They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” (Matthew 20:33)
These two blind men had a truly startling encounter with the Saviour. It’s a remarkable testimony to the love and compassion of the Father in Jesus that He so often steps out from the clamouring of the crowd and focuses His all in a single moment on those we would least expect Him to notice in the bustle. Admittedly, these fellows were loud and persistent and they seemed to know exactly what they wanted. They did what they had to do to draw His attention, and what they received was so much more than their expection.
It’s all too easy to tie prayer down to the physical, fleshly realm and to forget the critical truth that nothing in this universe exists without first existing in the spiritual. To understand this, we only need to look at creation. God spoke what He saw, i.e. that which already existed within Himself in eternity. Keep in mind that eternity is not limited to the ‘forever’ which implies from this point on and without end. But – and this is important – It also works ‘backwards.’ The ‘beginning of time,’ as we think of it, is merely the physical manifestation of what already existed spiritually within the knowledge of God.
The physical realm is therefore the reflection of what exists and happens in the spiritual realm. Because we are ‘finite’ creatures, created to dwelly in a body of flesh, we therefore need a physical, temporal and spatial environment. On one level, we are limited to the here and now and can only remember the past and imagine the future. But we have that essential life within us, the spirit which is the very breath of God breathed into each one of us, and our spirits exist in a spiritual reality. This is the ‘true arena’ in which God intends us to function. In the spirit, we have the ability to reach the spiritual realm and to impact the physical through our spiritual interaction.
Through Christ and the Holy Spirit in us, this dual existence is resolved. We live in the world but by the Spirit. It is the Spirit, infused in our spirits, that enable us to live the spiritual life and rise above the flesh to life in Christ. This phenomenon is beautifully illustrated in today’s story of the two blind men. In every single situation, there is only one rescuer. We must, no matter what, bring our problem to Jesus. There is no doubt that He is willing to meet us face to face.
The difficulty comes in with our perception of things. When circumstances weigh heavily and the situation batters at us, the natural response is to ‘shorten’ our vision. We develop a kind of instinctual blindness, in which we can only see what’s in our faces and the physical ramifications and issues. In this, we are no different that our blind friends. Like them, we know to seek Jesus whatever the obstacles, but we’re limiting our vision to the physical. The result is that our prayers become fleshly – not through lack of faith or commitment, but simply because, in the moment, we’ve been rendered temporarily and selectively blind.
This is the issue that Jesus addresses immediately. He askes them right off what it is they want from Him, and this is essentially the same question we can expect when we come to Him. It seems superfluous, an unnecessary question. They’re blind and He’s the Healer. How much more obvious could it be? But Jesus is highlighting some critical underlying truths in the asking.
First, He’s essentially asking whether they’re clear on what they’re asking for. Remember, in trying to get His attention, they were yelling and calling out that He should have mercy on them. An excellent cry, for this is the universal cry of mankind when reaching out to God, and it will touch His heart. But it’s not essentially a request. It’s a surrender to His greater power. It’s an acknowledgement that He is in control and that we are utterly dependent of His grace and mercy. There need was great, but the message here is that, when we come to Jesus in supplication, we need to be very clear as to what we want Him to do.
We need to be clear, firstly, for ourselves. This means examining both our motives and our expectations. So often, we accuse God of unfaithfulness or slide into unbelief because our requests are vague and even impractical, or because they lower God to the level of a divine vending machine to dispense quick, easy solutions like band aids. This question is critical, because it compels us to step back and evaluate our needs and their consequences, as well as our relationship and expectations of God. If our faith, in that moment, is weak, this is the time to pause and address it, to find renewed and strengthened faith in Him even before we move on to the ‘real’ issue.’
The second truth is that every single event, circumstance and situation exists in a ‘dual reality.’ We may overlook the spiritual but God has structured our universe such that we cannot exclude its existence. It remains true even if we ignore it. The result of this is that every question effectively has two answers – the one that exists in the knowledge of God on an eternal spiritual level and its manifestation in the physical realm. It is the desire of God that these two should be perfectly parallel. The problem is that ‘me’ so often gets in the way. The physical limitations that I impose, albeit inadvertently, limit the full manifestation of the spiritual answers to my prayer.
God does not respond to ‘physical’ prayer, i.e. the actual words, thoughts and desires that we speak to Him. He responds only to our spirits. We may kneel in worship, for example, and that is indeed a physical act. But the kneeling is not the worship – the communion with God – but only the physical expression of what is going on in our spirits. So I can pray long and hard with great crying out and physical distress, but it will bring little response if the spirit is not fully engaged. God hears the cry of my heart, not the cry of my mouth.
And this raises the prickly issue of whether or not my spirit is fully engaged. It is so very easy to get drowned in the here and now and lose sight of the fact that God’s primary purpose in every situation is, first and foremost, a spiritual one. We are being taught, trained, changed and transformed in preparation for the eternal and spiritual existence with Him. Every circumstance forms part of this. Every situation is a step towards perfection in Christ. Every problem must first be dealt with spritually, and we will then see the results manifesting physically. Answers to prayer ‘overflow’ as it were from the spiritual to the physical.
This is the truth that makes their response so relevant. It’s the prayer that we should pray before we pray anything else – open my eyes. The inference is that they desire to see. On the surface, it’s physical all the way. But think for a moment of the consequences of this – they had no meaningful life, were outcasts, second-rate members of the community, lived in poverty, were reduced to begging, and generally regarded as not worthy of notice, let alone healing. The people tried, after all, to get them to stop their crying out to Christ.
Jesus highlights this so clearly. In every situation, it’s absolutely critical that our spiritual eyes are opened, that we see what He wants us to see, that we learn and allow ourselves to be transformed. That does not mean that we don’t ask for physical or material things. It means that, whatever we ask for, it should always be from a spiritual perspective and in a spiritual context. Seeing things in the spirit enables us to align our requests to the will of God, and that is when the expectations meet the answers to our prayers. When we see what God sees, we ask what God purposes and the spiritual reality transforms the physical. It never ever operates the other way round.
The last phrase of this wonderful story is particularly telling: and they followed Him. It’s a very simple and utterly logical thing. Right relationship brings right prayer which brings right answers, which in turn brings right relationship – we follow Him. We follow His life, His sacrifice, His love, His compassion, His relationship with the Father, His obedience to the Father…the list is endless, but the essential truth remains.
The problem lies in our response to it. Most times, it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable to have our spiritual eyes opened. We’d much rather limit ourselves to the physical and avoid the challenge of spritual growth. But this story is a beautiful illustration of Matthew 6:33:
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
The Bible tells us that the people perish for lack of knowledge, and today’s story provides an example of one of the ways in which we compromise the full manifestation of the grace of God in our lives. Knowing the Word is not enough. We have to live the Word and live in the Word, i.e. have our spiritual eyes open and be willing to see everything from God’s perspective. Living in Christ is living in the Spirit. It means living first in the spiritual reality of eternity – God Himself – and allowing that to overflow and transform the physical. Courage is not crying out to Christ. It’s being willing to see.
Lord, open our eyes today. Help us to see with our spirit rather than from our weak and trembling physical perspective. Things continually try to drag us down and distract our focus from You, and we ask Your forgiveness for those times that we fall or give in to desires that are not of You. In all things, help us to seek You first, not just the blessings but the Truth. Open our eyes to You, Lord, so that we may follow You in all things.