Mark 8:22-26
Jesus Opens Their Eyes

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

For Them To See

1. We have the following words in the epistle addressed to the disciples at Corinth: "Our temporary and light afflictions will bring an eternal glory that is so heavy and does not compare [to the pain]," (Second Corinthians 4:17). This is a very astonishing statement. That is to say, the difficulties and hardships that Paul had experienced no matter how you look at it, it wasn't some "light affliction." For example, in the same epistle, it says, "Five times I received one minus forty lashes from the Jews. Three times I was beaten by the whip, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I once spent a night and a day afloat at sea. I made many a journey, I met with hardships in the wilderness, hardships at sea, hardships from deceitful brothers, and labored hard, travailed, spent many a night without sleep, and went hungry, and did not eat a lot of times, froze in the cold, and was without clothing," (Second Corinthians 11:24-27). Are these "light afflictions?" Yet, that's what Paul calls them. He wasn't being stoic about it. He wasn't putting up a false display of courage. Why can he make this statement and be natural about it?</>

2. The statement, I just enumerated out [from Paul], continues with this: "We set our focus on not what is visible, but on the invisible; for, that which can be seen will pass away, but that which cannot be seen will last eternally," (Second Corinthians 4:18). It seems some how that there is a key here. That which is invisible to the eyes of the flesh is visible with the eyes of faith. With his eyes of faith he sees Christ, he sees this world, and he sees himself. Therefore then, that which is visible with faith has decisive significance for Paul's life. Thus, ultimately he is not moved by the things which are visible with the eyes of the flesh. Even in his hardships and afflictions, his hope was never snatched away. He did not get discouraged because he was living by faith. We, too, just like Paul, want to be persons who live setting our sights on that which is unseen.

3. So, as we think about this matter, when we turn our eyes to today's passage of scripture, we notice in the passage just before it the figure of the disciples is described [as a figure of men] unable to see what they are supposed to be able to see. They were with Jesus. They saw the miracles of Jesus. But, they were told by Jesus, "... Still do you not understand? You do not perceive it? Are your hearts hardened? Though you have eyes, you cannot see? Though you have ears, you cannot hear? Don't you remember?," (8:17-18).

4. Jesus continued traveling with these [blind] disciples. Jesus continued to show his caring with a great patience towards his dim and dull disciples. [He did so that] they might see what they were supposed to see. Today's miracle story is described as an event along the journey of Jesus with his disciples. In it a blind man started to see. The figure of the Lord described in this is none other than the figure of the Lord graciously and patiently caring so that his disciples might be able to truly see though they were blinded. Also, it is the figure of the Lord graciously caring for us, too.

Being Brought Outside The Village

5. In The Gospel According To Mark, a story that depicts the miracle of the healing of a blind man appears twice. One of them is today's passage, the other is recorded in chapter ten. It is the lesson about the blind beggar named Bartimaeus being healed. He was sitting along the roadside, but when he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he began to shout with a loud voice, "Jesus, son of David! Have mercy on me!," (10:47). The people scolded him and tried to make him be quiet, but he kept shouting louder and louder. Then at last, his voice caught on Jesus' ear. The Lord said, "Call that man and come here." When the voice of the Lord carried over to him, in spite of the fact that he was blind, he leaped up and went right to Jesus.

6. The figure of the man appearing in today's passage of scripture is contrasted with the figure of this Bartimaeus. He was brought by others. The ones who hoped for him to be touched was not the man himself but the ones who brought him [to Jesus]. As long as we read this depiction, this man is not feeling as much zeal as Bartimaeus [in comparison]. Thus, there are various different ways in which people come to Jesus. Some call out to Jesus for themselves and seek for him on their own. Even when they are stopped by others, they seek him all the more. Also, some people were brought [to Jesus] by others. The persons themselves did not actually do the seeking in earnest for themselves.

7. But, even though the person did not come seeking the Lord for himself and was brought by someone else, the Lord wanted to meet one on one with the person himself and not the people who had brought him. Jesus took the blind man's hand and lead him outside the village. The people who brought him were left behind. The people upon whom he had depended so far were left behind. Now the only one in whom he is trusting is Jesus, the one who has taken hold of his hand. It was only the Lord's hand. He couldn't help but become aware that [it was] the Lord's hand [that held him]. He could not [do anything] but tightly hold the Lord's hand [in return].

