Wednesday, July 29th Mark 8:22-26

“They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.” Mark 8:22-26

You just have to love this healing story. Jesus heals a blind man but it takes two tries. Like going to the eye doctor and listening to her as she flips her little flippy things in front of your eyes, “Better here?…or here?”

“I can see people, but they look like trees walking.”

That moment in this unnamed man’s healing is not far from the experience when Columbus and his bedraggled sailors first sailed to the shores of what, to them, was the new world. They came upon a land that was lush and green and populated with people the likes of which they had never seen. Both the invaders and the invaded, the visitors and the visited, saw the others through distorted lenses, like trees walking.

To the Europeans, the people they found were simple savages without any signs of what they believed to be civilization or culture – they were hardly dressed, used simple tools, were extraordinarily gullible in prizing trivial gifts like beads. And, because they spoke no English, the unconsciously arrogant Europeans thought of them as ignorant, unschooled and barbaric.

To the Native Americans, Columbus and his men appeared as gods. The impressive sailing ships, the strange dress, the sharp swords and other tools – all of this suggested that these indeed were a powerful people unlike any the natives had known. The hospitality they showed the Europeans appeared as deference. The game was on.

Both sides saw the other as “trees walking.” Both sides made crucial errors in understanding because they couldn’t see the whole picture. The Europeans did not find India despite bequeathing their hosts with the name “Indian” which would later serve to lump hundreds of culturally and linguistically different people into the single category of “red” man. The natives were not visited by gods but by mortals who carried not only passions and ambitions that would prove deadly to them but also germs which would be just as bad.

They couldn’t see each other.

If I have learned anything in my life, I have learned that people do not share the same world. People might share the same ground, might live in the same town, even live in the same house, but their experience of the world remains radically different. All of the wondrous diversity of God’s creation brings us to a place where we finally acknowledge that this diversity truly exists. Rather than denying it away, or forcing our experience on to others, is it possible instead that we respond with humility, that we ask questions, that we listen for answers that we might not understand, but still find meaning in the exchange?

Jesus had to touch the man one more time. And then, once healed, Jesus told the man not to go into the village. Why? It doesn’t make any sense to us! Why wouldn’t he go into the village? The normal answer is that, in Mark’s theology, Jesus wasn’t ready to expose his identity as Messiah quite yet, that would have to wait for a cross and an empty tomb. But what if there is a different answer?

What if Jesus realized that life would be dangerous for a man who could truly and finally see? Who could see the truth about God’s love for all people which will never find a home in a world that wants to divide people into insiders and outsiders, the accepted and the rejected, the civilized and the barbaric?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we know we are blind and we know that we see. We know that our ability to see life comes and goes, we have blind spots and we have moments of clarity. As we look at other people in our world, in our lives, open us to accepting them as they are, to finding ways of sharing life peacefully, to discovering our common humanity. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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