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Overcoming Spiritual Blindness (Video) 

 October 24, 2021

By  Sam Stone

Do you know that the Chinese character for suffering (苦) resembles the human face? The top part of this character symbolizes our eyebrows, the middle looks like our eyes and nose, and the bottom is the character for the mouth.  So, this character has all the human facial features, but it’s not a character for the human face but for “suffering.” Why? No one knows. It’s a five-thousand-year-old language.

Whether the resemblance was coincident or intentional, it tells one of the essential truths about life—life is suffering! Maybe that’s what the wisdom of the ages tried to remind us. However, it’s not something we want to admit. Who wants to accept that life is suffering? It sounds so pessimistic.

Unfortunately, the denial of this fact is the source of stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, existential crisis, moral dilemmas, etc. The prolonged pandemic we are going through has significantly highlighted the reality that we live in a sea of suffering. We can no longer be blind to this fact. If we are wise, we can make the most out of it to rise to a higher level of consciousness.

In his bestseller, The Roadless Travelled, Psychiatrist Doctor M. Scott Peck says that we must first recognize that “life is difficult.” Without this recognition, we will never find the path out of human suffering. Most of the human suffering comes from the denial of this reality.

It’s not pessimism but being realistic. In fact, we all entered this world crying. When a newborn baby does not cry, the doctor will give a light slap on the butt to make the baby cry. Everyone is relieved and happy when the infant begins to cry. Would it be nice if we entered the world laughing?

The good news is, the moment we discover life is suffering, we begin to find a way out. The moment we realize we are in darkness, we begin to seek the light. The moment we realize we are sick, we begin to seek healing. Jesus said,

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17).

Jesus was saying that those who think they are healthy and righteous would not need him. It means those who are in denial of their plight will not find his presence necessary. Those who don’t know they are blind will not seek recovery of sight.

This blindness affects both unreligious and religious people. So, we cannot assume that we see better just because we are believers. As the initiators of the “back to the Bible” movement in the first century, the Pharisees were the most pious people and highly faithful to the scriptures, but Jesus called them the “Blind Guides.” (Mat 23:24).

Don’t you think it’s sad to practice the teachings of the scriptures to the T and still be called “blind” by Jesus? Don’t be discouraged. The disciples were blind too. Peter was once called “Satan” for not seeing the spiritual significance of what Jesus was doing.

So today, let’s explore how to gain the spiritual vision to surf the waves of this stormy sea of suffering based on what Jesus taught us in this week’s scripture lesson.

[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]

The scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Mark 10:46–52. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:46–52).

[This is the Word of the Lord! Thanks be to God.]

In the context of this passage, Jesus was teaching the disciples using many object lessons—a child, a rich young ruler—and now a blind man. Right after James and John asked for the highest positions in Jesus’ kingdom, an opportunity came for Jesus to teach his disciples about what’s more important than position, power, and prestige—their spiritual sight.

It begins with Jesus, the disciples, and the crowd leaving Jericho. They might be near where the city walls used to be. Jericho used to be known as a city of giants and home of the mighty. The Lord gave that city to the Israelites, but they were frightened by the size of the inhabitants.

And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.” (Joshua 6:2).

According to Biblical scholars, “the mighty men” refers to the Gibborim, a human species believed to be a hybrid of humans and angles. The phrase “the mighty men” is derived from the same Hebrew word that Moses used in Genesis 6:4 to signify the giants.

Despite the mighty enemies, Israelites toppled the city walls and occupied the city purely by faith. So, the walls of Jericho must have reminded them of overcoming something impossible to overcome.

What’s in your life right now that you find impossible to overcome? What’s the mountain in your life you try to move? The story of Jericho should remind us of overcoming the impossible through the power of the Lord. From this passage, I draw three principles of overcoming the impossible.

1. Stay in an Empowering Environment

Sitting by the roadside near where the wall used to be was a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. As someone who appreciates nature, visual art, and photography, I cannot imagine a worse disadvantage than blindness. I feel frustrated as I grow older and my vision becomes dimmer. I try to overcome my diabetes mainly because I fear blindness more than any other disease.

It seemed Bart was not born blind because he asked Jesus to let him see “again.” The word “again” indicates that he used to be able to see. He might have been educated and had read the scriptures because he was physically blind but not spiritually blind.

He called Jesus “Son of David” even though people told him it was Jesus of Nazareth in the crowd. He knew the scriptures and the prophecies well enough to be able to make that statement.

When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 47).

As a biblically literate person, Bart might find the walls of Jericho an empowering environment for him to wait for the opportunity to topple the walls of his vision. History is full of stories of people overcoming the impossible. If you are discouraged by the problems in your life, make sure to find an empowering environment. Life is never a failure until we lose hope.

