Spiritual Eye-Openers From Christ
July 23, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. Today's reading of the scripture is a tale about a blind man who was healed. Evidently he was not blind from birth. We know that because later he will say, "I can see people. They look like trees." Losing one's power of sight along the journey of life must be a sad and bitter experience. What's more, in society back then it was much harder for those kind of people to live as compared to today. Making a living is hard enough on its own. When you go blind there are always those among the religious folks who will say, "Because of whose sin did he go blind? His own sins or his parents?" But, fortunately, they weren't the only kind of people around him. There were also those willing to live with him, wanting him to be happy and being in support of him. They were the ones who brought him to Jesus. They were the ones who wanted to have [Jesus] touch him.
2. Of course, in saying "to want to have [Jesus] touch [him]" it means "to want to have [Jesus] heal [him]." Stories of the blind being healed appear twice in this gospel book. This is the first one. The other is at the end of chapter ten. In chapter ten the blind man named Bartimaeus is healed. In the case of Bartimaeus, Jesus just says "Come. Your faith has saved you." With that, the blind man immediately was able to see. But today's passage is different. The people brought him saying [we] "want to have [Jesus] touch [him]." Then Jesus is depicted as actually "touching" him. It's a similar miracle of the healing of the eyes as in the time of Bartimaeus, but the emphasis is obviously different. In particular, let's turn our thoughts today on "the Christ who touches us."
He Puts Saliva On His Eyes
3. Jesus took the man's hand and lead him out of the village. He separates him from the people he had been depending on so far, from those who had brought him to this place. Undoubtedly so, he must have felt some uneasiness about being there. Maybe he was afraid as well. But, he went walking in dependence upon Jesus who was firmly holding onto him. He walked, all the while feeling the strength and the warmth from Jesus' hand in his own hand.
4. Before too long Jesus stopped. [The blind] man most likely sensed that they had now gone outside of the village. The Lord was face to face with him. Whereupon, all of a sudden, the Lord begins to place saliva on his eyes. Furthermore the scripture says, "he put both hands on him." He devoted both hands on his eyes. Then the Lord said this to him, "Can you see anything?"
5. [Another] story of Jesus putting on saliva also appeared in chapter seven. The one brought to [Jesus] at that time was a deaf mute. The scripture says, Jesus "put saliva [on him] and touched his tongue," (7:33). As you read a passage like that, you might feel a bit strange. You might think of it as some kind of act of a witch doctor. However, when I read this passage, for some reason I remember a time from my own childhood. While playing around outside, I would constantly be falling down and scraping my knees; I always came home like that. When that happened my grandmother would put saliva on the injury and always be claiming as she did, "It won't hurt you, it won't hurt you." Of course, after that she would smear mercurochrome or something on it and disinfect it, and the significance of that was entirely different from when "grandma" put her spit on me. In a certain sense, I was already healed before applying the topical medicine. Does that make sense to you? Even though I was still bleeding, I was already healed by my grandmother's tenderness. The way my grandmother was towards me is comparable to the way Jesus was as he touches this hurting man in this [story].
6. Applying saliva to a wound has been a practice seen everywhere since ancient times because saliva has a disinfectant action. Although applied to the eyes it wouldn't be effective that way. Even children know that. This man, though, probably wasn't thinking the saliva would be effective on his eyes. But, neither did he care about that. It might have been a strange act, however, through the agency of those finger tips [of Jesus] he was touched by the One who had a concern for him, who understood his suffering, and was trying to heal him.
7. This man could not even see Jesus. He could see neither his facial expressions nor his eyes looking at him. Yet, he must have really seen. Jesus is facing me right now with what kind of expression, with what kind of eyes towards me? Just as [my] mom or dad healed [me] by touching [my] wounds [as] a child, [here I have] the fingers of Jesus touching my eyes. And the warmth from the palms of Jesus' hands placed on both my eyes. Through his hands he had been touched by Jesus' compassionate mercy. And through the hands of Jesus, he had been touched by the love of God which was certainly being poured out [like medicine] upon him. This love from God opened his eyes.
When [The Lord] Places Both Hands On [Him] Again
8. Furthermore, this passage of scripture tells us that Jesus placed his hands [on him] again. So that he could see just anything clearly, he repeats it and places his hands on his eyes. A miracle story like this can be found nowhere else. Therefore, the word "again" in verse twenty-five is probably very important in this passage.
9. Since he couldn't see properly, [here we have] Jesus placing his hands [on him] "again." [Here we have] Jesus touching him one more time with hands of love. Being touched like that in that repeated way, the eyes of that man were opened. The disciples of Jesus could not have thought of this event as for somebody else and not for them. For that reason, this story was being told with great care as important. As a matter of fact, it was the experience of the disciples as well.
