Who Can Really See?

Who can really See? Perhaps we can see with our eyes but cannot see what a blind person may see.
Let’s discover what a blind man saw that the disciples of Jesus could not.
We’ll examine Mark 10:46-52 and Jesus’ healing of the blind son of Timaeus.
Mark 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 (which means “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!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
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. 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
(Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)
A Blind Man at the Gate
Jericho is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, possibly inhabited as early as the dawn of human cities.2 Deuteronomy 34:3 describes it as the city of Palms, fed by copious springs. It has had a population usually ranging around 3,000 people. This is the last of the healing miracles in Mark. It is written as an eyewitness report. Mark rarely recorded the names of people who were healed and so it is possible that the son of Timaeus was a known member of the early church. In contrast to the rich man who had obeyed the commandments from his youth, it was assumed by a judgmental society that the blind man had been disobedient. In contrast to the disciples’ asking for positions of honor, the blind man asks only for mercy. Then Jesus came.
2Gates, Charles (2003). "Near Eastern, Egyptian, and Aegean Cities". Ancient Cities: The Archaeology of Urban Life in the Ancient Near East and Egypt, Greece and Rome. Routledge. p. 18. ISBN 0-415-01895-1. “Jericho, in the Jordan River Valley in Israel, inhabited from ca. 9000 BC to the present day, offers important evidence for the earliest permanent settlements in the Near East.”
Are we blind to some things in our lives? Do we criticize those who worship other gods while being blind to the idols we have made in our own hearts? Do we criticize those who take God’s name in vain while we are blind to the importance of a weekly Sabbath rest? Do we criticize those who dishonor father and mother while we are blind to the murder in our hearts? Do we criticize those who commit sexual sins while we are blind to the things that we steal? Do we criticize those who bear false witness while we are blind to the covetous lusts in our own hearts? Haven’t we all pointed the finger of accusation, with three pointing back at us and a thumb pointing up at God who is merciful to all of us? Then Jesus came.
What the Blind See
The son of Timaeus heard the news and believed that Jesus could heal him. Then Jesus came. He cried, “Have mercy on me” echoing many Psalms (4:1; 6:2; 9:13; 41:4, 10; 51:1; 57:1; 86:3, 16; 119:132; 123:3). University of Montreal Laboratory of Auditory Neuroscience Research1 suggests that a blind person's brain is rewired to use the visual cortex for other senses like sound and touch. By using things like sound reflecting off of objects, many blind people have learned a kind of sonar or echolocation like bats do to “see” things. Because of heightened attention to sounds and touch, blind people often see what “sighted” people cannot. Blind people are careful with their possessions, yet blind Bart threw his cloak aside. Why? He had desire and faith to receive his sight.
1 Acoustical Society of America (ASA). "'Blindness’ may rapidly enhance other senses." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508152002.htm>.
Blind Disciples
We just left James and John competing for positions of power, blind to what godly leadership is all about. Was their blindness worse than that of the son of Timaeus? His was only physical. Theirs was spiritual. As the blind man cried out for deliverance, many people were still not interested in serving others, but wanted him to be quiet. In an object lesson, Jesus tells them to call him and contrary to the disciples’ view of the man, Jesus tells him that his faith has healed him. A servant of God cannot schedule the cries of the needy. They come when we may naturally want them to be quiet. Does Jesus who is also in us hear their cry? Are we sometimes like the blind man, spiritually blind to the needs that are all around us? Then Jesus came.
Then Jesus Came
The blind man was ignored. Nobody thought that a blind person could do anything. There was no National Federation of the Blind, no Blindness Learning in New Dimensions. Blind Bart was destitute. Then Jesus came and everything changed. An insane man found no help. He lived among the tombs in a graveyard. Then Jesus came. A leper cried in torment. There was no cure for his disease. Then Jesus came. Nationally and individually, we face many troubles and our lives and are filled with the corruption of sin. Our world is polluted and our bodies are diseased. Then Jesus came. Ours is not a caring society. It’s dog eat dog. Our world did not care if we were sick, if we could live safely, or were destroyed by sin. Then Jesus came. What do we want him to do for us?
When Jesus comes, the tempter’s power is broken. When Jesus comes, the tears are wiped away. He takes the gloom and fills the life with glory. For all is changed when Jesus comes to stay.3
3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzlllO5YJ_E

Can a Rich Man be Saved?

In seminary a teacher told us about looking out the window of a Bible class across campus to the law and medical faculties where students looked forward to large incomes. He knew that as a pastor that would not be his lot in life, but chose to continue valuing the things of God more highly than the things of this world.
How do we value things in life? What is of greatest value to us?
Let us get Jesus’ opinion on what the most valuable things in life are.
We will look at Mark 10:17-311 and the discussion with the disciples after a rich recruit turned away from Jesus.
