JESUS THE OPTOMETRIST
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 16, 2015
29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
— Matthew 20:29-34, ESV
Jesus was an optometrist, but He did more that merely correct myopia or hyperopia. He made blind people see. Jesus was a cardiologist, but He did more than coronary artery bypass graft surgery. He gave people new hearts. And, Jesus was a mortician, but He did more than fix bodies with formaldehyde and follow the family to the cemetery. He caused the dead to rise again and follow Him.
This familiar miracle, a favorite of the Lord Jesus Christ, fits neatly into the first category of extreme optometrical practice. Three of the four Gospel writers report it, albeit with slightly different perspectives, and all Four Gospels report several other significant stories of the Lord restoring the sight of the blind. Jesus cured blindness to fulfill Old Testament prophecy and establish His New Testament ministry. People received healing, Jesus received messianic consideration, and gospel preachers and hymn writers received a beautiful and wonderful illustration.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
-- John Newton
Making a blind man see is a notable miracle that has not been performed since the days of Christ and the Apostles. But the greater miracle of curing spiritual blindness and bringing salvation has never stopped. Let’s look at this story and see how the two are related, and how you can be a spiritual optometrist, just like the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Unseen Heroes
Blind people could not read in Jesus’ day, for that was long before the breakthrough of braille. Blind people could not drive, for there were no cars, and blind people do not drive today, although after living back in Arkansas for the past three years, sometimes I wonder. Blind people have ways and means to cope with their problems today, but in Jesus’ day they were completely helpless, totally dependent upon others to meet their basic needs.
Before these two blind men see the Lord Jesus Christ, some other people they could not see did some wonderful things for them. Who told them about Jesus? They couldn’t read the Scriptures for themselves, but someone had told them and taught them about the Messiah, the Prince from the lineage of King David, the one who would eradicate blindness and make people see the kingdom of God. Who brought them to Jesus? They could not drive to the city limits of Jericho, nor could they safely arrive by foot. Someone taught them and someone brought them in order for Jesus to have this opportunity to heal them.
Would you like to be an eternal hero is someone’s life? Tell them about Jesus. Bring them to places where they can experience the presence of Christ. Give a Bible, talk about the gospel, invite people and bring people to sacred worship services and Bible studies. Lost and unchurched people are badly blinded at worst and nearsighted at least, and they won’t see Jesus unless we who are in the church reach out to them and bring them.
Thanks to Mark, we know one of the blind men’s names, Bartimaeus. However, we don’t know any of the names of the people who read the Bible to him or helped him get to Jericho that day. But they are heroes we will see in Heaven. Great will be their reward, and yours too, if you dedicate you life to sharing Christ with family, friends, neighbors, and others.
The Gift of Sight
On the Godward side, this is a rather exclusive miracle. Not every person who was blind in Jesus’ day received their sight. Not every crippled person was made to walk. Precious few dead people walked out of their coffin or tomb. The persons who received a miracle in Jesus’ day were not chosen by choice or chance or any other human device. They were selected by the sovereignty of God, so that God could do them good and glorify His own name. This is the process by which every miracle, physical or spiritual, takes place. God decrees it, God does it, God’s people are blessed, and God is glorified in it all.
On earthly ground, however, this miracle seemed ripe for the taking. These men talked to the Lord, turned to the Lord, and took from the Lord the greatest gift of all. Sight was a bonus. Salvation was the greatest gift God gave to them. And as surely as they could see, they became fully devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament and New Testament concur, whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved — anyone, anytime, anywhere. The sovereignty of God notwithstanding, and the necessity of a witness not neglected, it is up to the individual to intelligently, emotionally, and volitionally come to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Saving truth enters through the head, where our vision and thought process converge. It penetrates the heart with great conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It consumes the will, making faithful followers and obedient servants to the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Have you called out to Jesus Christ, acknowledging Him as “Lord” and Savior as these men did? Do you know in your heart that you have been blinded by sin and pride and only God can forgive you and make you whole? Are you willing to follow Jesus in real discipleship and responsible membership in the New Testament church? If you call upon Him for “mercy” (humbly admitting your sin and inability to remedy it for yourself), you will find what these men found, the “pity” (ESV), perhaps better translated “compassion” (KJV, NAS, NIV), of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Compassion” is that strong word in the Bible to describe God’s strong and moving love towards someone that moves Him to action. Jesus healed their blindness in that day and He can save your soul any day you sincerely ask.
There was organic proof of their physical blindness turned into sight, and there was tangible proof that their spiritual blindness was turned into salvation.
The Proof of Discipleship
Every true believer admires Bonhoeffer’s classic work, The Cost of Discipleship. But in a way, discipleship has no costs, only proofs. It doesn’t cost you anything to become a Christian, for Jesus paid it all. But without proof, however, no profession of faith is valid. Without works, faith is dead. I see strong proof of saving faith in these men before, during, and after this miraculous encounter with Jesus.
