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Spiritual Blindness, Giving Sight to the Blind

Eyes that look but do not see

(Matt. 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-42; Luke 19: 1-10)

Dr Alex Tang

 

Sermon statement

Why we do not see God’s Presence in our lives? We do not see or perceive God’s Presence is because we don’t always seek God with our whole heart, we don’t purse God with repentant hearts, we are looking for the wrong kind of God, our God is too small or we are looking in the wrong places. Opening our spiritual eyes depends on Lordship of Jesus Christ, understanding and applying the Bible, prayer and spiritual companions.

 

Introduction

What is the most common disease afflicted people today. Spiritual blindness! All of us are afflicted in one way or another. In this sermon, I shall share on the theme of blindness by linking four blocks of Scripture together.

Sometimes I am confused by the chronology of Jesus’ travels. In Matthews 20, Jesus is starting on his last journey to Jerusalem.

Matt. 20:17

MT 20:17 Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18 "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!" 20:20 Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

To do so, he has to pass through Jericho.

(Matt. 20:29-34)

MT 20:29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" :31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" 32 Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.33 "Lord," they answered, "we want our sight." 34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
 

Matthew recorded two blind men, Mark and Luke have but one and in Mark he has a name, Bartimaeus. The Lukan account was that Jesus was approaching Jericho when this happened.

(Luke 18:35-42)

LK 18:35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." 38 He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied.42 Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God

(Mark 10: 46-52)

MK 10:46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"  MK 10:48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" MK 10:49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  MK 10:51 "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see." MK 10:52 "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

How many blind men were there?

The solution to this apparent conflict was resulted when I made a pilgrimage to Israel in May 2012. There are actually three Jerichos. The Jericho, mentioned in the Old Testament is sited at Tel es-Sultan (a 400m long mound arising 15m from the bedrock), the New Testament Jericho which was built by Herod the Great as a winter palace about a mile south of the OT site. Modern Jericho, which we visited includes the other two Jericho and is presently under Palestinian control.

Luke 18:35

Jericho called “fragrant place” is also known as the City of Palms (Deu. 34:3). It is claimed to be the oldest city in the world, settled about 8000 BCE. Actually Babylon in Iraq where the Tower of Babel was built will be the oldest (Gen. 11). Jericho, because of its strategic location, was destroyed and rebuilt 23 times! The Old Testament Jericho was the first city to be taken by the invading Israelites led by Joshua (Num. 22:1; 26:3, 63). Joshua sent spies to reconnoiter the land and the city. Rehab the harlot took them in and later engineered their escape. For her cooperation she and her family were spared when Israel destroyed the city and put its inhabitants under the ban (Jos 2, 6). The fall of the city itself occurred after the Israelites had marched around it in silence once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day. Then when the priests blew the trumpets and the people shouted, the walls collapsed. During my visit there, the guide suggested that the walls are Jericho were made of two layers-one upon another. The lower layer is of rocks and upper is of mud. Hence when the walls collapsed, it was the mud wall which did and hence the Israelites ‘went up’ to enter Jericho. It is possible to sort out the healing of the blind men episodes in the synoptic Gospels by understanding that Jesus was passing from the site of ancient Jericho and approaching Herodian Jericho. 

 Luke 19:1-10

LK 19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a `sinner.' "8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."9 Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

This narrative contains what may well be considered the “key verse” of Luke—Luke 19:10. The incident contains several primary Lukan features: the universal appeal of the gospel (vv. 2–4); the ethical problem of wealth (v. 2); the call of a “sinner” who was in social disfavor (v. 7); the sense of God’s present work (vv. 5, 9); the feeling of urgency (“immediately,” speusas, v. 5), of necessity (“must,” v. 5), and of joy (v. 6); restitution, With goods distributed to the poor (v. 8); and, above all, salvation (vv. 9–10). (Leifeld, W. L. 1984. Luke. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1007).

That Zacchareus did not fall off the tree when Jesus addressed him directly is a tribute to his tree climbing ability. Zacchareus is a Jew but one not well liked by his countrymen was obvious from the fact that he had to climb the tree. He was wealthy. Wealthy men often were and are able to go to the head of the crowd. Even his wealth was not able to grant him a front row view. He was wealthy and also or because he was the chief of tax collectors made him a despised person in this community. Nobody liked Zacchareus except maybe his mother and his Roman friends. It was curiosity that brought him up the tree. When Jesus called him by name and invited himself to his house, it was self-satisfaction that he came down and welcomed Jesus ‘gladly’ in front of his own people who despised him.

