A BLIND MAN LEARNS TO SEE
They came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to him and asked him to touch him. He took the blind man’s hand and took him outside the village. He spat into his eyes and laid his hands on him, and asked him, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see men, but I see them walking looking like trees.” Again he laid his hands on his eyes. He gazed intently, and his sight was restored and he saw everything clearly. He sent him away to his home. “Do not,” he said, “even enter into the village.”
Blindness was, and still is, one of the great curses of the East. It was caused partly by ophthalmia and partly by the pitiless glare of the sun. It was greatly aggravated by the fact that people knew nothing of hygiene and of cleanliness. It was common to see a person with matter-encrusted eyes on which the flies persistently settled. Naturally this carried the infection far and wide, and blindness was a scourge.
Only Mark tells us this story, and yet there are certain extremely interesting things in it.
(i) Again we see the unique considerateness of Jesus. He took the blind man out of the crowd and out of the village that he might be alone with him. Why? Think about it. This man was blind and apparently had been born blind. If he had been suddenly given back his sight amidst a crowd, there would have flashed upon his newly-seeing eyes hundreds of people and things, and dazzling colours, so that he would have been completely bewildered. Jesus knew it would be far better if he could be taken to a place where the thrill of seeing would break less suddenly upon him.
Every great doctor and every great teacher has one outstanding characteristic. The great doctor is able to enter into the very mind and heart of his patient; he understands his fears and his hopes; he literally sympathises–suffers–with him. The great teacher enters into the very mind of his scholar. He sees his problems, his difficulties, his stumbling-blocks. That is why Jesus was so supremely great. He could enter into the mind and heart of the people whom he sought to help. He had the gift of considerateness, because he could think with their thoughts and feel with their feelings. God grant to us this Christlike gift.
(ii) Jesus used methods that the man could understand. The ancient world believed in the healing power of spittle. The belief is not so strange when we remember that it is a first instinct to put a cut or burned finger into our mouth to ease the pain. Of course the blind man knew of this and Jesus used a method of curing him which he could understand. Jesus was wise. He did not begin with words and methods which were far above the heads of simple folk. He spoke to them and acted on them in a way that simple minds could grasp and understand. There have been times when unintelligibility has been accounted a virtue and a sign of greatness. Jesus had the still greater greatness–the greatness which a simple mind could grasp.
(iii) In one thing this miracle is unique–it is the only miracle which can be said to have happened gradually. Usually Jesus’ miracles happened suddenly and completely. In this miracle the blind man’s sight came back in stages.
There is symbolic truth here. No man sees all God’s truth all at once. One of the dangers of a certain type of evangelism is that it encourages the idea that when a man has taken his decision for Christ he is a full-grown Christian. One of the dangers of Church membership is that it can be presented in such a way as to imply that when a person becomes a pledged member of the Church he has come to the end of the road. So far from that being the case the decision and the pledge of membership are the beginning of the road. They are the discovery of the riches of Christ which are inexhaustible, and if a man lived a hundred, or a thousand, or a million years, he would still have to go on growing in grace, and learning more and more about the infinite wonder and beauty of Jesus Christ. F. W. H. Myers, in his poem Saint Paul, makes Paul say:
“Let no man think that sudden in a minute All is accomplished and the work is done– Though with thine earliest dawn thou shouldst begin it Scarce were it ended in thy setting sun.”
It is gloriously true that sudden conversion is a gracious possibility, but it is equally true that every day a man should be re-converted. With all God’s grace and glory before him he can go on learning for a life time and still need eternity to know as he is known.
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