Before, as they began to call on the name of the Lord, the crowd tried to keep them quiet. They would not be silent. There were not ashamed to admit their need, they were not ashamed of their belief that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and they were willing to risk embarrassment, or worse, to demonstrate their faith in God. A true disciple is never ashamed of the gospel, the word of God, and the simple, saving faith that is found only in Jesus Christ.
During the encounter with Jesus, they were miraculously transformed, changed, made new men. Curing physical and spiritual blindness are both great miracles, with the latter being greater than the former. Salvation is conversion, conversion is regeneration, and regeneration is a miracle only God can perform on a person. These men were completely changed in mind, heart, and will.
After the experience of grace, they willingly followed Jesus on the road to the cross. We do not know precisely what became of them, although there are legends about Bartimaeus’ Christian testimony and service. But we do know that saved people are fully devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you are not following Jesus in proof-giving discipleship, you have never been saved, or at least have no right to believe you have been saved. Faith results in fellowship with God and follow-ship of God, without exception, except in the possible case of a death-bed conversion. Please don’t wait until you are about to die. Follow Jesus right now.
JESUS THE OPTOMETRIST
PRIDE, PROBLEMS, AND THE PRICE HE PAID
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 9, 2015
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
— Matthew 20:20-28, ESV
People are prideful, people have problems, and prideful people have a particular problem that only one person can prevent.
The Problem of Pride
Pride is essential admiration that leads to ambition. As ugly as it sounds on the surface of a biblical discussion (the word “pride” is not looked upon favorably in Scripture, just read the Proverbs), pride is not always a problem. If your admiration is for someone else and your ambition is to please them, then such pride produces few problems. Christians should be proud to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and strive to please Him in all things. Husbands and wives, parents and children, good friends, etc., should be proud of one another and put the other’s interests above their own. It’s even okay to be proud of your favorite team, as long as it is the Georgia Bulldogs.
But pride becomes a problem when the admiration if for our own selves, or our own family, or our own race, and our ambition is to put “us” at an advantage over “them.” Such pride is selfish, sinful, and inevitably leads to strife, as it does in the very passage at hand, where Salome’s (the wife of Zebedee, mother of James and John, and perhaps even the sister of Jesus’ mother Mary; the only other Salome in the New Testament was a stripper, and no one thinks it is she doing the talking in this text) politicking on behalf of her boys creates and indignant attitude in the hearts of the other disciples.
Pride, the sinful kind, lurks in every heart. Two murdered policemen and two cop killers are in the news this very week, because the thugs pridefully thought their lives and illegal drug trade were more important than the lives of honorable law officers who were just doing their duty. Pride breaks out and breaks up families when adultery seems more personally pleasing than fidelity to family. Pride is the invention of every sin and lurks in the heart of every sinner. And, we are all sinners.
The point of this passage is that not just the “bad” people have a problem with pride. Otherwise good people can get it, too. There have never been three more faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ than Salome, James, and John. Yet even they seized a moment to make themselves look more faithful than the other followers. They put Jesus first, but wanted second and third place for themselves, boasting about their ability to drink from the same cup as the Lord (which in a way, they would do, as James became the first apostolic martyr and John the last). Even spiritual pride is sinful and can cause problems among even the people of God.
I am not a bad person, but I am a bad husband, father, and pastor when my blood boils with pride. Then, there have been times when I have acted in humility yet been severely wounded by family members or well-meaning church members whose actions were far more prideful than thoughtful. Selfish pride is sin, sin hurts, and about the only way to eradicate the sinful pain of pride is through the process of problem solving.
The Pride of Problem Solving
The only way to solve the problem of pride is to find pride in problem solving. Jesus deftly handled this prideful power grab by pointing to the great paradox that is the Christian life. Contrary to worldly life, the Christian life is not about stepping on people on the way up, but serving them on the way down. It is not about causing problems because of your own pride, but humbly helping people solve their problems. It is in a word, servanthood.
I love the idea of politics, police and military action, medicine and education, even the ministry, and virtually every vocation as “public service.” Christians especially should be servants of the people by promoting faith, hope, and love in every calling and every endeavor. Of course, there are abundant examples in every arena where pride trumps (pun intended) public service, and problems are compounded. But when it works, when we display a servant’s heart, grace and goodness overflow.
Jesus made it work. He alone has the prerogative of pride, yet He emptied Himself of any vestige of it in order to come to earth and do His work on behalf of the people. To those fortunate enough to be alive during His public ministry, Jesus set His sights on solving their problems of discouragement, disenfranchisement, hunger, ignorance, thirst, pain, suffering, even death. He taught them along the way not to step on others on the way up, but serve others on the way down, just as He had done.
