"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things."
-- Psalm 119:18
My uncle may never have earned his Ph.D., but he was a master of the one-liner.
"'I see,' said the blind man to his deaf wife, as he took up his hammer and saw," was one of his favorites, even though that made as much sense to me when I was a child as I made to my optometrist a few weeks ago.
"I can still see fine at a distance," I told him, "but I think I need stronger reading glasses."
Half an hour later I was choosing frames for two new pairs of glasses.
"You still might be able to see well enough to drive without glasses," the man with a doctor's degree said, "but I suspect you'll fail the eye test the next time you renew your license."
I had been operating with reading glasses for so long I didn't notice the deterioration. With a distance vision of 20-50, my "I can see fine" turned out to be a long distance from the truth.
Judging from the number of times Jesus healed a blind person in the Bible, poor vision must have been a common complaint in first-century Palestine. In the Gospel of Mark (10:46-52) we read the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who shouted from the roadside, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked.
"O, Lord," the blind man replied, "I want to see!"
In this account Jesus simply touched the sufferer's eyes, and immediately Bartimaeus could see. But when he encountered another blind man (John, chapter 9) Jesus took more time, as if to illustrate each step of the healing process with a spiritual lesson for his disciples and the religious leaders then, and those who read the story today.
First, when the disciples asked if the blindness had been caused by sin -- the man's or that of his parents -- Jesus assured them that this condition wasn't anyone's fault. He then mixed some spittle with a clump of dry clay, placed it on the man's sightless eyes and told him to go wash it off in a nearby pool.
The man did as he was told and, John writes, "He came back seeing."
Later, when the townspeople saw this man they had only known blind, many doubted his story. It takes more than a little wet clay to make a blind man see, they said. Others were angry because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and yet he had broken a primary religious rule. He should have known it was against their law to do any work on the Sabbath Day, even healing. To satisfy their anger, the religious leaders, in effect, excommunicated the healed man from the synagogue (verse 34).
When Jesus heard this, he sent for the man so could explain the deeper truth behind his healing. As Jesus said, "I came into the world so that the blind will see," the healed man realized there was more to his miracle than what his physical eyes could see. As his spiritual eyes were opened, he also must have known his vision was now better than that of the religious leaders, who had tried to convince him of their superior sight.
As it turns out, my uncle's little joke was closer to the truth than the rules of the Pharisees or my self-diagnosed vision problem. The physically blind almost always understood when Jesus said there was more to "see" than their physical eyes revealed, while the self-determined religious leaders rarely "saw" the important things of God.
When the Psalmist asked God to open his eyes so "I can behold wondrous things," he didn't mean eye charts. He meant the wonders of God's love and mercy, which are free to all, no matter what their physical vision might be.
When our spiritual eyes are opened, we never fail an eye test with God.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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