Mark 10:17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” 26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. 27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. 29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”
The Advantages of Wealth
The wealthy have many advantages. They are usually mentally tough people who have endured discomfort in order to get what they want. The rich have enough money to buy freedom from all sorts of worries that the rest of us face. They can afford the best medical care. When they need money for education, business or pleasure they can find it. They can afford to avoid dangerous and unhealthy jobs. They don’t need to kowtow to abusive bosses. The wealthy are usually optimists about the future because they can afford to take risks that the rest of us cannot. While research proves that modern wealthy people are most always selfish and self-absorbed, many are also scrupulously honest and upright in their moral character. It was Jesus’ meeting with just such a wealthy and upright individual that our story is about.
A Question for Himself (vs. 17-19)
The first few words in this discussion with Jesus indicate its direction and begin to help us see the central problem. The rich man asks, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” There is no question about a wife or children or other family members or even the rich man’s friends inheriting eternal life, only himself. It appears to be all about self. Jesus began to help the man readjust his attention. Jesus did not want to set a wrong example for the man by focusing on even his own sinlessness, but attempted to turn the conversation towards God the Father. Though some variations of the original Greek text exist, the essential thrust is the same. Jesus enumerated some of the Ten Commandments including an application of the eighth and ninth, defrauding or cheating others in wages or property.
An Impulsive Self-Defense (vs. 20-21)
The man confidently replies that since his youth he had obeyed God’s law. Yet, he was not so confident of his eternity. Jesus recognized an earnestness in the rich man and loved him for it. Even though he had been scrupulous in obeying God’s law, he lacked one thing. Jesus was not trying to criticize the man, but lift him up to a higher level of spirituality than the Ten Commandments, the self-sacrificial devotion of a true follower of Jesus. Should all rich people sell their goods and become poor? Some Christians have thought so, but if that was the case, so also should God sell everything in heaven and become poor. The call for the man to follow Jesus was a call to become one of his disciples, and to do exactly what the other disciples had already done.
An Abrupt Refusal (vs. 22-25)
The man’s appalling decision to go away revealed more love for his enormous real estate holdings than eternal life. His refusal is contrasted with the 12 disciples who had given up everything to follow Jesus. Even such a scrupulously honest and upright man can be deceived by wealth. We all find it easier to trust in our righteousness and wealth than to give up our wealth in sacrifice for others and trust in God. The more money and possessions we have, the harder it becomes. It is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Is it impossible? Jesus answers that question by the example of an absurdly impossible task, threading a camel through the eye of a needle. We are all too attached to material wealth and forget what is permanent. The story does not end there.
Is the Impossible Possible? (vs. 26-27)
So that’s it? Can a rich person be saved? Can any of us be saved? 1 Corinthians 13:3 says that even if we give everything to the poor and even sacrificed our bodies, without loving others, we will still have accomplished nothing. This is not a contradiction of Jesus, but an application of what Jesus is teaching the disciples. The lure of money does choke the word of God, but so does relying on our own righteousness. Salvation for any of us is impossible, humanly speaking. Having great estate holdings and loads of money causes great deception and can be a huge spiritual handicap to bear. Living an upright life can also deceive us into thinking that our righteousness qualifies us for eternal life. Any attempt to enter the kingdom of heaven on our merit is doomed to failure. It is God’s gift.
Are there Rewards for Us? (vs. 28-31)
Sacrifice is not giving up spare time or spare money, but what we value. For example, when people donate unwanted furniture to the church, that is not a sacrifice. That is using the church as a garbage dump. A sacrifice that really would have shown God respect would have been donating our best valued items of furniture. So, Peter addressed an obvious question that we might also ask. What about those of us who chose differently to the rich man, who HAVE given up so much for God? As we look at others who have chosen riches rather than God, it is natural to ask, will God will take care of us? Jesus is asking, who comes first, God or family? He answers that even if we must leave our biological family behind we gain a larger family and eternity.
May we all learn not to be impressed with our own righteousness or the trinkets of this world that we may have accumulated, but align our values in life with the permanent values of eternity with God.
1Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Jesus' Marriage & Family Values

How important are marriage and family to God?
What was God’s original intent when he created us male and female?
We will examine Mark 10:2-16 as Jesus reinterprets God’s law as he intended it to be applied.
Mark 10:2 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?” 3 Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?” 4 “Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.” 5 But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. 6 But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 10 Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again. 11 He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”
13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. 14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.1
A Loaded Divorce Question (vs. 2)
Like reporters with an agenda, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with a hostile, loaded question. The question about divorce relates to Deuteronomy 24:1. The only difference between the Jews was what is meant by the grounds for divorce, “something wrong with her.” The more conservative camp focused mostly on the sin of adultery while the more liberal Jews allowed divorce for any kind of “annoyance or embarrassment.”1 As is often the case when one gender is used as an example, the intent of the law would have been to apply it equally to both sexes. John the Baptist had been beheaded over a similar question and perhaps the Pharisees were intending to find an accusation against Jesus. This was asked in Perea, where Herod still maintained governorship. The Pharisees and Herod maintained a relationship for political advantage.
What does the Bible say about divorce?
