Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Can You BELIEVE He Asked That?

Can You BELIEVE He Asked That?

Matthew 9:27-29
27As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"
28When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"
"Yes, Lord," they replied.
29Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you";

Matthew 9 gives us a glimpse into the life-changing nature of a simple conversation. What started out as a conversation between Jesus and two men with an undeniable need resulted in restored sight and a new future for the men talking with Jesus. Because Matthew captured this conversation in his biography of Jesus, its impact echoes through the millennia and impacts us today. A conversation that brought physical sight for the initial hearers can bring us spiritual insight today.

It’s a short conversation. The men ask Jesus a question; Jesus asks them a question. They respond to His question; He responds to their question. Sometimes we think that it takes a lot of words—fancy, multi-syllabic words woven into eloquent speeches—to make a difference in someone’s life. Jesus had those kinds of words for people when the situation called for it. For these two men, though, the conversation was short, specific and straight-forward.

Although these men couldn’t see Jesus, they had heard about Him. They had heard of His compassion, His miracles, His healing. At last Jesus was nearby, actually within their range. Now was the time to act.

Their limitation does not keep them from following Jesus. Did they follow the sound of the crowd? Did they follow the sound of Jesus’ voice?

Their unmet need caused them to follow Jesus, to chase after Him, to call out for His attention. What compels you to call out to Jesus? What unmet need drives you to follow Him?

Notice that the men did not come to Jesus with their own plan, they came with their problem. Jesus didn’t have to talk them out of their own ideas about how to fix their blindness. They had figured out that the biggest problem they faced in life couldn’t be fixed with their own ingenuity or hard work. Plain and simple, they faced the fact that without Jesus intervening, they were stuck in their blindness.

They were way past asking “Why?” and way past playing the victim. They had moved past complaining and blaming, past anger at God for allowing this in their lives, past resignation to their lot in life. They didn’t have any solutions of their own; they just wanted God to intervene, and they were willing to humble themselves and ask for His help. They wanted to be better, to be whole, and to live life with all of its responsibilities and privileges.

They didn’t tell Jesus what to do, they simply asked for mercy. Mercy, receiving compassion and blessing that they desperately longed for but knew they couldn’t demand or control or manipulate God into giving them. Asking for mercy comes from remembering that God is God and that we are His people, His creation, that He doesn’t owe us anything, but maybe—just maybe—His character is such that He might have compassion on us at the point of our need.

What is the point of need in your life?

What characterizes your conversations with God about this part of your life? Anger? Bitterness? Resentment? Scheming? Resignation? Advice-giving? Or a realization that God, the God of all compassion, actually cares for you and listens to your cry for mercy?

Funny, isn’t it, that Jesus didn’t turn around immediately and answer them? Was He testing their hearts as He continued on, wondering if they would give up, if they really meant it that they wanted His help? The two men persevered, in spite of Jesus’ seeming lack of response. They knew that Jesus was the only one who could help them, so they kept following Him, all the way into a house. They didn’t give up.

What difficulties do you have to overcome in order to pursue Jesus? Doubts? Barriers? Questions? Resentment? Friends? Family? Poor lifestyle choices? Disappointment?

Just a few chapters earlier in Matthew 7, Jesus encouraged His listeners to persist in asking God to respond to their needs: 7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

James’ advice is: 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
How do these verses renew your desire and determination to pursue God and God’s intervention in your situation?

God longs to reveal Himself to us and to answer our prayers. Yet here we see Jesus probing, testing to see if these men were ready for His answer.

Jesus tests their belief by responding to their question with a question, questioning the depth of their belief in His ability to help them. As God, didn’t Jesus know what was in their hearts? Why did He ask “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

Jesus’ question requires them to stop and examine what they believe, recognize who they are asking, and reflect on the moment and their expectations. I wonder if they paused, if they thought deeply, if there was a hush in the room.

Their answer to Jesus question is recorded; it needn’t have been. What would have been missing if Matthew had skipped their response, and gone straight to “Then he touched their eyes…” It’s not just about Jesus, it’s about relationship, about communication and connection. Their simple response is “Yes, Lord.”

What about you? Are you persistently seeking Jesus about the need in your life? Are you continuing to look to Him? Are you ready for Him to make a difference in your life? Are you ready for His answer, whatever form it takes?

In some cases Jesus healed with a word, in another case He healed blindness using a mud paste. Just before this incident, a woman was healed simply by touching the hem of Jesus’ clothing. In this case, His touch on their eyes brought sight to the blind. Can you imagine what it must have been like to open your eyes and have Jesus’ face be the first thing you ever see?

In what part of your life do you need Jesus’ touch? What difference would it make if you could see Jesus’ face clearly in the midst of your situation? How much do you long for His answer? Are you willing to put your faith in Him, not in yourself or others, for the answer to your problem?

Jesus’ response—to them and to us—is, “According to your faith will it be done to you.”

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