Today we continue in our message series Jesus In Action from the book of Mark. As a Gospel, Mark emphasizes the actions of Jesus more than His words. So, the Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the Gospels. Of course, each of the four Gospels is important in our understanding of Jesus.
Today, our message is entitled “Opening Blind Eyes” and we’ll be looking at Mark 8. As we go through the message this morning, we’re going to see that the blind eyes that we are talking about have two meanings. The first meaning is the physical meaning. We’re going to see Jesus heal a blind man. The second meaning is a spiritual meaning. Those who are blind spiritually are not able to see who Jesus is and put their trust in Him. Jesus said in …
Luke 4:18-19 (ESV) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
In this prophesy of Jesus, quoting from a passage about the Messiah from Isaiah 61 tells us that He is called to minister to four kinds of people. Jesus bring good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind and liberty to those oppressed. Each of these categories of people have both physical and spiritual meanings. People can be poor financially and they can be poor in Spirit according to Jesus’ teaching.
But today, we are going to focus on Jesus’ ministry of bringing sight to the blind. In the physical realm, a blind person lives in perpetual darkness because they cannot see the light until they’re healed. In the spiritual realm, the Bible teaches that those who are not believers live in spiritual darkness, they are totally blind. When they believe and become saved, they move into the light of Christ.
When you go to the eye doctor and have your eyes tested, you will probably receive a score for your eyes. A reading of 20/20 is considered normal eyesight. Between being totally blind and normal are a range of ability to see. If you have a reading of 20/200 you are considered legally blind. You can still see, but not very well at all. When someone is saved, they move from being totally blind to beginning to see the light of Christ. But each of us can improve in our spiritual vision as we draw closer to Jesus and His Word. So, there are degrees of spiritual blindness, even among believers. Let’s look a little closely about spiritual blindness from the Scripture.
2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
In this verse we see the cause of spiritual blindness. The god of this world mentioned in this verse is Satan. Satan blinds the minds of all unbelievers so that they cannot see or understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason that people do not believe is not simply a lack of intellectual understanding. There is an evil demonic and Satanic influence that keeps them from seeing what would otherwise be easily visible, the Good News of Jesus.
Now, this is not necessarily a permanent condition. Each person who is a believer today, was at one time an unbeliever and spiritually blind. But God worked in their lives through the Holy Spirit until they could see the truth of the Gospel and believe. Let’s look at another verse dealing with believers.
1 John 2:11 (ESV) But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
In his letter, John is writing to the church, consisting of people who are or claim to be believers. John’s point is that no believer should hate his brother, because that would be walking in darkness and be evidence of blinded eyes. If the darkness begins to creep into a believer’s life through sin, the remedy is to repent of your sin and let the light of Christ shine through you once again. The good news is that Jesus came to deliver people from blindness and He is still doing it today. So, let’s begin our study of Jesus opening blind eyes from Mark 8.
Mark 8:2-3 (ESV) “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”
In this story, a large crowd had gathered to hear Jesus teach God’s Word. Some of the people had come from a long way and had now stayed for three days. Apparently, the people camped out and slept around there by night. After three days, the supply of food that they had brought with them was just about gone. Jesus was ready for the conference to end, but He was concerned about the needs of the people. There were no McDonalds or Walmarts around and so it was difficult for people to find food to eat. So, Jesus, speaking to His disciples said that He had compassion on the needs of the crowd. This was a teaching moment for the disciples.
Mark 8:4-5 (ESV) And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.”
The disciples had no idea how to feed the crowd. There were in a remote area with no near opportunity to buy bread. Now, as we go through the story this morning, we’re going to see that these same disciples had already seen Jesus feed 5000 people with five loaves of bread. Yet, for some reason, that didn’t seem to apply to their situation. So, Jesus simply asked them how many loaves of bread they had? The answer was seven, more than the five that had been available at the last miracle. But, that was enough for Jesus.
Mark 8:6 (ESV) And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.