The beginning of the institution of marriage is in Genesis 2:24 where a man and woman are united as one. That was the ideal. Moses permitted divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1), Ezra encouraged divorce of pagan wives (Ezra 10:2-3, 44), Joseph contemplated divorcing Mary suspecting unfaithfulness (Matthew 1:19). Jesus discouraged separating two who had become one (Mark 10:2-16). Paul permitted limited divorce but encouraged people not to divorce an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:12-15). In an age where the exception has become the rule, perhaps finding ways to save marriages instead of easy divorce is the healthier option. What is marriage, a sexual union, legal union or an emotional commitment? Does sex with a prostitute make them one flesh, married (1 Corinthians 6:16)? Other passages seem to indicate that becoming one is a lifelong process.
What Did Moses Say? (vs. 3-5)
Jesus’ specifically asked what Moses commanded about divorce. The Pharisees answered that he permitted it. Jesus replies that he permitted it only as a concession to hard hearts, tolerated but not supported in a sinful society that disregarded the intent of marriage. Does this sound familiar? Jesus words give moral support to the original intent of marriage. Some of Jesus’ teachings lean to the left of accepted modern values. This is an example of where Jesus is more conservative on an issue than our society’s accepted morals. It is clear that Jesus holds the original created intent of a man and woman in marriage very highly indeed. Mark does not include the exception found in Matthew 5:32; 19:9 of sexual immorality on the part of a spouse, which puts Jesus in line with conservative Jews of the time.
What is the Purpose of Marriage? (vs. 6-8)
Lawyers in most countries ask, what was the original intent of the law? Jesus also uses this approach when speaking of marriage law. The creation narrative teaches us the importance of marriage as intended from the beginning. Any arguments over discrimination or gender bias are resolved in Jesus’ interpretation of God’s law, not in how the Pharisees misapplied it. Two become one flesh. Ideas that that are anti-women or anti-men become irrelevant when two grow together as one. In a society where the exception has become the rule, Jesus reminds us and them, that the exception is the exception, but the rule remains the rule. And what is the rule? The rule is a decisive no to divorce and a confirmation of the original intent of God creating us male and female in the first place, marital fidelity.
What is Adultery? (vs. 9)
Most of our adult body parts work without the help of another human being, except for the reproductive system. It is the only system in the adult human body that requires the cooperation of another human body. Whereas we often like to solve marital disputes based upon selfish convenience or prevailing human opinion, Jesus points us to a higher law. Marriage is holy because God made it so, not because we did. Adultery is a sin against the other marriage partner. Jesus brought a deeper understanding of adultery to us (Matthew 5:28), looking and lusting, which covers everything from pornography to wandering eyes. So, by that much higher standard, we have all committed adultery too many times to count. Are divorced and remarried couples in our midst worse sinners than others? No, we are all sinners saved by grace.
Yes, That Lustful Look
Jesus said that if we look and lust, we have already committed adultery in our hearts. That is adultery with the eyes and I guess we have all been guilty. It’s like lunch out with friends, you look around the table and say in your heart, I should have ordered that.
The Law Was to be Applied Equally (vs. 10-12)
When the law was written it gave the example of a man divorcing a woman. Did this mean that a woman could not divorce a man or did the law apply equally to both sexes? The best interpreter of Old Testament law is Jesus, not the Pharisees. Even the most conservative Jews allowed divorce, as do many conservative Christians today. Jesus makes a call to fidelity. In agreement with John the Baptist, Jesus also condemns adultery like that of Herodias betraying Philip and remarrying Herod. Jesus interpreted God’s law as God intended it to be understood. Adultery is an act that a husband like Herod could also commit against his wife. As moderns misinterpret the Bible so did many ancients. God’s law was intended to treat women equally and sometimes Gentiles like the Romans instinctively treated women better than Jews.
Do We Have a Huge Problem with Bible Interpretation?
Here is a huge problem. The Jews took Deuteronomy 24:1 which says, “Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes a document of divorce...”1 They interpreted it literally, in the letter as applying only to a man, instead of applying it in principle, in spirit equally to both sexes as intended. Then along came Jesus (God with us) the one who wrote the law in the first place. He tells them that a woman could divorce a man just as a man could divorce a woman. Then he states that divorce was not the intent from the beginning, except for our hard heartedness, which causes divorce. Do Jews and Christians alike misinterpret the Bible when they interpret literally, in the letter instead of in the spirit?
What about Jesus Blessing Children? (vs. 13-16)
God created a man and woman to produce children. If children must wait to be baptized, are we saying that the kingdom of God does not belong to them? When we treat the church as a time where children are to be seen and not heard, are we siding with the disciples, who wanted to turn the children aside, instead of with Jesus, who said not to forbid them? When popes or pastors take children up into their arms and bless them, this is a very powerful gesture, an exact copy of the acts of Jesus. In that world Gentile children could be discarded at birth. In our world children can be discarded before birth. Children are a picture of the kingdom of heaven. They readily accept the gift of God. Ought we receive God’s kingdom in the same way?
It is always important to consider God’s original intent. God intended a man and woman to be one, not two competing with each other. God intended this union for procreation in most cases, and always for us to receive children. We are all to become like children, gratefully receiving what God has freely given, his eternal kingdom.2
1  Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.
2 William L. Lane. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1974. 353.