James and John learned the lesson, too, along with all of the other disciples, except of course for the one who learned too late. They preached the gospel to solve peoples’ problem of spiritual lostness, they taught Scripture to solve peoples’ problems of spiritual ignorance, they helped widows and orphans and other people with food, clothing, and shelter. They did it all without ever clamoring again for high office or recognition at great personal cost to their own lives.
Do we get it? Are the decisions we make and the actions we take bound to promote ourselves or serve others? Are our lives lived to put Christ and His kingdom first, the needs of others next, and our selves last, as Jesus taught? Are we problem makers because of our own stubborn pride, or are we problem solvers because of our love for Christ and desire to serve other people?
Is there one problems you can solve for someone else? Do it, especially if it costs you something, especially your pride. Humble yourself, and share an invitation to Christ and His church with someone who is unchurched, offering them a ride and a meal if necessary. Humble yourself, and take some of that money you've been withholding from God to spend on yourself, and give it away to church or charity. Humble yourself to serve someone is some way, and you will go a long way in solving the problem of pride.
Yet there is one problem that only Jesus Himself can solve.
The Problem Only Jesus Can Solve
Jesus closes this classic sermon on servanthood by offering Himself as the one servant, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, the Son of Man/Son of God/Messiah of all the Bible, who can solve man’s greatest problem. The last statement (also recored in Mark 10:45) is one of the most pivotal verses in all of verbally inspired Scripture. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
“The Son of Man” seemed to have been Jesus’ favorite title for Himself. It was a subtle claim to His messiahship. He was and claimed to be the Son of God, but humbly chose not to use that title to draw unnecessary attention to Himself. He was, is, and always will be God, but left trinitarian theology for His followers to sort out. But during His brief first advent, Christ pricelessly pointed out that He was one of us, a flesh and blood human being, for an immediate and ultimate purpose.
Jesus’ immediate purpose was to preach, teach, heal, and otherwise help other people all that He could. He gained a following and taught His followers to be servants. He is the ultimate example of how one human being should love and treat another, and to miss this example or fail to follow it is to live a lost life.
Jesus does not want you to live a lost life, and He does not want your life to be lost, either. This is why His ultimate purpose in His first coming was to “give his life as a ransom for many.” This means more, much more, than moral example. This means spiritual sacrifice.
A ransom is a price paid to set someone free. As much as you and I may try to model Jesus, or Mohammed, or Buddha, or any other religious leader, we will never be free from the presence of sin. The power of pride, lust, greed and other sinful desires is a constant struggle for every human being, no matter how noble. But it is the penalty of sin that we really need to worry about, and only Christ and Christianity supply a satisfactory remedy, or ransom, and the ransom is Christ Himself.
By grace alone through faith alone in the perfect person and finished work of Christ alone can we be saved from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death. Such saving faith helps us overcome the power and lure of sin and live holy and godly lives. And sure faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ will reward us at the end of our days, or at the second coming of Jesus, with our removal from even the very presence of sin, and its ensuing suffering and death, forevermore.
Following Jesus’ moral example of servanthood is good. It will make you a good person, helpful and beloved. But good people go to Hell every day, when they fail to trust in the price Jesus paid to set us free from the penalty, the power, and ultimately the presence of sin and sinful pride. Please do not be too proud to admit this and accept the redeeming life and ransoming death of Jesus Christ, for this is a problem that only He, through faith in Him, can solve.
GETTING BACK TO THE GOSPEL
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 2, 2015
17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
— Matthew 20:17-19, ESV
There are four places in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus preaches the gospel (ref. 16:21, 17:22-23; here in 20:17-19, and 26:2). They are like the gears of a four-speed transmission, accelerating Christ’s climb to Calvary. The first three get progressively louder, while the fourth is a quick and quiet resignation to the primary purpose of Jesus’ life — death.
Upon this third preaching of the gospel we now take our stand. It is brief and blunt, concise and comprehensive, full of heartache and hope. It is uttered on the way to Jerusalem, the appointed and appropriate place for the Messiah to die. It is preached to a dozen men, who’s job it would be to preach it to hundreds and thousands, who in turn would share it with millions and billions.
Amidst the clutter and chaos in the church of what’s happening now, the gospel often gets lost. Liberals on the left don’t believe it, conservatives on the right take too much credit for it, and the people in the middle get told what they must do to be saved rather than what God has done to save them. The gospel does not need to be reinvented, but it does need to be reclaimed and re-preached, to a church that must understand and a world that must hear. So, here we go.
