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The Servant King Gives Sight to the Blind – Mark 10:46-52

There is a story that I read- I’m not sure if it is funny or even worthwhile but it very well captures the picture of what we are going to talk about today. There is a story of Sherlock Homes and Dr. Watson – it’s a fictional story –Holmes is a fictional detective that uses his reasons to solve any case and Dr. Watson is his partner – well, one day, they went camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holms wakes up Dr. Watson and says, “Watson, wake up, what do you see and tell me what you understand.” Watson says, “well, Sherlock, I see millions of stars, gazillion of them, and if even a few of those planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets out there like ours, and if there are few of them out there, there might also be life.” Holmes, then replies, “Watson, you idiot, somebody stole our tent.”

Dr. Watson misses the obvious. And in many ways, that story captures the picture of spiritual blindness.  Not only the “god of this age” blinds us to see God, our sin ands its entire effects blind us from seeing Christ as well. Sin blinds us. We can miss the obvious – we can’t see our biggest flaws because we are blind to it.

I’m not sure if you know John Newtown[1]– he is an 18th century Anglican minister and in one of his letters that he wrote – he says that most Christians succeed in avoiding great sins, they are able to get by but many do not actually experience true change. The reason why many do not experience change – the reason why they are not changing is that they can’t see them. The reason they can’t see them is because they are using them to see. They may seem that they are not violating any commands from Scripture but they miss the obvious.

Today’s passage is a stark warning for all of us yet it is a passage that gives us incredible hope for change and renewal. Mark places this short story in an incredible chapter of the reality of the gospel in life, as Jesus comes to Jericho- on his way for an 18-mile journey to Jerusalem, headed to the cross- the readers of this chapter is listening to God Himself – as if He is saying: I understand why you see things the way you do. I know that you look at your heart and it doesn’t look bad; but that’s simply because you are using it to see. In truth, you are darkened in your understanding and separated from the life that I want to give you. But if you allow me, I will give you a new heart, I can give sight to the blind, put a new spirit in you, will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a new heart to see. That’s is my hope and prayer this morning for me and for you. And this passage explores about what does it mean to have Jesus give sight to the blind by asking three questions for us to ponder about.

First,   1) What is spiritual blindness.

 

  1. What is spiritual blindness?

Before, we get into the text – let’s define what is spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness is basically this– the spiritual inability to see Jesus as the main source of your identity, meaning and purpose. It’s really the inability to see God as the main source of provision for ALL of your life –the inability to experience true love, truth, grace, holiness, forgiveness, blessing, eternal life, mercy, joy, and peace, that is, found in Christ. Everyone sitting in this room has a blind spot, a dark side, ever since the fall; there is this deep, personal, specific blindness of the heart. It’s like – imagine driving your car down the highway and all the while, the gasoline is leaking from underneath your car. You don’t notice it, your indicator in your car seems to indicate that you are fine, but you just don’t see it. The car is headed down toward “empty” and you can’t see it, you’re oblivious to the problem.  OR it’s like a thief that breaks into your home, when you were sleeping, that robs and snatches valuable & priceless things from you while you assume everything is ok. That’s spiritual blindness. You can live your life as a Christian all these years but you can totally be oblivious to your biggest problem, your biggest flaw, and your biggest glitch. It’s a universal problem – all of us are spiritually blind; it doesn’t matter if you are a Christian or not, we can easily live our lives assuming everything is OK all the while your oblivious to your problem.

If you are blind physically, it presents all sorts of challenges to a person. It prevents you from seeing what others are able to see. Spiritual blindness prevents you from seeing who Jesus is and what He has done for you – you think you see Him but you really don’t. A spiritual blind person does not recognize his/her own blindness but is convinced that he/she has excellent vision. Fundamentally, being spiritually blind is; you are actually blind to your blindness. Spiritual blindness is deceptive- and the Scripture highlights the sheer magnitude of this epidemic,[2] as John writes in Revelation 3:17, to the church in Laodicea: You say, I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. (See, everything seems to be okay but goes on to say) But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Spiritual blindness, LH, is drastically deceptive. It assumes that everything is ok, everything is fine; when you are deceived like that – that means you elevate something else, you highlight all of your virtuous character, your outstanding, upstanding morals, your talents, your strengths, and you will be convinced that “you don’t need a thing” but the truth of the matter is that you don’t realize that you are blind- that each of us have a “dark side”.

