Sunday, October 13, 2019

I SEE MEN LIKE TREES WALKING


There is a rather strange account of a healing of a blind man that is found in Mark chapter eight. It reads as follows:

When Jesus and the disciples arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. He spit on the man’s eyes and placed his hands on him. “Can you see anything?” he asked.

The man looked up and said, “I can see men, but they look like trees walking.”

Once again Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes, and when he opened them his sight was restored, and he could see everything clearly. (Mark 8:22-25)

This story has special significance to me because of something that I experienced some years ago.


I once suffered from an accident while working in the woods, in which I was struck quite severely on the right side of my face. My face and eye began to bleed profusely, and I suddenly lost all vision in that eye.
 
I struggled back to my tractor and found a not-too-dirty rag in the toolbox. Pressing it over my eye, I drove the tractor home as I held the rag in place.
 
By the time I got home, my eye was quite swollen, but not completely shut. I still could not see from it, but instead of seeing only blackness as I did at first, it then was like looking through a frosted window, but with no patterns or shapes of any kind.
 
My wife Vivian was determined to take me to the doctor, but I was more determined not to go. This happened to me at the end of my logging season, during which I had worked hard all winter to earn a few dollars. Frankly, I thought that if I would go to the doctor, the charges would end up costing me more than I had managed to save all winter.
 
“I doubt if he could do anything anyway.” I said to Vivian. “Besides, I think that once the swelling goes down, it will be all right.”
 
I told her that I already had a sensation of light in my eye, so I thought that the optical nerve at least had not been severed. I had a peace that God would heal it—not a perfect peace, but enough to make me act upon it. I believed, but I needed help in my unbelief.
 
I did not sleep much that night and the swelling of the eye continued. It progressed rather slowly, but by morning it was swollen almost completely shut. Nevertheless, in the thin opening between a swollen brow and a swollen cheek, my eye still appeared peeking through.
 
I was sitting in a chair in the kitchen when Vivian came downstairs.

“Can you see anything from your eye?” she asked me.
 
“I can see you, but you look like a tree walking,” I replied. My vision had gotten somewhat better.
 
That day the swelling continued until my eye was completely hidden. I had some uncertain confidence that there was healing taking place, and when my eye would again appear from behind the swelling, I would be able to see.
 
Indeed, that is what happened. I will not say it has been restored completely, because in addition to some other minor irritations, I still have a rather strong sensitivity to light in that one eye. I have to wear sunglasses a lot.
 
So that’s my story. A bit like the blind man in the book of Mark, there was a progression to my healing.
 
Reasons that Jesus Healed People
 
Jesus healed people and did other miracles for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the greatest of these reasons was simply out of compassion. Jesus saw people as “sheep without a shepherd,” who were in need of rescuing and of guidance.
 
But another reason becomes apparent with this healing of the blind man from Bethsaida. Jesus used this healing and even the manner in which he healed the eyes of the man to teach a spiritual truth. We can see this if we look at the events that took place preceding the healing.
 
The Feeding of the Four Thousand
 
As I said, the story is found in the eighth chapter of Mark. The chapter begins with the statement that in those days there was a very large crowd following Jesus. There were, in fact, about four thousand people during those specific days. In addition, as had happened some time previous to this occasion when Jesus was being followed by a crowd of five thousand, there was nothing for the people to eat.
 
Jesus summoned the disciples and, speaking of the four thousand, he said to the disciples, “I have compassion for this crowd, because they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home while they are still hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a great distance.”
 
They were far from any market or any food source, so the disciples asked Jesus, “Where in this desolate place could anyone find enough bread to feed all these people?”
 
The disciples themselves apparently had some bread with them that they had planned on eating at some point, but nowhere near enough to share with four thousand people. Or perhaps they knew of some bread among the crowd. The text does not mention the source of this bread, but Jesus asked them about it.
 
“How many loaves do you have?” he asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
 
Similar to what Jesus did when he had some time before fed the crowd of five thousand, he had the people sit on the ground. He then took the loaves, gave thanks, and began to break them to give to the disciples to distribute. From somewhere there was also supplied a few small fish. Like the bread, Jesus told the disciples to set these before the people as well.
 
Reminiscent again of the feeding of the five thousand, when all these four thousand ate and were satisfied, the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
 
Demand for a Sign from Heaven
 
That is the first story in this chapter of Mark. After the crowd was dismissed, Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and the sailed to another district on the Sea of Galilee, a place by the name of Dalmanutha.
 
He apparently did not stay long in that place however. The only thing we are told about that stop was that he was confronted by the Pharisees, who came and began to argue with Jesus. They demanded from him a sign from heaven.
 
Jesus was growing tired of these antagonistic receptions, especially from the scribes and Pharisees. He sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
 
On another occasion before this time, when Jesus again was followed by yet another large crowd, many people were brought to him who were sick, diseased or crippled. We are told that Jesus “healed them all.”
 
