On the Way to the Cross: Who’s Hollering?

To the crowd, they were unimportant, overlookable: just a couple of blind guys who sat by the side of the road every day. It was probably their usual spot, on the road that led to Jerusalem. With so many travelling for Passover, they probably expected a good “haul” that day.

They probably didn’t expect to be healed.

Matthew 20:29-34. Continue reading

The Blind Man’s Been Bluffed

Someone led him to his usual spot on the side of the road in Jerusalem. He made himself comfortable on this Sabbath morning and prepared to do the same thing he’d done every day for years. The same thing he expected to do every day for the next thirty years, maybe longer. It was his penance. For what, he did not know. He groped at his side for his bowl and cleared his throat. “Some alms for the blind? Can anyone spare a half-cent or a quadran?”

Sometimes people were generous, especially on holy days, when more people passed and more of them gave alms. Sometimes a wealthy man would put his hand in the bowl and rattle it but the weight of the bowl didn’t change. Strange that the poorer people never did that sort of thing. Rarely, someone would stop to talk to him; those were the best days. Continue reading

Glass Slippers and Pharisees

The other day, I suddenly found myself sympathizing with Cinderella’s evil step-sisters: two not-so-attractive girls whose mother was a very poor role-model, living in a society that valued a singular type of beauty over any other. Those girls just wanted a prince of their own—someone to love them and take care of them, to track them down just to return a missing shoe, to whisk them off to a better life. Really, you can’t blame them for trying so hard to fit their size-10 feet into a size-6 shoe. (Yeah, yeah, I know they didn’t need a prince to live fulfilling, successful lives. Just keep reading.)

3.bp.blogspot.com via https://www.pinterest.com/marcia007/disney-cinderella/

Remember how the shoe pops off one girl’s foot and flies through the air with the Duke chasing after it? That image from Disney’s animated Cinderella came to my mind this morning as I finished up my quiet time. No, it wasn’t simply that my mind wandered.

John 9:1-34.

As Jesus and his disciples passed a blind man, they asked Jesus a weird question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2). The prevailing religious opinion of the day stated that any affliction or problem you experienced was the result of some sin in your life or the lives of your family members. Even in our modern, scientific era, this is an easy trap, but Jesus immediately contradicts it—for that time and for today. He said the man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him (v. 3).

From here on out in the Biblical account, we need to watch for the “works of God” that are displayed. Obviously, the healing is God’s work, but that’s done by verse seven. So why did John include verses eight through thirty-four? Because God has more work to display in this situation.

An uneducated, formerly blind man
schools the Pharisees in their
own religious system!

The Pharisees heard about this miracle and decided to investigate…as long as it didn’t require them to leave the temple (assuming Jesus was still in Jerusalem). The formerly blind man told his story. The man’s parents told their story but deflected back to the healed man. The man told his story again. The man got impatient with the Pharisees’ repeated questions. I love his sarcastic tone in this part. Read verses 30-33 aloud in your best smart-aleck voice. This guy was a beggar and certainly uneducated. He couldn’t even see until Jesus came by, and yet he schools the Pharisees in their own religious system! Of course, they still refuse to acquiesce.

The Pharisees had their own well-established ideas about who the Messiah was going to be, how He was going to act, and what He was going to do (John 7:27, 41). Jesus didn’t fit that mold. He caused the blind to see, a clear prophecy of the Messiah (e.g. Isaiah 35:5), but He did it on the Sabbath, a violation of Pharisaical law. He prophesied, but He lambasted the Pharisees. They just could not accept that He had come to save them because He didn’t match their idea of a Savior.

Jesus’ foot didn’t fit
the Messiah-sized shoe
the Pharisees were holding.

See where I’m going with the glass slipper thing here? Jesus’ foot didn’t fit the Messiah-sized shoe the Pharisees were holding. But unlike Cinderella’s step-sisters, Jesus didn’t try to force the issue. He was comfortable running barefoot through the grass and leaving the Pharisees standing there holding that fragile shoe with a stunned look on their faces.

This was the work of God: to take salvation out of religious works, out of a set of unfulfillable laws. You know we’re like the Pharisees—all of us. (Some more than others…but still.) We get these preconceived notions of what faith should look like in real life, what church should be, how God should work in our lives. See all those shoulds? They’re a sure sign of presumption every time! Among other things (like our salvation by grace through faith), the work of God is to pull us out of those notions, to break down those barriers, to show Himself bigger than our religious, human-centered boxes…or glass slippers. Faith doesn’t fit a set of standards. Yes, you can test it against Scripture. Yes, community is the best context for living out the Christ-life. But we must break out of the one-size-fits-most pressure about how God can or will act and about how Christ-followers “should” dress, think, work, and live.

