Thursday, August 11, 2022

Let Your Eyes Be Opened

(The apologetics series that normally runs in this Thursday slot will return in two weeks' time. For this week and next, I have a couple devotional articles I wrote for my local newspaper.)

This summer I have the privilege of taking part in an archaeological expedition in Israel, unearthing a site that might be one of the towns that played witness to Jesus’ ministry nearly two thousand years ago. Specifically, the dig directors believe it to be the site of Bethsaida, mentioned several times in the Gospels as the hometown of Peter and Andrew (Jesus’ disciples), as well as one of their most frequent stops when ministering around Galilee. On one of those stops in Bethsaida, Jesus performed what is perhaps his strangest miracle of healing.

In the story (told in Mark 8:22-25), a blind man is brought to Jesus, and Jesus leads him away from the crowd, to a place where they can interact one-on-one. The Gospels are full of healing stories, so we know that Jesus can heal with simply a touch or a word. But here he does something weirder: he spits on the man’s eyes. The story gets stranger still, because it quickly becomes apparent that the man is only partially healed. When Jesus asks him what he can see, he reports a fuzzy, disordered image. So Jesus puts his hands on the man’s eyes, and this time his sight is fully restored. The two-step nature of the miracle is strange, since elsewhere in the Gospels it seems like Jesus’ healings are instantaneous and complete. But here, it appears to take Jesus two tries.

What’s going on in this story? Scholars have debated it for years, and there are many interesting interpretations. Despite all our study and speculation, though, we may never know for sure why Jesus did things the way he did. But we can observe some ways in which the pattern of this healing is similar to our own relationship with Jesus.

First, consider the fact that Jesus uses spit to heal the man. We sometimes have the false idea that when we come to faith in Christ, it’s going to be a super-spiritual experience, with our hearts and minds immediately exalted to heavenly realities. But the truth is, God works in our hearts far more often in dull, ordinary, everyday ways. He uses the simple things of life—like our families, the color of a sunset, the sound of the wind in the trees, or even the difficult seasons of our lives—to draw us closer to him. God doesn’t immediately transport us out of earthly realities; he makes use of them to help us know him more.

Second, consider the two-step pattern of the healing. This is actually very similar to the normal pattern of coming to faith in Christ. Against our expectations of an immediate, utterly transformational event, many new Christians find that they’re still the same people after getting saved, and that they haven’t been instantaneously transfigured into pictures of angelic radiance. The normal pattern is this: God saves us by making us spiritually alive in Christ, and then he teaches us how to live. Just as with the blind man in the story, Jesus restores our spiritual sight, and then helps us learn to see rightly. So don’t get too discouraged when you see the same old problems popping up in your life. Just bring them to Jesus. He’s the one who saved us, and he’s the one who is still at work, teaching us the way of holiness. He gave us back our spiritual sight when we were blind, but we still need his touch to learn how to use those powers of sight in the right way. Growing as a Christian is a journey, and it’s a journey with only one set of directions that you need to remember: when you don’t know which way to go, turn to Jesus.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Evangeliad (25:34-39)


Section 25:34-39 (corresponding to Matt. 19:7-9; Mark 10:11-12)

"Why then did Moses," the Pharisees asked,
"Grant his approval to just such an act?"
"Because your hearts are hard," Jesus replied,
"And God's approved way you could not abide.

God ordained marriage at first, not divorce,
So to break its bonds breaks God's own accord.
Hear what I say when I speak to you now,"
Said Jesus to them and to the whole crowd,

"If any man, then, should divorce his wife,
The woman to whom he has bound his life,
And marries another woman instead,
Adultery's charge he brings on their heads.

Or if it's the woman who leaves her spouse,
To go off and marry anyone else,
Adultery she commits just the same,
By breaking the union God has ordained."

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Photo of the Week

For you who revere my name,
The sun of righteousness will rise
With healing in its rays.

- Malachi 4:2 

Monday, August 08, 2022

Quote of the Week

“The power of prayer has subdued the strength of fire; it has bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged diseases, repelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt.”

- John Chrysostom, early church father

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

More photos from the archaeological dig


Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee, from Mount Arbel

Roman-era perfume juglet

The "before" picture--what my dig square looked like when we started working on it

The "after" picture--me and my team in my dig square, having excavated what was probably a monastic cell down to the Byzantine-era floor

Roman-era discus lamp

Sunset, looking back toward Mount Arbel