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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:The journey from blindness to sight
Text:Mark 8:22-30 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2010
Added:2010-06-08
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 29
Hymn 62:3 (after the law)
Psalm 36
Psalm 18:1,2,9
Psalm 148
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

 

Hymn abuse is a terrible thing to watch.  Surely one of the most abused hymns in history is John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.”  No other hymn has been subjected to so much misuse, misappropriation and misunderstanding.  Sports fans in the UK sing it like an anthem at soccer games.  It’s sung at the memorial services of unbelieving celebrities in an effort to console the grieving.  “Amazing grace” is the world’s favourite hymn and the hymn that the world most loves to abuse. 

 

Part of the problem is that, when Newton wrote it, it was for his congregation of Christian believers.  For them the context was clear.  God’s grace was in Jesus Christ, the gospel is where we find God’s amazing grace.  But that was assumed in the hymn and that, I think, has opened it up to all this abuse.  What would God’s grace in Jesus Christ for poor sinners have to do with a soccer game?  What would the gospel have to do with someone who rejected it?  “The hour I first believed” – when the departed loved one never believed in the Saviour? 

 

We can wish that John Newton would have been more explicit and assumed less – that might have spared us all this sacrilege.  However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that, from a Christian perspective, the hymn does contain some beautiful words and biblical sentiments.  Among them is the notion of once having been blind and now seeing.  Newton knew what that was about.  He wrote the words found on his gravestone and they say it all:  “John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy.”  He had been blind, but was brought to sight by God’s grace.  This is a biblical picture, an image that Scripture uses to describe those who are called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light.  It’s an image of those who come to understand who Jesus Christ is and what he came to do.  It’s an image that we also find embedded in our text for this morning.  So, I preach to you God’s Word on:

 

The journey from blindness to sight

 

We see it with:

 

1.      The man in Bethsaida

2.      The disciples along the way

 

In the verses before our text, the disciples were in the boat crossing the sea of Galilee.  The boat was their classroom and Jesus was their teacher, warning them about the teaching of the Pharisees and Herod.  In verse 22, they reached their destination on the northern shore.  It was the town of Bethsaida.

 

Upon arriving there, a blind man was brought to Jesus.  Those who brought him begged Jesus for healing.  Notice again the use of the word “begging.”  That’s a word that appears over and over again in Mark.  People are always begging Jesus, always imploring him, always requesting from him.  That is a recognition of his authority and his ability to help.  The only ones who demand things from Jesus are the Pharisees.  They demanded a sign from heaven from Jesus.  But they’re the exceptions.  Everyone else begs and implores Jesus, recognizing something of his authority and power.  You simply don’t order him around.

 

The Lord Jesus doesn’t ignore these requests.  He becomes the guide for the blind man and leads him outside the village.  Why does he take him there?  Of course, we’re not explicitly told but there is a pattern since chapter 5 of the Lord Jesus doing healings more secretly and then afterwards telling the person who is healed not to publicize it.  This seems to be for two reasons.  The first is that he wants the emphasis to be on his teaching.  The second is that he wants to avoid unnecessary confrontations with the Jewish religious leadership before the time is right for his suffering and death.  Those things have to take place in Jerusalem and at this point he’s still a ways off from that time and place.  So, Jesus takes him outside the village to a quieter spot.

 

Then he does something unusual.  He spit on the man’s eyes.  We’ve heard about the Lord Jesus using saliva before.  He used that at the end of chapter 7 when he healed the deaf and mute man.  Then we noted that it was probably because people understood saliva to have medicinal properties.  In this case, perhaps people would even think that the man was healed from his blindness because of the saliva rather than because of a miracle.  It’s difficult to say for sure what the reason for using saliva was.   At any rate, he also put his hands on him, on his eyes.

 

The Lord Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”  The man was beginning to see.  He could see people looking like walking trees – this suggests, by the way, that the man was not born blind, but became blind later in life.  A person blind from birth wouldn’t know anything about what trees look like or people for that matter.  The healing was not complete, it takes place in stages.  Note that, because we’re going to come back to that.  Stages.      

 

In the second stage, Christ again puts his hands on the man’s eyes.  Then it happens:  the blind man’s eyes were opened and his sight was restored and everything was the way that it should be.  Blindness was and is a result of the fall into sin.  Jesus comes as the one who reverses the effects of the fall into sin, also the effects on the human body.  This healing is a sign of that. 