For example: there might be some of us who are really good on getting straight to the point, good at public speaking, person with strong convictions, opinionated but the “dark side” might be that you find it hard to listen to others or taking advice or being counseled, or being teachable, slow to admit wrong. There are some of us who are wonderful in listening to others, you are like a “yes” person, always being sensitive to others, giving counsel, showing mercy but the “dark side” might be is that you are concerned with making people happy, people pleasing, being sensitive when you are criticized; Or there are some of us who gets things done but needs to control everything, has trouble sharing power, don’t fully trust other people. Because of sin and its effects – we are naturally blind; every human born into this world is spiritually blind. It’s a universal human condition, it’s total blindness; and we cannot see our own sins well; and when that happens, it robs us, snatches and ruins our joy and our witness to the gospel.[3]

Now, what we have to realize is – that the fundamental purpose of Christ entering Jerusalem – as He is headed to the Cross, is to remind the readers what the Anointed One, the Messiah, came here to do: Because what you will find in the OT- you will find writers of the OT- predicting about a Savior, He’s coming, he’s on the way – telling their readers about who God is and what He will do – for example: Psalm 146:5-8; Isaiah 42:16: I will bring the blind by the way they knew not, I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. You will see that someone is coming who will fulfill these promises – to totally heal and deliver His people[4]. This is what the Anointed One will do – He’s coming and when you arrive to the NT; the gospel writers presents Jesus as THE SON OF GOD – telling the readers of who Jesus is and what He is going to do – as Luke 4:18 tells us that He came to proclaim the good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to the captives and to recover the sight of the blind- His fundamental purpose – is to open blind eyes.  Opening blind eyes is at the heart of Christ’s messianic mission to the world.

Because sin is not just your deliberate act of disobedience, not just the failure in keeping the rules of God but sin is deceptive; it has the appearance that things are ok, things are good, we feel that we don’t need a thing; but it hides, it pulls you into deeper and deeper sin until you forget what truth and light is. Yet, the work of the Messiah is to open our blind eyes but it leads us to ask the 2nd question: how do we interpret/explain/understand our blindness? Paul Tripp[5] has said many times: we are created to be interpreters – we are always organizing, interpreting, and explaining what is going on inside us and around us- we are all actively interpreting life. We do not live our lives based on facts but we live our lives according to our interpretation of those facts. That’s why we need truth outside of ourselves in order to make sense out of life – otherwise we are left with blindness. So, how do we interpret spiritual blindness?

 

  1. How do we interpret (our) spiritual blindness? V. 46-48

            You have to notice how this whole chapter begins – it starts with Jesus telling His disciples,– “hey, all you adults, listen, if you want to enter into my kingdom, you gotta be a kid, if you want to picture servanthood, if you really want to picture position of influence & rank, if you really want to be great, then-you got to let me Pick you up & hold you.” And that theme- the theme of being a child permeates this whole chapter- to be in the kingdom, to be an insider, it’s not for those people who are “worthy” for it, you can’t achieve it nor try to be accomplished for it but those who are willing to admit they are helpless, those who are on the ground level looking up, like a child- to be picked up, to be vulnerable, utterly dependent, who cannot do things for themselves. BUT notice another thing, this chapter clearly expresses blindness- it also permeates throughout this chapter…as each of the story gets heightened and heightened and heightened and reaches a high crescendo to the story of the blind beggar, right before He enters Jerusalem. And this blind beggar stands in great contrast with the admirable, respectable, rich young man- blinded by his standard of goodness, he thought that he could actually see but in actuality he went away “blind”. Then you have the disciples, James and John, the ones who were with Jesus; they were blinded by their own desire for glory, power, position, & influence.

