[Jesus] took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, 'Can you see anything?' And the man looked up and said, 'I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.'" (Mark 8:23-24)
It is the first and ONLY time that Jesus' healing power is not immediate. Jesus connects with the man, there is a touch, a question, and partial success. Then the process is repeated and the man's eyesight is fully restored. So, why did he have to do it twice? Was Jesus having an "off" day? Did he forget a step? Was the faith of the man too weak? What went wrong?
In a sermon series that covers an entire book of the Bible, it is always difficult, even impossible, to engage every piece of the story. Forturnately, as we read and learn together, we are invited to explore passages that may not be included on Sunday morning. These few verses in chapter 8 have captured my imagination during my daily readings and some conversations I have shared with the women in my triad, so much so that I would be willing to say this healing story just might be my favorite. I can relate to the blind man in Bethsaida.
The Spirit is teaching me to see - in steps. While God is clearly capable of instantaneous healings, there are times when he chooses to bring restoration in stages. This is one of those times - at least for me, but I have a feeling that it may be true for others. It struck me when I read this story again that the blind man makes no complaints about his partial healing. He answers Jesus' question, explaining that there has been some improvement even if it is not perfect, but it is Jesus who chooses to continue the process and bring it to completion. Sound familiar?
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
The Spirit is teaching me to see the Kingdom. First it is trees, shadowy glimpses of a greater reality...
A boy. A beautiful boy, born in Ethiopia, adopted by an American family, stands before the congregation. Peering over the edge of the font, he stares into the waters that confirm yet another adoption. As the waters dampen his forehead, he is marked as a child of God. [The baptism of Kebede Postma.]
A cheerful voice speaks through the receiver telling of "opportunity," "mission" and "service" as though they were the most precious aspects of life (which they might be!). [A voicemail.]
Leaders gather in a familiar space of fellowship, leaning in over their tables to ask important questions and imagine possibilities for "developing faithful followers of Jesus." [A full consistory meeting.]
Head bowed as the music plays, my vision is limited to the floor, as one-by-one, feet pass by - little ones, big ones, high heels, sneakers, shiny, worn, untied, waxed and polished, and more. Each one heading in the same direction...toward the cross. [My perspective during the time of response in last Sunday's worship service.]
It is a process - learning to pay attention, to open my eyes, to see through the lens of the Spirit, and to identify the presence of God. Until the day when we stand before Jesus himself with "unveiled faces," I pray that we can celebrate the "trees" together.
What do you see?