 

This healing points ahead to the blessed day when there will be no blindness on the earth.  In the restored and redeemed creation, every single human eye will see the way that it was designed to.  Corneas, retinas, pupils, rods and cones, irises, optic nerves – all of these parts will function the way they should and all because of Jesus Christ and his redemptive work.  There will be no glass eyes on the new earth, no contact lenses, no glasses, no white canes and certainly no seeing-eye dogs.  Job 19 is a well-known passage speaking about the hope of the resurrection.  Job says that he expects to see God with his very own eyes, his physical eyes.  Revelation 22:3-4 tells us:  “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face...”  We will all see him!   Loved ones, some day your eyes may fail you on this earth, and if they do, you can be confident that some day you will see again because Jesus is your Redeemer and your Redeemer lives.  Your body will some day be like his glorious body and that means that your sight will be restored to exactly the way it was designed to be.          

 

The Lord Jesus sent this man back to his home quietly.  He was instructed not to go to the village and not to tell anyone.  Again, for some reason this was a time for not telling far and wide about the Lord Jesus and his power.

 

From Bethsaida, the Lord Jesus and his disciples head north towards Caesarea Philippi.  Over the next few chapters, we see a lot of travelling taking place.  Christ is moving around quite a bit and his disciples follow him everywhere he goes.  He’s on a journey and so are they.  Many commentators see the journey as a sort of picture of discipleship.  In fact, later after Pentecost, the Christian faith comes to be known by the early Christians as “the Way.”  It’s the road, the journey.  That is a picture of our life here.  We are pilgrims on a journey.  This world is not our home and we should never forget that.  The goal is to grow and see more clearly as we travel on the way.

 

As they were travelling on the way, the Lord Jesus asked them a simple question.  By now you’ll recognize this question, because it’s Mark’s key theme:  “Who do people say that I am?”  Mark told us at the beginning in Mark 1:1 that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  So, we know the answer to his question, or at least we should.  But the disciples don’t have the advantage of having the voice of a narrator in their living drama.  So, at the end of chapter 4, when Jesus calms the storm, we hear the disciples asking among themselves, “Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him?”  Jesus’ identity comes up again and again in the first half of Mark.  This passage is the turning point, the point at which his identity finally comes out into the open, at least among the disciples.      

  

Jesus asks the question, “Who do people say I am?”  He doesn’t ask because he’s particularly interested in what all the crowds think about him.  His question has a deeper thrust, it’s a question with an agenda.  The disciples go ahead and answer and their answers are familiar from chapter 6 and the story of Herod.  Mark told us back then already that people were confused about Jesus’ identity.  There was no definite consensus on the details of who he was.  That’s clear from the disciples’ answer as well.  Some think him to be John, others Elijah, and some thought he might be one of the other Old Testament prophets.  But he even though all those answers differed on the details, they did have one thing in common.  Everyone agreed that he was some kind of prophet.  But no one could seem to get beyond that.  There was a sort of collective blindness that kept them in the dark.

    

Jesus got this answer and then he moved towards his real question:  “But what about you?  Who do you say that I am?”  In other words, “Have you got it figured out yet?”  Remember the question at the end of last week’s passage, “Do you still not understand?”  Where are the disciples on the question of Jesus’ identity? 

 

Peter speaks up and speaks on behalf of them all:  “You are the Christ.”  He gets it!  They get it.  They finally get it.  Their eyes have been opened to Jesus’ true identity.  He’s not just a rabbi.  He’s not just a prophet.  He’s not just an ordinary man.  He is the Christ. 

 

As you know, “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah.  Christ means Messiah and Messiah means the anointed of God.  The Messiah was the one promised in the Old Testament who would come for the redemption of the people of Israel.  He was the figure who would come for salvation. 

 

Peter and the other disciples have this break-through moment and there are a few things we need to take away from this.  First of all, notice how the crowds say one thing, but the disciples are finally led to say the right thing.  While they can’t agree on the details, the crowds all agree that he’s a prophet and nothing more.  The disciples have come to the point where they can buck the trend and confess Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ. 

 

Brothers and sisters, we too are the disciples of Jesus.  We too live in a world where, by and large people all have the same opinion about Jesus.  Most of the world agrees that Jesus was a good man.  They’ll disagree on the details and they’ll disagree about whether or not the Bible gives an accurate picture of who he was.  But most will agree that he was a good man, a wise man, he had some good teachings.  Islam even says what the crowds of Jesus’ day said:  he was a prophet.  Not the greatest prophet (that was Muhammad), but Muslims say that Jesus was a prophet of Allah.  Muslims respect Jesus as a prophet. 

 

The world says one thing and it puts pressure on us.  You’ll find the pressure in the workplace, in the university or college classroom, in the popular culture, everywhere you encounter the world.  The trend is there to see Jesus in a way that doesn’t do him justice, if he’s even considered at all.  Loved ones, buck the trend.  And then don’t just believe the truth, but speak the truth whenever you can.  We’re not to conform to the world, but to the Word.  That means that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the one anointed by God to save us from the wrath to come.  We believe that Jesus is the one who has brought us out of darkness and into the light and we witness to him accordingly.

