FAITH’S TEST AND FAITH’S REWARD
And, as he passed on from there, two blind men followed him, shouting. “Have pity on us,” they said, “you Son of David.” When he came into the house, the blind men came to him. Jesus said to them, ” Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said. Then he touched their eyes. “Be it to you,” he said, “according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly commanded them, “See, let no one know of this.” But they went out and spread abroad the story of him all over the country.
Blindness was a distressingly common disease in Palestine. It came partly from the glare of the eastern sun on unprotected eyes, and partly because people knew nothing of the importance of cleanliness and hygiene. In particular the clouds of unclean flies carried infections which led to loss of sight.
The name by which these two blind men addressed Jesus was Son of David. When we study the occurrences of that title within the gospels, we find that it is almost always used by crowds or by people who knew Jesus only, as it were, at a distance (Matt. 15:22; Matt. 20:30-31; Mk.10:47; Mk.12:35-37). The term Son of David describes Jesus in the popular conception of the Messiah. For centuries the Jews had awaited the promised deliverer of David’s line, the leader who would not only restore their freedom, but who would lead them to power and glory and greatness. It was in that way that these blind men thought of Jesus; they saw in him the wonder-worker who would lead the people to freedom and to conquest. They came to Jesus with a very inadequate idea of who and what he was, and yet he healed them. The way in which Jesus dealt with them is illuminating.
(i) Clearly he did not answer their shouts at once. Jesus wished to be quite sure that they were sincere and earnest in their desire for what he could give them. It might well have been that they had taken up a popular cry just because everyone else was shouting, and that, as soon as Jesus had passed by, they would simply forget. He wanted first of all to be sure that their request was genuine, and that their sense of need was real.
After all there were advantages in being a beggar; a man was rid of all the responsibility of working and of making a living.
There are advantages in being an invalid.
There are people who in actual fact do not wish their chains to be broken. W. B. Yeats tells of Lionel Johnson, the scholar and poet. Johnson was an alcoholic. He had, as he said himself, “a craving that made every atom of his body cry out.” But, when it was suggested that he should undergo treatment to overcome this craving, his answer quite frankly was: “I do not want to be cured.”
There are not a few people who in their heart of hearts do not dislike their weakness; and there are many people, who, if they were honest, would have to say that they do not wish to lose their sins. Jesus had first of all to be sure that these men sincerely and earnestly desired the healing he could give.
(ii) It is interesting to note that Jesus in effect compelled these people to see him alone. Because he did not answer them in the streets, they had to come to him in the house. It is the law of the spiritual life that sooner or later a man must confront Jesus alone. It is all very well to take a decision for Jesus on the flood tide of emotion at some great gathering, or in some little group which is charged with spiritual power. But after the crowd a man must go home and be alone; after the fellowship he must go back to the essential isolation of every human soul; and what really matters is not what a man does in the crowd, but what he does when he is alone with Christ. Jesus compelled these men to face him alone.
(iii) Jesus asked these men only one question: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” The one essential for a miracle is faith. There is nothing mysterious or theological about this. No doctor can cure a sick person who goes to him in a completely hopeless frame of mind. No medicine will do a man any good if he thinks he might as well be drinking water. The way to a miracle is to place one’s life in the hands of Jesus Christ, and say, “I know that you can make me what I ought to be.”
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