at the corner of St. Mark and 8:22-26
It happened gradually. I started to see two of everything. I was developing double vision. At first it wasn’t too bad. I could, if I concentrated on it, force the muscles of the bad eyes to move in sync with the other eye. But most of the time I walked around as the weeks progressed with this growing problem and also growing, hidden feelings of helplessness, embarrassment, fear, lots of fear…
I say growing because over the period of a few months the two images in my double vision were getting farther apart. The “double” – the repeated image – in my vision was moving farther apart from the true image. At the beginning the two images overlapped. I would sit in church and see two pulpits, two song leaders, two choirs, two Gregs – overlapping. Or I would sit before the TV and see another one floating in front of it and to the right. Or I would see two overlapping wives, two overlapping sons, two overlapping daughters. The whole world in front of me was gradually sliding into twos.
I didn’t tell my wife about this for several weeks. I didn’t want to panic her (like I was…filled with panic I was). What if I wouldn’t be able to do what I do for work? What if the doctor said I couldn’t drive any more? What if I went blind? What if I went partially blind? What if…? What if…? What if…?
I wasn’t going blind. The doctor finally set me at ease about that, but things did get worse. Now the images were getting farther apart so I could see 2 distinct images, side by side, with space between them. Eventually I would see two of the same car and space between them to put another car. Now the added perplexity was to look into a crowd of people, see a tool on the workbench, reach for a door knob, anything and not be sure which was the true and real image and which was the repeated, but illusory image.
seeing , but not seeing
I wasn’t going blind, thankfully, but I was seeing while not really seeing. I need help I couldn’t give to myself.
They accosted Him. A blind man and his friends who brought him made a straight line to Jesus. “Move aside folks. We are comin’ for Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, we gotta talk to you. Please, Jesus – stop! We need you.”
Jesus had healed many people before but this time He did something odd. He healed this blind man in 2 stages. Why? Maybe, because like so much of what Jesus did, there was another simple truth to be had.
Initially Jesus spit on the blind man’s eyes. He asked the man if he could see anything now. He said he could see, but it wasn’t clear. He was probably seeing with fuzzy, blurred vision. Then, Jesus touched the man’s eyes. This time he could see everything clearly.
What’s Jesus telling us with this miracle?
There is a way of seeing that isn’t really seeing. There is also another way of seeing that is better than seeing.
“For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book, however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written, are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly.”
(Institutes, John Calvin, Book 1, chapter 6)
Our vision, our ability to see life clearly, to see the world around us clearly, is impaired because our ability to see God is impaired. We need help with this and if we deny it or put off getting help, like I did, our denials merely prolong the obvious. Our denials are a symptom of the disease – fuzziness about who the Messiah is and what He really came to do.
This two-stage miracle may seem out of place or even of low significance. But is it? This little miracle is right at the turning point of the Gospel of Mark. This little miracle is a big symbol for the Pharisee’s big problem, a big symbol for the disciple’s problem of not seeing Jesus in light of His grand purpose (more on that purpose next time).
Notice in the verses just before this how not only do the hardened religious people not see Jesus for who He is. Still worse, the up close, next to Jesus people, the walking with Him everyday people – the disciples – don’t see Jesus for who He really is either…and what follows after this little miracle confirms it all the more. Both the Pharisees and the disciples didn’t see the mission of God in Jesus.
my cardboard Jesus
Do we ever get tired of standing next to our cardboard Jesuses? – you, know…like the difference between looking at the picture of a pizza on the top of the box and tasting the perfect one inside the box.
Do we really SEE, I mean see with the eyes of the heart, the mission of God in Jesus? Do we really SEE Jesus or are we looking at a double-image, a illusory image of the real Jesus? “He [Jesus] is so pervasive culturally that some representations of him have no apparent religious reference at all” – so wrote Richard Fox in his eye opening book Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession (p16). Fox notes that some segments of Christianity come together as a group mainly because they are “fully committed to ‘family values'” (p.19). Is it Jesus we are after or is it traditional values we must have?
Thank you nameless blind man for helping us, yes us, blind Christians…well, ok, not blind, but visually impaired Christians…helping us see that our heart eyes are fixed on a cultural Jesus, a double image Jesus, a fuzzy image of Jesus. Thank you for letting your short time with Jesus be to us a very simple, easy to grasp, mime of seeing the things of God.
In the interest of seeing Jesus better, can we answer this?
What is the mission of God in Jesus?
Our answer may show how far our fuzzy image or double image is from the real Jesus is…Fundamentalists not excluded (btw – Jesus didn’t die for the traditional family or a version of the Bible or a Bartonian worship of a Colonial American Jesus and these too can become idols.).
To me the blind man’s 15 minutes with Jesus shows us 3 things about ourselves:
a – “I once was blind…” – before we come to Christ our spiritual eyes are in darkness (see 2 Cor 4:4esv, “…blinded the minds of the unbelievers…”)
b- “…but now I see” – I can be in Christ and STILL “savoring the things of mankind more than the things of God” (see Mark 8:33). In this case, I will have a cloudy vision of Jesus and the mission of God through Him.
c – “I can see clearly now…” – I can let the words of Jesus so fill my mind and heart such that He gives me a fresh, positive, hope filled, clear way of looking at this life (with its politics, culture, churches, my sub-culture, sports, music, etc. alongside the Gospel) because I am beginning to understand the mission of God in Jesus.
I’ve finally decided that if I’m going to see more of Him I mind as well push my way through. I’ll accost Him if I have to.
In the next scene (Mark 8:27-33) we will look at what we need to see about Jesus and the mission of God in Him. Knowing this makes life clear again.