************ Sermon on Mark 8:22-26 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 24, 2010
Cadet Sunday 2010
[HOLD UP BASEBALL.] Cadets, imagine you are at a baseball game. Further, imagine that you are standing at home-plate. With a bat. Facing you is Nolan Ryan, the fastest pitcher of all-time, whose fastball was "officially" clocked at 100.9 miles per hour. A record that's still included in the book. Nolan's fastball is coming towards you. In the second it takes to reach you, could you tell me the name on the ball? Any takers? Can any of you tell me the name on the ball if I simply roll it along the floor?
Do you think this is impossible? Baseball great, Ted Williams, could see the seams on a baseball as it whizzed toward the plate. Columbia University researchers tested Babe Ruth's vision and found the Yankee slugger's eyes worked about 12% faster than those of an average person. In other words, there is a relationship between good eyesight and ability in baseball. As Pete Rose put it, "See the ball. Hit the ball."
Do you know what baseball players are doing today to improve their eyes:
-Dan Johnson of Oakland does eye exercises during the off-season for up to six hours a day. Lots of players do this. Instead of going to the gym they do exercises to help their vision.
-Carlos Beltran of the Mets had a clause in his $119-million contract that required the Mets to purchase an $85,000 "enhanced ocular device." What is this? It is a high-speed pitching machine that fires specially marked tennis balls at speeds up to 155 mph. Players try to read the markings as the ball flies by, an exercise intended to improve both focus and concentration.
-The Orioles' Gibbons underwent laser surgery and his vision improved from 20/35 to 20/10. This means he could see at 20 feet what a normal person could see from 35 feet. Now, he can read from 20 feet what a normal person can see from 10 feet.
-Other players try amber-tinted contact lenses. They are designed to filter our specific wavelengths of light, cutting down on glare and making the ball appear more clearly.
See the ball better, hit the ball better – at least that's the theory.
I want to talk tonight on the Cadet theme of "20/20 Vision." However, we are not talking about the eye in your head; rather, we are talking about the eye of faith.
I A Two-Stage Healing
A Did you know that the passage in front of us contains the only two-stage healing in the Gospels? Stage 1: Jesus spit on the man's eyes and put His hands on him (Mk 8:23). To us, this sounds gross.
When I was in college, I had a philosophy professor who got overexcited when he lectured and he would actually spray the people in the first and second rows with his spittle. One day, his students showed up with newspapers. The second he started talking, they opened newspapers and held them in front of their faces. In the Ancient World, however, spittle was believed to have healing powers.
Stage 2: Once more Jesus put His hands on the man's eyes (Mk 8:25).
B After stage one what did the man see? "I see people," he said, "they look like trees walking around" (Mk 8:24). What a strange thing to say. Well, if that is the case, Pete Tiemersma is probably a big oak; others of you, are more like bushes.
"I see people; they look like trees walking around." What does this tell us? Two things. First, this man knows what trees look like, so he was not born blind; at one time he must have had sight and somehow lost it. Second, the man could see; but, he could not see clearly.
After stage two we are told the man's "eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly" (Mk 8:25). The intent of the Greek is that he saw and continued to see. The intent of the Greek is that he not only saw close things but also things far away. In other words, the man was totally healed; this was not a temporary healing. Christ Jesus completes what He starts and never does half a job.
C As I already said, this is the only two-stage healing in the Gospels. We should ask why. How come it took Jesus' two attempts to heal the blind man? Was the problem with Jesus? Maybe His spit was not strong enough? Maybe He was distracted by the crowds? Or, was the problem with the blind man? Was the blind man's faith not strong enough? Why was the blind man healed in two stages?
We can never say that the man was healed in two steps because Jesus was powerless the first time. I say that because Mark 4-8 has one point – the power of Jesus:
-Jesus showed Himself to have power over nature in the calming of the storm (Mk 4:35-41).
-Jesus showed His power over demons in the healing of a demon-possessed man (Mk 5:1-20).
-Jesus showed His power over death in the resurrection of a dead girl (Mk 5:21-43).
-Jesus showed His power over sickness in the healing of a sick woman (Mk 5:24-34).
-Jesus showed His power as Creator in the feeding of the five thousand (Mk 6:30-44) and the four thousand (Mk 8:1-13).
-Jesus showed his power over the sea when He walked on water (Mk 6:45-56).
-Jesus showed His power over disability in the healing of a deaf and mute man (Mk 7:31-35).
In other words, Jesus showed Himself to have power over everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth. So, no, the problem does not lie with Jesus.
Neither does Scripture indicate that the problem laid with the blind man. Like every other blind man in the Gospels, he simply wanted to see.
We need to look elsewhere to explain why this is a two-stage healing.
II Bethsaida, Pharisees, Disciples
A close examination of our passage tells us that Jesus was giving an eye exam! We notice three patients or, rather, three sets of patients.
The first patient is Bethsaida. Note, Jesus led the blind man out of the town of Bethsaida. Why? What is Bethsaida known for in the Gospels? It was the home town of Andrew, Peter, and Philip (Jn 1:44). But remember what Jesus said about no honor in your own hometown, among your own relatives, and in your own house (Mk 6:4)? The people of Bethsaida were not impressed either with Jesus or His disciples – after all, they knew their families, their upbringing, and their occupations. As the old proverb puts it, familiarity breeds contempt.
Furthermore, the people of Bethsaida saw or heard of Jesus' miracles:
-calming of the storm (Mk 4:35-41)
-healing of a demon-possessed man (Mk 5:1-20)
-resurrection of a dead girl (Mk 5:21-43)
-healing of a sick woman (Mk 5:24-34)
-feeding the five thousand (Mk 6:30-44)
-walking on water (Mk 6:45-56)
-healing of a deaf and mute man (Mk 7:31-35)
-feeding the four thousand (Mk 8:1-13)
This is not a complete list; there were other miracles Jesus did in their vicinity.
