“God is the Source of Spiritual Sight in the Kingdom of God.”

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Mark, Sermon Manuscripts

[Author’s note: Any sermon manuscript found on this blog is written pre-preaching, which means that invariably the content is slightly different than what is actually heard in the sermon. If you’d like to listen to the audio of this sermon, please visit our website here.]
If we’re honest with ourselves, sometimes it’s hard to see God in this global mess we live in. But even as we zoom into our own lives, the clarity is still gone. In our own church family, we’ve suffered miscarriages and cancer, death and depression. Some of us are in lifeless marriages, some of us struggle with feelings of loneliness.

Our kids rebel, parents fight, bosses frustrate us, and yet somehow we’re in the middle of this thing we call the “Kingdom of God.” Ok, we might be in it, but “seeing it” isn’t happening. Especially when we find ourselves stumbling on the same sin over, and over, and over. Or when we have a blowup at the house with our family and realize how entangled in sin our flesh really is.

We’re God’s people in God’s kingdom supposedly enjoying the presence of God as His beloved children, but let’s be honest here- sometimes we’re not seeing it. A lot of times. We aren’t seeing God clearly. Big picture, small picture, whatever picture, it’s blurry or He’s completely unseen.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us today that we find Jesus acting out against blindness, both physical and spiritual, ‘cause it’s something that has plagued us since the Garden of Eden.

So what I’d like to do this morning is kind of summarize where we’ve been these last eight months in the Gospel according to Mark. I want to do that because if anyone can see God clearly, you’d expect it to be Jesus’ disciples. We’ll find, though, that they were blinded as well.

So we’re going to recap really quickly and then spend a few moments looking at a unique miracle of Jesus, and then we’re going to set the stage for our next two weeks as we continue this idea of seeing God clearly.

At this point in Mark, Jesus is approaching His third year of ministry, having spent the last 30 months or so making His way throughout the region. His ministry began at the age of thirty with a supernatural baptism by His cousin John the Baptist, and ever since he’s been touring the region performing miracles, teaching about the Kingdom of God, and setting the religious crowd straight in their understanding of God’s Word.

Undoubtedly, the greatest source of contention between Jesus and the Pharisees  was on how to relate to God. The Pharisees believed that their conformity to God’s Law resulted in their gaining favor from God and ultimately their justification. Jesus, on the other hand, said “Obedience to God is impossible, and it’s impossible because inwardly you’re all evil and incapable of earning righteousness.” You can understand how that would create tension.

So the Pharisees hate Jesus, the Jews did not recognize Him as their Messiah, and He’s been on the ground now for years enacting miracles that, by and large, pointed to His own mission and authority. And after all this time with His disciples, after all He’d done, it seems as though they still don’t get it. They’re not seeing God, though He’s right in front of them.

He fed the 5,000, and the 4,000. He walked on water, brought the dead to life, and even as Walt spoke last week Jesus asks His disciples in vs. 18, “Having eyes, do you not see?” Can you believe that? These guys are still clueless. So here comes a series of object lessons and lectures where Jesus begins to shed light on things. Let’s pick it up in verse 22.

Mark tells us, “22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, ‘Do not even enter the village.’”

Before we can even dissect this passage, it’s important that we realize that while yes, this is a physical healing that we’re seeing Jesus do, He’s doing it to present a spiritual reality. He’s using the seen to reveal the unseen. And the gist of Jesus’ message isn’t about seeing physically, but rather seeing spiritually.

I believe this because as I mentioned, Mark just showed us Jesus asking if His disciples still couldn’t see it, and in this next passage there are no less than nine references to sight or seeing. This is no simple healing. None of them were.

Now with that in mind, there are a few things we can take home from this passage that will hopefully be of benefit to you in your own walk with Christ, things that will allow us to see God more clearly.

The first is this: Only God can give spiritual sight. Only God can give spiritual sight. There’s a bit of irony in play here. Jesus is back in Bethsaida, near where He’d fed some 20,000 people with a couple fish and a few loaves. And while by and large the miracles and teachings of Jesus were going well over the heads of the people in attendance, they at least recognized Him as a miracle worker. They knew He could restore sight.

