Can You See Clearly? | Cadet Kam Robinson
Scripture: Mark 8:22-29
Title: Can you see clearly?
Topic Focus: Seeing Jesus brings spiritual life
If I were to remove my glasses right now I would not be able to see any details in this room. This is because I am severely near-sighted and have been since I was a little girl. I would not be able to read anything, tell what time it is, or see your faces in any detail. Everything in this room would still exist and exist in the same way it does now but something would change. What would change would be my perception of the room. I would have the wrong perception and that would cause me to make errors in my judgement and thinking. For instance I might think – “well doesn’t Marg look very nice today in her new dress” and “oh wow she changed her hair,” when I am looking at a totally different person. But that’s how I think I see something when the truth is very different and I am not really seeing rightly at all.
The title of my sermon for you today is: Can you see clearly? And if I were to take off my glasses and you were to ask me that question I might pretend, like I used to when I was younger and didn’t want to wear glasses, and say to you, “I can see clearly”. But as I squinted constantly to figure out what I was looking at – you and I would know that was an obvious lie. The truth would be that without my glasses I do not see clearly at all. The fact that I don’t see clearly is especially obvious to me when I put my glasses on and I see details that I could not see without them (even with my best squinting efforts). I remember when I was younger and I was finally allowed to get contact lenses, the optician asked me that question: “Can you see clearly?” I looked in the mirror and my first words were “Yes – oh that’s what I look like!” That’s because prior to getting them I could only really see myself with these big goofy glasses on and I didn’t like wearing those so that rarely happened. It was not until I was given proper sight that I fully realized how much I couldn’t see before.
I think that today, in this world at its present state, a vast number of the problems that we encounter can be attributed to our inability to see something or more specifically, someone clearly. Are we seeing clearly?
Our scripture passage deals with the matter of sight. We have read two different stories that centre around the ministry of Jesus. The first one is found in Mark, chapter 8, verses 22 to 26 and the second story is found in verses 27-29. I have included these together because they are really parallel stories that are meant to draw our attention to how we see something or someone. Do we see clearly? Or in Jesus’ words in verse 23 “Do you see anything?” If instead of applying this question to our physical eyes we apply it to our spiritual eyes how might we answer? What if we narrow our focus even more and we ask “Do we see Jesus clearly?” Is the world outside seeing Jesus clearly? Is the body of the church seeing Jesus clearly? Am I, are you, seeing Jesus clearly? To answer this question, let’s look at the scripture text more carefully and let it be the “glasses” that show us the right vision so that we can answer that question more effectively – do we see Jesus clearly?
Starting in verse 22 we read about Jesus and the disciples arriving in a place called Bethsaida. Bethsaida means “house of the fisher” and it was located on the eastern bank of the Jordan River where it flows into the Sea of Galilee. At Bethsaida “some people” (Mark does not identify them) bring a blind man to Jesus for healing by touching him. Jesus frequently heals by touch in the Gospel of Mark and is known for this as he is often approached by those wishing to touch him or be touched by him for healing. So at this point in the story we encounter people that see Jesus as a miracle healer. Did they see Jesus clearly?
In verse 23 Jesus leads the blind man out of the town to the outskirts. Why would Jesus do this? Was it to avoid the clamour and excitement of the people, or perhaps to make personal contact with the man apart from any distractions? The answer to this is probably both. In the Gospel of Mark we find Jesus keeping his true identity secret on numerous occasions, this is called the messianic secret and this story fits in with the others in that regard. Jesus’ identity is secret – it is not easy to “see”. Once they are away from the village Jesus performs the action of spitting on the man’s eyes and putting his hands on him. Jesus then asks the man (verse 23) “Do you see anything?” It is now important to stop and consider something. Jesus up until this point in Mark had performed some pretty amazing miracles. In chapter 4 Jesus calms the sea. In chapter 5 Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead! To put this act into perspective – it doesn’t seem like this miracle would be a particularly difficult one for Jesus to do. Also, it is interesting that if you read through all of the gospels you will never in any other story encounter Jesus asking the recipient of a miracle if it is working? It is interesting that this is the only case in which Jesus asks and that the blind man’s answer is in short – “well, sort of.” The blind man indicates that he can see people but they look like trees walking around. So, at this first stage of healing, the man appears to still have a severe case of nearsightedness (like me without my glasses). In verse 25 Jesus puts his hands on the man once more. This time the healing is completely effective, second time’s a charm, and the man sees everything clearly. Jesus sends the man on his way home and in keeping with the messianic secret tells him to avoid the town. In summary, we have encountered a story about a man who could not see, then could partially see and then finally had his vision completely restored.
