Summary: How’s your eyesight? When you look at Jesus what do you see? A prophet, a teacher, or a miracle worker? If you see more than that, that he’s God’s anointed ruler, then are you taking up your cross every day and following him, submitting to his rule?
Sermon by Rev George Hemmings
Last week I had an experience I’m not keen to repeat anytime soon. I had to go into VicRoads. After forty-five minutes I was still waiting for my number to be called. I don’t know how you pass the time in situations like that, but I found myself trying the eye-testing charts that they had up behind every counter. Even sitting far away I found I could do pretty well. The sad truth though is that if I took my glasses off, I couldn’t even see the charts, let alone the letters on them!
The man we meet at the start of our passage today is even worse off. He’s completely blind. I wonder if you’ve ever thought about what it would be like to be blind? If you’ve ever, even for a short while, had your sight taken away? I’m not sure how I’d cope, but I know a few blind people who are truly inspirational. One friend learnt how to play guitar and plays every year as part of the Myer Music Bowl Christmas Carols. This same friend has done two rides across Australia, to show that being blind doesn’t mean the end of life.
But it would’ve been a very different story in the first. There’s very little this blind man could’ve done. He wouldn’t have been able to work, and if his family and friends couldn’t support him, he’d have to beg in order to survive. And of course there weren’t any Seeing Eye dogs back then, so he’d be totally dependent upon others to get around. Which is why we see others bringing him to Jesus.
As it turns out though, this man isn’t the only blind one in our passage. As he’s travelling around, Jesus asks his disciples, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ They report back the kinds of things we’ve already seen in Mark. Some people think Jesus is Elijah, or one of the other prophets. Others are following King Herod, who back in chapter x we’re told thought that Jesus is John the Baptist come back to life. People think he’s a good teacher, able to do amazing things, but they can’t see anything more than that. Their spiritual perception is limited to what their eyes see.
Have you ever been in a meeting when someone asks, “Has anyone else got any ideas?” It’s usually a good sign the right answer hasn’t been given yet. Well, that’s exactly what Jesus asks the disciples. It’s clear that it’s not enough to think Jesus is just a good teacher, a miracle worker, even just a prophet. People need their eyes opened.
Which is exactly what Jesus does for the blind man. Jesus takes him off in private and proceeds to heal him. It’s probably a good thing the man couldn’t see what Jesus was doing! Rather than just commanding the man’s eyes to be opened, Jesus spits in his hands and then rubs them on the blind man’s eyes. Mark doesn’t make it clear why Jesus needed to get his hands dirty this time.
There’s something else unusual about this miracle, something that makes it unlike any other in the gospels. When he’s done Jesus gives the man a quick eye exam. “What can you see?” he asks. The man’s answer is a little troubling. “I can see people walking around, but they look like trees!” he replies. From Mark 6, we’re told that Jesus had difficulty performing deeds of miracles because of the people’s unbelief, but here we’ve hit rock bottom. This is the only time in the gospels that Jesus’ doesn’t fully heal someone. The disciples must be wondering if Jesus has lost his mojo! What’s going on?
The disciples would’ve been especially confused as they knew that Jesus was more than just a teacher or prophet. They’d seen with their own two eyes everything Jesus had done and they think they’ve got it. When Jesus asked them, “Who do you think I am?” Peter quickly answers, “You are the Messiah, the Christ!” They knew Jesus was the one we heard about last week in Psalm 2. He was God’s anointed one, God’s chosen ruler. While everyone else might be groping around in the dark, the disciples at least have seen the light. They recognize Jesus for who he truly is. They know that as the Messiah Jesus wields God’s power and authority. The Messiah can do anything. Except, it seems what Jesus tells them he’s going to do!
Immediately after Peter’s declaration, Jesus tells he will undergo great suffering, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and eventually be killed. To the disciples this was ridiculous. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to ride into Jerusalem in glory, drive out the Romans and liberate Israel. He’s meant to lead them in glorious victory, not to suffer and die. Its no wonder Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him! It just won’t do to have Jesus saying these kinds of things in public! They were expecting the Messiah to use his power then and there. To heal people in an instant, to restore the fortunes of Israel, to order the world the way they thought it should be. Jesus had better hurry up and get with the program.