What about you? Have you come to that place of total dependance upon Christ? Have you taken that first step of trusting Jesus as your Savior? Or are you still trying to maneuver your way through life, spiritually blind and bumping into one dead end after another? My prayer is that when you get tired of trying to find your own way, when you realize that you are hopelessly lost and with no ability to save yourself, that your blinded eyes would be opened and set upon the Christ.

We find there were some in the crowd who believed Jesus could give sight. I mean, really believed. And they believed that only Jesus could do this. And while we might agree from a spiritual perspective that only God gives sight, let me ask you this- what are you doing to bring your blind friends to God?

Mark tells us that they brought this blind man to Jesus, and “begged” Him to touch him. What are we doing for those we love who are still blind? And make no mistake, they are. The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 that “if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Too often we try to remove the blindness ourselves, to no avail. I’m bad about this. I have a few friends and acquaintances who are atheists, and it’s easy for me to get bogged down in cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God. Or we’ll look at polystrate fossils that are encased by rock that supposedly formed over millions of years while a fish stood nose-up waiting for it to happen.

Or we’ll argue the Cambrian Explosion or the complete lack of transitionary fossils. And without fail the dialogue ends in a stalemate with no one’s mind changed. Argumentation, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, is often fruitless and sometimes even more damaging than good.

So if we can’t argue our friends to Jesus, what do we do? Well, for one we can show them Jesus in our own lives. Part of following Christ is actually, um, following Him. When our flesh conforms to the inner reality of who we are in Christ, Jesus is seen in us.

We can also strengthen our understanding and articulation of the Gospel, the good news that God saves sinners through the sacrificial work of Jesus who lived perfectly on this earth, suffered on the cross for the sins of His people, was buried, raised the third day, and now promises forgiveness and eternal life to those who repent and believe. Apart from the Gospel there can be no restoring of spiritual sight.

But there’s something else we can do, and this is pretty cool. There’s a miracle in John chapter nine not recorded by the other gospel writers, another healing of a blind man. In typical Pharisaical response, they were more concerned that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath than in the actual healing.

So they tried to use this man to discredit Jesus. Here was the formerly blind man’s chance to break out his best apologetic for the divinity of Jesus, his chance to wax eloquently about the Messianic identity of Jesus, to give a discourse of the sovereignty of God in choosing to heal him among others in need.

No, this guy doesn’t know all that. He’s not a theologian. He doesn’t have a Ph.D. He isn’t concerned with arguing with the Pharisees in hopes of swaying their position. He simply says in answer to the Pharisees, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

We might not live exemplary lives at all times. We may not be able to give a theological discourse about Jesus and salvation, but we can testify to the work of God in our own lives. That’s one of the reasons we celebrate and encourage testimonies to be shared collectively to our church.

Only God can give spiritual sight. Have you embraced this? Are you trying to bring your friends to Jesus?

The second thing we need to see this morning is that spiritual sight is restored in stages. Spiritual sight is restored in stages. And not the ones we usually expect, at that! Mark tells us that “he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village.” These guys asked for Jesus to touch him, and Jesus does- he grabs his hand and leads him away. Yeah, I’ll heal you, Jesus seems to be saying, but I’ll do it on my own terms.

Now here is something interesting. We’re witnessing the only miracle that Jesus ever worked twice in. Mark tells us “when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, ‘I see people, but they look like trees, walking.’”

Ok…there’s partial sight. He’s starting to see a little. But then “Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” Why? Why the two-stage healing? Wasn’t Jesus powerful enough to instantaneously heal this man without even needing to touch him? Of course. But Jesus is teaching us that spiritual sight comes in stages.

Certainly there is the initial sight given to those being converted, but even we as Christ followers have seasons of life where we can clearly see God at work, yet even within the same day we’re confronted by our inability to see God anywhere!

You need to know this morning that despite our poor vision at times, God still loves us. This becomes clear when reading Scripture. John the Baptist is a perfect example of this. While in prison for preaching out against King Herod Antipas, John the Baptizer had a lot of time to reflect on Jesus. John was perhaps the first to really “see” Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Yet the longer he was imprisoned, the worse his vision got. Finally he sent a few of his disciples to Jesus. You know what they asked Jesus on behalf of John? “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Jesus…are you really the Messiah? Are you really the Son of God? John had lost sight of it…yet rather than explode in a wrathful diatribe against John for his lack of faith,  for his poor vision, Jesus responds with this: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Yes, John. I am He. And I love you. Hold on.

