The Eye Opening Christ
July 11, 2010
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
Fixing [Our] Eyes On The Invisible
1. In today's reading from the New Testament epistles, I read to you from Paul's epistle addressed to the church at Corinth. The following is written there, "Our momentary light hardships bring to us an eternal glory of an incomparable weight of importance," (Second Corinthians 4:17).
2. Paul says "momentary light or minor hardships." Do you think that what Paul had experienced were minor hardships? No, they weren't minor by any stretch of the imagination. For example, in the same epistle the following is written, "Five times I received from the Jews whippings of forty minus one stripe. Three times I was beaten with a rod, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I floated an entire night and day in the open sea, and I have gone on frequent [dangerous] journeys. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked," (Second Corinthians 11:24-27). Even if we have experienced one of them, these would not be not minor hardships. Yet he calls them "minor hardships."
3. Why [does he] do that? The list of [Paul's experiences] that I just gave continue as follows. "So we fix our eyes not on the visible, but on the invisible; because the visible is passing away, but the invisible will last for ever," (Second Corinthians 4:18). It seems very much that this text here has the key. The reason we fix our eyes on the unseen is the unseen can be seen, and what is invisible with the eyes of the flesh can be seen with the eyes of the faith. It is not the things seen with the naked eye, but the things seen with faith that have decisive significance for Paul's life. Therefore, even when he is in some hardship, it never robs him of hope. He does not despair because he lives by faith.
4. We are assembled here in this place hoping that we too will live fixing our eyes on the unseen. When we intentionally live caring too much for only what we can see with the naked eye, then we do not make it a deliberate practice to get up early on Sundays and assemble in the morning [for worship]. We [should] want to live fixing our eyes on the unseen. [From here on out] we [should] want to live caring about [the world] invisible to our eyes. That doesn't mean we close our eyes to the reality that we can see with our eyes. We must live reality. But we don't want to live jerked about by [the world] visible to our eyes. We don't want to live falling into despair after despair by the things we see, or become exasperated, jealous, envious, fall into self-pity, and lose hope. Fixing our eyes on the unseen, the more than momentary, the unchanging, the immoveable, that which cannot be stolen by anyone, the eternal, that which truly has value, that which truly has abundance, we want to live steadfastly laying the foundation for our lives on them.
5. Unfortunately, we don't necessarily see like Paul did. We may not be able to see the eternal things to the degree that we can make the declaration of "our momentary minor difficulties." But then even that same Paul says, "We are seeing darkly that which is projected in a mirror," (First Corinthians 13:12). He doesn't say he has gotten to the point that he can see things perfectly. Therefore, how much less when it comes to us, it may be that our destiny is supposed to be that we cannot yet see. But, that's okay because today's gospel reading is actually given to us [as we stand in that condition]. What does the scripture say? It is the story that a person who used to be blind could now see because of Christ. In the same way, Jesus is also making it so that we can see.
By The Fervent Desire Of Christ
6. Stories of a blind person getting healed are found twice in The Gospel According To Mark. The first one of them is the passage for today. The second one is recorded in chapter ten. It is the story of the blind beggar named Bartimaeus getting healed. The man used to sit at the side of the road, but then when he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he began to shout out in a loud voice, "O Jesus son of David, please have mercy on me!" The people scolded him and tried to shut him up, but he shouted out louder and louder. And, finally his voice reached the hearing of Jesus. The Lord says, "Call that man to come [to me]!" When the voice of the Lord carried itself to him, notwithstanding that he was blind, he jumped to his feet and he came to Jesus [on his own]. The figure of the man who appears in today's passage of scripture is contrasted with the figure of that of Bartimaeus. He was brought by others. It was not the man himself who had wanted [Jesus] to touch him but the people who had brought him. As much as we can read from this snapshot, this guy was not moved to the same degree of zeal as that of Bartimaeus.
7. So, the ways of people coming to Jesus vary. Some come doing the seeking and the shouting for the savior for themselves. Even if they are stopped by other people, they still keep seeking. And then other people are brought by somebody else. In that case, the individuals themselves may not have been doing the seeking with their own determination of will. Thus, right now, some may have come to church because they were invited by someone in their family. Or maybe there are some who set foot into church because they were invited by a friend. It wouldn't be unusual for some people to have started coming to church because they were encouraged by some Christian related school or because they were assigned it for a report for homework.