But notice, this blind beggar, in v. 46ff, we don’t know much about him, we don’t know if he was born blind, or if he was blind later in life, we know nothing except that he was the son of Timaeus, but the description that Mark gives us is quite telling of the man. He was sitting by the roadside. His level is already on the ground level; it’s @ ground zero- it’s not like the rich young man who ran up or James & John wants to sit with Jesus for power and influence. No, this man was sitting; and imagery of a person that is already in the ground level.  His blindness condemned him, the blindness itself interpreted that his world is a world of darkness; people have pushed him out, reduced him to be a beggar by the roadside – he’s on the ground, he was literally the lowest of the low in terms of his life and in terms of public status.  But the moment when he heard that Jesus was in town, he began to cry out. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” – he shouts it even more louder the 2nd time; “Son of David, have mercy on me.” Why in the world is this blind man asking for mercy? Even if you look at a ‘birds eye’ of the gospel of Mark, in each of the healing miracle stories that we have read so for – they don’t ask for mercy; they ask to get better, I have been sick for a long time, heal me, my daughter is dying- they do not request Jesus to grant them mercy- the word occurs only three times in Mark, twice in this section and another one where Jesus himself uses it in Mark 5:19- telling the man who was possessed by demons – to go and tell your friends of what the Lord has done for you and how merciful he is to you.  I mean, the Bartimeaus knew who Jesus is, called Jesus, the Son of David, it’s a title for the promised one, the Messiah– he has somewhat a deep, penetrating awareness, into the person of Jesus, somehow realizing that He is the promised King, the one who will deliver His people.[6]  And here; this blind beggar’s only plea, his only appeal, his only request was for God’s mercy.

See, in their social and religious culture – everyone in Palestine, including the disciples, they all believe that if you are rich, wealthy, then God favors you, God blessed his/her life. But if you are suffering, if something bad happened you, then it’s because you sinned and therefore God did not bless you, actually, He is mad at you, He’s punishing you. Your blind, sick, having leprosy or whatever it might be; it means God has not blessed you because you have sinned- those are what Job’s miserable friends told him – look, you are suffering, your dealing with all of this, you lost your family, $, everything and now you are in rags – and you know why; because you did something wrong, so repent. You failed to obey God, so God gave you an illness or some sort suffering or misfortune. That was the prevailing mindset, the culture, the crowd all wanted him to shut up, to be silent, what good are you, you are abandoned by God Himself, He’s mad at you; the underlying religious language of that day was: “the bad gets the bad, but the good gets the good.” Like the rich young ruler – people religiously thought because he’s rich and wealthy sure HE HAS TO BE SAVED, if a pious person whose wealth is a sign of God’s favor – if he is not saved, who will be? –– You’re a good person so God has to bless, save you.

But we are not far from that culture- sure, religious wise, there are Hindus who believe in Karma, but socially, culturally, we dance to the same tune as they do – now, I have never listened to Beatles, the rock band, never in my life, they have influenced culture a great deal but I read something in their last alum which gives us a window how we live our lives religiously. In their last album, calling it “the end”, they wrote a piece that says, and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make; that means, you will be loved as much as you love. You have to give love to receive love. I will get out of life whatever I am putting into it. You get what you give- you do good; you get good; you deserve it. But if you do bad, you’ll get bad; you deserve it; if you are bad (good) person, then you deserve to get bad (good) things. That’s what is saturating our culture religiously; No one is denying that our actions do have consequences but we do make an assessment, an interpretation- that, it is because of my sin that I am suffering and God is punishing me; if you are going through some difficulties in life, some misfortune in life then we conclude that God is mad at me, he’s upset with me, he’s punishing me, I have been bad so I got the bad — we moralize or spiritualize sin and suffering.

The world/culture runs on retribution, eye for an eye, the love you take is equal to the love you make, it functions on punishment and reward- people you hear abusing themselves – you hear stories of teenagers punishing themselves by cutting their hands, people who resort to drinking when their prized possession (girl or material wealth is gone from their lives) and when it comes to sin and suffering- because you have some sort of pain – like this blind man- we are interpreting how God should deal with those who are good & bad- and this Blind man is interpreting how GOD should deal with him. We all do it – if your marriage falls apart, if you haven’t found that special man or woman or if you’re in a circumstance that is not what you have imagined, if your life is going in a totally different direction that you never have dreamed about – we interpret that in the ultimate sense – God is executing either his punishment (or reward) towards us because we deserve it because we did something good or bad. And this blind Bartimaeus is interpreting; I don’t want to get what I truly deserve, Jesus, Messiah, Son of David because what I truly deserve is to be punished; by your wrath, it’s your anger because I have sinned; I have proof, I have pain, I’m blind, God’s hasn’t blessed me with riches, I deserve to be punished because of my sin. I don’t want to get punished.  And Bartimaeus is pleading with Jesus, have mercy on me. I do not want to get what I truly deserve. Mercy!

