“Hear the ‘Good News’ – Again”
Text: Luke 18: 35-43
As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” 43 Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.
I consider myself to be a casual golfer. I enjoy the game, but I don’t take it very seriously and because of the time commitments, I don’t get to play all that often. Every so often I do like to get out and hit a few balls or play 9 holes with a friend or two. One of the things that keeps you playing golf is that almost every time you go out there are one or maybe two times that you hit the ball perfectly. The shot you intended is the shot you make; that is a great feeling when that happens. Of course the professional golfers have this happen on almost every shot, but like I said, I’m a casual golfer and not a professional.
There is another thing that happens almost every time I go out to play golf and that is exactly the opposite of what I just described. Somehow, and I’m not sure what happens, but every skill you thought you had instantly vanishes. For a period of time, and it varies from game to game, but for me, it normally ranges from a few shots to several entire holes. What happens is that for some unexplained reason, the ball simply doesn’t go where you intended, or it doesn’t go at all. Sometimes you try to hit a nice high arching shot and the ball just snakes through the grass. Other times all you need to do is gently chip the ball onto the green and it instead rockets over the entire green like it’s been shot out of a cannon. This trauma of bad shots will leave you as suddenly as it appeared and just like that, you are back on track.
One of the things I appreciate about the laid back attitudes of most of the people I have played golf with in the past is that they understand this process. They understand because it happens to them as well. So there is an unspoken rule among casual golfers, and that unspoken rule is that every once in a while, it is OK to take what we call a “mulligan.” A mulligan simply means that when you hit a really bad shot you forget that shot and drop a new ball where the first one was and hit again. The mulligan is a great invention. I’m not certain I would be interested in golf at all if it were not for the mulligan. It keeps everybody a little more relaxed. That’s probably why I don’t play in tournaments, because I’m pretty sure mulligans are not allowed in tournaments.
I bring this up today because I have found something in the text I read a few minutes ago that really intrigues me. I looked for some help with this idea of mine in all the commentaries I own and several others on-line, but could not find another commentary that brought out this little detail that I have noticed in this text. So in my search for confirmation of my idea, I started looking at a few other texts, and I found some support in other texts, so I was encouraged.
In the text I read, we have a story of a blind man that is healed by Jesus. Most of the commentaries want to focus on the healing itself and how the blind man identified Jesus and a lot of other stuff, that frankly, for me, doesn’t enhance the text all that much. It’s just fluff.
What I noticed in the text is just one little word that got me thinking. In the text we find a verbal exchange that takes place between Jesus and the blind man. You might remember it, but let’s look at it again. It begins with verse 41; 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” 43 Immediately he regained his sight…
What I want you to notice in this text is that the man told Jesus he wanted to see again.
The use of the word “again” implies to me that the man had been able to see at one time, but now had lost his sight for whatever reason.
It doesn’t matter if you look at this text in a literal sense, or take the lesson metaphorically, the idea is that the man who had lost his sight, could see again. From a certain perspective, he was granted a mulligan!
This idea becomes particularly helpful if we look at the text in a metaphorical context. How many times have you felt like you have lost your way? How many times have you made the same mistakes over and over again? How many times has your vision of what is healthy and productive for you grown cloudy over time and you have become blind to what you should be doing? This is essentially the human condition. We grow blind over time to what is good and right and just; the man asked Jesus to be able to see again. His vision had diminished over time.
I think this is an important concept, so I began to look for this pattern in other parts of scripture and once I looked I found it all over the place! Let me give you just a couple of hints. In the story of the prodigal son, the elder son is disgruntled because the father throws a party for the younger who had acted badly. The elder son complains that he has been doing what is expected all this time and the father had never given him a party. The father responds to the elder son by saying that this son of mine was dead, but is now alive again! There’s that word again. The father said they had to celebrate, because he was gone, but now he is back again!
There are lots of references like this, but I will give you just one more. In the Gospel of Mark, we find a story where Jesus is healing a blind man also. This time he touches the man’s eyes and asks him if he can see. The man responds he can see people sort of, but they look like trees walking, so Jesus touches him again… and then he can see clearly. Jesus had to do it twice. This story is found in Mark 8: 22-26.
My take on all this is we don’t always have to get it right the first time; or even the second time. There is great power in the word again. Part of the message of Jesus is that we get to try again when we mess up. We get to ask Jesus to let us see again when we have grown blind to what is really important. We can employ the word “again” over and over and over until we get it right. Jesus grants us a mulligan anytime and every time we need one. All we have to do is ask.
The conversation in the text I read makes this clear. Jesus said to the blind man “what can I do for you” and the blind man responded by saying he would like to see again.
Whatever it was in his life that he had lost focus of, whatever it was that he could no longer see, whatever it was that had caused him to lose sight of his priorities, he asked Jesus to let him see again. And we can do the same.
In a few moments we will be celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion. We, as United Methodists, celebrate this ritual about once a month. Usually, it only takes about a month for some of us to lose sight of some of our priorities, to lose sight of what is truly important, to lose sight of what is our higher calling. Communion is that chance to ask Jesus to let us see again.