AS JESUS went on his way two blind men followed him shouting, 'Take pity on us. Son of David'. And when Jesus reached the house the blind men came up with him and he said to them, 'Do you believe I can do this?' They said, 'Sir, we do'. Then he touched their eyes saying. 'Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you'. And their sight returned. Then Jesus sternly warned them, 'Take care that no one learns about this'. But when they had gone, they talked about him all over the countryside.
(Matthew 9:27-31) AS WE progress through the readings for Advent, we find the Bible is giving us a series of pictures flashed onto the screens of our minds showing us the coming of the Messiah, first through the eyes of the prophets, and then through the actual experiences of the four evangelists.
Isaiah gives us many glimpses not only of what the 'Holy One' will be like, but of how the people will respond to him. 'They will hallow the Holy One of Jacob, stand in awe of the God of Israel . . . the lowly will rejoice . . . erring spirits will learn wisdom'.
But surely one of the most extraordinary signs is the oftenrepeated proclamation of the Messiah's miraculous healing powers. "The deaf that day will hear the words of a book and, after shadow and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see."
Well, perhaps in the light of the gospels it doesn't seem so extraordinary for us, but for the prophet this really was something very new.
It is true that throughout the history of Israel God had often revealed his love for his people and his saving power by signs and wonders. For Noah the great sign of the covenant was the rainbow that circled the earth.
We can recall the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the sun standing still for Joshua, the walls of Jericho tumbling down. But what we see in these are signs of God's power, which while illustrating his greatness are reversals of the natural order, demonstrations of things quite outside normal human experience.
But when the messianic kingdom is established in the person of Jesus, the signs and wonders take on an altogether new meaning: 'Behold, I make
all things new' says the Book of Revelation.
With the birth of Jesus the work of the new creation, the new Heaven and the new earth are being established, and the signs and wonders are now taking place within the natural order.
All the miracles of Jesus are works of restoration, healing and wholeness. In the building of the kingdom the people will be able to "restore ruined cities' and 'raise what has long lain waste."
So while Jesus himself is the 'sign' of the beginning of the new creation, his healing miracles are the signs that he is indeed the Holy One proclaimed by the prophets.
Before reflecting on the particular miracle in our reading, one important point needs to be made. While all Jesus' miracles are real in the physical sense, they also always have a deeper spiritual significance — and it is this underlying meaning that provides food for prayer and comtemplation.
In the Bible blindness represents unbelief. Later on in Advent we shall be considering the underlying theme of Bible teaching — that is, darkness and light representing death or life.
But here we see two people having a problem with their unbelief yet willing to do something about it. They're not happy in their unbelief, so they make a decision to follow Jesus even though at that moment they cannot see him.
The narrative doesn't say how long the journey was, though the other version (Matthew 20:2934) suggests is was from Jericho to Jerusalem, which is a sizeable trek even if you are not blind. But these blind men sound persistent and willing to persevere with heartfelt prayer.
It seems to . me, from the manner in which they addressed him, that they believed at that point that Jesus was the Messiah (`Son of David' is the title of the messiah recalled by Nathan's prophecy to David in 2 Samuel 7: 'Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever').
Jesus responds by asking them a question: `Do You believe I can do this?' and the answer seems to come from the heart. 'Sir, we do' and they are healed.
What we need to draw from this, as we grapple with unbelief in our own lives, is the necessity to keep on following Jesus, to be persistent in prayer, to earnestly desire to receive more and more sight as we learn to step out in faith. So, as we receive more healing, so will the shadows recede and our vision become sharpened. The more we begin to see him, the more he will awaken in us the reality of his work of restoration and healing within us. "Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe".
He is happy who is helped by Jacob's God, whose hope is in the Lord his God .
the Lord who gives sight to the blind, who rakes up those who are bowed down.
(Psalm 14611451:5, 8)