They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8:22-26
I don’t know whether or not you’ll find this beneficial to you, but I gave a message this week on the street in the Tenderloin of San Francisco on this passage and I thought I’d pass it on to you. We lost access to the urban park in which we’ve done this ministry for many years among some of the most seriously damaged people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing; so we’re literally on the sidewalk with our guitars, sound system, Bibles, and sack lunches. The stuff I shared with my friends there this week is slightly adapted here for you (some of the language changed and concepts elaborated), but if you’re interested, you might find a spiritual morsel or two for your own life situation.
As far as I know, this miracle of Jesus who healed this guy in stages, is the only one of its kind in the Gospels. Why would the Lord do this in this way this time? Everybody has an off-day, is it possible that didn’t bring his best stuff to the mound this time? I’m not thinking it was due to a lack of anything in Jesus or even in the blind man’s faith. I certainly don’t think it was because Jesus’ only generated 110 volts instead of 220.
Plus, he didn’t blame the guy for his incomplete healing. “You should have more faith. If you confess your healing you’ll get the rest of it…” All he said was, “Do you see anything?” I can’t remember any other time he asked anyone that. He must’ve discerned or detected that the guy was not totally well yet. He’d improved but not as much as other blind people that Jesus had healed. The guy said, “People look like trees.” Here’s where the preachiness kicked in
A lot of us got touched by Jesus, and things got better, but we’re obviously not all the way better. We see, but we don’t see clearly. He delivered you from smack (an old street name for heroin), but now you’ve traded addictions and can’t live without Seagrams (for you teetotalers, this is a brand of whisky). You’re better but you’re not best you can be, and God doesn’t want you to settle for just a little better. He wants you to see men as men and trees as trees!
He’s touched you once, and you’re better for it. That’s good. But you’re gonna need another touch that takes. Before, all you could see was black darkness, but now the black has improved to grey. That’s better, but it’s not the best. He wants you to see much better… live much better.
Grace has saved a lot of you but it hasn’t captivated you. You know he loves you, but you’re not in love with him yet. You have other lovers, other things that you love more than him. Your eyes are only partially opened.
You don’t “see everything clearly.” You mistake men for trees and trees for men. You confuse good for bad and bad for good. You think God is one way when he’s not that way, but another way. Your ideas are a mixture of darkness and light, and mixed together like that, they come out grey. In the grey nothing is sure, there isn’t total dark or complete light
It’s good enough for you that you see better than you used to. It’s better than it was, so you settle in to live with that. You mix the sight that Jesus gave you with your own preferred views and call it a day. But just because you see well enough to avoid bumping into things doesn’t mean you see as well as you can. There’s more – he wants you to “see everything clearly!” He wants you to have the rest of the miracle of sight, to see things for what they are, not as they appear in the half dark. When you half see, you mistake the true nature of things. Half seeing people see all things the same.
What you think is right may be wrong and what you think is true may not be true. When you can only half see you can’t tell the difference between a tree and a person, or a lie and the truth. People deceive the half seeing, give them the wrong change, trick them into paying the wrong price for something, put them on the wrong bus.
The half seeing are vulnerable to deception, to false thinking, and are tricked into thinking that any idea about God can be equal with any other idea. Many who only half see think of God as a shape shifter according to the preferences of people, that he morphs himself into whatever form people create for him. He might be a tree or a man or anything or everything you want him to be. How do you know if the God you think you see isn’t really a guy with a mask? If a man can look like a tree, then he can also look like God to the half seeing person.
God is the God he is and the way he is no matter what you think of him. But your own health and well being depend on your right thoughts about him. When Moses asked God what his name was, he replied, “I AM.” What kind of name is that? It’s the name that only one Person in the universe can claim. Only the one who didn’t come from somewhere. He wasn’t born from someone, that is, God’s the only one who’s got no mamma! He’s always been, he is, and he always will be totally self-sufficient and independent of anyone else (I don’t think I actually said some of this stuff on the street, it being a little more philosophical than we usually go there, but I included it to make me sound smart to my more erudite reading audience). God is God all by his-self! (I’m pretty sure I did say that.)
By contrast, what you think about me is irrelevant. What you think of the president or governor or any other person only has relative significance. But how you see the Creator governs pretty much everything about how you conduct yourself in his world. I wouldn’t be so insistent about you getting your full sight and seeing God and yourself more clearly if it weren’t such a big deal.
Jesus said that knowing God “is eternal life.” Eternal life is not just a length of time, but a depth of experience, an eternally profound life. The life we were put here to live here and beyond here is predicated on knowing God, knowing him as he is, and not as we want him to be.
I wonder if Jesus “half healed” this guy in order to make a point about half-healed people – that we shouldn’t settle for less than his full healing, not be content with half seeing, but let him touch us again and even again if that’s what it takes so that we can fully see! Let’s not settle for a vague and hazy revelation of the world and the God who made it. Open the eyes of our heart, Lord. All the way.