As before, the disciples were the ones to distribute both the bread and the fish to all the thousands of the people in attendance. As they distributed it, the supply never ran out.
Mark 8:8-9 (ESV) And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.
At the end of the feeding, the seven loaves of bread had fed the entire crowd of 4000 people and there were seven baskets of leftovers. After the people’s needs were met and they were fed, Jesus sent the crowd home. Through this miracle of meeting people’s needs, Jesus was opening the blind eyes of both the disciples and the crowd.
So, let’s think a bit more deeply about what God wants to teach us from this story. First of all there was a genuine need that could not be met in the natural. Therefore that need was an opportunity for God to work a miracle. Jesus helped the disciples participate in the miracle of the feeding of the 4000. The miracle met the physical need of the crowd. But it also began to open the spiritual eyes, both of the crowd whose need was met and of the disciples, who experienced and participated in the miracle.
This morning if you have a need in your life or you are aware of a significant need in someone else’s life, ask God what you can do about it. Perhaps you have the resources to meet the need in the natural. That’s great. Meeting a need through natural means also opens people’s eyes to the love and power of God. Meeting a person’s physical need often opens the door to meeting their spiritual needs. Perhaps the need you are aware of, either in your own life or someone else’s is beyond your capacity to meet.
Don’t give up. A need beyond your ability to meet is an opportunity for a miracle of God. How do miracles happen? Perhaps a point we’ve missed in the story. What did Jesus do before He began to miraculously multiply the food? He prayed and thanked God. For what? I believe Jesus thanked God in advance for the miracle that was going to happen. So, we, when faced with a need beyond our ability to meet, must pray and give thanks, trusting God to supply miraculously. Meeting needs opens blind eyes.
Mark 8:11-12 (ESV) The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
The Pharisees had hard hearts against Jesus and His teaching. By this point in Jesus’ ministry, they were aware of many miracles that He had done. Feeding thousands of people at least twice. Healing the sick, raising the dead and driving out demons. Yet they wanted another sign from heaven, supposedly to validate His ministry. Perhaps something to drive out the Romans and restore Israel. Most likely, nothing that Jesus would have done would be accepted by them. They had already made up their minds that they would not believe in Jesus. So, Jesus plainly told them, that no sign fitting their requirements would be given to them. Then Jesus left the Pharisees and got into a boat with His disciples.
Mark 8:15 (ESV) And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
Jesus warned His disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees. Leaven or yeast makes bread dough rise. It doesn’t take much yeast to leaven a large amount of dough. In the Bible, leaven or yeast is often spoken of as symbolizing evil. Jesus was warning His disciples against letting their thinking or hearts be hardened like those of the Pharisees, who did not believe in Him. When Jesus had warned His disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees, they began to discuss the fact that they had embarked on this boat trip with only one loaf of bread.
Mark 8:17-18 (ESV) And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?
The disciples were focused on the need for physical bread. Jesus was seeking to teach them about spiritual reality, to open their eyes to see the danger of the hard hearts of the Pharisees. Their eyes were not seeing clearly. After Jesus had fed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread, why would they be worrying and complaining about not having enough bread? Jesus specifically reminded them both of the past incident of feeding 4000 and a previous incident of feeding 5000.
Mark 8:21 (ESV) And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
What did Jesus expect the disciples to have understood by now? They should have had their eyes opened to understand that Jesus could do anything, He could meet any need, He could do miracles. They needed to understand that He was not just a man, nor just a prophet, but that He was the very Son of God who came to forgive the sins of the world. Hard hearts lead to spiritual blindness.
I believe that we all want to have clear spiritual vision in our lives, to see things the way that God sees them. However, we all can develop hard hearts that are full of worry and doubt rather than hope and faith. What is the key to having soft hearts toward God and eyes that see clearly spiritually? It is simply to see God at work all around us in people’s lives, circumstances and every aspect of life.
