I Want to See!
Have you ever noticed in Scripture how often within the main narrative being presented another story pops up and appears to take precedence in the flow of things? Take for example the account of Paul on his way to Damascus in continuation of his persecution of believers when all of a sudden he is dramatically confronted by Jesus in a manner that transforms his life from that moment forward. Or there is the occasion of Peter and John going up to the temple to pray when they are engaged by a crippled beggar. At that moment the “pop-up” story appears to override the account of the narrative of their journey to the temple. I think also of Jesus on his way to heal the daughter of a Jewish elder when that story is interrupted with the exciting tale of a woman touching his garment and receiving healing in her body. In all of these stories and many others of a similar nature which could be recalled, the story within the story almost seems to usurp the original account under which it is subsumed.
I believe this is like a biblical literary tool of the Holy Spirit wherein the Lord is calling our focus directly to a facet of our spiritual walk that is extremely imperative to our overall journey in Christ. It is essential that we keep a clarion overview and goal in our spiritual trek, but at the same time we must recognize the incumbent nature of each step along the way. The nature of our walk with God is that one step leads to another which leads to another and so on. Sometimes it becomes necessary for the Lord to refocus our attention and earnestness on a particular aspect of our journey that we might remember to always keep first things first.
There is a wonderful story within a story in the synoptic gospels that further illustrates what I am here explaining. It is particularly poignant in Mark’s telling. As recorded in Mark 10:32-52, the overarching narrative is really about Jesus and his disciples journeying to Jerusalem wherein Jesus will face the culmination of his manifest destiny through his crucifixion and resurrection. In the vicinity of Jericho, as they travel to Jerusalem, they encounter a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. Herein we are treated to a significant story within a story. This wonderful narrative is bracketed by Jesus teaching his disciples regarding his coming death and their arrival in Jerusalem and Jesus’ triumphal entry.
In the sub-story, Bartimaeus learns of Jesus’ approach and begins to cry out to him for mercy. The surrounding crowd initially attempts to quell his outcries, but upon realizing Jesus was beckoning Bartimaeus they then cheered him with the news. Upon hearing of Jesus’ summons, Bartimaeus cast aside his coat, jumped to his feet and went to Jesus. At this point in our story, we hear Jesus asking this blind beggar an amazing question, “What do you want me to do for you?” I call this an amazing question because it begs an obvious answer. What else would a blind man want than to receive his sight? Rather than making even an obvious assumption, Jesus wanted Bartimaeus to affirm, to declare, to emphatically state for himself that for which he beseeched Jesus. Jesus asked a similar question on another occasion when he encountered the infirm man at the pool called Bethesda saying, “Do you want to be made well?”
These are the kinds of questions Jesus asks anyone poised to receive something from his hand and thereby enter more intensely into relationship with him. As other scriptural passages bear out, all encounters with Jesus were ultimately about the Kingdom of God and our righteous relationship with him. Jesus’ questions in these instances were meant to bring an individual’s profound focus on the greater scope of their encounter with him and even to awaken in them a sense of spiritual accountability for what they received. These questions are what help us avoid a false relationship with Christ by elevating our attention from the hand of God to the face of God.
I am awed in this story by Bartimaeus’ enthusiasm upon learning of Jesus’ approach. He cried out, he flung his coat aside and he jumped to his feet and went to Jesus. This enthusiasm carries great pertinence when considering a deeper, embedded message in the story. I believe Bartimaeus’ desire to receive his sight, to see, telegraphs the more profound spiritual cry and desire to know truth. “Seeing” throughout the Bible is related to more than simple visual acuity. It also carries the meaning of understanding, discovering, discerning, considering, contemplating, examining and weighing. In other words, getting to the truth.
Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus, referring to the “eyes of your heart,” that they would come to know these incredible truths:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (Eph 1:18). (NASV)
We often use the phase, “I hope you see what I’m saying.” Of course this is a euphemism for comprehending or understanding.
I believe God wants all his children to have the same depth, the same hunger, the same enthusiasm for knowing truth as Bartimaeus demonstrated in seeking his natural sight. Knowing truth is paramount in our pursuit of the Christian life and in our relationship with the Lord. Jesus showed himself to be the very epitome of truth when he declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” Our way to God is always through truth. I think of this passage as—the way to life is always through truth! It is instructive to realize that Satan’s principal strategy in attempting to steer persons away from God is deception. The Bible tells us that Satan was a liar from the beginning. Speaking of the Devil, Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (NLT)
We are living in a day when truth is routinely and shamefully trampled on. We see this illustrated in the field of politics, in the mass media, in most advertising, in the revisionist history being published, in most everything coming out of Hollywood where everything evil from immorality to witchcraft is proffered, in our education system where shameful agendas co-opt legitimate instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic. The active use of subliminal messages with nefarious motives in almost every kind of media further illustrates and exacerbates the depth of deception being practice today. Tragically the failure to adhere fastidiously to the truth is even found in the church where the Gospel of the Kingdom is often not the gospel being preached. Frankly it appears that most churches are more exercised about building up attendance than calling believers fully into the Kingdom of God. The message of prosperity seems to be more popular than the message of the cross. We need to remember Dietrich Bonheoffer’s message when he commented that Jesus’ call to follow him was a call to “come and die.”
I find it fairly amazing that most people today appear to be almost entirely acquiesced to allowing all this indirect deception to be slathered upon them. It is probably an unconscious allowance. It is as if most of us just expect to be deceived and accept this behavior as the new norm. In actuality we should be outraged by this shameful treatment. In fact most persons are maddened upon discovering they were deceived when the deception is less hidden and far more direct in its coming. I think this is true because being the awakened object of deception makes one feel entirely foolish, manipulated, controlled, used and abused. This is exactly what the enemy of our souls desires; he wants to utterly control our lives continually steering us away from God, and deception is his weapon of choice.
Being controlled by Satan through every imaginable kind of deception means being taken captive by him. Wherever in our lives deception exists means land that belongs to the Lord is being occupied by the enemy. This means that Jesus is not ruling and reigning in that part of our life. The allowance of deception in any of its myriad forms always translates out as bondage. Everything about the nature of Satan is deceit, control and bondage. Everything coming out of our relationship with Christ redounds to utter freedom. At least three passages in the New Testament tell us that God purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son! If that reality doesn’t resonate deeply within us, we are doomed to live a life of deception and consequently bondage. It is our freedom in Christ that gives such efficacy to our decisions to love and follow him with all our hearts.
Most Christians are familiar with a passage from John 5 which tells us that the “Truth will set you free.” Although we rejoice in knowing that, too many of us are still languishing under a false security and trust because we have failed to keep this passage in its proper context. The above phrase is part of a larger message Jesus gave to his disciples which says this:
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31,32). (KJV)
In a nutshell, Jesus plainly states that freedom comes from the truth that disciples, who are avid students of the Word, are privileged to know. Jesus’ Word is the only antidote we have against the blatant deception cascading upon us today. Without an authentic relationship with God through Christ and a disciplined life in the Word, we will never escape the ruinous bondage of the enemy’s deception.
We need to do regular and prayerful self-analysis by seeking to discover where in our lives we have surrendered land to the enemy. If we think we can’t be deceived, we are already under deception and being held captive by the evil one. It all begins with a profound and abiding love for the truth. We must desire to know truth as urgently and enthusiastically as Bartimaeus wanted to see. It’s time to cry out, cast aside our garment and jump to our feet as Jesus is calling us with this question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Will he hear this answer, “I want to see”?