Christianity tells us that we deserve God’s anger, deserve HELL, banished from His presence because of our sin, left, abandoned, mocked, stripped & beaten, rejected, crucifixion is what sin and sinners deserve instead what He does is that He refrains, He holds back from giving us what we truly deserve (mercy) and then extends to us what we could not earn in a million years (grace). Grace cannot amaze us until we know the punishment that all of us deserved.

Picture this: It’s like when a jury sentences a criminal to death but let’s say that the judge takes that verdict and places it on HIMSELF; and he took the criminal’s place in prison awaiting death but gave the criminal a million dollars as a gift, sent him on an all-expenses-PAID vacation to Hawaii, while knowing the man was guilty – that’s mercy. When someone who deserves punishment yet receives a reward, then he totally gets grace. It will make you dance!

The world see things as what goes around comes around; the good person gets the good things (rewarded), like wealth, riches, status, position, power, influence etc but the bad person gets the bad things (punishment) like being blind, lost his family, no influence, no status, no position. The good news of the gospel is not that the good people get good things and bad people get bad things; no! Thank God! The good news of the gospel means that the bad actually got the best, the worst inherits wealth, and the slave becomes a son/daughter.

We need this story because if you are like me, maybe, as you look at your life, you are looking at your present circumstances, thinking that you are lacking something/or you are facing some sort of difficulty and you are looking at it & interpreting that you deserve something better; that you are entitled to be happy in life, you are entitled to feel good about yourselves, you’re entitled to have a good life; and you feel that you have done something wrong in your life for you to experience that pain/difficulty, and feel– maybe God is punishing because of it BUT the good news that the blind beggar is responding to as soon as he heard Jesus was in town-  though acutely aware of his present condition, though he knows he deserves to be punished; he cries out for mercy – he’s begging Jesus to notice him, to see him; to take note of him, I want you to look at me, I don’t want to get what I deserve, even though the beggar was blind, he locates that it is only in Jesus, that he could find the gracious mercy of God. Sinclair Ferguson[7] says this: The blind man saw the power of Christ, not on the basis of his strength but in the context of his weakness.

When you really, really get (understand) the mercy of God- that you didn’t get what you truly deserve then – then you will live your life as if you have nothing to lose, nobody is in your debt, you are not fighting for glory, not competing for influence, not presenting yourself as a model Christian or a model family, saying my kids are better in this or that, not fighting for superiority, not competing to be number one, not fighting to be successful, or status, when you get how much God is merciful to you- it erodes your need for self-entitlement, what other’s owe you, what your friends owe you, what God owes you; you have nothing to lose; and paradoxically, that’s when have gained everything.  That’s when, as Robin would say, “Servant-hood is your identity”- you don’t have to achieve anything or demand for anything – you can simply receive, simply BE! Brennan Manning said once: “A ragamuffin knows he’s only a beggar at the door of God’s mercy.” You’re a child of the King and He will gladly PICK you up & hold you.

 

III. What is our hope for us to truly see [v. 49-52]

Notice after the blind man’s 2nd pleading – the drama unfolds as Jesus stops– it as if the whole earth just paused –His tender care, His willingness to stop and called him; notice, after they told him – get up, he’s calling you, look at v. 50 – the blind man acts with reckless abandon, throwing off the outer garment, sprang up to him and Jesus asked him- what do you want me to do for you? That is the same question frames what Jesus asked his disciples in v. 36, and to the blind beggar; but James & John wanted the glory and fame- these disciples arrogantly wanted seats of honor, power, authority and glory; they show the full extent of their blindness when they ask to be seen, to be recognized, to be great, to be noticed.  And here – the blind beggar simply told Jesus – let me recover my sight, let me see; and Jesus responded – go on with your life, your faith has made you well – and Mark lets us know that immediately he recovered his sight- the guy who was sitting by the roadside is now a follower of Christ. The cry of faith is always: I want to see. I want to see my sin. I want to see more of Jesus.  I want to see God’s glory. I want to see truth. I want to see the right path. I want to see.  But there is more to it than that!

