Summary: Our faith in Jesus Christ progressively heals us of our spiritual blindness.
(Note: This sermon was introduced with scene # 32 from "Traveling Light")
I’ve always had a secret fear about going blind. Out of all my senses, sight would be the most difficult for me to live without. Maybe it’s because I love to read so much. I always hated those assignments in high school that require you to be blindfolded while someone else led you by the arm. In fact, to be honest, I always cheated on those, so I could see just a little bit. Seeing is important to me, as I’m sure it is to you as well.
The Bible often uses the metaphor of physical sight to describe our spiritual understanding. People who don’t have any spiritual understanding are pictured in the Bible as blind. People who do have spiritual understanding are people who see. As the old John Newton hymn goes, "I once was blind but now I see." When we explain our faith in Jesus to a non-Christian friend and they reject our message, we shrug our shoulders and say, "She’s just blind to the truth." And similarly, when a skeptic tries to persuade us that God doesn’t exist, they shrug and say, "His faith has blinded him." So which is it? Does faith blind us or does it open our eyes?
That’s what I want to talk about today. We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Mark called Following Jesus in the Real World. We’re going to see two different kinds of spiritual blindness, and then how Jesus can heal our blindness. We’re going to see that believing is seeing.
We’re going to begin by talking about the blindness of unbelief in vv. 10-13. This group of Pharisees represents the blindness of unbelief. Jesus travels to a region called Dalmanutha. While there he’s interrogated by a group of religious leaders known as Pharisees. Now we’ve met these guys before in Mark. As I’ve mentioned before, the Pharisees were a reform movement within Judaism that wanted to help ordinary Jewish people live holy, righteous lives. They were a movement that focused on personal holiness, especially as it related to Jewish purity laws. In fact, today’s rabbinic Judaism grew out of the Pharisaical movement of Jesus’ generation.
They don’t merely approach Jesus for a little theological chat. The word translated "question" here means "to argue" or "to dispute." Mark’s not describing a calm dialogue where two people try to come to an understanding. He’s picturing an argument where forceful differences of opinions are expressed and there’s no hope of breaching the gap that separates them.
Mark also tells us that their motive is to test Jesus, not in the sense of seeing whether he’s true or not, but in the sense of trying to trip him up. To trip him up, they demand that Jesus provide them with a "sign from heaven" that proves Jesus is who he claims to be, the Messiah. They’re not just asking for a miracle, because Jesus has already performed dozens of miracles, some of which they’ve seen with their own eyes. A sign from heaven is more than a miracle. A sign from heaven is an "visible, compelling proof" of Jesus’ authority. By asking for a sign from heaven, they’re asking for irrefutable, unequivocal, ironclad proof that removes any doubt as to Jesus’ identity (Garland, Mark, p. 314). Essentially, they’re ask Jesus to remove the need for faith in their response to Jesus.