Eyes of Faith

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

October 28, 2012

“Eyes of Faith”

Mark 10:46-52

Helen Keller, so brave and inspiring to us in her deafness and blindness, once wrote a magazine article entitled: “Three days to see.” In that article she outlined what things she would like to see if she were granted just three days of sight. It was a powerful, thought provoking article. On the first day she said she wanted to see friends. Day two she would spend seeing nature. The third day she would spend in her home city of New York, watching the busy city and the work day of the present. She concluded it with these words: “I who am blind can give one hint to those who see: use your eyes as if tomorrow you were stricken blind.”

As bad as blindness is in the 20th century, however, it was so much worse in Jesus’ day. Today a blind person at least has the hope of living a useful life with proper training. Some of the most skilled and creative people in our society are blind. But in first century Palestine blindness meant that you would be subject to abject poverty. You would be reduced to begging for a living. You lived at the mercy and the generosity of others. Unless your particular kind of blindness was self-correcting, there was no hope whatsoever for a cure. The skills that were necessary were still centuries beyond the medical knowledge of the day. Little wonder then that one of the signs of the coming of the Messiah was that the blind should receive their sight.

When Jesus announced his messiahship, he said: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has sent me to recover sight to the blind.” The story this morning of the healing of blind Bartimaeus would suggest to us that there are three kinds of blindness. For a few moments this morrning let’s examine each.

The first kind of blindness is represented by the beggar sitting by the road leading to Jericho. Mark tells us that his name was Bartimaeus. We don’t know much about him. We don’t know his age, length of blindness or what caused his infirmity. We know nothing about his family, his friends, his past life. We know him only as blind Bartimaeus.

When Christ came down the roadside Bartimaeus sought his help. He probably had already been to all the available doctors and miracle workers. He found them all helpless. Yet, that day, even in his blindness, he saw more clearly than did the crowd. He knew that Jesus could release him from the prison-house of darkness. That, he saw clearly.

Day after day the world passed by Bartimaeus–not really seeing him, not really caring about him. He heard the sound of camels, the shouts of children, the gossip of the women, the business talk of the men–but he saw not a thing. So he simply sat there, day after day. Until one day he cried out: “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” It was perhaps his echoing cry that Fanny Crosby had in mind when she wrote the words: “Pass me not O Gentle Savior, hear my humble cry. While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.”

Jesus said: “Your faith has made you well.” What is it that we say when we comprehend something? We say: “Oh, I see.” This was the sight that Bartimaeus had. He physically lacked sight, but he still saw further than most.

The first blindness then is represented by Bartimaeus. It was a literal blindness.

The second kind of blindness in the story relates to the men who followed Jesus–the disciples. When Jesus began his way into Jerusalem, he told the twelve of the dreadful things that would soon befall all of them. It was not the only time he spoke of the coming agony. Three times, Luke records, Jesus tried to warn them. On the first occasion Luke writes: “But they understood none of these things.” On the second occasion he writes: “But these sayings were hid from them.” On the third occasion Luke records: “But they did not grasp what he had said.”

The disciples suffered from a kind of blindness. They were blind as to the nature and person of Jesus. They loved him passionately, but they did not understand him. They were spiritually blind. They had sight, yet they failed to see. They were blind as to the meaning of the events that were happening around them. This blindness affected their behavior. Look what they did: they tried to keep this poor beggar from coming to Jesus. I don’t know why. I don’t know if they knew why! But they did. They tried to keep young children from seeing him. We expect such actions from the Pharisees and the Sadducees. But these were the disciples–the men who genuinely loved him. It was not until the stone was rolled away on Easter Sunday morning that the disciples were really able to see Jesus. It was then that they, at long last, understood the man and the message. It was then that they became apostles instead of disciples. It was then that they went out into the street, preached the message of the Gospel of Christ, and brought the world to the feet of Christ. But these things only occurred when they could see.

The first blindness was that of Bartimaeus. Physically he could not see. The second blindness was that of the disciples before the resurrection. Their eyesight was all right, but they could not see what really mattered–the true nature of Christ.

The third kind of blindness is the blindness of you and me. We don’t see the precious gift of life itself. Life can be wonderful. It should be. It can be. But it won’t be until we open our eyes.

Who of us could ever forget Thorton Wilder’s memorable play “Our Town.” There is an unforgettable scene in that play which never fails to intrigue me. Emily has died. In heaven she is given special permission to come back to earth for just a brief time. She has arrived at the graveyard of Grover’s Corner, New Jersey, where the story takes place. She will experience her life as before, but this time with the knowledge of her impending death. The day that she chooses to live over is her twelfth birthday. Her mother is pre-occupied with preparations for the celebration. Her father returns home from work exhausted. Only Emily is aware of the few precious moments now remaining. She pleads, “Momma, just look at me once as though you really saw me.” But her mother pays no attention. Emily can only relive the day; she cannot change anything. She goes to her father and tries to talk to him, but he is busy reading the paper and pays no attention. Finally she can stand it no longer and she finally cries out: “I can’t go on. It is going too fast. We don’t have enough time to look at one another. I didn’t realize what was going on. I never noticed it. Oh earth, you are too wonderful for anyone to realize you.”

And then she turns to the stage manager who is a central figure in the play and says: “Do any human beings ever recognize life while they live it–every, every minute.” We don’t really see so well. We don’t see the preciousness of life. We don’t see the blessings that we have. Saddest of all, we don’t see the message of Jesus. Nothing, nothing is so important to us in life as that, but we don’t see it. And what possible, possible excuse do we have?

But for those of us who are blind there is hope, for Jesus came to heal the blind. It happened to Bartimaeus. It happened the disciples. It can happen to you. How do we go about it? All that is necessary is that we cry out as did the blind beggar centuries ago: “Lord, that I should receive my sight.” Amen.