Believing Is Seeing
No, I didn’t get it wrong. I know we usually say it the other way round: “Seeing is believing.” We say it even though we know we can’t always trust our eyes. Different people can be looking at exactly the same scene and see completely different things. Imagine three people with different occupations seeing a man snatch a woman’s purse. The artist will give you an accurate physical description, including—in full color—what the man wore. The track coach will miss the physical description entirely, but tell you all about the man’s running style. The handbag manufacturer will also miss the physical description, but describe the purse down to the last stitch. Our “seeing” is affected by our bias—what we bring to the scene.
Thomas was one who had to see to believe. Remember that first Easter night? Jesus had appeared to the disciples while Thomas was not there. When he returned, the others all crowded excitedly around him, announcing, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas responded, “It doesn’t matter what you saw. If I don’t see for myself, I won’t believe.” We know what happened next. Jesus appeared again eight days later, and Thomas believed. Jesus’ comment to him is instructive. He said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
There are several stories in the gospels of healings that were initiated by Jesus—that is, Jesus healed someone without the person first asking. The healing of the demoniac in the tombs which Mark recounts (5:1-20) is a good example. Surely the man didn’t believe in Jesus’ power to heal. His mind was not his own. He didn’t ask for healing. In fact, he didn’t even speak to Jesus in his own voice. Demons had so completely taken possession of this man that they spoke through him. It was only after Jesus had exorcised the demons that the man was able to sit “clothed and in his right mind.” Only then could he believe in Jesus’ power to heal. Only then could he see the possibilities of a life lived in freedom.
There are several stories about Jesus healing blind persons, people who believed in Jesus’ healing powers and as a result were able to gain their sight. The story that we have in the greatest detail is in the ninth chapter of John’s gospel.
Jesus and his disciples passed a blind man. His disciples automatically associated his condition with sin. Jesus set them straight, and then went about healing the man.
Once the healing was completed the story took an interesting turn. The Pharisees were furious because Jesus had healed. In their eyes Jesus had worked on the Sabbath. They were all for throwing the man, and perhaps his parents, out of the synagogue—excommunicating them, using today’s terms. When they began to question the man, he said, “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” He believed. He saw.
One point of the story is that this man believed and saw while the Pharisees did not believe and continued in their spiritual blindness—an affliction much more devastating than the loss of physical sight. They were so blind that, rather than rejoicing in this man’s restoration to wholeness, they cast him out of their presence—cut him off from the fellowship of the synagogue.
In our own time, Sidney E. Cox wrote the hymn, This One Thing I Know, using the blind man’s words as the basis for the chorus. As the man recognized Jesus’ power to restore his physical sight, those of us who have committed our lives to Christ recognize Jesus’ power to restore our spiritual sight. We believe. We see.