Physical and Spiritual Blindness
Let us take a quick look at the man born blind in John chapter 9.
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.
And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Enter human and religious reasoning into the account (from the Lord's disciples, no less). As we experience life, we naturally start to apply what we perceive to that which is around us. It is natural and right to conclude that there must be an intelligence to the design we see. And we are all born with some sense (although flawed by our fallen nature in Adam) of right and wrong.
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”
It would have been natural for the disciples to conclude that all infirmities are the result of sin. But this does not necessarily follow. We don't know that the man's 38-year condition was the result of any sin (his or his parents' sin). All we know is that, being healed, he should leave whatever life of sin had its hold on him lest a "worse thing" inflict him.
The Call: Opening Israel's Eyes
Let us return to John 9.
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
The man was born blind for this very moment. God is outside of time and can see the full picture. We are creatures of time, so we may not fully grasp the Lord's workings here, but we must allow the Lord to do as he will as he knows best.
The Lord healed the man to reveal what God has planned in the long run. The Lord was sent to Israel to proclaim the promised Kingdom and he came to all of us to proclaim the taking away of our sin. We see in this statement that there are windows to God's workings. This is another aspect of dispensationalism. That is, the Lord is teaching us that there are times when the Lord will work these miracles out in the open and times when he will not (and can not).
Does the Lord change? No! The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and to the end of the ages (Hebrews 13:8), but how he deals with men changes, his economies change, and his focus changes and hopes change (heaven, earth, kingdom, etc.).
The Lord states that he is "the light of the world." While he was here, in the world, it was daytime. In the Acts age, the Lord was with the Apostles "to the end," reflecting his light through them, yet indirectly.
Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
Does this teach that the love of the Lord ends for his own? No, but the end of a stage of his earthly ministry was near. He would soon "depart" from this world. This is reference to the his ascension. This was a truth unseen by the disciples. Their eyes were still blind to all that was to shortly come to pass.
We pause to note that word for "world" here is the Greek "kósmos." It is used around 90 times in the gospel accounts, over 75 times by John. The Lord is the Light of the kósmos, and when that Light departs, darkness shall come to the kósmos. Israel here is in the context of the Passover. His earthly people in context of the human family. At the same time sperate and included. They were called directly by the Light while he was among them, and indirectly after he ascended.
This is evident in the Acts Age. The Light reflected more dimly through the choses apostles. Those commissioned to Israel in the land and in the Dispersion were far better equipped and separated unto the work than we could ever claim in our own calling, but the Light was still filtered through men to its detriment.
In this way, the Acts Age carried with it a judgment against Israel for Israel had taken "by lawless hands" the Son of God, their Messiah, and had crucified him.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death...
The word translated "lawless" here ("wicked" in the KJV) is the Greek "ánomos." It means "not subject to the Mosaic law" or "without Law" and is used of Gentiles. A gentile is naturally outside of the Law. The Law was given specifically to Israel. The charge Peter makes here (at Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit had fallen) is against "Ye men of Israel." There was still an Israel. This brings our thoughts back to John's charge in John 1:4-5, 11.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it... He came to His own [Israel], and His own did not receive Him.
Israel's Messiah, Hidden in the Prophets, Revealed in Christ
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The Light of Life prophesied to the nation of Israel, the Christ for whose arrival they longed, the one the Law and the Prophets said would come was rejected. The direct Light was rejected during the Lord's earthly ministry and the indirect Light through the Apostles to the Circumcision was rejected in the Acts Age.
Taking the Message to the Lord's Brethren, to the Jew First
In the Acts Age, the Apostle Paul always went to the Jews first (Acts 17:2). And he testified that he spoke nothing that was not spoken by Moses and the Prophets (Acts 26:22). In Rome, he called the Jewish leaders there together to witness to Christ again appealing, as he always had to that point, to Moses and the Prophets. This "mystery" was only hidden from those who refused to see it, despite it being in the very texts they held sacred.
Let's take a quick look at Paul's ministry in Rome in Acts 28:
And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers
Israel was still around in that age. Israel was still being called to repent so the Lord could return (Acts 3).These are Paul's "brethren according to the flesh." Israel are the "brethren" to whom the Lord refers in the parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25. Paul had done "nothing" against who he refers to as "our people," And he violated no "custom" or "our fathers." (See also Romans 9:1-5; 10:1)
Christ and his apostles provided all the evidence from scripture for Israel to believe. Recall that the Bereans in Acts 17 "searched the scriptures daily" whether the things Paul preached were true. The "mystery" of 1 Corinthians (Acts Age) was simply hidden from hearts which refused to see.