2. Keep Your Ears Open

Bart did not allow his blind vision to blind his spirit. He made use of what he had. His ears were still good. Sitting near the city gate, he kept himself informed about what was new in the city. In Luke’s version of this story, he inquired what was going on. He kept his curiosity sharp and his hope alive.

When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” (Lk 18:36–37).

Our ears seem to be closer to our spirit than our eyes. Moses received his calling by hearing the voice that came out of the burning bush. Prophets Samuel received his mission through hearing God’s voice. When the Bible talks about vision, it often comes in the form of hearing.

There is a reason we have eyelids but no earlids. Even though we read the scriptures, we hear God’s voice when we read. Even though I fear the loss of sight, I know hearing loss is even worse based on the scriptures. Jesus often said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Of course, Jesus is not talking about auditory hearing but spiritual hearing. Everyone heard Jesus’s word, but not everyone perceived it. The Pharisees listened to what Jesus said, but they could not understand it. Maybe we can say spiritual deafness is even worse than spiritual blindness.

The ability to hear what Jesus said has to do with humility. The Pharisees were too proud to process what they heard from Jesus correctly. We can see this blind beggar is very humble based on his behavior.

3. Seize the Opportunity

Now, an opportunity had come for Bart to restore his sight. He must have been waiting for this moment for years. Bart must have learned from the scripture that the Messiah, the Son of David, could restore the sight of the blind and heal the brokenhearted. He must have heard people say that Jesus of Nazareth had performed many miracles.

So, he shouted out for Jesus to have mercy on him. However, people tried to shut him down. Bart knew this was probably the only opportunity he had, so he must seize it.

Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 48).

There is never a shortage of people to discourage you in life from seizing your opportunity, especially when their fun is disturbed or when they are busy with their own interests. They make you feel, “Who do you think you are?” “We are enjoying the presence of Jesus, the celebrity. Be quiet, and don’t disrupt our fun.”

Sometimes, they stand between you and God, speaking on behalf of God. At such time, you must know the voice of God and whether they accurately represent that voice. If not, cry louder as Bart did and seize the opportunity. Courage is the manifestation of faith. Know when it is now or never and seize the opportunity with courage.

4. Abadon What Hinders You

To abandon everything for the opportunity to the next level of living is the hardest to do. The rich young ruler could not leave behind his possessions to follow Christ because he had too much to lose. In contrast, Bart threw off his cloak to come to Jesus when he heard the call.

So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. (v. 50).

His cloak might be the only possession he had. Our possessions can become a hindrance for us to rise to a higher level of living. The more we possess, the harder we can leave behind. Maybe it was easier for Bart to throw off his cloak since that’s all he had.

The kingdom’s door is always open for us, but this world of suffering is putting constraints on our path to entering the kingdom. One of the critical spiritual insights is to see what’s the constraint. It could be physical, emotional, or social. We must know how to let it go and let God.

Can you visualize the scene, “Throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus?” That reminds me of Peter, James, and John, leaving everything behind to follow Christ. Maybe Jesus wanted to remind them of their first love—their initial passion for following Christ.

Life can be fruitful if we can identify the obstacles of growth and eliminate the constraints.

5. Follow the Way of Christ

When we read the Bible, we see a pattern of Jesus asking the obvious, “What do you want me to do for you?” What would a blind man want other than the restoration of sight?

Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” (v. 51).

God knows what we want, but he still wants us to state it. It’s like a confession. Unless we admit that we are sick, the healing will not happen or will not last. It is also like a faith statement believing God can remove your suffering.

Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (v. 52).

What’s interesting here is Jesus told him to “Go” using the Greek word, “ὑπάγω” (hupágō), meaning “Go ahead.” It could mean allowing him to do whatever he wanted, but it could also mean he was invited to go with Jesus. However, instead of going away, he followed him on the way.

The fact that Bartimaeus’ name was recorded in the Bible means his story was significant. We never learned the name of the rich young ruler because he went away, but Bart followed Jesus on “the way,” forgetting his cloak and his only possession. As someone who knew the scriptures, Bart must know where Jesus was going. He regained his physical sight, but he has never lost his spiritual sight.

Notice the last two words, “the way.” The way of Jesus is the cross that brings salvation to the suffering world. The way of Jesus is the way of the kingdom. It’s heaven on earth. We continue to live in this sea of suffering, but our spirit is in heaven.

The way of Jesus is the way of service. He exemplified it by washing the disciples’ feet and dying on the cross to redeem us from sin because that is the ultimate constraint that causes human suffering. Every major religion in the world recognizes the reality of human suffering, but none has the ultimate solution. The way of Christ is the way of the good news for the suffering world.

There we have it. To gain spiritual sight,

1. Stay in an Empowering Environment

2. Keep Your Ears Open

3. Seize the Opportunity

4. Abadon What Hinders You

5. Follow the Way of Christ

That’s it for today, and I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I do. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.

Amen!

Bye now!

Sam Stone


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