Pity The Poor Blind
Adapted From a Sermon by
Archibald g. Brown,
On Sunday, February 21st, 1869.
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Mar 8:22-25
Let us ponder again the scene presented to us in Mark Chapter 8 verses 22 to 25.
A scene of wild desolation presents itself to the view of the solitary traveller, as in his journey he passes round about the region of Galilee, skirting the lake of Gennesaret. All about that inland sea where once there used to be busy villages, there is now nothing to be seen anywhere but ruin. Today if you skirt that lake where Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida once stood, you will see nothing but ruined foundations, fallen walls, masses of masonry heaped together, and the whole intermingled with thorns and briars.
The words of our Lord have come true; the prophecy has been fulfilled; the judgment has descended. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. ” (Matt 11:21-22)
One has but to gaze upon the scene of utter desolation, where once these favored cities stood, to learn that when Christ pronounces a “Woe,” ruin must inevitably follow. Christ’s curse is not only sufficient to wither a fig tree, but to blast the fairest landscape. But at the time of the narrative recorded in the chapter, that woe had not come. Instead of being a ruin, Bethsaida was a quiet fishing village, as its name implies, and nestled among the hills of Galilee, close down by the waters of the lake of Gennesaret.
Its inhabitants earned their living by fishing in those waters, generally so calm, but at times so troubled. This village is better known as the village of Andrew and Peter than for its trade; so true is the old Jewish saying, “It is not the place that gives honour to the man, but the man who gives honour to the place.” And just as Bethlehem is best known as being the birthplace of our Lord, so Bethsaida is best known as the place where He, in his compassionate love, took the poor blind man by the hand, and in answer to the prayer of his friends, gave him sight.
Now this morning, God willing and the Holy Spirit being our helper, we will look upon this miracle as an illustration of the way in which the Lord brings sinners to himself. We will, therefore, first — look upon the man as an illustration of the state of every sinner by nature — secondly, the man’s friends as a good example — they brought him to Christ — thirdly, Christ’s dealings with the blind man as a picture of his dealings with all sinners who come to Him — and we will close by observing that — the experience of this man was identical with the experience of every man who receives mercy from the Lord.
I. And so let us begin by viewing the man.
The news has reached Bethsaida that the Saviour is coming, and the moment he arrives, there is a large crowd gathered round about him. We can picture a group pushing their way along the street, and who is that man in the centre? He is supported on either side, and his supporters are hurrying him along as if it were their intention to be the first to meet the Saviour. What is the matter with the man? He walks the same, and looks the same at a distance as the others. But look closely at him, and you will discover the difference. The man is totally blind, and the crowd of friends are leading him as fast as possible, so that he who was anointed to open the eyes of the blind, may open this man’s. Indeed there was only one difference between him and them, but such a difference, though not greater than there may be between some who are here this morning.
The difference was that the others saw while this man did not. To the others, all was light; to this man all was darkness. It did not matter to him whether the sun shone, or whether night cast its dark shadow over the land. It mattered little to him whether the lake sparkled in the sunshine, or whether the storm cloud rested on the neighbouring hills; all was a dead blank to him; dark, dark, terrible darkness!
How striking a picture this is of the sinner. The man was blind to two things. If there was any deformity or ugliness, he did not see it; and with objects of beauty it was just the same. It did not matter if there was something repulsive or beautiful before him, for he saw neither.
It is just exactly so with the sinner in his natural state. The sinner does not see his own sin in all its repulsive nature, nor does he perceive his own defilement before God. Do not call him a hypocrite, for he is not one; he only utters what he feels when he says, “I don’t see that I am so bad after all.” Of course he does not; if he did, he would not be blind; but as he is so, he is ignorant as to his true state before God. Equally blind is he also to the loveliness there is in Jesus. This is as much a hidden thing to him as his own deformity. Many of you can say with all your heart, the words of this old hymn:
Lord let me see your beauteous face.
It yields a heaven below,
And angels round the throne will say.
’Tis all the heaven they know.
A glimpse, a single glimpse of you,
Would more delight my soul
Than this vain world, with all its joys,
Could I possess the whole.
But such language is a foreign language to the blind sinner, because he sees no beauty in him as to why he should desire him. The reason why people are so ignorant of spiritual things is because they are blind. What a silly answer was that of Nicodemus to our Lord when he said, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born!” Joh 3.4 The man said this in all simplicity, but it was a striking illustration of the fact that until the spirit gives light, the simplest truths of Jesus are utterly hidden from the natural man’s eyes.
This truth is illustrated perfectly in a story about William Pitt the Younger, and his friend William Wilberforce. Wilberforce invited him to hear Cecil the preacher, and the topic was “The spirit’s work in the believer.” After the sermon was over, Pitt said to his friend, “I did not understand a word of it; I could not make out what he was driving at; do you think there were any in the building who knew what he was talking about?” “Yes” said Wilberforce “there were many illiterate men, women and children, who understood him.” “Well,” said Pitt, “I could not.”
