The Four Stages of Healing
One of the things we discuss from time to time is if we had to lose one of our senses, which one would we choose?
If it was the sense of smell, we could be much more relaxed visiting hospitals, but we would miss the smell of freshly baked bread and the rich perfume of carnations and roses.
If it was hearing, there would be many more hours of uninterrupted reading and writing, and there would be no more piping shrikes shrieking at the back door; but you would miss out on choirs and warbling blackbirds.
If it was taste, some of you could bear to eat yoghurt for the first time. In our fridge there is a packet of tofu. I bought it as a part of a high protein diet, but it sits there unopened, unapproachable and unappetising as we wonder what it actually is and what you do with it.
Not being able to taste it might help.
But to miss the taste of fresh orange juice, boysenberry ice-cream and crayfish would be quite a loss.
To lose one’s sight does not have any apparent advantages other than enabling us to adapt to other environments and other people through hearing alone.
It amazed me to see a friend recently called Joan. She travels to the St Agnes Shopping Centre and often walks home even though her eyes have been a problem.
To lose your sight assaults the joy of reading, denies you watching and enjoying the West Indies being bowled out for 51 or seeing Port Power putting in a valiant effort, but needing to learn a few finals skills from the Crows.
In John 9, we encounter a man in the Gospels who has learned to cope with his lack of sight. He is an independent man, a genuine character whose resolution is never threatened by his critics. He is good humoured, assertive and he develops faith every time he meets Jesus.
The theme of John 9 is healing, for where Jesus’ light shines, it brings healing to every form of darkness whether it be to do with bodily weakness, struggles with our prayer life or tensions in the family.
Jesus brings about healing in four ways; the first way is through his presence.
Of all the people he could have dealt with on that day, Jesus dealt with a blind beggar. Jesus mixed it with the lowest of the low – socially speaking. He took time to be with this disabled person, to talk with him and about him.
The ministry of presence is so important. Parents – do you know how important it is for your children to have you watch them or be with them.
I can remember as a child persuading my mother to walk a kilometre to a playground to show her how high I could go on the swings. Her presence meant so much.
Our presence gives value to people.
One of the things married couples learn is that just being present with our spouses is important. You can just be in the same room reading, but your presence matters. Or you drive for a long time without talking, but because you are present with each other, you do not always have to fill your time with talk.
Practice the ministry of presence, and you will help people. You will love them through your availability.
The second level of healing comes as Jesus deals with the physical blindness of the man. Jesus dealt with a physical need.
You’ll remember that the Lord’s Prayer places ‘give us our daily bread’ before ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’. The most basic physical needs of others require urgent attention.
Over 38 million people in the world are blind. Does that motivate us to do anything?
I find that with the passing of time I have a growing resistance to appeals. I have become so used to pictures of stark bodies, lepers and blind people that I need to hear a text like this where Jesus deals with a physical need.
The physical needs of people in our world should be a significant sacrificial component of our personal budget.
The third form of healing comes as Jesus deals with the worst kind of prejudice, religious prejudice.
The disciples were prejudice against blind people as shown by their question, ‘Who sinned that this man was born blind – this man or his parents?’
Jesus won’t buy into that simplistic cause and affect argument and will not attribute the blindness to any human or divine agency. Rather the blindness is to be regarded as an opportunity to see the power of God at work.
How our sicknesses, tragedies and hurts can be transformed when we see them the way Jesus says – as opportunities He can use.
I saw this once in our beloved friend, Nigel. Having lost most of his hearing in one ear, he used his hospitalisation to radiate his Christian love. He did not look around to blame anyone, including God. He had no self-pity, but simply experienced God through his suffering. In his time at hospital he reached out to a suicidal lad, to medical and nursing staff, and even turned a volunteer flower lady into a good friend within minutes.
Nigel and others show us how suffering can be redeemed and used, even if all our questions are not answered.
As a consequence of his blindness, the man in John 9 suffered two indignities. One was family abandonment, the second was a life of struggle.
The man in the text had a family that disowned him. The cold, distant response of his parents to the man’s healing suggests that he was of little interest to them. They did not back their son against the Pharisees, which led to what Verse 8 speaks of – begging.
The life of a blind person was a tough one. Then into all this comes Jesus the light of the world. He has come to illuminate those who have lived in darkness spiritually, as well as physically. In fact, the most important miracle in this story is not the healing of this man’s eyes, but the healing of his soul – his heart.
This leads us to the fourth level of healing, Jesus dealing with this man’s spiritual need.
At every stage in the conflicts arising from his healing, the blind man gains deeper insight into Jesus. Out of his suffering and healing, he grows in his knowledge of Jesus on three levels.
In Verse 11, the one who heals him is simply the man they call Jesus. Jesus is a godly man, that is all, and many people today think the same. He is kind of a spiritual Napoleon who made his mark on history. Sure it is important to realise that Jesus was human in every way as we are, but he was a sinless one. He would have liked our church lunch pavlovas, cool changes in weather, the hearty companionship of males, and the happy company of women. Jesus was in every sense a man, but a sinless one.
The second level of understanding the healed man has is seen in Verse 17. Now, clearly he is more than a man, he is now a prophet. A prophet is the highest tribute he can make to Jesus – in the tradition of Elijah, Isaiah and John. As he says in Verse 33, only a man from God, a prophet could heal someone’s sight.
The third level of faith he comes to is seen in Verse 38. He comes to believe and worship Jesus as Lord. It is when we see Jesus as someone to be worshiped that we have seen him correctly. We may not have had a miracle like the healing of sight in our lives, but simply to be alive and well is in part miraculous.
To have recovered from the setbacks some of you have known: medical, emotional, spiritual, financial, criminal; they are of the same miraculous nature as this story. Thanks to the same grace of God revealed through Jesus.
This is the challenge the text leaves us with – is your faith growing like that of a healed beggar?
Is Jesus for you more than a man, more than a prophet, but your Lord?
Has your understanding of God grown in some way over the last 12 months?
The faithfulness of God has stood out for me in new ways in the last year. I realised recently just where I would be were it not for Christ. I would have ended up an introverted, diffident person if Christ had not lit up my life and illumined me with his grace and his Cross.
I can say with the blind man of Verse 25, ‘One things I do know, I was blind but not I see.’
Have you let Christ do that for you?
Have you gone from being dependent on others for your meaning and purpose to meeting Christ, a man, but more than a man? Have the eyes of your heart been healed so you can see your need for Jesus and his life changing love?
Let us each offer ourselves to him anew. Jesus alone can help us grow through suffering.
By George Robert Iles.