10. Today's reading started at verse twenty-two, but actually before this story the figure of "the blind disciples" was described. Jesus spoke to his disciples as follows. "Why are you discussing about not having bread? Do you still not understand? Do you not see the absolute truth? Have your hearts been hardened? Though you have eyes, can't you see? Though you have ears, can't you hear? Have you not learned?," (verses seventeen and eighteen). They were debating about the bread. Because they had only one. They should have been touched by the miracles of when they were given bread, twice already. Yet, at a crucial moment, they hadn't learned God's grace. [They hadn't seen it yet,] even though they were already with the messiah, the savior, even though they were already under the rule of the overwhelming love of God, even though salvation had come, even though they should have been seeing it, the disciples were still blind to it. Therefore, Jesus says to them, "Do you not see the absolute truth?"
11. When we read this gospel, we'll find that the picture of these unenlightened, unrealizing and blind disciples is depicted through out the entire book. It's that way even right after today's passage of scripture. There we have recorded Peter's confession of faith. He told Jesus, "You are the messiah," (verse twenty-nine). In this way then, there were times when the disciples certainly were beginning to be able to see. But it was only to the extent of "I can see people. They're like trees." They are almost blind. Therefore, when Peter said "You are the messiah," he was scolded by Jesus right after that. "Satan, back off. You are not thinking about God, but about man," (verse thirty-three).
12. And so, as time went on the time came for the lack of understanding and weaknesses of the disciples to be completely brought out. When Jesus was arrested, everyone of them had abandoned Jesus and ran away in flight. It became plain that neither Peter, nor any of the other disciples, had eyes to see almost nothing. But Jesus continued to touch these disciples. He placed his hands on them some more. It did not end with the run away disciples. If that was it, the church probably wouldn't be here today. The Lord had appeared to his disciples another time. You might say, they were touched again. But that's not all. He had touched them in a decisive manner, in the form of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them.
13. In this way then, the healing of the blind man didn't remain to the disciples as an episode of a miracle in which a blind man was healed by Jesus. The figure of the blind man was also the figure of the disciples.
Christ Is Touching Us Right Now
14. Going still deeper with this, it has never been limited to just the disciples whom Jesus had directly touched upon this earth. Why has this story been read in the church over the generations? Why is it being read in the church in Japan two thousand years after the fact? It has to be because Christ is still touching us now. In order that we may be able to see, he touches us with his Body. Where is the risen body of Christ at? It is here. The body of Christ is the church.
15. Christ is touching us with the body called the church. Christ touches us through the waters of baptism. He touches us through the bread and the cup of the Lord's Supper. He touches through the preaching of the word of God. Christ touches us during our meetings and fellowship in church, while we offer up prayer and praise together, while we serve one another, while we love one another. Christ still keeps on touching us. So that we may be able to see. As we can see the perfect love of God which has been revealed already by Christ, as we can see the salvation of God, as we can see that we are already in God's magnificent grace, he has taken our hands to lead us, he is truly face to face with us, and touches us. While asking "Have you been seeing anything?," he places his hands one more time upon us.
16. So, there are two important [points]. One, [the place where] Jesus has placed his hand is upon the blind eyes. It was also on those eyes where Jesus applied the saliva. Jesus touched him on his weakest part. His weakest part, where his sorrows, his lack of peace, his fears, where all of them connect together, became a point of contact with Jesus. We're told that even in regard to Jesus' first disciples. And Christians across the generations have experienced it as well. For that reason, we too come here, just as we are to this place, bringing in our own weakest parts. We gather here before the Lord, just as we are, bringing in our weakest parts: our sufferings, grief, hard times, even bringing whatever "this hateful part about me" may be! It is right on our weakest places where we can feel the hands of Jesus.
17. And the other point [is this]. When he was seeing just dimly, foggily, he had said, "I can see people. They look like trees, but I see them walking," (verse twenty-four). Upon hearing that, Jesus put both of his hands upon his eyes again. Whereupon, the scripture says, "He had started to see properly, he was healed, and he began to clearly see everything no matter what," (verse twenty-five) . It is translated as "he had started to see properly," but originally speaking, it is the word with the meaning "to look steadfastly, to stare." In the Japanese Bible Society's vernacular edition, it is given as "While the blind man was staring hard, he was cured, and he had begun to see everything clear." He, in that manner, had been staring out with all his heart at what he had first begun to see. By doing that, he had become able to see clearly.
18. That this man started to see is obviously because Jesus had opened his eyes. It came about because of the Lord's power and not because of any of his own efforts. But, he wanted to see clearly that which he had begun to see dimly and he stared hard at what he had begun to see. Then in just a while he did. We must not turn our eyes from the love of God and the salvation of God [we] have begun to see. [We] want to see! I want to be able to see more! We are to continue making this request. Until the time comes when we will one day see [more] clearly, we will continue making this request, and apply our focused attention to it with all of our hearts. As we continue steadfastly to request that we will come to see like that, I hope that we would have Jesus touch us more and more and more.