August 11, 2019

A Lesson from Spit
Mark 8:22-26

Have you seen the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding?” It’s a comedy about the clash of white urban society with the customs of an old Greek family.

The bride’s family was thoroughly Greek and prided themselves in doing things the way they did back in the old country. The groom’s family, on the other hand, was a group of New York sophisticates who expected their son’s wedding to conform to all the elitist societal norms.

One of the Greek customs involved spitting. In the old country, a person would spit on a friend or a family member, not to insult them, but to wish them good luck. So you can imagine how shocked the New York sophisticates were when the bride and groom recessed down the aisle to a shower of congenial spit.

After seeing the movie I decided I’m glad my roots are East Tennessean and not Greek. The only time I’ve been spit on was when I’ve been too close to an over-zealous preacher, and even then, he didn’t do it on purpose.

Believe it or not, today’s biblical text is about spitting. Really. Listen to the story from Mark 8:22-26.

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

As Mark relates this story, we find a blind man being brought to Jesus by his friends. The friends beg Jesus to “touch” their blind friend and restore his sight.

Now, their request was not unreasonable. Jesus’ reputation preceded him. The stories were everywhere. Jesus had been healing people by touching them. He had healed a group of lepers by touching their skin. He had healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a high fever by touching her head. And just a few weeks before he had touched the eyes of a blind man and restored his sight. So it wasn’t out of character to ask Jesus to touch this blind man so he might receive his sight. Seemingly, the healing was in the touch.

Imagine the dismay of the blind man when Jesus led him off by himself and, instead of touching him he spit in his eye. That’s right, Jesus spit in the eye of the blind man. I can almost hear the blind man’s protest.

“Hey, Jesus. What in the world are you doing? My buddies told me that you had been healing blind folks by touching their eyes, but nobody told me anything about this spittin’ stuff.”

Yes, the poor blind man certainly didn’t expect to get spit on by Jesus, but the spitting was only the beginning of his surprises. Prior to this miracle, Jesus had been touching blind eyes and instantaneously restoring sight. But in this miracle, when the man opens his eyes he can barely see. Imagine his disappointment when he opened his eyes and saw nothing but indistinct forms. People looked like walking trees. This miracle wasn’t turning out like he expected.

At this point, I image the blind man began to have doubts. He probably began thing that maybe this guy wasn’t really the miracle worker he had heard about. They guy didn’t work like Jesus, and he certainly wasn’t as successful as Jesus. Maybe this guy was an impostor. But wait. Jesus isn’t finished. According to Mark, Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes a second time and when he opened his eyes it happened, 20 – 20 vision. Finally, the blind man could see.

Now there’s a lesson to be learned from this story, and the lesson is this: God does not always do what we expect. Sometimes he accomplishes his will in the way we anticipate, but more often than not, God accomplishes his will in ways we never imagined. One thing for sure: if we think we’ve got God figured out, we’re in for a big surprise.

The Bible is replete with examples of God doing things in diverse and curious ways. Just when folks think they’ve got him figured out he accomplishes his will through some grand surprise.

Sometimes he destroys tyrants by empowering massive armies. But sometimes he defeats giants by a kid with a slingshot.

Sometimes he speaks in a voice so loud the mountains tremble. Sometimes he speaks in a still, small voice.

Sometimes he proclaims his message through the eloquence of a prophetic orator. Sometimes he speaks with a voice of an ass, or even a Baptist preacher. (Some have said there’s not much difference).

You see, God doesn’t always do his work the same way, and just about the time you think you’ve figured him out, he’s certain to surprise you.

When all is said and done, God is God and he acts in whatever way he chooses - whether we expect it or not.

So as I close, let me leave you with these words. Because God’s ways are diverse and unique, we shouldn’t expect our religious experience to conform to everyone else’s.

Too many people judge another’s religious experience by comparing that experience with their own. Some of the folks in the Baptist family think the Catholics are going to hell because they don’t baptize or worship like we do. And some of the folks in the Catholic family think we aren’t worthy of their Lord’s Supper because we don’t worship like they do. And, of course, the Charismatics think none of us have really gotten the Spirit until we raise our hands and speak in tongues. Yes, it’s so easy to judge another’s religious experience by comparing it with our own.

I can almost hear the argument between these three Palestinian’s who had once been blind. The first one said, “I used to be blind but I received my sight when Jesus touched my eyes.”

The second one said, “Me too. I was in Galilee when Jesus touched my eyes and I got my sight back immediately.”

Hesitantly the third man replies, “It didn’t happen that way with me. Jesus spit on my eyes and I couldn’t focus on anything at first. I didn’t really get my sight until later when he touched me a second time.”

“Spit on your eyes,” said the first one. “You got to be kidding. Everybody knows God doesn’t do miracles like that.”

Sadly, that’s the way too many of us evaluate the religious experience of others. If it doesn’t look like ours, sound like ours or use the same rituals, we label it as counterfeit or as inferior at best.

But may I remind you, God is God and he has no compulsion to conform to our expectations. God is God and he doesn’t always do things the same way. So we are wrong when we demand that another person’s religious experience conform to ours; and we are wrong when we expect our religious experience to conform to everyone else’s. God never promised to deal with everybody in identical ways. God is God and he uses whatever way he chooses.

I like the words of the hymn we sung this morning. Listen to them again.

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain,
God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.

Yes, God is God and will deal with us in whatever way He chooses, whether or not it conforms to our expectations. God is God, and we really shouldn’t be surprised, even if he chooses to spit in our eye.