Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jesus' Impaired Miracle

Imagine that the 5000 "men" and the 4000 "men" that Jesus fed with bread and fish each had a wife and, let's say, two children. That would mean that Jesus fed to complete satisfaction some 36,000 people. The disciples picked up a total of 19 basketfuls of leftovers (I know there are two different words for "baskets" in Mark 6 and Mark 8).

Soon after these two startling miracles the disciples fuss about not having any bread in the boat. In an exasperated, classic understatement Jesus asks the Twelve, "Why are you talking about having no bread?"

Jesus goes on, "Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear" (Mark 8:18)?

These questions are bracketed between two miracles: Jesus heals a deaf (and speech-impaired) man and Jesus heals a blind man (see Mark 7:31-35 and 8:22-26).

Ben Witherington III quoting Hooker points out that the healing of the blind man (in stages) is "an acted parable." The blindness (and the deafness) of the disciples is in view. The unconventional process in the "once I was blind, but now I see" miracle has three peculiarities: 1) Jesus asks about the effectiveness of his touch (Mk 8:23), 2) the man reports only a partial healing (Mk 8:24) and 3) Jesus touches the man again and restores full, excellent sight (Mk 8:25). No other miracles in the Gospels contain these peculiarities. It's Jesus' impaired miracle.

Discipleship is more about seeing than about knowing. Contemplate Jesus' (shortest?) parable in Luke 6:39. The theme is blindness. Then note Luke 6:40. A student when he or she is fully trained (not taught) will be like his or her master/teacher. Our ailment isn't not knowing, but not seeing. Do you remember Jesus' question to Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7? Jesus asked, "Do you *see* this woman?"

Will we admit our own impairment? Do we see beyond the obvious and ordinary to the eternal and extraordinary when we see Jesus...and others?

"Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus..."



At 8/14/2007 4:29 PM, Anonymous Susan said...

I've been thinking a lot about the metaphor of blindness in Scripture, because of my thesis research. I'm reading many authors who want to say discipleship is more about hearing than about seeing because seeing is associated metaphorically with knowing in a culture that is steeped in Greek philosophy.

At 8/14/2007 4:48 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

No doubt that hearing is an important discipleship metaphor (in the OT to hear was to obey), yet seeing ranks up there with it in the teachings of Jesus. I agree that we say "I see" when we mean "I know."

At 8/14/2007 4:53 PM, Anonymous Ja said...

How often our vision is impaired by our own preconceived notions of who Jesus is and what we think He ought and ought not do.

At 8/14/2007 4:58 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

so true.

At 8/14/2007 5:54 PM, Anonymous Susan said...

So I wonder if the whole "seeing is knowing" metaphor is just wrong. Is. 6:9, Matt. 13:13. There needs to be another "sense" employed (imparted?)in order for us to know, and to follow... ? When Jesus healed the blind, or the deaf, he was, yes, restoring the senses but maybe there was more going on than meets the eye? (tee hee)

At 8/15/2007 6:57 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

I, too, am convinced that more is going on "than meets the eye" (tee hee).

Jesus' bumped up against the subterranean blindness of Israel that had its roots in Isaiah's judgment. The Twelve were sprinkled with the "leaven" of the Pharisees--petrified blindness and therefore hostile opposition to Jesus. Gratefully and grace-fully Jesus leads his disciples to clear vision. He doesn't give up on them.

"...I pray that the eyes of your heart may be "lighted up"/"will let the light in" Paul prays for the Ephesian believers. As Amazing Grace invites us all to sing...

At 8/15/2007 9:07 AM, Blogger Terry Rayburn said...


Excellent. This concept has actually redefined my view of what biblical sanctification is.

Sanctification in one sense is an already accomplished thing in which we have been set apart or made holy (perfected, Heb. 10:14).

So-called "progressive sanctification" is usually thought of as being made more sinless or righteous-acting in some way. But not only is there no biblical warrant for that, don't we all know by experience that the older and more mature a Christian is, the more they are aware of their own sinfulness? And the more they long to "be conformed to Christ"?

So I've concluded that true biblical "progressive sanctification" is

"coming to believe the eternal truths of God, and living accordingly".

Or to relate it to your post, to "see" more and more of what we were "blind" to.

Quick example:

We all assent to Rom. 8:28, that God is working all things together for good to those of us who love Him.

But yet we may moan and complain about everything from the weather to the way we are treated by others, as though Rom. 8:28 was not true.

Sanctification is coming to "see" the truth of Rom. 8:28 more and more, and "living accordingly", e.g., not grumbling and complaining.

2nd example: Believing that we are fully accepted in the Beloved, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God, even when we feel, "How could God love me after I just did that!? I better shy away from Him. How could I face Him after that?", when drawing near to Him is exactly what we need most.


At 8/15/2007 9:45 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Thanks for your good insights and the two examples you give.

God bless you!

At 8/15/2007 12:52 PM, Blogger WES ELLIS said...

Very good stuff!

Someone once said that being a missionary is about having good eyesight and pointing out to others where Jesus already is at work among them.

Being a Christian is also about having healed eyes--eyes that are healed from indifference to the suffering around us.

Good post!

At 8/15/2007 1:23 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Thanks for the comments. I agree that being a Christian is about having healed eyes...that's a good way to put it.

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