And so there are many whose intellects may be ever so powerful, whose education may have been of a superior kind, but who are witnesses of the fact, that mere education and talent will never teach a man spiritual things. Blind! Completely blind is the condition of every soul by nature, until Jesus applies his hand to the eyes, and then the sinner sees.
Remember the blind man is just as blind when in the light as in the dark; put him in the dark and it is no darker to him. Let him sit in the full noonday sun, and it is no lighter. The evil is not in what surrounds him, but it is in himself. That man is just as blind who stands in the light of the sun, as he who sits in a dark room.
No doubt they are in a bad situation who do not have the light; but it may no less be said that those who are surrounded by light, and yet are blind, are just as bad. The fact of being surrounded by light does not give sight; and there are thousands in the Christian Church who are just as ignorant of divine things as the heathen, or as the man mentioned in our text was insensitive to light. To come nearer home, there may be some who have heard the truth preached among us continually, and yet are as blind as if they had never heard the truth declared. It is not the question whether the light is round about us, but whether we have the eyes to behold it.
Remember too, a blind man may do much of the work of a man who sees. To see a blind person work at certain tasks you would scarcely know they were blind; you see one stitching here, and the other engaged in some other employment there, and you feel that it does not much matter to them in their work whether they see or not; and is this not a picture of many professors?
Walk into a given Sunday school, and you see the teachers all equally engaged with their classes; and yet that one over there is quite blind, and has never seen spiritual things; It is to be feared that if all were called to leave the Churches’ ranks who are in a similar condition, they would be amazingly decimated. How solemn is the thought, that even in the pulpits, there are many who have not yet received sight! You may hear a blind man, through what he has heard from others, describe the beauties of the rainbow, and paint in language the loveliness of the rose. A poet may entrance us with the beauty of his descriptions of light, while he has to exclaim as his own experience he sadly sees nothing.
Do you think there are no blind ministers, who preach and talk about the glorious rays of the “Sun of Righteousness” and yet have never seen them? It must be a sad sight indeed to see a blind father trying to lead his sightless children, but it is a far more tragic spectacle to see a man, who is himself completely blind about spiritual things, trying to direct a number of other imperishable souls; will they not both “fall into a pit?” Mat 15.14 Do not think that because you are a minister, Sunday school teacher, or tract distributor, that you are safe; for it is possible to be engaged in all these works and yet be blind.
But although a blind man may talk and act as if he saw, it is yet impossible for him, if he is born blind (and all sinners are) to have any true knowledge of these subjects; and he can hardly talk much without betraying his ignorance.
There is an account of a blind man who after much enquiry and reflection, said he had found out what sort of a color scarlet was, and on being questioned he replied; “I think scarlet is something like the sound of a trumpet.” This is touching and sad, but there are many who have just such an appreciation of spiritual truths; unless a man has been enlightened from above, he can have no more idea of spiritual truth than a blind man has of color.
But there is just this difference between the two: the spiritually blind do not believe they are so, while the poor blind know they are and feel it. You do not need to say to them “brother, you are blind,” for he would say “I know that better than you do;” but if you speak to the spiritually blind and tell them of their condition, they turn round and say “No, it is a lack of sight on your part.” He is the most terribly blind, who is blind to his own blindness; and he is the most hopelessly blind, who most persistently declares he never was.
In the second place,
II. Let us observe the conduct of this man’s friends, as a good example.
They brought him to Jesus. And surely, this sight which was witnessed at Bethsaida has often been witnessed in Heaven by the angels. We can imagine a troop of prayers ascending to the throne, and among them is that of an aged mother; and its cry is “Lord, give sight to my blind boy;” and there is the wife’s prayer that too finds its way to Heaven, and the burden of it is, “Lord, give sight to my blind husband.”
It is a blessed thing, a wonderful mercy, that in the arms of prayer, we can bring the blind to Jesus; if we can do nothing else with our friends and relations, let us see that we do this; for how can we be clear of their blood, unless we have carried them in the arms of vehement prayer before God; laid them at his feet, and said “Lord, give them sight.”
And not only can we bring them to Jesus in prayer, but we can bring them to where He passes by. The great desire of the blind man’s friends was to bring him into the road along which they believed Christ would walk. Wherever you hear of souls being brought to Christ, there you may be sure the Lord has passed by.
There is yet another thing in which they set us a bright example, and that is in their faith: they “brought to him (the) blind man and begged him to touch him.” They believed a touch from the Saviour was all that was required. Have faith in God, that He is able to convert your relations and friends and to give sight to the blind. Believe that his touch is all sufficient, and that what is much for you to receive, is nothing for him to perform.
III. Let us now notice in the third place, Christ’s dealing with the blind man, as a picture of his dealing with every sinner.
What was the first thing the Saviour did with the blind man after he was brought to him? “He took him by the hand.” We can imagine how that blind man must have been startled. He had doubtless often heard of Christ being able to open the eyes of the blind, and he now stood trembling, wondering what would be done to him. But before he had much time to think, a hand took hold of his. It was Jesus.
