Thursday, August 31, 2017

My new favorite Bible story

Back in the day, when I taught Bible study, I remember how my ladies used to laugh at me, because I was always saying, "This is my favorite Bible story!" or "This is my favorite scripture!"

Some of my favorites include:

  • Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-50)
  • Gideon (Judges 6-7)
  • David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
  • Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18)
  • How Jehosheba saved the line of David by saving baby Joash (2 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 22:10-23:21)
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
  • Esther (book of Esther)
  • Jesus raises a widow's son (Luke 7:11-17)
  • Jesus heals a sick woman and raises Jairus' daughter (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56)
  • The risen Jesus appears to Mary in the garden (John 20:10-18)
  • Jesus cooks breakfast for his disciples, after rising from the dead (John 21:1-14)
  • Jesus explains the Old Testament, incognito (Luke 24:13-35)
  • Peter escapes from prison (Acts 12:1-19)
  • Paul and Silas triumphantly get out of prison (Acts 16:16-40)
  • Psalms 27, 33, 37, 46, 57, 63, 73, 84, 86, 90, 91, 92, 103, 104, 111, 115, 121, 131, 139, 145
  • Isaiah 40, 53, 55
  • Jeremiah 31
  • Ezekiel 36
  • Hosea 14
  • Romans 5, 8, 12
  • Ephesians 1:1-2:10
  • Philippians 4 (or really all of Philippians)
  • Revelation 21-22

Well, that's not exhaustive, but I'll just stop.  (Although I'd invite you to read through those!)

You get the idea.  I have a lot of favorite parts of the Bible.

One of the greatest things about the Bible is that you always find new things in it, no matter how many times you reread it.

In my last post, I wrote about new things I'd seen in the parable of the Sower, how the Lord continually plants and replants His seeds of truth and righteousness in the hearts of men.  When the seeds don't germinate, He reworks the soil of the heart, plowing, tilling, preparing, making ready.  He patiently persists, knowing that every part of His process is valuable and important.

Still carrying these thoughts in my mind, I forged ahead in the book of Mark, and came across my new "favorite" story:

     They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village.  When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?" He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around." Once more, Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  Jesus sent him home saying, "Don't go into the village."   (Mark 8:22-26 NIV)

It is always beautiful and exciting when we read about Jesus doing a miracle of healing.  Jesus is our Healer, the Great Physician.  He knows how to fix the bodies He created.  I love to meditate on His healing power.

But I promised to tell you about the new things I saw today.  Here we go:

 . . . some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. . . (Mark 8:22 NIV)

Some people brought a blind man and begged.  This reminds me of a post I wrote some time ago, about some friends who carried a paralyzed man on a mat to Jesus for healing.  In both cases, we know nothing about the infirm person, except that he had a serious infirmity.  Was he willing and cooperative as his friends brought him to the healer?  Was he too lost in his malady to either cooperate or resist?  We don't know.  What we do know: People who loved him brought him to Jesus.  People who loved him begged Jesus to help.

Our intercessory prayers matter.  They make a difference.  This man did not ask for healing.  His friends asked for healing for him.  We can do the same for our friends.  We can ask for their physical healing, but we can also ask for their spiritual healing.  Our compassionate Lord heals people in every way.  He has special concern for those who are spiritually blind and cannot see or accept the saving truth that He offers.  We can bring these precious, blind souls into the presence of the Lord and beg for mercy and healing.

Additionally, these people begged Jesus to touch their blind friend.  Why did they want Jesus to touch him?  Jesus could heal with a word, or even a mere thought.  Jesus could even command a healing from a distance.  However, the people asked Jesus to touch the man.

Let's consider Jesus' response to this request.  Did He touch the man?  Well, first it says that Jesus "took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village."  There is the first touch: gentle leading, by the hand, to a new place.  Then, when they arrived at Jesus' chosen location, Jesus spit on the man's eyes.  How extraordinary.  Jesus actually bestowed some of His own bodily fluids on the man's eyes.  He did not need to do this; it was a strange grace.  I imagine that to the man, it felt something like eyedrops.  I imagine that the saliva of God is a holy, healing, soothing substance.  Jesus spit on the man's eyes, and the Bible also says that Jesus touched him.  In effect, we have three touches here: the leading by the hand, the soothing drops of saliva, and the deliberate laying on of hands.  Jesus responded by doing what the people asked of Him, and more.

Then a pause occurred.  Jesus asked the man if he could see anything.  The man gave an odd reply, indicating that he could see somewhat, but that his eyes were not completely right: "I see people, but they look like trees."

This reminds me of the post I recently wrote about a sunrise that sort of didn't happen.  Of course, it did happen; the sun always rises.  But that day, we didn't see the sun come up.  We waited and watched, but we didn't see it happen.  Nevertheless, daylight came, and we enjoyed a new day.  In my new favorite  Bible story, Jesus graciously administered abundant healing touches on the blind man, but the result was not immediately complete.

Here was a chance for faith to rally.  Sometimes God delays a result to keep us focused and dependant on Him.  Sometimes God chooses to display His persevering power, rather than His perfectly instant power.  Perhaps He wants us to see how He perseveres, so we will be encouraged to persevere as well.

Once more, Jesus put His hands on the man's eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  (Mark 8:25 NIV)

I find this incredibly encouraging, because Jesus kept on working with the man until his sight was restored.  Jesus didn't say, "Oh well, good enough.  You were blind, and now you can see some stuff.  What do you want, anyway?"  Instead, Jesus put His hands on the man's eyes yet one more time, patiently, persistently, lovingly, expectantly.  Jesus finished the job.

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on until completion until the day of Christ Jesus.    (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

Jesus responds to intercessory prayers, our requests for the ones we love.  Jesus is not stingy in His responses: He goes above and beyond what we ask for, although it may come in a strange and unexpected form, like spit.  Above all, Jesus carries on until completion and gets the job done.

Jesus gets the job done.

Thank you, Jesus, 
that I can trust you because you are faithful and good.
Your will be done.
I look forward to seeing what wonderful things you will do.  
I thank you for the wonderful things you will do.
Thank you that you are totally faithful, good, wise and powerful.
You can and will get the job done perfectly.

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