Archive for January, 2012

About Mark

Posted: January 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Matthew 9:27-34

It Was In My Hand The Whole Time!

When I was in fifth grade, I remember I was in the library at Blaney Elementary School in Elgin, SC. How many of you know where Elgin, SC is? Winner gets a candy bar!

Back to my story though… I remember the bell ringing and it was time for me to go back to class. But wait! I could not find my Health book! I began looking all over the library for this book! I could not find it anywhere! I was getting frantic. What was I going to do! Finally, I asked the librarian if she had seen my book and if she could help me find it! She agreed to help me look for it! But after a few seconds, she said, “What is that you are carrying around in your hand?” I look down and guess what? Yep. You got it! I had been carrying that health book around in my hand the whole time I had been looking for it. Talk about feeling foolish!

 

That story kind of reminds me of the passage under study today. Today, we look at Matthew 9:27-34. In it, we find that it says:

 

And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” But they went away and spread his fame through all that district. As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

 

The irony of this passage is that the blind men could “see” through faith that Jesus was the Son of God but the Pharisees, though sighted, could not see! In first century Middle Eastern culture, it was certain that blindness was seen as a curse for one’s own sin or for the sins of one’s forefathers before him. Thus, blind people were reduced to being beggars. They were social outcasts. Since they were perceived to be unclean having either so severely sinned themselves (or their forefathers had so severely sinned) to be made blind, they were excluded from mainstream Jewish society. Thus, they were social outcasts in a religion-based society, but yet they recognized the Messiah as he passed. At the same token, the religious elite of the day, the Pharisees were so wrapped in their own self-centered preservation of their place in the religious elite, they were unable to see or unwilling to see Jesus for who he was – the Son of God, the Messiah that had been promised to Israel. They were so worldly-wise in preserving their position and keeping others pressed down into their place in the social pecking order of the day that they could not accept that their Messiah had come. It is like me searching for my health book everywhere in the library when it was right there in my hands. The Pharisees had their Messiah right there with them and could not find him because they were so focused on themselves, so certain of their piety, so concerned with their position, so concerned with “showing off” their piety that they failed to see the Man and His message. Isn’t that true of us today too?

In John 12:39-40, we read, 40 (B)“He has blinded their eyes and (C)hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” We get so wrapped in ourselves and in the toys that are the standards of our modern lifestyle – the newest SUV in the driveway, the little sports car beside it, flat screen TVs, the latest cell phone, the coolest computer. All of it is drowning noise that keeps us from seeing what we are really here for – not to glorify ourselves with outward trappings but rather to glorify God. Do we not see that we are so burden with our sins that we are a step away from eternal damnation? Do we not see the Messiah? He is right there in our hands! But we don’t see him. We see our station in life, our position in society as more important than our eternal destiny. We are like children who want all our candy now with no thought of the long term. We are like the teenager who sneaks out the house to go to a party that his parent forbade him to go to. They do it because we want it now, with no thought of the consequences. Isn’t time we saw the Messiah? Isn’t time we thought of our sins and our destiny? Isn’t only the Messiah that can offer us a way to be justified before God? But we don’t see him! Right there! Are we not just like the Pharisees?

I have been reading a book called Pilgrim’s Progress, a timeless classic first published in 1678 and written by John Bunyan, for one my classes at seminary this semester. It is an allegorical book so every person and every object is symbolic of some concept, social or religious that the readers will recognize. One of the ironic points of the early part of the book is that is only when the central character, “Christian”, has read through “the Book” (the Bible), he becomes convicted of his unworthiness in the face of God. At that instant, in today’s terms, a hiking backpack appears on his back which is very, very heavy and burdensome and he can’t get it off his back. He, then, sets off on a journey to find peace and relief from his burden. Isn’t true that only when we are convicted of our sins by the Holy Spirit that we only then feel the true weight of it. It is only then that we become completely desperate of our situation and throw ourselves at the foot of the cross. In that one hopeless moment, Jesus cast the burden from our back and we find unalterable joy! At the same token, in Pilgrim’s Progress, there are characters with no burdens on their backs because they have not heard God’s word and taken it to heart. Only a Christian realizes he has a burden that will drag him down in the miry pit of hell if it were not for the sacrifice of Jesus on his behalf. Those who have not heard the word do not even realize that hell is their fate even knowing that the Messiah exists. So, too, were the Pharisees in our story today. They did have ears to hear the Good Word. They did not have eyes to see the Messiah. To them, their world revolves around them so much that they were blind to the Messiah right in front of them. So, too, were the obstinate character and the worldly-wise characters in Pilgrim’s Progress. Do we not suffer from the same blindness to the sin on our backs? Are we blinded to the fact that we can only loose this burden through the one and only Messiah? In his grace and mercy only can we drop our ways of not thinking about tomorrow? In him and his atoning sacrifice can we get the real, true eternal candy that we were built to crave!