Matthew the apostle writes that these healings were signs to fulfill the words of Isaiah the prophet when he said, “Here is My servant whom I have chosen, My beloved, in whom My soul delights. I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations” (Matthew 12:17-18, quoting Isaiah 42:1-9).
 
Despite these indications of who Jesus was, some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”

Jesus replied to them, “A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:37-40 BSB).
 
Jesus was of course speaking of his own death and resurrection, the ultimate and greatest of signs that he was the Messiah who was long promised by the prophets. But even after this astounding event, the hearts of most of the people of that generation had grown so hard that they did not recognize it.
 
But getting back to the story of Mark 8, once again the Pharisees of Dalmanutha had confronted him. As I said, Jesus seems to have become weary of this. He did not stay long to try and convince them. One grows weary of speaking with people who refuse to hear what one says. Jesus and the disciples got back into the boat and crossed to the other side of the lake.
 
Do You Not Yet Understand?
 
Once in the boat, the disciples realized that they had forgotten to purchase more bread while they were on shore. They did have one loaf, but they knew that would not be enough.
 
As the disciples were discussing this among themselves, Jesus, still thinking about his confrontation with the Pharisees, interjected a comment relating to both subjects:
 
“Be careful!” Jesus cautioned the disciples. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
 
The statement seems to have gone completely over the heads of the disciples. Because of the reference to leaven, they continued to discuss among themselves if Jesus was talking about the fact that they had no bread.
 
Overhearing their conversation, Jesus said to them, “You men of little faith, why are you debating among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand? How many basketfuls did you gather?
 
“Twelve,” they answered dutifully.
 
Or the seven loaves for the four thousand; how many basketfuls did you gather?
 
“Seven,” they replied.
 
The point that Jesus was making in asking them these rather obvious questions was that the fact that they had no bread should be of no concern.
 
Jesus continued, “How do you not understand that I was not talking to you about bread? I meant that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
 
Finally, the disciples began to understand what Jesus was saying. They were to be careful not to be confused by the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. These men were the religious leaders of the day, but Jesus was telling the disciples that they were leading the people astray.
 
The fact that the disciples had not brought bread with them was not important. The literal bread of wheat was not an essential matter. What was important was that the disciples would not be confused in their perception of spiritual truth.
 
When the disciples realized this, their understanding was opened.
 
The Healing of the Blind Man of Bethsaida
 
Once their boat arrived near the town of Bethsaida, Jesus and his disciples went into the town itself. While there, some people brought a blind man to Jesus and asked him to touch the man. Not wanting to draw a crowd again, Jesus took the man by the hand and led him out of the village. A few others were with him. I suppose the people who had originally brought the man to Jesus came along, as well as the disciples.
 
Once out of the village, Jesus did something that would have at least shocked me, if I had been present. He spat in the man’s eyes!

He then also touched him with his hands and asked him, “Can you see anything?”
 
The reply, as I said earlier was, “I see men, but they look like trees walking.”
 
An Unlikely Healing
 
This is an unusual healing for Jesus in least a couple of regards. First of all, very seldom in the miracles that we have recorded for us did Jesus do anything physical to the person other than to touch him or her. There were however, two other times in which he used his own spittle in healing someone’s sight. Once he seemed to have simply spit on the ground (Mark 7:33-35), and the other time he made a mud out of the dirt of the ground and applied this to the man’s eyes (John 9:6).
 
I do not want to speculate why Jesus decided to do this in these cases. I suspect it was that he was doing it for some teaching benefit for the people who were present, but I truthfully do not know, nor does anyone else.
 
But the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida was absolutely unique in another sense. It is the only time we read of Jesus healing someone in a progressive manner. Jesus first only partially healed the man, and then completely. In every other healing that Jesus did, there was an instantaneous and complete healing of the person.
 
The woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years and had spent all the money that she had on physicians simply touched the cloak of Jesus in faith, and her bleeding instantly stopped (Luke 8:40-56).
 
Jesus told the man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, “pick up your bed and walk, and at once the man stood up and walked (John 5:1-15).
 
To the crippled woman who could not stand straight, Jesus placed his hands upon her, and she immediately stood upright and began praising God (Luke 13:10-13).
 
Lazarus had been dead and it the tomb four days when Jesus called out “Lazarus, come forth!” With the word of Jesus, Lazarus came out, still wrapped in the grave-clothes (John 11:1-44).
 
But the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida was not instantaneous nor complete at the first. Why was this?
 
Although I will not attempt to draw anything from the fact that Jesus first spat in the man’s eyes, but I will comment on the fact that the healing was first done in a partial manner, then was followed by the full healing of the man’s eyes.
 
Why the Two-Step Healing?
 
In all of the events that led up to the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida, you will notice that there is a singular theme that each of these events have in common with the healing of the blind man. The theme is spiritual understanding of the words and works of Jesus.
 
In the first, the literal feeding of the four thousand, was a fulfillment of an actual physical need, but it was also a demonstration of the abundance of Christ. Jesus intended that the disciples would see that they could have confidence in him. They were to see that a faith the size of only five small loaves could feed thousands.
 