Then He tells the crowd around Him, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” Church, know today in your often failing vision that God’s love for you has not diminished in the least.

It’s vital to us in our limited sight that we continue to trust God in what we do see. Sometimes that’s only possible when using hindsight. David knew this. He wrote in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

David felt betrayed, abandoned, and unloved by God. He’d lost sight of Him completely. Did he wallow in despair, feeling sorry for himself that God had left? No! He said “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

David is saying, I can’t see you now, God. I can’t. But I know you’re there, and you love me, and you’re for me, and I know this because of how you’ve treated me in the past.

Church, if God loves us so much that He sent His son for us, know that even in the darkest of times, when you see God the least, that’s He’s still there. He hasn’t left you.

So why the pain? Why the natural disasters? Why the sin running rampant across the globe? Can’t God stop it? Yes. And the fact that He doesn’t means that He has a purpose to it, even when we can’t see it. The same man born blind in John 9 wasn’t born that way because of his sin, or even his parents’ sin. He was born blind so that Jesus would be glorified in healing him. There’s a purpose to everything.

John Piper says it like this: “God governs the course of history so that, in the long run, His glory will be more fully displayed and His people more fully satisfied than would have been the case in any other world. If we look only at the way things are now in the present era of this fallen world, this is not the best-of-all-possible worlds. But if we look at the whole course of history, from creation to redemption to eternity and beyond, and see the entirety of God’s plan, it is the best-of-all-possible plans and leads to the best-of-all-possible eternities. And therefore this universe (and the events that happen in it from creation into eternity, taken as a whole) is the best-of-all-possible-worlds.”

Spiritual sight comes in stages- trust that God is love and God is good, even when we still don’t see it.

That raises a final question for us this morning, which is this: “What can we do to see better?” Anything? Do we grit our teeth and deal with the hand we’re dealt? Do we try to recall God’s presence in the past and draw our present strength from it?

Well, I think there’s a few things we can do. Firstly is this- we can go to God. Mark tells us that this man was brought to Jesus because he needed to see. We can do the same, through a variety of means that God has given us.

We can come to God through prayer, or through fasting. I can’t stand before you this morning and guarantee that a little time in prayer or a few days without food is going to result in God opening your eyes to the unseen, but I can tell you that by far the majority of my encounters with God have come on the waves of intense times of fasting and prayer.

We can also go to God through His word. It’s a Book about Him, isn’t it? And as we read it and allow it to transform the way we think, we’re able to see God more clearly. It still astounds me how lazy we as a people are when it comes to a Book that we believe God wrote for us.

We believe that Paul was right when he told Timothy that “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” We believe it’ll reveal more of God, help us see better, yet we won’t intentionally carve out time to actually read it. Maybe you should start there. Can you imagine what Life Journey Church would look like if we all took the time each day this week to open God’s Word and let Him speak to us?

As our band comes forward and prepares us for our final worship song, there is one last thing we need to realize in our pursuit of seeing God clearly. Whether it’s Jesus’ disciples, or the persecuted Christians in Rome, or you sitting here today, one truth is timeless, and that is this: we will never have perfect spiritual vision this side of eternity.

We may see better now than we did last month, or last year, but we won’t see it all. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that for now we see God dimly. Yeah, we can see Him at work in our lives, in the lives of those around us.

We can see His handiwork in creation, sometimes even see God in the midst of tragedy. But it’s a dim picture. Oh, but church- one day we’ll see Him face to face. What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see. When I look upon His face- the one who saved me by His grace.

In closing, our Journey Maker is this, and we’re going to be on this theme for a couple more weeks. I hope it sinks in. “God is the source of all sight in the kingdom of God.” I hope you’ll come to Him.

So I’m not sure where you are in the middle of all this. I don’t know what God has laid on your heart this morning, whether it’s to place your faith in Jesus as your savior, perhaps revamp your prayer and devotional time. Walt and I will be in the back if you’d like to talk with us, or you can talk to God right where you sit.

However He’s leading, will you respond?

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