 

Of course, that has implications for how we live too.  That’s why we read from 1 John 2.  There are those who claim to have Jesus’ identity straight and who claim to believe in him rightly.  They claim to have moved from darkness to light, from blindness to sight.  Think only of Judas Iscariot.  He was there.  Peter was speaking for him too and we know how he later betrayed the Lord Jesus.  However, true faith in Jesus Christ always bears fruit, the fruit of godliness.  If some one says, “You are the Christ,” but yet they go on hating their brother, they show that they are still blind, still in darkness.  Truly acknowledging Jesus Christ to be who he is will inevitably bear fruit, it must bear fruit in a life in which hatred in even its mild forms like dislike and disdain are increasingly put to death.          

 

The second thing we need to take away is that the disciples are not healed from their blindness all in one shot.  It takes a few doses, a few treatments before they completely see.  Their progress follows somewhat the model of the healing of the blind man.  He wasn’t healed all at once, and neither are the disciples.  They’re now beginning to see, but as we’ll hear in the next few weeks, they have relapses and they slide back.  It takes time for them to grow in their new vision of who Jesus is.  And yet the Lord Jesus has so much patience for them.

 

It’s always good to remember that the Christian life is a journey in growth.  It’s not a static place where you get to a certain point and then you just stay there.  We’re either growing or we’re back-sliding, there is no middle ground, no status quo place.  Sometimes we move forward, sometimes we slide back.  Our prayer has to be that God would be leading us ever more forward so that our vision becomes more and more clear.  We need to have a clearer vision of who Christ is so that we all the more entrust ourselves to him.  God leads us forward with his Word and that’s why it’s so important for us to be busy with the Word, with the Bible. 

 

This morning let me especially encourage the younger brothers and sisters, let’s say those who are in Grades 2-8, and maybe even those who are older, those in high school.  Remember that the devil loves a dusty Bible.  Make him unhappy.  Take some time every day to pick up your Bible and read it.  Ask God to show you Jesus in the Bible and to show you the gospel.  Whenever you read your Bible, make sure you pray too, and ask God to help you to see more and more clearly who Jesus Christ is, so that you rest in him and trust in him.  Brothers and sisters, that’s good counsel for all of us, young and old.   

 

The good news is that the Lord Jesus will be patient with us, just as he had been patient with his disciples up to that day in Caesarea Philippi.  If we struggle and backslide, he’s not going to leave us out in the cold and throw us out of his school of discipleship.  Keep coming back to him and he will keep on receiving you – he is always faithful and he will never forsake you.

 

Finally, the Lord Jesus warns them not to tell anyone about him.  In other words, he doesn’t want his disciples trumpeting around that he is the Christ.  Not at this moment.  Why might that be?  The answer to that relates to what people understood by “Messiah” in those days.  The word “Messiah” or “Christ” had political overtones.  The Messiah or Christ was not the one who was going to come and save them from sin and from God’s wrath against sin, but the one who would deliver Israel from the Romans.  He was going to be a military and political leader.  Announcing that the Messiah was here could spark political unrest, even revolt.  The Lord Jesus could get distracted from his true mission in Jerusalem, his date with suffering and death. 

 

The fact that the word “Christ” or “Messiah” is not clearly understood also gets underlined in the following verses.  The disciples know that he is the Christ, but their understanding of the Messianic office needs a lot of work.  That only comes with time and with further instruction and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.

 

Loved ones, Jesus’ question is the most important question in the world: “Who do you say I am?”  It takes amazing grace for one to answer that question properly.  It takes amazing grace for one to be able to move from darkness to light, blindness to sight.  God’s amazing grace is evident in our lives when we say, “You are the Christ, you are the one who came into this world to live for me, to suffer for me, to die for me, to rise again for me.  You are my Lord and my Saviour.”  AMEN.

 

Prayer:

 

Father in heaven,

 

Thank you for opening our eyes, so that we may see and believe the truth of who the Lord Jesus is.  We pray that you would continue to work in our lives with your Word and Spirit so that we would not backslide, but only grow in grace and knowledge.  Father please help us so that we don’t relapse back into blindness.  Help us to be deaf to the crowds around us when they get it wrong about our Saviour.  Help us to speak to the crowds around us with boldness, winsomeness and love.  Father, we also thank you for the great encouragement that we find in the promises of the age to come.  We look forward to a world in which sin is dead and gone and the effects of sin have been completely reversed.  Father, help us to journey onward to the promised land with hope, the hope of seeing you with our very own eyes. 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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