Thursday, June 4, 2009

Great Expectorations...

The story’s in Mark 8, about Jesus spitting in a blind man’s eyes, and when the man’s vision hasn’t cleared completely, Jesus touches him again, and he sees clearly.

“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.”

Have you ever wondered about that story, why the man wasn’t healed the first time Jesus “tried,” and why he had to touch the man again? Me too.

I wonder if the people who brought the blind man were the blind man’s friends, or were they just people who wanted to see another miracle, so badly that they begged for it? Remember another man, the lame man who was let down through a roof into a crowded home where Jesus was? Those men who carried the man on a mat to Jesus begged Jesus to heal the lame man, and Jesus did, right there, after first saving him, which is another story. But these men must have been true friends. They carried him and got on a roof and made a hole and lowered him down and begged.

I don’t know about the people who brought the blind man to Jesus, because the text says Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village, away from the people. Maybe it speaks to the motives of people’s hearts, and how Christ can read them. And maybe these people just brought the blind man to Jesus like they’d bring a person to a guy who guesses body weight at the circus, just to see if he could do it.

“I’ll put five talents on the Jew! I say he heals him before noon.”

“I’ll take that. WAIT. If I lose, will you take a check?”

A lot of people were curious about Jesus in an un-Messiah-like way, and you can’t blame them. They didn’t know what was going on. The disciples were late figuring things out -- and they were disciples! So I don’t know…something to think about though, because motive in the heart is very important to Christ. Paramount. My motive in “doing good” for years was not to benefit Jesus or anyone else; it was to benefit me. It’s an old story, and I didn’t see that then… but Jeremiah was right: the human heart runs on denial. It was my good stuff, not the more obvious sins, that convicted me. More than anything else, that’s how Christ showed me I was lost. Good things for the wrong motives equal “egg” in the kingdom. “I can preach and sing and write and give my money to the poor and offer my body to be burned and win the Pulitzer and be a great guy and recover from insanity and win people to Christ, but if I have not love, I am nothing, I gain nothing, I count for nothing.” Like that. My heart didn’t begin to change until the object of its affection changed, from me to Him, and that didn’t happen until I was able to get it into my heart that he loved me a lot, even if I loved him only a little, if at all, but that that was enough for him to start growing it. Which is also another story.

But about this other story…The part of the “spit in the eyes” thing that’s always confused me is that Jesus had to touch the blind man twice. The creator of the universe, we know now, could have just looked at him and healed him. Snapped his fingers. We probably all agree that Jesus doesn’t try to do something and not quite get it right and then have to try again.

“Abracadabra! Do you see now?”

“Not quite.”

“OK. Hang on . . . Let me try one more time…”

And then Jesus reaching into a medical bag for a screwdriver or some ointment or a little healing booklet. Like a guy tuning your carburetor.

Right. I don’t think so either.

I heard an explanation the other day and have dwelt on it (I have never written the word ‘dwelt’ before and it felt very uncomfortable --- must be reading too much King James Version) and I “see” now, and agree: If Jesus asks you something, answer honestly. Don’t be embarrassed. If it’s a sin or a perceived sin or a shortcoming or a motive or anything, even if it’s a question about Him, be honest when he asks you:

“Do you see anything?”

What if the guy had been intimidated and said, “Yes, and it’s great. Thanks. I’m not going to say that I see men walking around like trees because, well, at least I can see now a little bit and you didn’t have to do that so this is plenty.”

The guy instead was honest. He needed another touch. And Jesus already knew that, of course.

Sometimes I just don’t get it. I don’t understand things. I’m scared or uncertain and I want to do the right thing and … I’ve learned that if nothing else, in these moments and all others, the first thing to do is ask. The more you personalize Jesus, the more he becomes a person and not just a force or a theory, but a real person, the easier it is to ask him, “Hit me again. Give me another touch, please. I didn’t quite get that just then. Stay with me. Touch me until I see this for what it is, please.”

I couldn’t get much better until I could see myself clearly, and I could never love you until I could see Jesus loving me or see you for what you are – a lot like me – until I could see you clearly. And Jesus has got to do that for you. And wants to. If we can just feel or sense that he’s trying to touch us … then he can change us. It takes an admission from me of what fuels the human heart. By definition, our greatest sins, the ones that cause all the trouble for us and for the ones we love, are the ones we can’t see…

I try to picture the guy after the first touch, seeing the ‘tree people,’ but talking plainly to Jesus, and still standing there with eyes open and glassy, not moving, trusting, maybe even wondering if this guy really is the miracle worker they’d said he was, but trusting anyway, and standing there still and long enough for Jesus to touch him again, and Jesus did, and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. It took humility – “No sir, I can’t see right, not yet,” – and stillness, and then another touch.