Seeing In Stages

Mark 8:22-26

Message #28

Mark often teaches in trilogies, meaning triple lessons to teach a critical truth. Last week, Mark began a critical three message trilogy. Today, we see part two, and in the next message, we finish with part three.

Last week, in part one, titled "Do You Understand Yet?" Jesus proved to the Disciples they were not seeing with “spiritual understanding” yet. It was a hard message because Jesus had to shake the Disciples (and us) up so we would realize that maybe we are not seeing with full spiritual understanding yet.

So, in the first message, Jesus shook us up and forced us to see our own spiritual blindness. In the second message today, Jesus is going to show us that our spiritual sight (our spiritual insight) comes in stages. We develop spiritual sight in stages. Then, in the third message to follow, Jesus is going to show us there are still more stages for the Disciples and us to be able to see spiritual things more clearly.

So, we’ve got to remember through all these messages what God says to us in Isaiah 55:9.

Isaiah 55:9 (NLT)
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts

If we’ll just embrace that, then we’ll say, “Well, Lord, that must mean that I have some limited understanding. I have some limited spiritual insight, or sight because your ways and thoughts are so much higher than mine.”

The good news today is Jesus wants to give us “eyes to see” in stages. Let’s start with the last verse of last week’s message where Jesus asked his Disciples in Mark 8:21,

Mark 8:21 (NLT)
21 “Don’t you understand yet?”

That was after the feeding of the 4,000 – they didn’t understand. It was after the interaction with the Pharisees – they didn’t understand. It was after the boat ride with no bread – they didn’t understand. And last week wasn’t the only time Jesus had “pointed this fact out” to his Disciples.

  • In Mark 4:40 – Jesus asked them, “Do you still have no faith?” 
  • In Mark 7:18 – Jesus asked them, “Don’t you understand either?”
  • In then in Mark 8:18 (last week) – Jesus asked them, “Can’t you SEE? and Can’t you HEAR?”

And this was not the last time that Jesus was going to ask this same type of question to the Disciples. In each case, Jesus is pointing out to them – and to us – there is more spiritual sight that we must gain. The Disciples believed in Jesus. They were following Jesus. But, in each of these cases, at some level, the Disciples were not seeing “spiritually clearly.”

And so now, after all this not getting it, Jesus is going to teach the Disciples with what we would call a parable miracle. And Jesus is going to show the Disciples through this parable miracle that we must gain our spiritual sight in stages, and then, he is going to prove it again to us even deeper in our next message. Okay, let’s start in Mark 8:22.

Mark 8:22 (NLT)
22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him.

Bethsaida is in the Northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee. Last week, they were in the Northwest corner of the lake, and so to get away from the Pharisees, they had just sailed across the north end of the lake, and they landed at the fishing village where the Disciples Peter, Andrew, and Philip had all grown up.

And this is where this parable miracle begins. As verse 22 says, when they got to Bethsaida, some friends brought a blind man to Jesus. And the friends play a vital role here. They brought this man to Jesus, and they begged Jesus to touch him and heal him as he had for countless others in the Galilee area, just as maybe you’ve brought someone to church or someplace where they could meet Jesus. And maybe you have begged the Lord in prayer for a similar immediate spiritual healing, and that’s really good. But the Lord also has a special “teaching purpose” for this particular blind man. And so, we read in Mark 8:23,

Mark 8:23(a) (NLT)
23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village . . .

Speaking of seeing what a sight this is, at this point, the Lord of Heaven, the Agent of Creation, (the One through whom all things were created and through whom all things consist, and exist and are held together), takes this blind man’s hand and leads him. And Jesus guides him around all the obstacles as he walked him to a place where Jesus could bring his plan to pass in this man’s life. That is an incredible “sight to see.”

This must’ve been a really cool moment for this man. And then we continue reading in Mark 8:23(b),

Mark 8:23(b) (NLT)
23 . . . Then, spitting on the man’s eyes . . .

Whoa – wait a minute – this man is on a tranquil, peaceful walk with the Lord of Glory, and suddenly Jesus stops him and spits in his eyes. Okay, that seems weird, right? You guys can let us know if you want us to use this method when you ask us to pray for healing for you!

But, obviously, there’s something else going on here. In the first century, the saliva of a healthy person was actually considered medicinal. And so, this would’ve been a graphic sign to the man and his friends that Jesus was going to heal him. So, with the “medicinal sign” of the spit in the eyes, we read at the end of Mark 8:23(c),

Mark 8:23(c) (NLT)
23 . . . he (Jesus) laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”

Now, don’t miss this because this is where this man becomes a parable teaching for the Disciples. Jesus had just proved to the Disciples that they weren’t seeing the spiritual side of things. And now, Jesus is going to demonstrate to them through this parable miracle what needs to happen in their lives and in our lives.

