"Can you see anything?" The man looked up and said, "Yes, I can see people, but they look like trees walking around." Jesus again placed his hands on the man's eyes. This time the man looked intently, his eyesight returned, and he saw everything clearly.
The meaning of our passage is not only in what it says but in where it's placed. It is preceded by a series of events that form a pattern leading up to a most peculiar story. It is a story about the healing of a blind man that required a second touch from Jesus to complete the effect.
The next story is the famous interaction between Jesus and the disciples culminating in Peter's confession: You are the Messiah!
Or does it? It seems Peter is able to see no more clearly than the blind man. He can see that Jesus is God's Messiah, but he needs a 'second touch' from to clarify his vision. The rest of the gospel acts as that 'second touch,' so they could perceive that Jesus did NOT come to overthrow Rome and destroy the enemies of the nation but to submit and be killed by them.
Jesus began to teach his disciples: "The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will rise to life." He made this very clear to them.
Then it got worse.
"If any of you want to come with me," he told them, "you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for me and for the gospel, you will save it. Do you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! There is nothing you can give to regain your life.
This is not a message people wanted hear then- or now, but it reveals something central: Death and resurrection are not only the path of Christ, but they are the pattern of living for Christ's followers. It is in dying to our ego, pride, need for security, and control, that we have the chance to experience new life. Resurrection only comes after death.
Questions for Reflection & Discussion:
Describe some of the times when you have had your understanding of God altered?
What is still changing?
I used a familiar illustration known as a Confederate Soldier's Prayer. It is an example of someone who had their vision changed (healed?) as they let go of their expectations for life and found something better.
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.
In what areas do you sense you need to 'let go' of what is, in order to experience what God still wants to do?
Ready for More?
Don't miss the material in this week's Music & More!