Sunday, February 1, 2009

Eyes that See

Mark’s purpose is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, and he has spent much of the first eight and half chapters answering the question “Who is Jesus?” The first words of this book are, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark is quite clear that Jesus is the Son of God, but to Roman readers of the first century that title – “son of God” – could be a bit confusing. After all, Caesar regarded himself, and expected to be regarded by his subjects, as a god. The religious climate of the Empire was polytheistic; there were many gods and sons and daughters of gods. Therefore it was necessary for Mark to explain and demonstrate exactly what he meant when he called Jesus “God’s Son”.

Mark demonstrated the divinity of Jesus by recounting the myriad and miraculous works that He accomplished. One miracle after another is described in nearly each section of every chapter. These were indeed miracles and not mirages, because even His enemies verified the wonders He performed. They could not deny that Jesus did miracles, so they questioned why or how He did them. But Jesus was no charlatan. He was not a conjurer of cheap tricks or a circus performer. His unparalleled power over disease, death, and demons undeniably demonstrated His divinity. All of it was a fulfillment of prophecies which declared that through the Messiah’s ministry the blind would receive their sight, the lame would be made to walk, lepers would be cleansed, the deaf made to hear, the dead raised to life, and the poor would have the good news preached to them. (Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35-4-6; Isaiah 61:1; Psalm 22:26)

While Mark plainly stated at the book’s beginning that Jesus was the Son of God, he records the questions of several different groups of people who asked “Who is Jesus?” First up were the Pharisees. They were present when Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic. Immediately the Pharisees asked – within themselves not openly – “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” They were right! Only God is able to forgive sins, but they refused to believe the evidence, especially since this Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and “sinners”. So they concluded, “He is blaspheming!”

Jesus’ own disciples were struck dumb with terror on the Sea of Galilee. Initially they were afraid that the storm they were in would cause the boat to sink. In the end they “feared exceedingly” not because of the storm but because Jesus had the power to calm the storm. They said one to another “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

When Jesus preached in his hometown synagogue the congregation murmured, “Who does he think he is? This is the carpenter’s kid; Mary’s son.” Even Herod Antipas, the regional ruler under Rome, was asking the same question about Jesus.

In Mark 8:22-26 one more piece of evidence is presented. Like the healing of the deaf and mute man in Decapolis (Mark 7:31-37) this is a unique miracle; not only in how Jesus restored the man’s sight, but that Mark is the only gospel writer to record the incident. What also makes this particular story unique is that it follows a series of queries that Jesus had presented to the Twelve. One question was especially appropriate to today’s text: “Having eyes do you not see?” Jesus had stung the disciples with that barbed question following their complete confusion concerning His warning about the sins of worldliness and hypocritical religion. Jesus was in the habit of opening blind eyes; both physically and spiritually speaking.

Giving Sight to the Blind – Mark 8:22-26

The miracles of Mark 7:31-37 and 8:22-26 are not only unique to Mark’s Gospel; they are also just plain unique. While they are distinctive from the other miracles recorded in the scriptures, there are a couple commonalities between the two. In both cases friends brought the men in question to Christ, and in both instances Christ led the men away from the crowds, in this case outside of the city, as opposed to healing them on the spot.

Friends Bring Friends to Christ

Praise God for those who bring their friends to Christ! That is certainly not the focus of this passage, but it cannot be passed over in silence either. The blind are in need of a guide, and fortunately for this man he had friends who guided him to Jesus; the One who is able to heal physical and, most importantly, spiritual blindness. Their faith in Jesus was not just theoretical, it was practical. They didn’t just talk about bringing their friend to Jesus. They didn’t just pray about bringing their friend to Jesus. They brought their friend to Jesus.

These men knew what they wanted. They wanted Jesus to touch their friend, and they begged Him to do just that. He had healed multitudes with a touch; maybe even some of these friends had been healed by Jesus’ touch, and that is what they wanted for their friend. Whatever their expectations were, I’m sure that they did not anticipate Jesus taking their blind friend’s hand and leading him out of the city, spitting on his eyes and twice touching them before restoring his sight.

His Touch Varies but His Grace is Always the Same

Christ could have healed this man with a single word, with a look, with a touch, or with just a thought. He could have healed the man on the spot, or even as the friends were en route. Why did Jesus lead the man on a hike and then heal him in stages? Was this just an especially tough case? Did this man’s blindness give Jesus a hard time? Was the Lord experiencing an energy shortage? Was Jesus too winded to heal the man at once? No, no, no, and no!

JC Ryle has some insight worth sharing about this passage:
The meaning of all these actions the passage before us leaves entirely unexplained. But it is well to remember, in reading passages of this kind, that the Lord is not tied to the use of any one means. In the conversions of men’s souls there are diversities of operation, but it is the same Spirit which converts.
Christ knows better than we just how and when to minister His grace. He is not limited in how He touches a soul.

Many believers commit the error that Kent Hughes describes in his commentary:
We sometimes make our experience normative for others. In fact, it is not our experience which is normative, but our belief, in that we rest our faith in Christ alone, trusting him for salvation. We must realize that the experience of the “touch” varies, but God’s grace is the same.
We must submit to God to do His work and will in His own way.

Gradual Understanding


Jesus never asked a question to which He didn’t already know the answer, and His miracles were more than just healing events; they were parables of spiritual reality. When He asked this fellow what he saw, the question was more for the benefit of His followers than for the one being healed. Remember again what He asked the Twelve in Mark 8:18, “Having eyes, see ye not?” The lesson here is that spiritual understanding comes gradually rather than instantaneously.

When one is converted he is literally transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son; called out of the darkness and into His marvelous light (Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9). As such his eyes are dazzled and unaccustomed to the light, and it takes a while for his eyes to adjust. How long? Try a lifetime! No new believer will see things distinctly at first; indeed, the new believer says, ““I see men, but they look like trees, walking.”

Gradually our spiritual sight will improve as we “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). That is why the prayer of David from Psalm 119:18 should be on the lips of every Christian – not just new believers but all believers – as they open the Scriptures: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” That is why Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus as he did in Ephesisans 1:15-18.

Only Christ is able to restore sight to the blind. Come to Christ in repentance and faith and He will give you sight. Your sight will improve as you daily grow in your faith. The more we walk with the Lord the more clearly we see, and there is coming a time when we will see all things clearly (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2). Therefore, let us be content to watch, work, and pray until the Lord comes and our sight is perfected.

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