They had seen Jesus fully heal countless people with a simple touch. But this time, he asks the person if the healing worked (How’d I do? Did it work?). That should’ve caught the Disciples off guard, and it should catch us off guard, and it should cause us to ask why is this happening in this way?

I believe Jesus is teaching through this parable miracle and through this trilogy of messages that you and I are in desperate need for continual healing of our spiritual blindness and continual improvement in our spiritual sight.

Jesus is proving to his Disciples, in all three of these messages – but especially right here by parable – we must be continually healed of our spiritual blindness. And we must be continually improved in our spiritual sight by God.

These three messages are a dramatic reminder that in our own nature, we don’t see spiritually clearly. We don’t see it. We can’t see it. How can we? In our own nature, without the nature of God, the presence of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, how can we hope to see things clearly?

But here is the good news that we see throughout the New Testament. As we grow in Christ, as more of Christ lives in us, and less of us lives in us, as self is crucified more and more, and Jesus is given the “rule of the house” and abiding in our lives, as there’s less flesh and more of the Spirit, as we’re walking in the Spirit and as the power of the Spirit enables us to live in the fruit of the Spirit, as we grow closer to Jesus – relationally, - as we know him better and better, (Philippians 3:10 it is GINOSKO – an ever-increasing, intimate knowledge, it’s a personal knowledge that never ends) he will continue to lay his hands on us and improve our “spiritual sight.”

This is good news. You recognize that without the life of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, you can’t see spiritually. You are blind. No matter how many times you’ve said “the prayer” or walked forward. In your own nature, you can’t see. As you grow in Christ and as he takes over your life and as you learn to live and walk and be directed by the Holy Spirit, he continually heals your spiritual blindness.

But the first step to being able to see spiritually more clearly is to see the fact that we don’t see clearly – yet. 

So, if we come to the Bible, to a situation, to an issue, to a trouble, to a trial, to a pressure, to a “whatever it is,” if we say, “Lord, okay. First of all, here’s the only thing I really know right now – I don’t know. I can’t see. I can’t see what you’re doing. I can’t see how you’re working for good in this. I need your sight, Lord. The first thing I need is for my spiritual blindness to be healed, and my spiritual eyes to be opened.” Then we can enter a place where Jesus can continually heal us and give us, what is in essence, his spiritual sight.

Once we own the fact that we still have some level of spiritual blindness, then we can enter a place where Jesus can lay his hands on us and improve our “spiritual sight.”

Which is exactly what is about to happen here. So, again, in verse 23, Jesus led this man outside the village, spit on his eyes, and laid his hands on him. And then, Jesus asked him, “Can you see anything now?” And we pick it up in Mark 8:24.

Mark 8:24 (NLT)
24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”

Doesn’t that describe you, spiritually, at some point? “Yeah, I see there is something about Jesus, but I can’t really see him clearly; and I can kinda see that God is doing something, but I can’t really make it out. I don’t see well enough.”

I hope you recognize this in yourself, and I hope you recognize it in other people so that you can say, “Lord, I don’t see clearly in this situation. And I’m going to give them a break… because maybe they don’t see clearly either.” Because we’re all in this boat together. Even when we can see some spiritual things at some level – to some degree – we must recognize that we still need to see spiritually more clearly. We need this same continual touch from Jesus for him to continue to open our spiritual eyes.

Which is exactly what happens to this man in Mark 8:25.

Mark 8:25 (NLT)
25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly.

Jesus is teaching a spiritual truth through this miracle, and we can (and we should) be praying for this same event in our own lives. “Lord, I want to see more clearly. I want to see better what you’re doing. Lord, I need your spiritual sight much more than my natural sight. Lord, please continue to lay your hands on my spiritual eyes and help me to spiritually see more clearly.” That is a great prayer for us to be praying.

And then, to prove that this miracle was meant primarily to teach the Disciple this huge truth, Mark 8:26 says,

Mark 8:26 (NLT)
26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”

And so, this final instruction to the healed blind man is crowd control. This was a personal training miracle for the Disciples, meant to teach a critical spiritual lesson – and praise the Lord – this man was healed in the process of this parable miracle.

But here’s the deal for me today. It has really struck me recently that we often think we see clearly when it comes to spiritual matters. But, can I tell you, please, we are all in the same boat when it comes to needing improved spiritual sight.

I heard a pastor tell a true story about his father-in-law, who was an avid ocean fisherman, and so it naturally caught my attention. Old man – fishing – ocean – I could see myself right there. Plus, this old man was an intensely focused fishing fanatic, which also connects with me.

