The picture of that man as he stood before Jesus—touched by the healer, obviously changed, but disappointed and still functionally blind—is a powerful image. I don’t know how long the period of “half-sight” was for the blind man. Perhaps only a few moments, for Jesus did touch the man again and give him full sight. But what if it had been a long time? What if it had lasted the rest of his life? Would he have taken his place among the villagers, learned to use his new “sight,” forgetting his disappointment; forgetting that he couldn’t see clearly? Would he have told and re-told the story of his healing? The townspeople would want to hear his story—his encounter with Jesus. Certainly, something had happened. The blind man hadn’t been able to see at all before. Even if he could only “half see” his life would be easier, richer, and fuller after.
And that seems to describe my life of faith. When I decided to trust God something really did happen. My life was different afterward. I told people about the change, and my friends could see it. I could see things—about where my life was headed and about how much I needed God’s love—that I had never been able to see before. In a very real sense, my eyes were opened. But for some time there has been a growing suspicion that I’m the man who sees trees walking around. There are many things that either I don’t see at all, or I see indistinctly.
In fact, as I read the book of Mark it appears the disciples, the ones closest to Jesus, suffer from the same condition. They stumble over each other. They never get it quite right. Even when Jesus says something plainly to them they don’t understand. I believe that Mark uses this time between gaining sight and seeing fully as a metaphor for the plight of the disciples as they follow Jesus. And consequently, as a metaphor for our own plight as we attempt to follow Jesus. I want to explore this idea in the coming weeks and months.
However, there is another idea we need to explore first. At the moment the blind man realized that he couldn’t see clearly he might have had the clearest sight of all. In his half-sight he recognized more about the nature of sight than those villagers who had been born “normal” and lived their whole lives with sight. Someone who has grown up half-blind may not recognize that there is more they should be seeing. But this man who was born blind, then given half-sight, knew what it was to really see. And he also knew that he hadn’t been given full sight. His blindness was clear to him.
It seems to me that the church is often split between those who believe that we see clearly—as the blind man did after Jesus’ second touch—and those who realize that we see, but only “like trees walking.”
I remember being haunted by a particular episode of The Twilight Zone when I was a young teen. In a village where everyone was blind, one child was born with sight. But instead of being recognized as someone who had special abilities he was seen as someone who was handicapped. The community, along with the young man, felt that his ability to see kept him separated and distant. So they proposed a way to correct his disability and bring him into the fold. The final scene shows the young man rising from a hospital bed. The bed sheet and bandages fall away to reveal a radiant smile and hollow eye sockets.
© Rob Devens 2009 and 2016