In each of these three stories (rich young man, the request of James & John, and Blind Bartimaeus) – there is a deep, penetrating desire, that all of them wanted to be noticed, to be seen; to be known; James and John will learn exactly what it means to be first through cup of suffering and be baptized with affliction; they will exactly to know what it means to be first and with the arrogant rich young man, Jesus did take note of him and loved him, and then told him what to do (your loved/accepted, and now obey) – but he couldn’t only because he thought that all of his life, he thought he was actually seen or even noticed by God Him from all of his achievements.  But Blind Bartimaeus pleads for the mercy of God – I don’t want to get what I truly deserve- he’s pleading only because he thinks that God does NOT see him. He thinks he will get punished for the wrongs that he has done because his blindness was the proof of God’s disapproval; it was the physical proof that God has never seen him in all of his life. There is a deep, ingrained desire for all of us to be seen, we greatly desire to make a difference in this world, to make our lives count for something; we don’t want to settle for mediocrity– we want to be noticed, we want to know that our lives does matter and that somebody/anybody sees it; whether that be by God or by others people.

I’m not sure if any of you read the article[8] about Michael Jordan on ESPN when he celebrated his 50th birthday – but he reflected a lot in terms of his retirement from basketball, how he would give up everything to go back and play the game but what is at the center of his need to play basketball – besides the game and competition – is that he wants to be SEEN again. Jordan is at the center of a billion dollar shoe corp, owner of a basketball team, with dozens of employees working for him – and even his code name is Yahweh (the Hebrew name for God). He is so used to being the most important person in every room he enters – no matter where he goes. What does that recognition do to someone? So, he answers, since he has been away from the game, without it, he feels adrift. He says, ‘who am I(identity); what am I doing’(purpose/meaning) and he’s been running around looking for glory even @ 50. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player in NBA history, with all the fame and glory- still is longing to be recognized, still longing to be SEEN. His spiritual blindness led him to conclude that He is Yahweh, he’s the center of it all.

MJ is still longing for something, longing to know that he still matters, that his life is significant. There is so much pressure in this world for us to become – to become something great, or something we can do to make our lives meaningful; that if we can achieve enough, perform enough, accomplish enough- our lives matter, somebody notices us. For Bartimeaus, he pleads from a desperate heart to be seen by God. His pleading is the proof that he sees Christ as his only hope and the only source for help. He asks to see because he gets his identity right; he brings nothing to the table yet only clings to the Son of David. The world/people/culture/our upbringing/even our church tempts us to locate our identity in something or someone smaller than Jesus; because our worth, our value, our significance are tied to the things that we can achieve, the things that we have, our value to society, our meaning in life, who are our friends are, our ability to perform and all that – we conclude, then, our lives count, they matter, they value for something, that we are actually seen, we are noticed. SEE, Bartimeaus had a singular focus because he had a singular hope: that Jesus sees me;  that was his only hope. For Bartimeaus, he gets his identity right by being weak and needy, there is nothing he can do; and there is no one he can become; “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

But he also gets Christ’s identity right- he calls Jesus the Son of David – the one who saves, the one who is the promised Messiah, strong & mighty the Savior to save us from our sins. The moment Jesus called him, he runs to him? Why? Because he believed(something that I still need to believe) that it is in Christ alone that he gets the value, worth, the meaning, the purpose, the security, and the significance that he’s longing for- even his disciples and rich young man found that very hard to believe. But for Bartimeaus, the faith that healed him was never about the quality or the strength or the size of his own; though important, it was not his understanding of his own darkness, his assessment of Christ or his persistence that healed him – rather his faith was depended on the size, the strength of its object; it was ALL Christ. Jesus came to him, the Savior called forth his faith. It’s his faith in the right object that healed him, that rescued him– it is Jesus who saw him before he can actually see.  When faith becomes all about how He sees us- when we believe that all that we are longing for – all of the security, the affections, the approval- that He does look at us, that he does take note of us – when we believe that- when we locate our identity in Christ – all that we are longing for – love, grace, mercy, cleansing, a new beginning, approval, acceptance, rescue- we have now- all of the security, affection and approval that we want – all those are in Christ we have. When we believe that, when put all of our hope in that – then only can we begin to see, to be restored. Nothing smaller than Jesus will do. Let’s pray!

[1] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/forgive-us-these-faults/

 

[2] http://www.gotquestions.org/spiritual-blindness.html

[3] http://thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-you-cant-see-your-biggest-flaws

[4] Ben Witherington III, Gospel of Mark, p. 291

[5] Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

[6] W. Lane, Mark, p.387; Witherington, p. 291

[7] Let’s Study Mark, p. 177

[8] http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/page/Michael-Jordan/michael-jordan-not-left-building

 

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