The Saviour who we believe has come to save our life insists we must lose it.
All men are born blind. Even those of us who can see are also blind. We think we can see because we see natural things. But, in reality, we are blind because we cannot see spiritual things. Spiritual things, of course, are far superior to natural things because God is spirit.
The irony here is that those physically blind can circumstantially be better off than those who have natural eyesight. They may be blind naturally but can see spiritually, while those who can see naturally may be blind spiritually.
Bartimaeus was naturally blind, but he recognised Jesus as “the son of David.” The Pharisees could see but could not recognise Jesus.
The scriptures reveal that it is God who makes men blind. It is also God who makes “the seeing eye.” (Proverbs 20:12). Indeed, it is Jesus who opens the eyes of the blind. In His ministry, He proclaims “the recovery of sight to the blind.” (Luke 4:18).
Jesus admonished those who: “though seeing, they do not see, (because) they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes.” (Matthew 13:13/15).
But He is not inclined to open our eyes unless we first admit that we are blind. He says:
“‘For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.’ Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, ‘Are we blind also?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore, your sin remains.’” (John 9:39-41).
God says: “Who is blind as he who is perfect, and blind as the Lord’s servant? Seeing many things, but you do not observe.” (Isaiah 42:19-20).
This means even believers are, one and all, blind Bartimaeus. It is imperative that we go to Jesus and, instead of our propensity to ask for bread and for fish, we should say to Him:
“Rabboni, let me receive my sight.” (Mark 10:51). “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.” (Psalm 119:18). “Give me the ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation’ in the knowledge of You, so that the eyes of my understanding may be enlightened.” (Ephesians 1:17-18).
Even when God answers our prayer and opens our eyes, the process is often not straightforward. This is because we sometimes do not receive 20:20 vision immediately.
In the scriptures, when Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man in Bethsaida, at first the man looked up and said: “I see men like trees, walking.” “Then (Jesus) put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. (Mark 8:24-25).
This two-stage process in replicated in believers. When our eyes are open, there are some things we see immediately and there are others we only see much later. On one occasion, Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man, but the man did not know Jesus. Later, Jesus revealed Himself to him, at which point the man believed in Jesus. (John 9:35-37).
This was my predicament. When I met the Lord, He said to me: “Blessed are your eyes for they see.” (Matthew 13:16). I knew it was Jesus who opened my eyes, but it took me another 25 years to realise that Jesus is God. It took me that long to recognise that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who called Moses and gave him the Ten Commandments, was Jesus.
This is because “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” (Romans 1:17). It is easy to recognize Jesus as Saviour, but more difficult to see Him as a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and as a trap and a snare. (Isaiah 8:14-15).
Thus, John the Baptist who had earlier identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), later sent emissaries to Him asking: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
The same thing happened to Peter, who was quick to identify Jesus initially as: “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). This earned him plaudits from Jesus who said to him: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-18).
But when Jesus revealed that His ministry leads to the cross, Peter could no longer recognise Jesus. He said to Him: “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matthew 16:22).
Suddenly, Jesus’ favourite disciple became the devil. Jesus answered: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:22-23).
Christians can see the glory, but we are blind to the cross. We can see the glory, but we refuse to see the shame. We can see the prosperity, but hardly ever the affliction. We readily embrace the blessing of riches but reject the blessing of poverty.
But the gospel of the kingdom of God says, “no pain, no gain.” It says that Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith:
“For the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
And so, when our eyes are opened and we finally see clearly, we discover that the joy of the Lord that is supposed to be our strength is the cross.
We discover that the pleasure of the Lord is not food and drink but our pain and suffering. We see what God did to Jesus:
“It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” (Isaiah 53:10).
We discover that God is not pleased when we are promoted at work. He is not pleased when we marry wives and have children. He is not pleased when we build beautiful mansions, buy the latest fast cars, or change our wardrobes. On the contrary, Jesus says: “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15).
Then we discover to our cost that the Saviour who we believe has come to save our life insists we must lose it. Jesus says:
“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:35-37).
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