On the other hand, the confrontation with the Pharisees and the Sadducees revealed these religious leaders were so intent upon their own teachings that they had locked themselves within the walls of complete poverty to understanding the truth that Jesus was bringing to them. These men demonstrated complete blindness to the abundance of Christ.
 
Even the disciples, who had witnessed the very many miracles of Jesus, needed help in opening their eyes. They were thinking so much about their stomach that they had neglected their heart. As they were discussing their failure to buy enough bread while they were on shore, they had completely forgotten the lessons of the feeding of the thousands.
 
“Do you still not understand?” Jesus had to ask them.
 
Do We Still Not Understand?
 
Praying for healing is almost universal among people. In our church we pray for healings every time we get together, and I am quite sure most of you pray for healings in your own homes.
 
But Christians are not the only ones who pray for healings. Non-Christians also do, and I have even heard people who say that they do not believe in a God tell me that they are praying. To whom are they praying?—I do not know.
 
But I also often think that our prayers for healings are rather short-sighted. We want a cure and we want relief—but that’s about it.
 
Healing is important, but I often think that we should be a little less concerned about the actual physical healing of our bodies, and a little more concerned about the healing of our spiritual understanding. Why is God allowing this to happen to me?
 
Why?
 
We often hear someone say, “You should not be concerned about why God is doing something. You should not ask God, ‘Why has this happened to me?’”

I never understood the reason people say this. I always ask why! How are we supposed to grow in our understanding if we do not ask “why”?
 
Why Me Lord?
 
So why did the Lord allow me to be struck so violently in the face that my eyesight was affected?

Was he punishing me for something that I had done?—No, that was not it (I actually think that this is seldom the reason God allows bad things to happen to individuals).
 
So was God telling me that I should give up my logging career?—Maybe, I am not sure about that one.
 
I believe that there are some personal reasons that God allowed this to happen to me, but I think that the greatest reason is similar to what the Apostle Paul experienced in his life. It is also the reason why, even after alleviating the problems in my eye, I was not completely healed.
 
Paul ministered many years while suffering from some sort of physical ailment, which he called his “thorn in the flesh.” We do not know what this illness was, but Paul at one time testified to the kindness of the Galatians about how they accepted him into their fellowship despite his infirmity.
 
He says of the people’s compassion, “I can testify that, if it were possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me” (Galatians 4:15)
 
Although no one knows, I suspect that Paul’s infirmity involved a problem that he had with his eyes. It was a condition that followed him to his grave. Paul asked God, “Why?”
 
And what did he learn from it?
 
In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul was telling of some of the revelations that God had given to him—revelations which were of such magnitude that the one who received them could have become prideful of his own spiritual insights. Speaking of this, Paul writes:


So to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”
 
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 BSB)
 
I myself have not received such weighty and profound revelations from God as did Paul, but I do relate to his words when he said that he prayed three times to be healed, and in response was only told that he should instead depend upon the grace of God.
 
Like Paul, I also prayed for the Lord to restore my sight. I think that my prayers have far exceeded the three times of Paul’s. In my case, the problem with my eye has been greatly alleviated, and I am thankful that God granted this healing to me.
 
Moreover, in the end, I am even thankful that he did not restore me completely. To my question to why God allowed this to me, the Lord has answered me as he did to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”
 
I think about Paul’s words every time I experience some annoying affect from that accident. Paul’s testimony has become my own:

“God’s grace is sufficient. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.”
 
Of course I do not know the level of impairment that Paul experienced with his condition, but I am very certain that what I experience is very minor in comparison. I hesitate to talk about it at all, and only do so because I want to tell you what I have learned. It is a daily reminder to me that I live only by the grace of God.
 
How does the remaining consequences of this accident affect my days? The effects are by no means severe, but they nevertheless all serve to remind me of God’s grace.
 
For instance, I sometimes  cannot see something as clearly as I could before the accident—“God’s grace is sufficient.”
 
Because my sinus bones were pushed inward by the impact to my face, my sinuses on that side are now a bit restricted, and I tend to get headaches that I before did not have— but “God’s grace is sufficient.”
 
To tell the truth, the most annoying affect that I experience is almost comical. I mentioned that I have to wear sunglasses a lot more than before, so I am constantly leaving them someplace. I wear them when I am outside, and then go in the barn or the workshop to do some task and leave the sunglasses lying someplace.
 
When I need to go back outside, I cannot find where I laid them. Some days it seems like I am spending half the day looking for my sunglasses! Once in awhile I will come across a pair lying in some random place around the farm where I had left them at one time. 

“Never mind—God’s grace is sufficient for me. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.”
 
I asked God why, and this is what I have learned. “God’s grace is always sufficient.”
 
Always ask “why,” and always grow in your understanding.
And always remember that the grace of God will carry you through any circumstance, any test, any trial or any difficulty in life.

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