We keep going to the next scripture passage and it is now that the disciples enter the story. They are with Jesus, as per usual, and this time they are in the area of Caesarea Philippi. Notice the parallel to the story before – we are getting a location of where the story is taking place. In verse 27 Jesus brings up a question for the disciples. He asks “Who do people say I am?” We can match this up with Jesus’ question to the blind man after his first healing attempt: “Do you see anything?” In verse 28 it says: “They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Just like the blind man, the people of that time are seeing Jesus with a limited perception indicating a spiritual blindness that was preventing them from seeing and understanding the meaning of Jesus’ mission in the world. To simply say that he was a prophet was not enough and they were missing the mark when they claimed he was John the Baptist or Elijah back from the dead. Jesus now decides to push the point with the disciples by making it more personal with his second question in verse 29, “But what about you? He asked. Who do you say I am?” This is just like the second touch with the blind man. Now Peter speaks for them all and answers “you are the Messiah.” At last their eyes are opened! Their spiritual sight is restored. The disciples are beginning to see Jesus clearly. I say beginning because as you may be familiar it is not too long after this passage that Peter will fail to comprehend Jesus’ suffering role (you can find this in verse 32). In fact the disciples, though partially enlightened, will not come to a full comprehension of Jesus until after the resurrection. And then what happens? What happens when they finally see Jesus clearly? If you are familiar with the Book of Acts you will know that they are like different people. Peter, in particular, becomes courageous, standing up to opposition, declaring Jesus in the face of those that have the power to destroy him. Peter eventually sees clearly and everything changes.
The same holds true for us all today. When we “see” clearly with our spiritual eyes, who Jesus really is our very lives become transformed. Romans 12 verse 2 tells us “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Our minds are renewed when we see Jesus. That is when real change happens in our lives. No longer do we believe the lies we have been told about ourselves in this world – we see Jesus and we see hope! If you have been saved by him you know this to be true. If you have not then God wants for you to see him too. If we compare ourselves to the blind man in the story, we are literally walking through life spiritually blind when we do not recognize who Jesus is at all. If you are at a point where you admit, like those mentioned in the story, that Jesus was a very wise man, a good teacher, a prophet, a miracle healer or just a good human being that is a role model you are like the blind man who sees the people but they look like trees. Spiritually you are getting somewhere but you don’t recognize where and you are in no better a condition than when you were completely blind. It is only when we recognize Jesus as Lord, as King, as Messiah and we recognize that he suffered and died for us personally on the cross and that on the third day he rose and lives today as a resurrected saviour that we are seeing with spiritual clarity. The question you have to ask yourself in this moment is “do I see clearly?”
I want to admit something to you today that I have not told anyone before. After my conversion I had no clue about Jesus. I knew that I had been saved by the Christian God and I knew that I was a sinner in need of a saviour and that saviour was Jesus Christ but I did not really know who he was. I would even admit to my friends who were wondering at my changed life, “I’m still trying to figure out this Jesus.” It was as I was led by faith by a loving God that I came to see Jesus. It was a gradual seeing and this passage tells me that that’s okay because even the disciples who were physically with Jesus every day took their time in seeing who he really was.
The important thing is that we get there – that we see Jesus clearly as our saviour who suffered and died and rose again – all to give us life. Life is the point. We need to see clearly spiritually because it is a matter of life or death. Ephesians (chapter 2 verse 1) says: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” In contrast, if we move down to verse 4 it says: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” Friends, seeing Jesus clearly is a matter of life or death. The question we all have to ask ourselves today is, “Do I see Jesus clearly?”
There is a song writer in our song book that I really enjoy. Her name is Fanny Crosby and she lived from 1820 to 1915. Fanny Crosby is one of the most dedicated hymn writers in history, writing over 8,000 hymns and gospel songs. She also wrote poetry and cantatas, was active in speaking engagements and did missionary work among America’s urban poor almost until the day she died. What is remarkable about Fanny Crosby is that at the age of six weeks old, Fanny Crosby caught a cold and developed inflammation of the eyes. This led to her being permanently blind in both eyes for the rest of her life. One of the songs she wrote is number 99 in The Salvation Army songbook:
“Tell me the story of Jesus”
Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus
Sang, as they welcomed his birth;
Glory to God in the highest;
Peace and good tidings to earth!
Fasting alone in the desert,
Tell of the days that he passed;
How he was tried and was tempted,
Yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of his labors,
Tell of the sorrows he bore;
He was despised and afflicted,
Homeless, rejected and poor.
Tell of the cross where they nailed him.
Mocking his anguish and pain;
Tell of the grave where they laid him;
Tell how he liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see;
Glory for ever to Jesus,
He paid the ransom for me.
Fanny Crosby could not physically see but in reading this song that she wrote we can admit that she saw what was most important and she could see clearly spiritually because she could see Jesus. Not only did she see Jesus but she followed him. And we are called to do that too. Verse 34 of the passage we read today has Jesus speaking to the people of that day and to us today. It reads: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Friends, it is important to ask of ourselves this day “Do I see Jesus clearly?” and to know that we follow as a response. See the cross where they nailed him. See his anguish and pain. See the grave where they laid him. See that he lives again. See Jesus today and start to follow him. He will transform you and make you a new creation that has life in him.
Cadet Kam Robinson (along her husband Ian and son Patrick) is a part of the Messengers of Light Session (2014-2016).