Mark 10: 46-52
Of all our physical senses many of us would place the highest value on the amazing experience of physical sight. So much of our communication with each other is about what we see or have seen. ----What a beautiful fall day. The baby looks so precious. Did you see those cards? Did you watch the election returns? As children we played 'blind man' to see how long we could endure the frustration and isolation of trying to be about our activities with our eyes closed. There are different ways to be blind. As a seven year old I used to sometimes play in another neighborhood with a good friend. His grandmother ran a tiny grocery store. My friend would pick up a soda and walk by the cash register and say 'charge it' to his grandma. I went right behind him carrying a soda and also yelled out, 'charge it.' I had no idea what the word meant but it worked. In my innocence I was very blind. Eventually my parents were informed and it was explained to me that we had no charge account there. Similar blindness in adult life can very harmful and destructive.
The gospels all contain stories of blindness being healed. John's gospel uses it as a central theme to describe the ministry of Jesus. Today is Mark's story of the man Bartimeus being blind. He is described also as a beggar which was the expected plight of being blind, unless you had a family that could help you survive. There was no medicaid or services for the blind. A blind beggar was nearly as low on the social scale as a person could be. Such a person would be seen as a 'taker' in society and not a 'maker' or 'producer'. There was 'no use' for him. This accounts for the fact that those around Jesus in the story were telling Bartimeus to 'be quiet.' They felt he was not important enough to have Jesus' attention. Jesus helped to awaken them all by stopping and calling the blind man to him.
As harsh as blindness is we have all known , or known of, blind persons who are fully functioning participators in life and blind people have been among the most intelligent and most high contributors to human progress. I recently revisited the birth place of Helen Keller. The home where she and her family lived is open for tourists in Tuscumbia, AL. Every summer the story of her early life is acted out in the back yard of the home through the play 'The Miracle Worker.' The home is named 'Ivy Green' and is just across the Tennessee River from my home town of Florence. Helen Keller was struck blind, deaf and mute as an infant. Against expectations and thanks to her and her 20 year old visually impaired teacher's perseverance she learned to speak and made enormous social contributions to her nation and the world. Her teacher Anne Sullivan continued as a companion and assistant for nearly 40 years. Keller is often called 'America's Heroine.' She is the first blind/deaf woman to earn a bachelor's degree. Helen Keller became world renowned as a speaker and author. She is known for her contributions to improving the opportunities of disabled persons. She was an activist for Womens right to vote and for womens access to birth control. She died in 1968.
|Helen Keller Appreciating A Flower|
How as post modern people do we learn from this story? There is very good reason to think that the gospel writers themselves were not intending to tell stories of physical blindness being supernaturally instantly healed. But were using metaphor and religious story to help describe the extraordinary impact that the person of Jesus had made on their recent forbears. Many of course think that the miracle stories in the Bible were physical breaks with the laws of nature. And that such supernatural interpretation of the actions of Jesus is the only way those who knew him and also us today can come to believe in him. I personally think this is a mistake and misunderstanding. For one thing that view tends to make light of the fact that all through history the vast majority of blind people have never been cured instantly o but instead many of them have spiritually and courageously transcended their handicap to live filled and fulfilling lives. These are where I see the miracle work of God taking place. I also believe these stories are primarily about the great need that all of us humans have(not just the physically blind), of being healed from our spiritual kinds of blindness. Thus the stories are universally applicable and potentially transforming. Jesus' ministry was about raising people's levels of perception or 'seeing', about increasing their moral consciousness, awareness and thus compassion. His instruction that we all need to 'repent' means that it is urgent that we come to 'see differently' (repent) those subtle realities that often lie just beneath our conscious awareness. A needed increase of moral consciousness can be a sudden flash of insight following thoughtful wrestling with a problem or state of prayer. Such was the case of John Newton, the slave ship captain. which resulted in his writing the words of the hymn 'Amazing Grace.' He says, " I once was blind but now I see." He suddenly realized that the slaves on his ship were as fully human as himself and were to received equal dignity, respect and freedom.
As a person is healed of such blindness or is enlightened and comes to more clearly 'see', sometimes gradually and sometimes in bursts of awareness, several areas of awareness typically increase: 1. That each and every human being is an object of God's love, a love that does not value any person less than another. 2. That each person has gifts from God to give to others and that each of us has a need to experience ourselves as contributors to the well being of others. We need to assist each other in discovering our gifts. Helen Keller had become isolated from family and community by her physical blindness and deafness. She was socially locked up and separated from others. Her learning to speak literally opened up her life and freed her gifts to come forth to bless others. Many would say her words and actions are indicative of a person who became enlightened and transformed. She was' healed' of the typical spiritual blindness of her day. Many of her words would qualify as 'timeless wisdom.' This is how we can look upon the potential of all our human brothers and sisters. Human persons are truly as Paul says carriers of ' treasures in earthen vessels' waiting to be discovered for the benefit of others. To become aware of such things(and God only knows what others) is an example of how our blindness is healed just as miraculously as if Jesus had healed a physically blind person. 3. That God in the fullest meaning of that word is beyond any human capacity to adequately describe or fully comprehend. 4. That we humans by the very nature of the meaning of consciousness and its development can never be totally aware and conscious of what is deeply real and true. This means we are wise to live very humbly in our dealings with others...slow to judge or devalue the worth or belief of another person. For we never know just who it is that we may be dealing with and their important place in our lives. One N.T. Writer says we often 'entertain angels unawares'. Thus the warning, we are wiser and more enlightened if we treat with respect and care all of God's children.
|A Needed Flash Of Insight.|
So the story of Jesus healing a blind person is a lesson to remind us of our continual lack of complete conscious awareness and of the spiritual vision necessary to most fully live our human lives. And the good news is we can receive continual renewals and needed increases in our developing consciousness. In this story and many other gospel stories the people around Jesus including his disciples are pictured as seriously blind to much of life and love and the meaning of what is happening in their very presence. We are still also such people. This is the Christian description of the human condition. We could say that the nature of Jesus' ministry is centrally about healing our human spiritual blindness. And we can rightfully still expect higher levels of moral human consciousness, so much needed in our day, are a possible occurrence for us as individuals, churches, communities, the nation and even the whole world.
Dear God. Let your Spirit breath your healing power on us according to our need. May your Spirit be continually healing us of our blind spots and increasing our moral consciousness. We do come asking that personally, collectively and for our nation, 'Let us receive our sight.'