I am one of countless people who require eyeglasses to see clearly. I am nearsighted, which means I can see objects up close just fine but have trouble seeing with any acuity much more than ten feet away. Doctors call it “myopia” and the British would say I am “shortsighted.” Whatever you call it, the condition has had a great impact on my life.
It also happens to be a good metaphor for my early Christian walk.
I grew up wanting to be a pilot, something that requires good vision. I was very ambitious about my goal and was well on my way to reaching it before my vision ever became a problem. I started flight training at sixteen and earned my private license on my seventeenth birthday. Then it was off to college to earn the degree I would need. You see, I really wanted to be a Navy pilot.
For that I needed near-perfect vision, the lack of which began to creep in as a potential stumbling block as I approached graduation.
I actually – somehow – managed to pass my Navy physical but I knew my eyesight was getting worse. I had learned to compensate for this flaw in most activities, but it would only be a matter of time before it needed correcting. I didn’t know what the Navy might do with me once that day came and I began to understand the potential physical danger to myself if I kept pushing ahead.
Fortunately, as one of a thousand or so applicants vying for eighty-five spots in the program, the situation was taken out of my hands when I was passed over for better candidates. I went on to complete further flight training on my own dime, but only after my vision problem had been fully dealt with.
Acquiring Partial Sight
As a young Christian, I was thankful for all the Lord had shown me as He led me out of spiritual blindness. I quickly became as ambitious about my new faith as I had once been about aviation. I also had a lot of zeal and, (so I thought), a great deal of knowledge to go along with it. I felt I could hold my own defending that faith and was surely ready to begin teaching others about the Truth. I read, learned, and argued with both sinners and saints, all the while thinking I was quite a spiritual force.
But as I was mentored by more mature believers I sensed I was unfocused in my pursuit of the Lord. I began to see that I lacked something that these dear souls had from their many years spent with the Lord Jesus: clear spiritual vision.
I also saw that I was in good company in my plight. The apostles Peter and Paul certainly suffered through this, as did many of the Lord’s disciples presented to us in the scriptures.
In the eighth chapter of Mark we find the Lord Jesus dealing with a lack of spiritual understanding among his disciples. Along with other miracles, they had just witnessed Him provide four thousand people with nourishment from a few fishes and seven loaves of bread. But when He warned them of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herodians (a clear reference to the dangers of their teachings), they reasoned only that He was upset they had brought nothing with them to eat! He rightly rebuked them for their lack of understanding.
Then a most fascinating scene unfolds. Upon arriving in Bethsaida, a blind man was presented to the Lord by some people with the request that He touch him. They presumed to know what the Lord should do for the man: Just touch him and his sight would be restored. But the Lord’s course with this man was quite wonderful, going far beyond what men thought best.
The Lord’s actions recounted in Mark 8:22-26 may help us in our own need of clear spiritual vision. It is a beautiful example of Christ’s patient ministry with each one of us to take us where He will.
First, Jesus takes the man by the hand and leads him away from the village, taking firm control and guiding him away from the influence of man. How tender and reassuring that grasp must have felt! Only the Lord knows the right direction to lead a poor, blind soul.
Then, He spit in the blind man’s eyes. This would be an offense from any other man, but our Lord can do this in demonstration of the wretched condition of blindness brought about by sin. Sin deserves such a reaction. Isn’t this a fitting act by the Son of God who was despised by men, hated, and spit upon when He came to show the love of God; the One who redeemed us from the bondage of that sin?
Next, the Lord Jesus laid His hands upon him and asked if he saw anything. It is only through contact with the Lord that we have any hope of healing the effects of sin and receiving the blessings of God. This action restored the man’s sight but he did not yet see clearly.
The Lord then placed His hands on the man a second time, this time on his eyes, and made him look up. Now he was restored and saw all things clearly.
The fact that the Lord performed this work in two parts does not signal any failure on His part. It is there for our benefit. When the man could first see, he saw men, as trees, walking. He was seeing men without clarity and out of proportion – bigger than they really were. This was also partly the problem the disciples were experiencing; they were making too much of men. It would appear they were even focusing too much on the humanity of Christ (blessed as that is) and failing to see His deity, resulting in the unbelief exhibited in spite of His many fantastic works among them. I believe this is the reason we find this event placed precisely here in the scriptures.
This is often what happens to the new convert; they see men – perhaps those who led them to Christ, good teachers, or others of prominence – much bigger than they should. I know this was my experience and my spiritual vision was out of focus for a time as a result.
We can also fail to keep the Person of Jesus Christ in proper balance. He is indeed fully God and fully Man, and we must be sure that both aspects are given their full respect. It may be the knowledge that the Lord came among us as flesh and blood to pay the price for our sins that produces the thought that first touches our needy souls but, like the blind man and the disciples, we may need a second touch to allow us to see everything clearly. That can only happen through close contact with the Savior.
And when we look up, we shall see Jesus. Clearly.