8. But that's okay. Not everybody needs to be like Bartimaeus. It's okay if you've been like the blind person found in this [text]. The main thing is not whether the person himself or herself has zeal or great willingness, but the fact that they get to come to Jesus somehow. [What matters most] is the fact that the person is now in the presence of Jesus. The important thing for us as well, then, is the fact of our being in the sanctuary now like we're doing and worshipping the Lord. Thus, the main thing is already and decisively begun.
9. Then afterwards Jesus makes [his] moves. Whenever we make the assumption that [our] eyes will be able to see, it is [because of] the work of Jesus. Therefore, the series of moves that Jesus made is given here in this text. First, Jesus himself takes the hand of the blind man and leads him outside the village. Then, he puts saliva on his eyes and placing both hands on the man, he asks him, "What can you see?" Why did he deliberately put saliva on his eyes? Since saliva has a disinfecting property, putting saliva on a wound has been practiced since ancient times. But, saliva wasn't considered effective on eyes that were blind. If more be told, when he healed Bartimaeus, since he did not apply saliva, it wasn't ever needed in the first place in order to perform the healing. So, we don't know why Jesus applied the spittle. However we know one thing, which is that Jesus was willing to heal this man's eyes.
10. This man must have understood that too. He didn't know everything, however, for some reason or other [Jesus] smears it on him like he was working on a masterpiece. Truth be told, it was Jesus' saliva, but the man didn't understand what it was. He might have thought it was medicine. Whatever was going on, he did not know how he was opening his eyes, however, somehow or other he was trying to open them for him. He must have understood only the zeal and the willingness of Jesus. We too need to discover this. Before we ever have the desire to be able to see, Jesus has the desire to make us see. He wants to show us not the temporal, but the unchanging, the immoveable, that which cannot be stolen by anyone, the eternal, that which truly has value, that which is truly abundant. He wants to show it to us while in this life on earth, and then ultimately, to make [us] persons who rejoice as we see it for ever. He desires that.
The Lord Lays Hands [On Him] Again
11. What's more, this scripture passage tells [us] Jesus didn't do it just once, but he laid hands [on him] again. Jesus wasn't done after one time. He lays hands [on him] again. Whereupon, he could see clearly. The situation is given as follows. "Whereupon, the blind man started to see and said, 'I can see people. They look like trees, but I see them as walking ones.' Then, when Jesus put both hands on his eyes again, he could see well and was healed. He could see everything clearly," (verses twenty-four and twenty-five).
12. Here in this text are at least two important points for us. One is that this man had received a repeated touch from Jesus. But why has this story been read in churches for generations? Why is it being read in churches in Japan two thousand years later? It is because Christ is still touching us today. He is touching us with his body in order that we may start being able to see. He touches us again and again. Where is the body of the risen Christ? It is here. The Bible teaches that the church is the body of Christ.
13. Christ touches us through the body called the church. Christ touches us through baptism which the church performs. He touches us through the bread and the cup of the eucharist. He touches us through the preaching of his Word. In those moments when the church prays together, offers worship and [is] in fellowship loving one another and serving one another, Christ touches us. The Lord will ask us, "What can you see so far?" as he desires that we come to see. Even if we cannot see well we should never lose hope. We need not groan saying I won't ever understand no matter how much time goes by. We should have him touch us again.
14. And the second [point]. When he was seeing things darkly, he said, "I can see people. They look like trees, but I see them as walking ones," (verse twenty-four). Upon hearing that, Jesus put both his hands on his eyes once more. Whereupon, the scripture says, "He could see well and was healed. He could see everything clearly," (verse twenty-five). It is translated as "He could see well," but originally it is the phrase with the meaning of "to stare hard, to fix one's eyes on." In The Bible Society [Japanese] Colloquial Version (Kohgoyaku) it turns out to be, "While the blind man stared hard, he was cured, and he began to see everything clearly." He was staring this way, with all his heart, at the things he had begun to see. Whereupon, he had begun to be able to see more and more clearly.
15. It may be dark and fuzzy [right now for you]. But please hold dear what you have begun to be able to see. Not groaning that you cannot see well, but instead turn your eyes steadfastly to the things you are beginning to be able to see even if [only] vaguely. To put the faith in terms of percentages may not be a correct way to put it, but if I may say so, even if [your] faith is at one percent and [your] doubt at ninety-nine percent, please hold dear that one percent that has been born in your heart. And you should have the Lord touch you any number of times again. Before too long the time will come when [we] will see it all clearly, like they did in First Corinthians 13:12, "We will see [Him] face to face." And the reason [that is true] is because the Lord desires it fervently before we ever hope for it.