you to come to Him? If He is, please do not delay. Come to Jesus while He calls. Come to Jesus now.
Have you seen where you are in your spiritual growth? Are you growing and learning more about Him as you do? Are you maturing in Jesus and becoming less like your old self while you become more like Him?
Has the Lord spoken to your heart today? If He has, please come while He is calling. Please come to Him today!