I’ve never done it, but I think it would be interesting some time to go through the gospels and count how many times Jesus gets interrupted on his way to some place. In many healing stories, Jesus gets interrupted. Jairus send servants to fetch him; a hemorrhaging woman touches him, and he stops; Bartimaeus calls from a roadside; ten lepers cry for attention; a Roman centurion demands attention for a servant. In all of these stories, people ask attention; they interrupt Jesus’ day.
That happens again in today’s gospel. Jesus and his friends are walking down a street in Bethsaida. Talking. Laughing. Perhaps looking forward to a rest and a meal at a friend’s house. And all of a sudden, a group of folks are asking him to touch someone among them who is blind. Jesus is willing to be interrupted. Not only that, he changes the entire course of his day, takes the man’s hand, and leads him away from the village. Others would have followed along.
It’s likely that Jesus’ day wasn’t the only one interrupted in this story. The man who was brought for healing also had his routine interrupted. Unable to work, he might have been begging for alms or sitting at the home of those caring for him. Word came through town that the healing preacher, Jesus, was around. Then the day changed. Some friends came and got him and took him to plead for some attention from Jesus. To seek a touch.
This makes me wonder a couple things.
You and I are unlikely to render any physical healings in our lives, at least not through nonmedical means. But I assume we are all interested in living as healing presences in the world. We seek to help others know whole, thriving, and peaceful lives. If we seek to be healers, perhaps, like Jesus, we need to be willing to let others interrupt us. Change our trajectory for the day. Listen to the unexpected needs and demands that appear on the sidelines while we are going about our business.
And if we seek greater healing and wholeness in our own lives, perhaps we need to allow our own routines and expectations to be interrupted. Move out of our usual habits. Acknowledge our dependence upon others and let those in our community help. Open ourselves to the possibility of a healing presence or encounter.
Healing, it seems, asks that we be open to interruption whether we are the one seeking healing or the one seeking to be an agent for someone else’s healing. Our routines may be interrupted. Our expectations may also be thrown a little off.
For example, in this story Jesus’ efforts don’t produce immediate results. That has been an embarrassment to many, it seems. There isn’t much commentary on this story. It doesn’t appear in any of the schedules of assigned lectionary readings used in many churches. I take some comfort, though, in the two-part nature of the healing described in this passage. It makes it clear that healing may take more time than we would like. The process takes a while. And that’s okay.
The two-part nature of the healing that occurs in this story also emphasizes the importance of meaningful contact between those involved. The blind man is touched, twice, by Jesus. Touched in ways that we might find strange or discomforting. Two thousand years ago it wasn’t unusual for healers to use spittle as a healing agent. But today? Not so much. On top of that, our eyes are one of the most difficult parts of our bodies (these days) to let others touch. Jesus lays hands upon that man’s eyes. Physical connection is needed.
But a spiritual or emotional connection also occurs. Jesus, we’re told, “looked intently” at the man. I imagine a gaze of compassion, kindness, love, well-being. Are we able to look intently and intentionally upon others with such a gaze, regardless of who they are? And are we able to truly receive divine compassion, kindness, love, desire for well-being? Seeing with the eyes of Jesus, the best we can, helps to make us healing presences in the world. Meeting the eyes of Jesus, wherever we encounter him, is necessary for us all.
After being truly seen, the man in the story can see clearly. Then another expectation gets interrupted. Jesus tells him to not go back into the village. Perhaps he’s supposed to go home and ponder what has happened, integrate the experience a bit before he talks about it much. Perhaps he’s supposed to simply not spread the news that Jesus is around performing miracles. Or perhaps Jesus means to indicate that the healed one is not to go back to the routines that had been filling his days.
Healing interrupts established routine and activities.
Healing moves us to a different place in our lives; we are guided away (at least temporarily) from where we have been.
Healing asks for some time set apart, at our home place (at our center), in order to consider where to go next, what to do with ourselves. We can’t automatically go back to the village as we’ve known it.
But we can, healing and healed together, become the community we need. We can become a gathering of folks willing to step away from the comfort of routine in order to both seek and offer genuine wholeness and love. We can become a gathering of folks who support and accompany one another in our mutual need for healing of our spirits and aid for our bodily conditions. And, if we and the world around us are ever to know any peace and wholeness, we must become a gathering of folks willing to be seen with compassion, mercy, grace, and love. And we must look intently upon others with the compassion, mercy, grace, and love that Christ extended to the blind man in today’s gospel. The good news for us all.
May it be so.
Scripture: Mark 8:22-25
-Rev. Ruth Moerdyk