Scripture: Mark 8:22-36; John 4:3-34; Acts 8:26-38
Leading Question: Why doesn’t Jesus fix everything and everyone at once?
Comment: This lesson brings together a wide diversity of people whom Jesus helped. Some got on the right path almost immediately, and never looked back. Others had to wander for a while. Indeed, in one tantalizing story Jesus healed a blind man in two stages. Let’s focus on some lessons we can learn from Jesus in these stories.
Question: Why did Jesus heal the blind man in two step? Why not all at once.
Comment: The story in Mark 8:22-26 is the only recorded miracle from Jesus which required two steps to bring full restoration. The man was brought to Jesus by his friends. Did both the friends and the blind man need to learn patience? Perhaps. The Bible simply does not say. When Jesus first touched the blind man’s eyes, the man saw people in a haze – “like trees, walking.”
Included in the list of people whom touched in one way or another in this less are some who needed more than two touches. Peter is the most notable example. He responded immediately to Jesus’ call (Matt. 4:18-20). But Peter’s life from there was a wild ride. As Jesus approached end of his ministry some three years later, Peter could be absolutely confident of his own loyalty – then hours later deny his Lord three times. Why couldn’t Jesus fix him the first time? Spiritually, Peter was like the blind man who needed he second touch, and a third, and a fourth.
Question: When Jesus met the Samaritan woman (John 4:3-34), how did her Jesus’ attitude and her vibrant witness affect the disciples?
Comment: When the disciples came back and found Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman, they must have been shocked. Not only was he speaking with a woman, but with a Samaritan, a despised minority to whom hostility was deeply rooted. The story of the origins of that hostility is vividly recorded in 2 Kings 17. To be brief, these people had been transplanted to Judah by the kings of Assyria. They learned to worship Yahweh, but never gave up the worship of their own gods.
Years later when the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon, the Samaritans offered to help rebuild the temple (see Ezra 4). But Zerubbabel and the rest of the Jewish leaders would have nothing to do with them. So the Samaritans left and became troublemakers They never did integrate into mainstream Judaism.
So here was Jesus intentionally going through Samaria. And Jesus would not let the matter rest. He also told a story about the “good” Samaritan who helped the wounded Jew who had been robbed (Luke 10:30-37). A priest and a Levite had walked by and refused to help. But the Samaritan saw him “and was moved to pity.” Without hesitation he helped the Jew. Luke also records a story of 10 lepers whom Jesus healed but only one returned to thank Jesus. The disciples were getting the kind of lesson about “foreigners” that America desperately needs to hear today.
Comment: Andrew to the rescue. In lesson #1 this quarter, Andrew was listed among the introverts who were quiet but effective witnesses for Jesus. Three times the Gospel of John records how Andrew was bringing someone to Jesus: his own brother Peter (John 1:40, 41), the little boy with the 5 loaves and 2 fish (John 6:5-11), and the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus (John 12:20-26). A follower of Jesus doesn’t need to be flashy. Like Andrew, Jesus’ followers can bring people to Jesus.
Providence to the rescue. Our lesson records two dramatic instances when Providence intervened to point Paul and also Philip in the right direction: Paul came to Troas to preach Christ but also to find his brother Titus. Paul was so troubled when he couldn’t find Titus that he came to the conclusion that God wanted him to go on to Macedonia, which he did (2 Cor. 2: 12-13).
As for Philip, an angel told him to head to south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. He went and had the encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). The conclusion of the story is remarkable: “He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing” (NRSV).
Sometimes in our modern world we are a bit squeamish about miracles. I continue to be intrigued by C. S. Lewis perspective on providence:
I will not believe in the Managerial God and his general laws. If there is Providence at all, everything is providential and every providence is a special providence. It is an old and pious saying that Christ died not only for Man but for each man, just as much as if each had been the only man there was. Can I not believe the same of this creative act – which, as spread out in time, we call destiny or history? It is for the sake of each human soul. Each is an end. Perhaps for each beast. Perhaps even each particle of matter – the night sky suggests that the inanimate also has for God some value we cannot imagine. His ways are not (not there, anyway) like ours. – C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, 55
To believe in “providence” is thoroughly biblical, regardless what the spirit of the age might have to say about it.