It was in his house, presumably over dinner that his self-satisfaction turned to repentance.  In fact he was so moved that he pledged half his fortune to the poor and out of the other half, he would pay back any one he had wronged fourfold (which is more than the required amount). Money is one the most powerful of idols and the hardest to destroy. Note that it is Jesus who took the initiative. Jesus, who after healing the blind  man (Luke 18: 35-43), walked into Jericho, spied Zacchareus up in the tree, made the contact and evoked the transformation. It was Jesus who delivered Zacchareus who was lost in corruption and wealth as he has earlier delivered another man lost in blindness and poverty. Jesus fulfils Ezekiel 34 when he brought salvation into that household that day. This narrative is another powerful reminder of our Lord Jesus who came with a mission of redemption for the lost.

 

It is easier for Jesus to give sight to the blind who believe in him than to make scales fall from eyes of those who do not know what degree they are still blind.

Jesus’ Temptation Site

From the top of Tell es-Sultan (Old Jericho), we can see a range of mountain which is the traditional site where Jesus was tempted by Satan after 40 days of fasting. It is called the Mount of Temptation and there is a monastery there.

Matt. 4

         physical food (fasting- food, disobedience to God)

3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.“ 4 Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "

          protection and security ( testing God- spiritual pride)

6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " `He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' “ 7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "

          power and wealth of the world (idolatry)

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' "

How did Jesus resist Satan’s temptations?

         Disobedience

         Pride

         Idolatry

By using his spiritual sight and seeing through Satan’s lies.

Thus in these four blocks of Scripture we link together physical blindness with its resulting physical poverty and spiritual blindness with its resulting spiritual poverty even though Zacchareus was physically rich. Jesus was able to see though Satan’s lies with his spiritual sight and insight. Spiritual blindness is the bane of our age.

How good is our spiritual eyesight? Need a spiritual eye test?

20/20; 6/6

What are some of the causes of spiritual blindness?

1. We don’t always seek God with our whole heart.

·         Our hearts are divided and fragmented

·         Desire for other things –money, power, prestige.

·         No enough trust

2. We don’t pursue God with repentant hearts. 

·         Refuse to let go of things that keep us in bondage

·         Refuse to let go of anger, hurts

·         Lack of humility

3. We are worshipping the wrong kind of God. 

·         What is our perception of God?

·         Hard taskmaster

·         Santa Claus

·         Big Brother

4. Our God is too small. 

·         We are satisfied with a very small revelation of God.

·         We should never be content to rest in our current knowledge of God.

·         We are contented with our knowledge of the Bible

We should always be seeking to learn more of God’s love, absorb more of God’s truth and discover new ways to follow. God is far bigger, greater and more awe inspiring than any of us can imagine.

How to develop good spiritual eyesight?

1.      Lordship of Christ

2.      Word of God

3.      Prayer

4.      Spiritual companions

The bands were same-gender groups of five or six persons committed to each other and to the holy life. Only about one-third of the typical society joined, or were invited to join, the bands where they shared their spiritual journeys "without reserve and without disguise." Wesley felt that Methodism was closest to the New Testament ideal in the band meetings.

Wesley wrote five starter questions to be used in each band meeting. For Wesley's wording of the questions, see The Works of John Wesley (Wesley, 1872/1978). Following are the band questions stated in contemporary style:

1. What spiritual failures have you experienced since our last meeting? What known sins, if any, have you committed?

2. What temptations have you battled with this week? Where do you feel the most vulnerable right now?

3. What temptations have you been delivered from this week? Please share with us how you won the victory.

4. Has the Lord revealed anything to you about your heart and life that makes you want us to join you in taking a second look at what might be sinful attitudes, lifestyle, or motivations?

5. Is there any spiritual problem that you have never been able to talk about-to us or even to God? (Tracy, Cockerill, Demaray, & Harper, 2000, p. 133).

 

Conclusion

Why we do not see God’s Presence in our lives? We do not see or perceive God’s Presence is because we don’t always seek God with our whole heart, we don’t purse God with repentant hearts, we are looking for the wrong kind of God, our God is too small or we are looking in the wrong places. Opening our spiritual eyes depends on Lordship of Jesus Christ, understanding and applying the Bible, prayer and spiritual companions.

| posted 19 August 2012|

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