I almost didn’t preach on this passage. The reason for that is that it would be easy to give it a simple reading that Jesus heals the physically blind. We have a number of people in our congregation that are blind. To be honest, I don’t know what it is like to be blind and to hear passages such as this. I remember years ago as a youth pastor, hearing this passage read in church and looking over at a blind girl from our youth group. How did she hear this passage?
I need to say that I do believe that God does heal in certain cases. I am not one to say that all healing stopped after the writing of the Bible. But I believe that physical healing is not as common as we would like it and that when God does it, it is for a specific reason, and not because there is a blanket promise that we would never be sick or never have a disability.
So if this passage is not about all blind people having the hope of physical healing, what is it about? I believe that it is relevant to all of us, whether we are blind or not. I see in this passage important principles about how we are to interact with Jesus.
I have shared in the past my pet peeve about churches not welcoming questions. Too often, Christians have told people to not ask questions, and just to “have faith.” I won’t go too far in that direction, but I will say that an important part of the Christian experience should be curiosity. People have tried to shut down curiosity with such sayings as “curiosity killed the cat.” But every positive advancement in our society has begun with a curious person asking a question.
This is how the experience of how the blind man started. People with disabilities did not have a lot of options when it came to providing for themselves. Unless they had wealthy and generous families, they would have to rely on begging. And to be effective at begging, you need to put yourself in a prominent area with plenty of traffic. The road to Jericho was a good place for this. But even this relatively busy path began to get louder and louder. The blind man asked some people what was happening. He was curious and asked a question.
Think about how different this story would have been if the man was not curious, if he had never asked the question. We need to encourage curiosity. Ask questions. Think outside the box. Some of the greatest Christians in church history were the most curious. People like Martin Luther and John Wesley were not satisfied with the status quo. Their curiosity led to the church improving in significant ways. What questions do we need to be asking?
Questions are important but so is faith. But what exactly is faith? I have been a part of a few Christian traditions and each have come at it from a different angle. Some have seen faith as belief in theological content. Others have seen faith as an emotional experience. So which is it supposed to be? This story can help us understand.
The blind man called out to Jesus, but he didn’t just say, “Hey you!” The man referred to Jesus as “Son of David.” In doing this, he was not just parroting what the crowd was saying as they described him as Jesus of Nazareth. Why would the man call him Son of David, when we all know he was the son of Joseph? The man probably didn’t know about Joseph, but he recognized Jesus for who he was, the Messiah of God, the promised descendant of King David. There is irony here in that the blind man can see better than any of the people whose eyes worked properly. Calling Jesus the Son of David was demonstrating that there was theological content to his faith. But it didn’t end there.
The man called out to Jesus in such a way that the crowds tried to quiet him. There was emotion to his faith. He felt a sense of desperation and he was putting his hope into this action. This was not a calm theological reflection but a passionate calling out to Jesus.
We need both of these. When we call out to God or Jesus, we need to know who we are talking about. People are able to redefine God and Jesus in multiple ways. We need to make sure that we are calling out to the real God and Jesus. And let’s not leave it as a dry and lifeless orthodoxy. Put some passion into your faith. Christianity has been accused of being either intellectualism or emotionalism. True Christian faith should actually draw from both pools.
In one of Jesus’ parables, he talks about how some people’s faith disappears in the midst of opposition. That was not the case with the blind man. The man had started calling out to Jesus and some of the crowd didn’t appreciate it. They wanted him sit back quietly and simply observe. They rebuked him for calling out and tried to shut him up. Then we find one of the most important theological terms that we need to know about. But. But the man wouldn’t keep quiet. But the man wouldn’t give up. But the man insisted on continuing to call out to Jesus. The man faced opposition but he was determined to keep on going.
I have come across a dangerous mistake when it comes to faith. I have seen people take it as a sign that it is God’s will when things come easy and a sign that it is against God’s will when there is some opposition. How many times have we heard someone identify an event as a sign? It may or may not be a sign, but the sign is not about how easy or how difficult something is. It is easy to sin but that is not a sign that God wants us to sin. It is difficult to remain faithful, but that is not a sign that God wants us to be faithless.
Opposition is not necessarily a bad thing. I recently joined a gym and the whole point of working out is to encounter resistance. I don’t choose the weight or the time on the treadmill based on what is easiest. My physical strength will only grow as I hit resistance and choose to keep going. It is the same with spiritual strength. Hitting some opposition is good. But the key is to have some determination and to choose to keep going. Overcoming opposition is where our spiritual muscles really start to grow.
This brings us to the last and the strangest part of the story. The man gets Jesus’ attention and Jesus asks him, “What do you want?” What did he want? Isn’t it obvious? Why would Jesus even ask such a question? This is bizarre.
But by asking this question, Jesus is giving the man some say in their interaction. Jesus is treating him with respect. It also forced the man to focus on what he really wanted. There could have been things more pressing than his blindness. He might have wanted the healing of a relationship or there could have been a loved one who was very sick. It wasn’t as obvious as it first seems.
What do we want from Jesus? That’s an important question to ask. And no one can really guess just from looking at us from the outside. It may be a physical healing. Or it may be something entirely different. Have you ever wondered what you would say if Jesus appeared to you and asked you what you want? What would you say? Would you want to be rich? Healthy? Have a long life? See a full church? A happy family? What is it that you want?
Like any relationship, our relationship with Jesus is complex. Not complicated but complex. This is a good thing. The blind man gives us a nice pattern for us to interact with Jesus. We begin with some curiosity. Ask some questions, especially the hard questions. Don’t be afraid. Come to Jesus with some faith. Not just a purely intellectual or a purely emotional faith but with a combination of the two. Make sure you are calling out to the right Jesus but don’t be afraid to put a little passion into it. You may face some opposition. Some people, perhaps even some church people, will not like you getting too serious with Jesus. Opposition is good as long as it is accompanied by determination. Keeping going, no matter what. Then figure out what it is that you want from Jesus. I’m not going to promise that you will get it, at least the way you expect, but figure out what you want. The honesty of expressing our desires is part of what makes a healthy relationship. The blind man was able to see things the way they really were, even before his healing. May we have the same sight.