One day, a friend asked if he could bring a couple of his friends with him on a fishing trip, to which the old man said, “If you’re gonna bring some new guys fishing, you’re gonna have to take care of them.” (I can also relate). And so, the old man was at the dock early, before daybreak. He was busy getting the boat ready, when his friend and these new guys showed up. And so, as he was told, the friend took care of the new guys getting them and their gear all in the boat, while the old man finished up and pushed off the dock.

The sun was just coming up when they got into open water, and as they did, a pod (school) of dolphin joined the boat as it was skimming along the water. And when they did, this friend and his new guys all started hooping and hollering about these dolphins. And the boat engine was running high, and the old man couldn’t initially make out what they were yelling. But then, as he was watching the dolphin and driving the boat, he realized these new guys were yelling, “Where are they? Which side of the boat are they on? What color are they? How big are they?”

And the old man – who was direct, like most fishermen – had words coming out of his mouth, AS he turned for the first time to focus on these new passengers. And the sharp words had already been spoken, “WHAT – ARE YOU GUYS…” and just before he said that last word, he realized his new passengers were actually blind.

Shocked and humbled, he went back to driving the boat, and as he did, it struck him that he was the one who was actually blind. And the truth is, in some way, at some level, everyone in that boat was blind. Some physically, all spiritually. And especially that old man captain, (who was a retired pastor, by the way).

And can I tell you please, everyone that’s in this boat with us here today in some way, at some level, is spiritually blind? And the sooner we recognize that the sooner we can begin to beg Jesus to open our eyes, just like the friends of this blind man begged Jesus to open their friend’s eyes. And as we earnestly pray and as we sincerely seek God on this, Jesus will begin to open our eyes so that we can begin to see spiritual things more clearly.

And so, as I close, let me briefly mention the HOW. Here is a concise summary of how this happens. No matter where we are in our walk with Christ, both the beginning of our spiritual sight and the continual growth of our spiritual sight, comes from the presence of God in our lives and from the power of God in our lives – alone. And so, the goal, very simplified, is to increase the presence of God in our lives and to increase the power of God in our lives.

And so, I want to talk to, and pray with, two sets of people who are with us today. First, if you have not truly put your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and truly committed to follow him as your Lord. If that’s you, today, please hear this verse.

2 Corinthians 4:6 (NLT)
6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

Knowing the Glory of God and being able to see WHO Jesus Christ is, comes from the God who created light, shining that light of life into your heart – enabling you to know the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

This means you can’t see the glory of God without God shining that light into your heart, which is really good news because that means you don’t have to figure it out, and you don’t have to have all the answers. All you have to do is genuinely ask God to shine the light of his eternal life into your heart. And he will do it – and he will do it through the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus will come into your life as the light of life from God, and he will give you eternal life and spiritual eyes to see.

So, right now, I want to pray with anyone who hasn’t truly put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. I want to pray with you first, and then I’ll come back and talk to everyone else. I want to encourage you to pray it with me, pray it after me. So, let’s pray.

“Dear Lord Jesus, I can’t see you. I’m in darkness. I need the light of life. Lord, would you shine the light that created all that’s been created, would you shine your light in my heart? Would you drive away the darkness that keeps me from seeing and believing? And would you shine the light in my heart that I would know the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, in a relationship, a face-to-face relationship with Jesus Christ, Lord? I need your light to come into my life. I’m tired of the darkness. Save me, Lord. Come into my life and save me. Jesus, I believe, and I receive you. Be my Savior, and be my Lord. And fill me with your Holy Spirit for the power to transform my life. In your name, Jesus, amen.”

Now, for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ and are following Jesus as their Lord, I want to share some verses with you – in love – and then I want to pray again, to close.

In John Chapter 9, Jesus is addressing the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees, and believe me, you and I are prone to having this same type of spiritual blindness. And so, we read in John 9:39-41,

John 9:39–41 (NLT)
39 Then Jesus [said], “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”
41 “If you were blind (truly), you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.

Please don’t earn this same judgment from Jesus. May we always recognize our natural tendency to be spiritually blind, and may we always be praying that Jesus would give us increased spiritual sight by his presence and his power in our lives.

May we always be praying, “Lord, whatever spiritual blindness I am suffering from today, please heal me of it. Please give me eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to receive more of your spiritual truth.”

“Lord, Jesus, do that for us. Do that for us, Lord. Do that for us, God. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to receive. Lord, we recognize today that we’re all in the same boat – it’s a big boat. And we’re all spiritually blind. We pray, Lord, you would open our eyes. Open the eyes of our heart, Lord, we want to see you, Jesus. We love you, Lord. We love what you’ve done during these weeks of extreme difficulty. We love that we’re never alone, that you are always with us, and always at work for good. And we trust that you will continue to be. For your glory, and in your name, amen.”