The hard hearts of the disciples made them miss the significance of Jesus’ miracles. Ask God to help you see Him at work all around you. As He shows you what He is doing, give thanks to Him for everything that He blesses you with. When you get up in the morning, thank God for giving you another day to live for Him. During the day, be thankful for the provision that He has given you. When you go to bed at night, thank Him for being with you throughout the day.
The Bible instructs us to give thanks to God for everything. So, we’ll never run out of things to be thankful to Jesus for. As we grow in thankfulness, seeing God at work in our lives all the time, our hearts will grow softer toward Him. We’ll be able to hear His voice more clearly and follow His instructions more faithfully and see His light more brightly.Although hard hearts lead to blindness, soft hearts lead to seeing clearly.
Mark 8:22-23 (ESV) And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?”
In our final story in Mark 8, we meet a man who was physically blind. Friends brought this blind man to Jesus and they asked Jesus to touch and heal him. Jesus led him away from the crowd. Then he spit on his eyes and laid hands on him. Although there are only a few examples of Jesus using saliva in healing, there are many more examples of Jesus and other disciples using the laying on of hands in healing. The laying on of hands serves to transmit the power of God from Jesus to the man to bring about healing. When we pray for people to be healed, the Bible instructs us to lay on hands as well. Then Jesus asked the man if he saw anything?
Mark 8:24-25 (ESV) And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
The man had gone from being completely blind to seeing people, but he was not able to distinguish them, they were blurry. So, Jesus laid his hands on the man’s eyes again. This time, when the man opened his eyes, he saw clearly, he had been completely healed. This is one of the only occasions in Jesus’ ministry of a gradual cure or Jesus praying twice for a healing. The other case was the casting out of demons from the Gadarene demonic which took repeated commands. Jesus had worked a miracle and brought completely healing to a blind man’s eyes. Jesus gives new vision.
In our last story, we see Jesus miraculously healing a blind man. Some say that miracles no longer occur today. However, the Bible teaches that Jesus continues to heal people through believer’s prayers. We see healing miracles performed by other disciples throughout the Gospels, Acts and the rest of the New Testament.
In this story, the clear need is for the blind man to have his eyes opened so that he could see. There was no way for this to happen through a doctor, he needed a miracle. We see the miracle happen through the laying on of hands of Jesus. We also see a gradual healing that did not take place instantaneously.
God desires for each one of us to step out in faith and pray for those around us who need healing. If we are sick, let us make it a priority to ask for prayer for healing, as well as seeking medical attention. Jesus brings new vision and miracles into our lives. Now I’d like to tell you about a couple of God Stories from one of our missionaries that illustrate some of today’s points.
One of the many missionaries that we support are Sam & Lisa Paris who are stationed on the islands of Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean east of Australia. This year they have had to face two major disasters. The first was a category 5 hurricane that hit the northern islands of Vanuatu. The second disaster came from a volcano, Mt. Yasur on the island on which the Paris live, Tanna. Besides supporting the Paris, we also support the Assemblies of God Convoy of Hope that brings supplies and food in disaster areas in the US and around the world.
Let’s watch a short video by Sam Paris of food, sacks of rice being delivered to the people after the hurricane destruction. The people were a bit suspicious of the food at first, but was very grateful for the help they received, even though they had never visited them before. The chief expressed interest in seeing them again and wanted them to speak to the whole community. Meeting needs was beginning to open blind eyes.
On another trip of the Paris to the island they met a chief who had a very deep and infected wound on his hand from being attacked by an octopus. There was no medical care and the infection might well take his life. Sam felt led by the Spirit to pray for his hand that God would heal it and he did.
Three weeks later, when Sam came back to the Island with food, the chief excitedly greeted them. He told them that after prayer, his hand immediately began to heal and the infection went away. He asked them to pray for others who were sick in the village and invited them back again. God still heals and His power opens blind eyes to the Gospel. Let’s pray that God would use us to open blind eyes of those around us to the light of Jesus.