Do you know what these miracles clearly show? They show that Jesus is the Messiah! The hoped for, prayed for, waited for Messiah. The prophet Isaiah gives us a picture of the Messiah's coming:
(Is 35:5-6) Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. (6) Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.Isn't this what Jesus was doing?
And, do you remember the Messianic passage Jesus read from Isaiah when he was in the synagogue of Nazareth:
(Lk 4:18-19) The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.Again, isn't this what Jesus was doing? The miracles, then, are proof-positive that Jesus is the Messiah. The miracles are proof-positive that before Jesus every knee must bow. The miracles are proof-positive that in Jesus every person should believe.
But what happened with Bethsaida? The people of Bethsaida saw or heard of all these miracles and they did not repent and they did not believe and they showed neither Jesus nor His disciples any honor. Do you remember what Jesus said?
(Lk 10:13) Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon [two wicked cities, two very wicked cities in the Old Testament], they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
According to Jesus, the people of Bethsaida had seen enough and stood condemned for their unbelief. Jesus was not willing to show them anything else. Telling us what? That it is a dangerous thing for anyone to reject the message of God and harden his or her heart in unbelief.
So, before Jesus healed the blind man, "He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village" (Mk 8:23). And, afterwards, after the healing, Jesus sent him home and said, "Don't go into the village" (Mk 8:26). Jesus did not want the people of Bethsaida to see or hear that the blind man was cured. Jesus did not want Bethsaida involved in another of His miracles.
[HOLD UP EYE CHART.] Jesus gave them an eye exam. What did it show? That the people of Bethsaida were blind! They could not even read the big letters. The people of Bethsaida were like the blind man before the healing. When it came to Jesus, they could see nothing.
B The second patient is the Pharisees. What are we told about them? They saw the miracles Jesus did but they hardened their hearts in unbelief. They were like Korazin and Bethsaida.
Do you remember what happened right after Jesus fed the four thousand? The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test Him, they asked Him for a sign from heaven (Mk 8:11). But, didn't Jesus just give them a sign? Didn't Jesus do a sign even greater than that done by Elijah – a man they recognized as a prophet? Elijah, remember, was used of God to feed the poor widow of Zarephath; as long as Elijah was there the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry (1 Kings 17:7-15). And now, here is Jesus feeding four thousand people and the Pharisees ask for a sign, for proof, that He is from heaven.
[HOLD UP EYE CHART.] Jesus gave them an eye exam. What did it show? That the Pharisees were blind. They couldn't even read the big letters. The Pharisees were like the blind man before the healing. When it came to Jesus, the Pharisees could see nothing.
C The third patient is the disciples. En route to Bethsaida – just before the healing of the blind man – the disciples were have a private argument about their food supply. Scripture tells us the disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf (Mk 8:14). Their argument: who was to blame?
Can you believe this discussion? Jesus had multiplied bread on two occasions and fed over ten thousand people and, yet, they were arguing over one loaf of bread. Why worry and argue over one loaf of bread when you have Jesus in the boat with you? They saw and, yet, they didn't see.
[HOLD UP EYE CHART.] Jesus gave them an eye exam. What did it show? That the disciples were like the blind man after stage one: "I see people; they look like trees walking around" (Mk 8:24). The disciples saw, but they didn't see clearly. The disciples could read the big letters but not the smaller ones. Scripture tells us their minds were dull, their hearts were hard (Mk 6:52), their eyes were blind, and their ears were deaf (Mk 4:11-12). They did not understand (Mk 8:21).
Now, in light of this, let's consider the very next incident in the Gospel of Mark [TURN THERE WITH ME]:
(Mk 8:27-29) Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" (28) They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." (29) "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ."Peter, on behalf of the Twelve, declared Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the Christ.
Do you see what is happening? Using the words of "Amazing Grace":
Amazing grace! how sweet the soundFinally, the disciples begin to see. Fully see. Completely see. [HOLD UP EYE CHART.] The big letters. The medium sized letters. The small letters.
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
Why? What happened? The ending of Mark 8 tells us – they saw Jesus in the light of the cross and the grave (Mk 8:31; cf 9:9). Their eyes were opened when they saw Him as the Savior Who died and the Lord Who arose.
"Who do you say I am?"
Cadets, Jesus asks you this question.
"Who do you say I am?" If you are blind, like Bethsaida, you say: son of Mary & Joseph, carpenter, citizen of Nazareth, local boy.
"Who do you say I am?" If you are blind, like the Pharisees, you say: pretender, false prophet, liar, Baalzebub, unclean, trouble maker.
"Who do you say I am?" If you are confused, like the disciples, you say, "I see people; they look like trees walking around" (Mk 8:24).
"Who do you say I am?" If you have 20/20 vision you say [HOLD UP POSTER FROM MY OFFICE]: Jesus, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Holy One, Lamb of God, Prince of Life, Lord God Almighty, Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Root of David, Word of Life, Author and Finisher of Our Faith, Advocate, The Way, Dayspring, Lord of All, I Am, Son of God, Shepherd and Bishop of Souls, Messiah, The Truth, Savior, Chief Cornerstone, King of Kings, Righteous Judge, Light of the World, Head of the Church, Morning Star, Sun of Righteousness, Lord Jesus Christ, Chief Shepherd, Resurrection and Life, Horn of Salvation, Governor, The Alpha and Omega.
"Who do you say I am?" What is your answer? Do you have 20/20 vision?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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