Break out of the one-size-fits-most #peerpressure of how Christ-followers “should” dress, think, work, and live. Faith doesn’t fit a set of standards. #NotAboutMe via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

To Cinderella’s step-sisters, I want to say, Be patient. If God has a prince for you, he will come, and he’ll present you with a shoe that fits perfectly. He’ll think you’re beautiful and funny, and he’ll look into your eyes like there’s no one else in the world. In the meantime (or instead), enjoy squishing your toes in the mud and running barefooted through the grass with me!

To the rest of us, I suggest we stop trying to wedge our size-8½ feet (at least for me) into a size-6 glass slipper. The same day the Holy Spirit drew my mind to glass slippers, I also read this article by Michelle Van Loon about peer pressure at church. I’m okay with you and your size-7 if you’re okay with me and my 8½. Instead of trying to fit into a shoe that’s going to be uncomfortable anyway, let’s all just run barefooted through the grass, chasing after Jesus.

Have you felt the toe-cramping pressure to fit a faith community’s image of “good” Christian? I sure have. Have you mentally doubted another’s faith because that person didn’t fit your preconceived notion of Christian? I’ve done that, too. Please share (comments below) anything that’s on your mind after reading this.

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Whaddaya want?

Sometimes the question is raised, “Why should we pray?” After all, God already knows everything and He already has a plan, so what’s the point? Read on…

Luke 18:35-43.

As Jesus made his way toward Jerusalem for the last time, a blind man asked what all the commotion was about. Hearing that it was Jesus, he started calling for Jesus’ attention. (We’ll overlook the people who tried to quiet the blind man. Probably the disciples, since they were leading the way.) This guy had obviously already heard of Jesus and knew he needed Jesus’ help.

It’s almost funny—this moment where Jesus obviously knows what the man wants, yet makes him say it anyway:

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” 

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied -Luke 18:40-41`

Why did Jesus make
him answer the question?

Lord, I want to see. Why did Jesus make him say it? He had to be taken by the hand and led over there. He had been calling out desperately. His blindness was surely evident.  Even the blind guy didn’t think it necessary to state the obvious. And yet Jesus made him answer the question. Why?

I think there were a couple of reasons. One, his statement voiced the faith that already dwelt in his heart. Like asking someone a question to which you know the answer, but you ask just to prove a point. For example, do you love your mother? Everyone loves his or her mother. If I ask such a question, I must be going somewhere with it, not because I really don’t know the answer. The blind man had no doubts about Jesus’ miracle-working abilities; otherwise, he wouldn’t have insisted on Jesus’ attention like he did. So without saying anything directly, Jesus’ question contrasted this random man’s faith with the faith of those who watched and followed him…and with our faith as we read the story now. Is my faith such that I absolutely, unquestionably believe that Jesus can and will meet my needs?

The act of asking means
I want the answer.

But there’s another, deeper reason for Jesus’ question. When we ask for something, we’re saying two things:  one, “I am in need;” and two, “I will receive what you give me.” We’ve all been given unwelcome (or at least unasked-for) gifts, and while we appreciate the generosity, there’s a part of us that is unwilling to receive the gift. I once received a wooden carving of an island made to stand up on a table or shelf.  Umm…gee…thanks. But if I ask for something, the very act of asking means I want and will receive the answer. If I ask for your advice, it means I want to hear what you think, and I will receive your opinion (hopefully with thanksgiving). I am receptive to you, and I recognize my inability to help myself.

So beneath Jesus’ question were several others:

  • Do you understand Who I am?
  • Do you believe I can heal you?
  • Do you put the authority over your life in my hands?
  • Do you want to be changed forever?

For each question, the man’s answer was “Yes!” That’s confident and authentic faith–confident: I know You can do it; authentic: I confess that I need and want you to do it. I wrote before about how we phrase our prayers and how we present them, now in this picture with Jesus, we find a beginning (because there’s SO much more to this!) explanation of why we pray.

A blind man as our model of faith: we ask because we want His answer. (click to tweet)

In your opinion, what is the purpose of prayer? There’s more to it than this, I know. Please share in the comments below. Let’s have a conversation!