And how inexpressibly wonderful is the thought that the first thing that Jesus does to the anxious sinner, is to take him by the hand. Can you not remember, believer in Christ, that time when Jesus first began to work on your heart? The preacher’s words struck home, and you thought he had been told all about you, or had been reading all your thoughts. As the service went on you felt “that man is praying for me as if I was praying myself. I could not have laid my condition before the throne any better.” That, you know, was Jesus taking you by the hand and making you feel his presence; conversion, in a word, is Christ laying hold of the sinner; a blessed contact between an empty sinner and a full Saviour.
Notice, also, that Christ made the first advance; he did not stand with folded arms waiting for the blind man to stretch out his hand. The blind man would never have done it. No, Jesus stepped up to the man, and took his hand. That is just what Christ does in conversion. He always makes the first step, and gives the first grasp of the hand. “We love because he first loved us;” (1 John 4:19) and if there is any desire in your heart to be saved, it is only because Christ has put out his hand, just as he did to this blind man, and given you the warm pressure of affection and love.
The second thing he did was to lead him out of the village, far from the busy hum of the multitude, so that they might be alone. And so the sinner is made to feel alone with his Saviour. Does he read the truth in God’s word? Every verse seems to speak directly to him. Does he hear a description of the judgment day? He feels as if there was nobody standing before the great white throne but himself. Does he hear of Jesus hanging on the tree? He feels “Christ was crucified” “for me,” “for me.” When he comes to pray, it is not “Lord have mercy upon us,” but “Lord have mercy upon me, a sinner.”
It may be selfish, but it is a blessed selfishness. Would that some of us would be led outside the city, and be made to forget the crowds assembled here and there, and only feel that we are alone with him. We read that he spat on the blind man’s eyes. He did this to teach us that he opens blind eyes by the most unexpected ways; through means that would be despised by the philosophers of the day.
The Gospel is the most humiliating thing possible; it lays man’s pride in the dust, and only saves him as a hell-deserving sinner; and as a consequence it is despised by the self-righteous, and laughed at by the proud philosopher, and yet it is by this very Gospel that the Lord saves his people. The despised simplicity of the Gospel is still the means God uses in preference to all others. You will find too, that sinners are generally converted in just the way they did not expect, and by the instrumentality they most derided. Jesus spat on his eyes — but the virtue did not come from the spittle, but from putting on his hands. It is not the means used, but the Lord’s blessing on them.
The preacher may preach the truth, and nothing but the truth, and do that with all earnestness. The teacher may teach Jesus and Him only, and do that with tears; but unless the Divine Master of both places his hands upon the blind, no miracle of grace can be brought about.
IV. Let us, in the last place, view this man’s experience as identical with the experience of the sinner.
He says, I see. What did he see? Well, it is true he did not see very much or very clearly, but still, that “I see” in any degree, was a thing he had not been able to say before. “I see;” What blessed words are these, however limited in their application. “I see,” says the sinner, “if not Christ as my Saviour, yet my need of him as such.” “I see, if not that I am saved, yet that I am lost.” “I see my foulness, if not my awful sins removed.” “I see I am on the road to hell, if I do not see the heavenly gates before me.”
Can you say this much? If so, then thank God for it, for the first step towards being saved is to feel yourself lost; and the first step towards Heaven is made when the soul sees it is within a step of hell.
But this man’s sight was a very confused one; he could scarcely tell the difference between a man and a tree, “it is a man, for it moves;” “he cries” “no, it’s too big for a man, it must be a tree,” he argues. It is not to be expected that the man whose eyes have only just been opened, should see with anything like the distinctness of the man who has long benefited from the light.
Do not expect young converts to see as much as you who have been brought to the light many years. They cannot understand all they see; but if they can only see “men as trees walking,” it is something to thank God for. We can well suppose who the blind man saw first — it was Christ. He was standing right before him, and the first person his eyes lighted on was Jesus. What is the first thing the sinner sees? Surely Jesus, for there is no other near. And then our text tells us, he “laid his hands on his eyes again,” and made him look up, and “his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
Now, come, you who feel you are a poor sinner, look up to the cross, and see Him who hangs there suffering for you, and then look up and behold Him sitting on the Father’s right hand pleading your cause. The Lord help you to find peace, and that you will only do by looking to him. Look out of self; look away from the creature; look up to Jesus, look to his blood for cleansing, look to his wounds for a refuge, look to his death for an atonement, look to his spotless life for your righteousness, look to his exaltation for your security.
In a word, look to Jesus for all and everything, and keep on looking, until you do see. Does Satan say, “You are too far gone in sin to hope,” — “look up.” Does unbelief mutter in your ears, “it is of no use,” — “look up.” From this morning on, let your whole life be one continual looking up, and then you will clearly see Jesus as your glorious Saviour, and heaven as your future, eternal, happy home. If you forget every other word that has been spoken this morning; do remember this: “look to Jesus,” “look to him” for in the words of our opening hymn:
“There is life for a look at the crucified one, There is life at this moment for you; Then look sinner, look to him and be saved, To him who was nailed to the tree.” (Hymn 794)
May the Lord help you to do so, even now, for Jesus’ sake.