My Eyes Were Opened

March 1 Day 60

My Eyes Were Opened

It was as if I was blind. I must have heard many times that Jesus died for our sins. But I simply did not see it. I was spiritually blind. But when I understood the cross, my eyes were opened.

Since then, I have noticed that as I have attempted to pass on the message of ‘Christ crucified’, there are different responses. Sometimes very intelligent people simply cannot see it (see 1 Corinthians 1:23–25). On the other hand, I am often amazed at the understanding of others, including very young children. For all who see it, it is life changing: ‘to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:18).

I think it is fascinating that in today’s New Testament passage, after Jesus has explained his death, we have the story of blind Bartimaeus having his eyes opened (Mark 10:46–52). He says to Jesus, ‘I want to see’ (v.51). Jesus replies, ‘“Go… your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus’ (v.52). The word used for healed is the same Greek word as saved (sozo).

Do you see it? The passages for today help us to see the significance of Jesus’ death.

See God’s reaction to evil

Proverbs 6:12-19

You cannot fully understand the cross unless you understand why it was necessary.

See God’s hostile reaction to sin. The writer of Proverbs lists things that ‘the Lord hates’ and that are ‘detestable to him’ (v.16a) – arrogance, lies, murder, evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family’ (vv.16–19, MSG).

God is love. God is also just and holy. The kind of sin listed here causes enormous damage to our lives, the lives of others and to society. Take, for example, a person ‘who stirs up dissention’ (v.19). Think how much damage can be done by one person bringing division in a family or in the church, neighbourhood or nation.

God’s hatred is not like ours: it contains no element of spite, pettiness or hypocrisy – but it is the reaction of the altogether holy and loving God to sin. His anger is his loving and holy hostility to evil.

When we realise the extent of God’s hostility to sin that led to the cross, the only real response we can make is to turn to God in prayer to ask for forgiveness and help.

Merciful Lord, you know our struggle to serve you: when sin spoils our lives and overshadows our hearts, come to our aid and turn us back to you again; through Jesus Christ our Lord (prayer from the Anglican collect for Ash Wednesday).

See the results of the cross

Mark 10:32-52

 

If Jesus asked you, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’, how would you reply? In this passage Jesus asks this question twice (vv.36,51). The disciples give the wrong answer (v.37). Bartimaeus gives the right answer: ‘I want to see’ (v.51).

Some people simply do not see it. Some have described the death of Jesus as ‘unexpected and tragic’. But, in fact, it was planned, prophesied and predicted.

This passage in Mark’s Gospel (vv.32–34) is the third and most detailed prediction Jesus gave about his death. It shows us that Jesus expected his own death and even his resurrection (vv.33–34). His death was not unexpected. It was a deliberate choice. It would end not in tragedy, but in triumph.

Further, he had a clear understanding of the purpose of his death and the results: ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (v.45).

The background to Jesus’ understanding of his own death includes Isaiah 53 – one of the ‘suffering servant’ passages. We see here clear evidence that Jesus saw his own death in terms of this ‘suffering servant’.

  1. Suffering

Why did Jesus come into this world? He understood that the whole purpose of his mission was to suffer. This is the reason he ‘came’ (Mark 10:45b). He came to give his life for you and me.

  1. Servant

Jesus uses the expression ‘to serve’ (v.45a). He saw himself as ‘the servant’. He came not to be served, but ‘to serve’. The expression ‘to give his life’ (v.45b) echoes the words of the servant in Isaiah 53:10 (‘makes his life an offering for sin’) and Isaiah 53:12 (‘he poured out his life unto death’).

  1. Saviour

The word ‘ransom’ (Mark 10:45b) is used of prisoners of war and slaves. It means the price paid for redemption (Numbers 18:15–16). It is paid to set the captives free. Jesus’ death on the cross saves you and me by setting us free.

  1. Substitute

The word translated ‘for’ in Mark 10:45 is the Greek word anti which means ‘in place of’, and it suggests the idea of substitution. It is this idea of suffering in our place that so strongly underlies Isaiah 53. By using these words Jesus showed that he believed that his death was not accidental or for his own sin, but suffering ‘in the place of’ others who would otherwise have had to suffer.

Further, Jesus understood his own death in the light of the metaphor of the cup (Mark 10:38). The Old Testament speaks of the cup of God’s ‘wrath’ against sin. Jesus speaks of ‘the cup I drink’ (v.38). He saw himself as drinking the cup of God’s hostile reaction to sin on our behalf.

By his death and resurrection Jesus defeated sin, evil and death. As a result, you can be forgiven, set free from our guilt, shame and addictions. You can be sure of the ultimate triumph of good over evil. You need not fear the future. Death itself has been defeated.

When Jesus asked his disciples, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’, they gave the wrong answer. They wanted position (v.37). It’s always a temptation for Christian leaders to compete with one another for the most prominent position.

We are called to follow Jesus, serving him and each other. Spiritual ambition is not wrong, but it is possible to have the wrong sort of spiritual ambition. This could be as subtle as seeking our own glory rather than being ambitious for Jesus. Jesus says, ‘Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant’ (v.43).

Of course, for most of us, most of the time, our motives are mixed. Where we, like the disciples, are tempted to seek our own position, prospects, promotion, pay and popularity, Jesus says four words to us: ‘Not so with you’ (v.43). You are called to serve because it is the pattern of Jesus to serve.

The clothes of authentic discipleship are not the purple robes of an emperor, but the crown of thorns of our Saviour. It is about a cross, not a throne. It is a life laid down for others.

Let’s follow the example of Bartimaeus who cried out to Jesus for mercy (v.47). Jesus always responds when you cry for mercy. Bartimaeus asked for his sight. His eyes were opened and he saw Jesus.

Ask God today to open your eyes to see Jesus and understand all that he has done for you through his death on the cross for you.

Lord, open my eyes to see you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly (adapted from the Prayer of St Richard of Chichester).

See the reason for his death

Leviticus 5:14-7:10

Here again we see the background to Jesus’ understanding of his own death. The ‘guilt offering’ provided a ‘penalty’ (5:15) for sin. It leads to forgiveness (v.16) and involves blood being shed (7:2). This foreshadows what Jesus was going to do on the cross for you and me.

As I began to understand the Old Testament background and the seriousness of my own sin, I began to understand more and more the enormity of the sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf. When Jesus bore with his own body God’s hostile reaction to my sin, he made it possible for me to be forgiven and to experience life in all its fullness.

My experience was similar to that of blind Bartimaeus. My blindness had not been physical but spiritual. Like him I cried out, ‘Jesus… have mercy on me’ (Mark 10:47–48). I received my sight and followed Jesus. It was not something I earned. It was a gift I received by faith, just as Jesus said to Bartimaeus, ‘Go… your faith has healed [saved] you’ (v.52).

Lord, thank you for opening my eyes to understand the enormity of your sacrifice on my behalf. Thank you that I can never earn forgiveness but can only receive it as a gift by faith. Help me, like Bartimaeus, to follow you and to give my life in service to you and other people.

Pippa Adds

Leviticus 6:4

‘They must return what they have stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to them, or the lost property they found.’

I must confess we have a lot of umbrellas that people have left behind in the vicarage and we find them incredibly useful!

Verse of the Day

‘… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45).

References

Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

Prayer of St Richard of Chichester (1197-1253), http://www.spck.org.uk/classic-prayers/st-richard-of-chichester/, © SPCK - Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge 2015 [last accessed, February 2015]

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.