And he comes to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man to him, and sought him to touch him.…
I. HERE WE HAVE CHRIST ISOLATING THE MAN WHOM HE WANTED TO HEAL. Christ never sought to display His miraculous working; here He absolutely tries to hide it. This suggests the true point of view from which to look at the subject of miracles. Instead of being merely cold, logical proofs of His mission, they were all glowing with the earnestness of a loving sympathy, and came from Him at sight of sorrow as naturally as rays from the sun. A lesson about Christ's character; His benevolence was without ostentation. But Christ did not invest the miracle with any of its peculiarities for His own sake only. All that is singular about it will, I think, find its best explanation in the condition and character of the subject, the man on whom it was wrought. What sort of a man was he? Well, the narrative does not tell us much, but if we use our historical imagination and our eyes we may learn something about him. First, he was a Gentile; the land in which the miracle was wrought was the half-heathen country on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. In the second place, it was other people that brought him; he does not come of his own accord. Then again, it is their prayer that is mentioned, not his — he asks nothing. And suppose he is a man of that sort, with no expectation of anything from this Rabbi, how is Christ to get at him? His eyes are shut, so cannot see the sympathy beaming in His face. There is one thing possible — to lay hold of him by the hand; and the touch, gentle, loving, firm, says this, at least: "Here is a man that has some interest in me, and whether He can do anything or not for me, He is going to try something." Would not that kindle an expectation in him? And is it not in parable just exactly what Jesus Christ does for the whole world? Is not the mystery of the Incarnation and the re, caning of it wrapped up as in a germ in that little simple incident, "He put out His hand and touched him"? Is there not in it too a lesson for all you good-hearted Christian men and women, in all your work? We must be content to take the hands of beggars if we are to make the blind to see. How he would feel more and more at each step, "I am at His mercy! What is He going to do with me?" And how thus there would be kindled in his heart some beginnings of an expectation, as well as some surrendering of himself to Christ's guidance! These two things, the expectation and the surrender, have in them, at all events, some faint beginnings and rude germs of the highest faith, to lead up to which is the purpose of all that Christ here does. And is not that what He does for us all? Sometimes by sorrows, sometimes by sick beds, sometimes by shutting us out from chosen spheres of activity. Ah! brethren, here is a lesson from all this — if you want Jesus Christ to give you His highest gifts and to reveal to you His fairest beauty, you must be alone with Him. He loves to deal with single souls. "I was left alone, and I saw this great vision," is the law for all true beholding.
II. WE HAVE CHRIST STOOPING TO A SENSE-BOUND NATURE BY THE USE OF MATERIAL HELPS. The hand laid upon the eyes, the finger possibly moistened with saliva touching the ball, the pausing to question, the repeated application. They make a ladder by which his hope and confidence might climb to the apprehension of the blessing. And that points to a general principle of the Divine dealings. God stoops to a feeble faith, and gives to it outward things by which it may rise to an apprehension of spiritual realities. Is not that the meaning of the whole complicated system of Old Testament revelation? Is not that the meaning of His own Incarnation? And still further, may we not say that this is the inmost meaning and purpose of the whole frame of the material universe? It exists in order that, as a parable and a symbol, it may proclaim the things that are unseen and eternal. So in regard of all the externals of Christianity, forms of worship, ordinances, and so on — all these, in like manner, are provided in condescension to our weakness, in order that by them we may be lifted above themselves; for the purpose of the temple is to prepare for the time and place where the seer "saw no temple therein." They are but the cups that carry the wine, the flowers whose chalices bear the honey, the ladder by which the soul may climb to God Himself, the rafts upon which the precious treasure may be floated into our hearts. If Christ's touch and Christ's saliva healed, it was not because of anything in them, but because He willed it so; and He Himself is the source of all the healing energy.
III. LASTLY, WE HAVE CHRIST ACCOMMODATING THE PACE OF HIS POWER TO THE SLOWNESS OF THE MAN'S FAITH. He was healed slowly because he believed slowly. His faith was a condition of his cure, and the measure of it determined the measure of the restoration; and the rate of the growth of his faith settled the rate of the perfecting of Christ's work on him. As a rule, faith in His power to heal was a condition of Christ's healing, and that mainly because our Lord would, rather have men believing than sound of body. "According to your faith be it unto you." And here, as a nurse or a mother might do, He keeps step with the little steps, and goes slowly because the man goes slowly. Now, both the gradual process of illumination and the rate of that process as determined by faith, are true for us. How dim and partial a glimmer of light comes to many a soul at the outset of the Christian life! How little a new convert knows about God and self and the starry truths of His great revelation! Christian progress does not consist in seeing new things, but in seeing the old things more clearly: the same Christ, the same Cross, only more distinctly and deeply apprehended, and more closely incorporated into my very being. We do not grow away from Him, but we grow into knowledge of Him. But then let me remind you that just in the measure in which you expect blessing of any kind, illumination and purifying and help of all sorts from Jesus Christ, just in that measure will you get it. You can limit the working of Almighty power, and can determine the rate at which it shall work on you. God fills the water pots to the brim, but not beyond the brim; and if, like the woman in the Old Testament story, we stop bringing vessels, the oil will stop flowing. It is an awful thing to know that we have the power, as it were, to turn a stopcock, and so increase or diminish, or cut off altogether the supply of God's mercy and Christ's healing and cleansing love in our hearts. You will get as much of God as you want and no more. The measure of your desire is the measure of your capacity, and the measure of your capacity is the measure of God's gift. "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.