Sometimes it’s not what is said, it’s how it’s put into the story.
Jesus said, “What can I do for you?” The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “On your way,” said Jesus. “Your faith has saved and healed you.”
The story of the blind man comes on the heals – and in the same chapter as – the story of the rich man asking Jesus how to get into heaven, and then the Sons of Zebedee trying to finangle prime seating in the days of glory. Only recently have I began to appreciate the master storyteller and how the placement of the pericope means as much as the story itself. Sometimes it’s not so much the single character that gives us insight into the message as the multiple characters as they stand in a line.
I’ve always enjoyed the story of the rich man. He’s a nice guy, has always obeyed, and goes the distance just to assure that he’s doing alright. Unfortunately Jesus tells him he needs to part with his good fortune in order to truly inherit the kingdom. Bummer. Now this passage has been taken for more rides than the tildewhirl. Some find justification in being rich by an old biblical urban legend of the gate in which a camel had to get on its knees to get through, saying it’s ok to be rich, but you have to bow low. I personally think that’s something rich people say to feel better about being rich. The disciples are slightly disappointed to know that the rich might not inherit the kingdom because, to them, the rich can have anything they want. So if they can’t have it, who can?! Apparently the idea that there are some things money can’t buy isn’t quite on the radar.
Then James & John do their thing, asking to be on the right and left of Jesus. I believe in other passages it’s their mother that asks this request, but here the boys gather up the courage. I was thinking about it in context… there are a lot of people who are expecting Jesus to save them, but it’s a highly political view of Messiah. They’re making their way to the City and something Big is going to Happen, but I really think the disciples (and not just the 12) are anticipating, as JJ would call it, The Revolution (in current day context, this is when our family will head to Montana to “live off the land”. I really should blog about THAT sometime).
Jesus even flat out tells the disciples that when they get to the City, instead of leading what seems a successful revolt, he will be handed over to the authorities and killed. But they just don’t get it. Or don’t want to.
So this idea that there’s a coming Kingdom is very real. The rich guy tries to assure his citizenship through being good. The Zebedee boys try to get in by the “who you know” methodology. And in both instances Jesus tries and tries to explain that it’s not what you do or have or who you know, it’s your dependence on God that will walk you through the gate. He says it straight up: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.”
And then we meet the beggar. “Mercy, have mercy on me!” he cries. In other words, “I can’t do it myself, I don’t even deserve it, but please!” He wants something. He can’t buy it. He can’t coerce power to get it. And he knows it.
Jesus says, this is the kind of faith that saves and heals.
It’s not the stuff, or the lack of stuff. It’s not the perfection one feels when abiding by the rules. It’s not being a somebody, or even a no-body (because the disciples were, largely, a bunch of no-bodies). I think it might be the value you place on it; what you think it can do for you. I’d go as far to say as religion can be put in here as well. Jesus warns of the yeast of the Pharisees more than once, because of their belief in what it could do for them.
If I could just have… if i could just be… if I could only talk to you…. as soon as I can… we always think there’s another gate into the kingdom – a back door – but Jesus says right here that living in a state of knowing your need, your powerlessness, walks you down the red carpet.