The Acts is About the Continued Preaching of the Earthly Kingdom to Israel
So when they [the Jewish leaders in Rome] had appointed [Paul] a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.
‘Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.” ’
Comparing the Healings of the Blind Man in John & the Blind Man in Mark
When [The Lord] had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.
In any age, this is the moment of decision. I believe the clay represents men. The use of saliva was considered medicinal in Israel. It was not forbidden by he Pharisees, however, its use was forbidden on the Sabbath ("Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes"). I would contend the Lord was making a statement, again, that a good work performed on the Sabbath was not a violation of the Law (it pointed to the greater Sabbath of Genesis). In this case, the medicinal spittle is combined with clay (the Lord as a man, sent to his people) to heal the nation and nations.
This sign is the sixth sign in John. I always want to be careful not to read too much into every jot and tittle in scripture, but "6" is the number of man. Man was created on the sixth day and the Sabbath established on the seventh. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27) and the Lord Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). The Sabbath rest of Genesis is not the Sabbath of the Law. In regard to all men, it supersedes the Law of the Old Covenant of Exodus. John presents the Lord as God with no beginning and no end (John 1:1). He is greater than the Sabbath.
The leaders of Israel did not understand the Law nor could they see their own Messiah in their midst. They "perceived him not" as we have noted. They did not "comprehend" the Light sent to them.
Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath”... So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.” He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
It has been noted that we should look to Revelation 3:18 and the Lord's words to Israel in a coming time of trouble for possibly more enlightenment.
I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
There is a need in every age to do what we can to see more clearly. We cannot rest on our laurels of a degree or a confession or a council or a statement of faith. We must all, individually, seek to see better.
A quick comparison to the healing recorded in Mark chapter 8.
Then [the Lord] came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.
Here we have healing which also involves a blind man. In this account, the man is brought to the Lord. The Lord uses saliva, but no clay, and the healing is in stages. Again, being careful not to draw huge theological doctrines and dogmas from the details, I would still note the differences.
Mark is the gospel of the Lord as Servant. The book has no lineage. He is the great Servant sent to Israel. Yet Israel still had to be led to him. And when they came upon him, he serves them directly. He applies the saliva directly to the blind man who does not immediately see clearly. He initially sees men "walking like trees." I believe we can see here the partial salvation of Israel in the Acts Age (cp Romans 9:1-13, etc.) and then the final restoration in the age to come.
There is no hint of the Mystery of the current age here in Mark. There is an unspoken gap in the story. There is no explanation for the partial sight and no events listed before the final restoration.
The word "restored" in Mark 8:25 is the Greek word, "apokathístēmi." This is a "restoration" of eyesight. Thayer's dictionary defines this word, "to restore to its former state." This is the same word used in Acts 1 in reference to the "restoration" of the Kingdom in Israel (Acts 1:6). That is the reestablishment of the Throne of David. It is not a "new church."
Mark 8 is not a blindness from birth as in John 9. Just prior to the healing in Mark 8, the Lord warns of "the Leaven of the Pharisees [fake legalism] and the leaven of Herod [fake King of the Jews]." He then points his disciples to the miracle of the fish and the loaves.
When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.” So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”
Twelve being associated with the nation of Israel and seven being associated with her final day (1000 years) of rest.
Healing and provision are coming to Israel in the age to come. Her Sabbath rest of 1000 years awaits her when the Lord restores the Kingdom in Israel and sits on the throne of His father, David. Gabriel proclaimed to Mary, as given to us by Luke, concerning the Messiah she bore:
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
And recall, it is this same angel, the same messenger of God, who revealed truths to Daniel regarding the age to come.
Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.”
The Lord was sent to Israel alone (Matthew 15:24), yet the Messiah always planned to bless the nations through Israel's blessings (Romans 15). But Israel has to see her Messiah first, repent, turn to the living, resurrected Christ as her Lord and Christ, and then the blessings of the earthly kingdom will come. Israel and the believing Gentiles will experience the Kingdom which is to come.