“Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, ‘I see men like trees, walking.’ Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And He was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, ‘Neither go into town, nor tell anyone in the town.’ ” Mark 8:22-26
“Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests,’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.” Luke 17:11-14
Throughout the gospels we see Jesus healing instantaneously . . . with just a word . . . a touch . . . in a millisecond lives forever changed. And then we see these accounts . . . and they stand out because they’re just a bit different.
The blind man brought to Jesus at Bethsaida . . . it’s possible he had heard the stories of the healings . . . blind eyes that saw . . . deaf ears that heard . . . and it was what he wanted more than anything . . . to be granted the miracle of sight. He begged Jesus to touch him as He had touched others. And yet, Jesus’s response was to lead Him out of the town. I’m sure the blind man wondered what was happening, but being that he desperately wanted to see, he went along. Then Jesus starts putting spit in his eyes. Can you imagine? You think you’re going to get healed like so many others, but instead you’ve been led out of town and now have another person’s spit in your eyes. Maybe he felt like the situation was getting pretty weird. Maybe he was incredibly confused. Maybe there was even a bit of panic and frustration rising up in the man. What was Jesus doing here? The process wasn’t making sense. It wasn’t what he expected. Then Jesus touched the man, and he began to see . . . only it wasn’t really clear. His vision is fuzzy, and he tells Jesus, “I see men like trees, walking.” You know what Jesus didn’t do? He didn’t lecture him or tell the man to try a little harder . . . to conjure up a little more faith. Did the man believe completely? Did He have doubts? It doesn’t say, but I do know we will all struggle with doubts and unbelief at times . . . the disciples did . . . John the Baptist did (Luke 7:18-23) . . . for many that Jesus healed and delivered their faith was immense . . . still others, we have no idea what or how they believed . . . and then, the bible also shows us that some who sought Jesus for healing and deliverance struggled to fully believe (Mark 9:23-24), but Jesus helped them in their unbelief. He had deep compassion for them. In Mark 1:40 the leper comes to Jesus and says, “If you are willing, You can make me clean”, and the bible tells us in the next verse that Jesus was moved with compassion and said, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And so when the blind man tells Jesus everything is blurry, Jesus doesn’t lecture him. He just reaches out and touches his eyes once more, and the bible tells us, “And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.”
Then there are the lepers. When they cry out for healing, Jesus doesn’t do what He’s done so many times before. He doesn’t simply say, “Your faith has made you well.” He doesn’t seem to even acknowledge they are seeking healing. Instead He tells them to go . . . specifically to “Go show yourselves to the priest.” I’m sure the thoughts and conversation were full of questions. What good would going to the priest do them? He had never been able to help them before, and they had been ostracized and rejected because of their infirmities. But in the process of going, they are healed. Sometimes we’re going to have to move forward and take actionable steps to see our healing. God can and does heal instantaneously, but He also uses things and processes here on this earth at times.
Why did Jesus choose to heal differently at different times?
I have no hard fast answer, but I can’t help but ponder the lesson in this . . . and maybe that’s the crux of it all. To teach us.
How I would have responded? How do I respond?
When Jesus takes my hand and leads me out of familiar territory, do I trust Him?
When He starts to rub spit in my blinded eyes do I turn away?
When I can’t see clearly do I think something must be wrong? With Him? With me?
When He tells me to “go” rather than saying the words I think I should hear do I willingly start moving?
When the process isn’t what we’re expecting . . . when we find ourselves at one more doctor’s office . . . one more meeting . . . one more interview . . . on our knees one more time . . . what do we do?
The church is often full of platitudes and clichés . . . Christianese, if you will . . . when you’re not the one in the thick of it, it is easy to have all the words. . . when you’re not the one facing the diagnosis, the struggling child, the loss of a job or a relationship, just trying to get through each day, it’s easy to say all the cliché things and sound spiritual. But here’s what I’ll promise you, while the church may be full of all the platitudes and all things cliché, the word of God absolutely is not. Not a single word in the bible is cliché, and all of it, cover to cover serves to help us. It serves to strengthen us. It serves to heal and deliver and set free.
When I read about the men and women who were imperfect . . . who sometimes struggled with doubts and fears and unbelief . . . who messed up and sinned and like Peter, went so far as to even deny Jesus . . . yet Jesus was filled with compassion for them . . . He was filled with forgiveness and grace for them . . . I’m reminded that the same compassion, love, forgiveness, and grace extended to them is there for me and for you as well.
In instances where Jesus knew that faith was lacking and those seeking Him were struggling, He still intervened . . . He still healed and delivered and set free . . . as long as the people were seeking Him, He answered. In Matthew 13:58 the bible tells us that when Jesus went to His hometown He couldn’t do many mighty works, “Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Unbelief . . . apista – unbelief, unfaithfulness, distrust. The people didn’t just struggle to believe they could be healed or set free. There was no internal struggle happening here . . . a desire to believe that Jesus was able to heal and deliver wrestling with doubts trying to rise up in the flesh . . . no, they were offended at Jesus. They ridiculed and mocked Him. They didn’t just struggle with faith. They struggled with believing He was anything other than a poor carpenter’s son. And so He could not do many mighty works. They didn’t want them. They didn’t want Him.
Too often we have faith in our faith rather than faith in Jesus. Too often, rather than being moved with compassion, as Jesus was, we shame those that are struggling for lack of faith . . . instead of coming alongside them and holding them up, as we often see in scripture where those suffering were brought to Jesus by their friends and family, we make them feel as if they did or are doing something wrong. Too often when the process doesn’t look like we think it should, we discount it. We live in a fallen world. A world where sin and sickness run rampant, and sometimes bad things happen to those around us . . . sometimes to us. But in those moments of tragedy we have an opportunity. We can shame those that are struggling. We can tell them to “have more faith”, or we can come alongside others with compassion, holding them up when they’re struggling, leading them to Jesus when they cannot find their own way. Rather than judge those who are struggling, we can pray earnestly for them . . . pray for their doctors, their bosses, their marriages, those who are giving them counsel, their families . . . whatever the need may be . . . pray for strength and peace and wisdom on all fronts. And encourage and support them both spiritually and physically in actual, tangible ways. And if we have to drop a bed through roof of a house every now and again, then we need to do it (Mark 2:1-12). If our friends and family are in a place where they need to be carried, whether literally or figuratively, we need to do some heavy lifting.
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