The Gospel is a Personal Story
The gospel is the good news about God’s covenant with man. “Jerusalem” is central to the story, since it was the seat of Old Covenant Jewish religion and the birthplace of New Covenant Christianity. Twelve tribes and “twelve disciples” link the two together. With the world He created rebelling and sinning against Him, God corralled a nation and race of people together through the Old Covenant for the purpose of maintaining worship and discipline until He Himself morphed into the Messiah and came to them to inaugurate a New Covenant to be carried by the church to every nation and race of people on the planet. That’s a mouthful, but all that needs to come out of our mouths when sharing the gospel is the centrality of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel is a personal story, and the person in the story is simply Jesus. The gospel is not your story, about what you’ve done for God. The gospel is God’s story, about what He has done for you. Jesus came to you as the Son of God and the “Son of Man,” Immanuel, God with us, apart from us, one of us, to offer His life as a sacrifice for our sins. The words “death” and “crucified” speak of Christ’s atoning sacrifice which was necessary to reconcile the wrath and love of a holy God. “Raised on the third day” is our hope that Jesus’ victory is our victory unto everlasting life.
Some of the words I chose in the previous paragraph require a depth of theological understanding. But for now, follow the simple thread that shows the “Son of Man” going to His “death,” “crucified,” then “raised on the third day.” This is Jesus’ story, and this is the gospel.
The Gospel is a Prophetic Story
The gospel story Jesus told about Himself is a prophetic story, in the sense that it predicted an event that came true. This telling of the gospel by Jesus is the first time our Lord introduces the “Gentiles” into the narrative. The clear meaning making reference to the Roman overlords in Jerusalem. At the time, no one would have predicted this part of the story.
The Romans ruled over the Jews, excised taxes from them, and kept the peace in this part of their empire with an iron fist. They could have cared less about any covenant with God, old or new. They stridently stayed away from Jewish religious matters, almost as far as the Jewish religious rulers tried to stay away from them. It would have been inconceivable that the “Gentiles,” the Romans, could play a part in the killing of God’s Son and the ultimate redemption of God’s people.
But that is exactly what Jesus preached. “The chief priests and scribes” would conspire with the Roman authority “Gentiles” to carry out the plot of the gospel story. The ensuing chapters tell how it all work out exactly according to Jesus’ prophecy and God’s plan.
The test of prophecy is truth. If it did not or does not come true, it is not prophecy. If it does, it is. The gospel of the first coming of Christ is absolute, prophetic truth. So is His second coming, but that’s another story.
The Gospel is a Miraculous Story
The four Gospels record numerous miracles performed by the Lord Jesus Christ. But they all testify, as Jesus does here in His own words, that He saved the best for last. “He will be raised on the third day,” Jesus said, and He was.
Skeptics, within and without the church, claim He did not. But there is no basis for the skeptics’ claims, other than skepticism itself. Yes, it is impossible for a living person to do the things the Gospels say Jesus did. Yes, it is impossible for a dead person to return to life. Yes, it requires a miracle, for only a miracle makes the impossible possible.
Prosperity gospel preachers tout miracles on their shows and stages. Want a miracle in your bank account? Send them money. Want a miracle for your health? Make sure your problem and the proposed cure cannot be organically verified. Want a new jet plane? Tell your followers that you, and they, deserve it, so they can see you more. Such false claims are not prophecy, they are not miracles, and they are not the gospel.
The gospel is the story of the miracle of God becoming man, performing many miracles in His ministry, the great miracle that He could so greatly love sinners, and the greatest miracle of all, laying down His life and taking it up again on the third day through the miracle of resurrection.
The gospel requires a miracle, and it takes the miracle of grace to accept it. Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in prophecy? Do you believe the gospel?
The Gospel is a Salvation Story
The gospel does not save your bank account from poverty, your body from sickness, nor your political party from the other. The gospel will not keep you from having a bad hair day and it may not even keep your family together. The gospel is not a trinket nor a trick pony to be bartered about by the sale of indulgences or the hollow promises of television evangelists.
The gospel is not owned by one denomination at the exclusion of other Christian traditions. The gospel is not about you, or what you can do for God to make God love you. The gospel belongs to Christ, and to Christianity, and it is the story of what God has done for you to save your eternal soul.
Your soul is stained by rebellion and sin, and the King whom you have rebelled and sinned against is absolutely holy and just. He can, He will, and He must either punish or pardon you. His punishment, for those who ignore or reject the gospel, is made plain in the pages of Holy Scripture. His pardon, the gospel, is predicted in the Old Testament, offered in the Gospels, and explained throughout the New Testament. But it pretty much boils down to what Jesus said in this short paragraph we are studying today.
Christ calls us back to the gospel. The church needs to hear it, again and again, until we get it right. The world needs to hear it, over and over, to get right with God. If you hear Him, if you turn to Him, if you trust and obey Him, you will be saved. This is the gospel truth.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org