8. You may have come to church because you were invited by someone in your family. You may have come because you were invited by a friend. Either way though, the Lord desires to meet with you one on one in a personal way. The Lord is taking your hand. The Lord is taking you to a place unknown to you. The Lord took this man outside the village. In a similar way, the Lord may take you away from the people, the things, the environment that you have come to depend on so far. When the Lord is putting his attention on you, you can't avoid being aware of his hand [on you]. You can't do anything but hold his hand tightly.

Jesus Graciously Touches His Eyes

9. No doubt this man was feeling uneasy. Since he was being taken outside the village without any explanation, he was probably even feeling some small measure of anger. But, as Jesus met with him directly, all of a sudden, he began to put saliva on his eyes. Then, he placed both hands on him and asked him, "Can you see anything?"

10. When an animal is wounded, it will lick its wounds. That's because there is a disinfection effect in saliva. Since ancient times in both Jewish and Hellenist worlds, it was not an unusual custom to apply saliva to a wound. When I was small, I was rolling around outside, I grazed my knee. When I came home, I remember while my grandmother said, "It don't hurt. It don't hurt.," she put spit on [my knee]. But, applying saliva doesn't seem to be very beneficial for a person's eyes. In addition, the act of applying saliva doesn't even seem necessary at all for Jesus to even perform the miracle. -- Because when he healed Bartimaeus, by just saying, "Your faith has saved you," he didn't apply anything like saliva.

11. So, applying the saliva was not needed for Jesus to heal. It was needed for this man. It was an aid to help this man see that the Lord cared for him with deep compassion, especially as Jesus' facial expressions were not visible to him, and because the tenderness of the look by which the Lord had on him was not visible [to him]. All the Lord could do to him was touch him. The blind man certainly must have felt on him this person Jesus when the Lord applied the saliva to his blind eyes just like when the others applied it for treatment, but he placed not one but two hands on him. By Jesus' showing concern for his blinded eyes, by his being willing to try to open his blinded eyes somehow or other, by his total involvement for him in that way, he surely ought to have felt that it really did matter to Jesus whether his eyes were opened or not.

12. Thus, he was about to see with eyes that until now had never worked. Then he started to see [and when he started to see] he said, "It looks like people. It looks like a tree but I am understanding it to be walking," (verse twenty-four). After he heard that, Jesus placed both hands on his eyes again. Then, [the Bible] says, "He saw clearly and was healed, and he started seeing everything clearly," (verse twenty-five). It is translated, "He saw clearly," but originally it was the word with the meaning of "stare hard." In the Japanese Bible Society's vernacular version, it is "While the blind man was gazing, it was restored to him, and he started to see everything clearly." Thus, he was looking hard gazing with all his heart at the first thing he saw. Then, he started seeing even more and more clearly.

13. The reason he started to be able to see is that Jesus had certainly opened his eyes. It happened because of the Lord's power and not through his own efforts. But, it was in no wise a small thing that he had wished to see clearly what he first dimly saw and that he was staring out hard at what he first saw.

14. As I stated earlier, the figure of the disciples unable to see what should have been visible to them is described just before this passage of scripture. But, just after this passage of scripture, there is Peter confessing the faith, saying to Jesus, "You are the messiah," (verse twenty-nine). Thus, the dim witted and dull disciples begin to see something vaguely. But, Jesus didn't consider that progress that the disciples had seen in a dim way. Just as the Lord placed both of his hands on the blind man a second time, he still kept showing care and attention to his disciples some more. He continued to touch them. How did he [touch] them? [He did it] by exposing to their eyes his miserable death on the cross and by his revealing through the figure of the resurrection, and by pouring out his Holy Spirit on the disciples as the one who ascended into heaven.

15. And even still today, through the words of the gospel, through his body and blood which we share in [the Lord's Supper], the living Jesus Christ continues to care for us and touch us. [He does so] that our eyes might be opened and we might see the invisible. Haven't we already begun to see, though dimly, according to the Lord's mercy, the eternal which will never pass away, the world of salvation? And generations of Christians, even though they have only just started to see like [the others before them] on a dim level, they will continue to set their sights steadfast on [the invisible]. The hour is coming when we will see all things clearly so that we will shortly "see face to face," (First Corinthians 13:12). Until that hour, even though we've started seeing [the invisible] by faith, we will steadfastly set our sights and live out our lives [towards him].

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