In this passage, Jesus had just raised a little girl from the dead and was “passing on from there”, as Matthew puts it. As he was passing on, he went past two blind men. In Mark 4:9, we read, “And he said, (I)“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” These two blind men had their souls stirred so much that they “followed him”. In their blindness, they could not see him physically, but they had ears that were tuned into hearing him – let those who have ears, hear! They began “crying aloud, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David’.” As Matthew Henry states in his commentary on this passage, “The title which these blind men gave to Christ “Son of David” refers to the promise made to David, that of his loins the Messiah should come, was well known, and the Messiah was therefore commonly called the Son of David. At this time there was a general expectation of his appearing. These blind men know and proclaim it in the streets of Capernaum, that he is come! This aggravates the folly and sin of the chief priests and Pharisees who denied and opposed him. They could not see him and his miracles, but faith comes by hearing.” The blind men saw him even though they could not see!

At first, it appears that Jesus did not immediately respond to their request to test their faith, but they were persistent. They followed him all the way back to where Jesus was staying. They had faith in the ability and more importantly the mercy of our Lord. They kept at it. We are taught to be persistent in prayer to the Almighty One. Jesus draws a confession of faith from them upon this occasion. When they came to him for mercy, he asked them, Do you believe that I am able to do this? They who would receive the mercy of Christ, must firmly believe the power of Christ. What we would have him do for us, we must be fully assured that he is able to do. They followed Christ, and followed him crying, but the great question is, Do you believe? Publicly proclaiming knowledge of the identity of Christ is one thing, but it is faith in him as our Messiah that leads to spiritual blessings. That is the message of Jesus. His miracles were not just magic shows. They were responses to faith! In his mercy and love for mankind, he responded to these people of faith in these miracles. That was why he asked them to keep quiet about it. He wanted the message to be clear – it’s about faith! These blind men believed. They had faith that Jesus had the power to cure them. The demon possessed man was the same. They saw the Messiah. They saw him right in front of them! Their eyes were not clouded with their status! Their eyes were not clouded with possessions! They were abounding in joy because of their faith.

When the Messiah passed by, this joy in having access to the Messiah made them push forward in faith to ask for his blessings. As Chris Tomlin puts it,

 

In you, there’s life everlasting

In you, there’s freedom for my soul

In you, there’s joy, unending joy

And I will follow

 

They saw as Chris Tomlin sees there is a freedom and a joy, an unending joy in seeing the Messiah. In that joy we will follow our Messiah regardless of what the world thinks, the Pharisees in Jesus day, and the tolerate anything world in which we live. Just as Christian pushes on in his journey regardless of what the detractors said to him, he pushed forward in the hopes of finding joy (the relief from his burden) at the cross – at the feet of the Messiah.

There is a dream for the true Christian. A man forever stained by sin. A man destined for eternal fire based on his own merits. He know that no matter how good he is or proclaims to be, he can never work his way into Heaven. His backpack of sin is heavy. It is a burden that will sink him into hell. There is only one way – through recognizing the Messiah as the only atoning sacrifice available to him. There is only one way – having faith that Jesus’ sacrifice reconciles him to God. There is only one way to Heaven. He sees the Messiah. He falls at his feet hoping and praying that he sees a repentant heart and a faith. He says “do you believe I can do this?” In his tears of sorrow, the man wearily looks up at Jesus and says “Yes, Lord, I believe!” Then, Jesus says to the man, “Son, your sins, and I know they are many, are forgiven you!” Pure joy fills the man’s soul. His tears of sorrow turn to tears of joy.

 

Do you see the Messiah when he passes by? Do I see him? Or are we too busy looking for the next greatest thing in the world that will show everyone that we have arrived? Will you, will I, be too concerned with our mortgage on our big fine house to see him when he passes by? Will we recognize the Messiah when he is right in front of us? Will we have the health book right in our hand and not recognize it? Will we miss out on the joy, the unending joy?

 

Amen and Amen!