by Pastor Scott Yi
I recently had to go see the oral surgeon. My teeth are really bad. My dental history is just ridiculous. I've had to get probably a dozen fillings over the years. There was one time when my tooth just FELL OUT while I was watching TV at home. Now the most annoying part isn’t having dental problems, it gets truly annoying when complications arise from trying to get those problems fixed! Time and time again, I would need to get some work done, but then there'd be some kind of complication. I’ve had complications with my root canal, complications with my wisdom teeth, and now, I’m dealing with just the latest one.
I was in the middle of getting a crown put on one of my teeth. But one complication that can happen with a crown is if the gumline is too high. Your gums can actually get in the way of the crown staying in place. That happened to me, so I had to go get a procedure done called a “crown lengthening.” As far as oral surgeries go, a crown lengthening is definitely something you hope never happens to you. It sounds like it's going to be a simple operation, a harmless procedure… it’s not. What it actually means is that they carve out the gums around your tooth, and then they stitch your gums back together.
Now while I was lying there in the dentist chair, I was having these random thoughts floating through my mind. My mouth was numbed up pretty good, but my eyes were wide open, as I saw all the tubes and surgical knives and sharp objects that they were putting inside of my mouth. So I was thinking about what must be going on, on the other side of my mouth, just a few inches away. It must be horribly violent, blood coming out everywhere. All of this happening right under my nose, and yet, I can't see ANY of it. I only have one angle of view, from my perspective on that chair. I don't have the whole picture. I can't see what the surgeon sees. Fortunately, the surgery doesn't take too long. He finishes up by stitching my gums back together and says that everything went well. But as I head home, I'm still curious about what exactly he was doing. So the first chance I get, I see if I can YouTube it. See if I can find any medical videos on crown lengthening. As you might expect, the videos are cringe inducing, to say the least. It's even more violent than I had imagined. Chunks of flesh, being sliced, peeled, and scraped off. It's a good thing that normal people don't get to see the whole process.
Spiritual growth is just like that. We only have a limited perspective of what's going on in our lives. We only have one angle of view, from the operating table. It's God that sees the whole picture and knows how much more work we're really going to need, if we hope to be fixed. And just like when it comes to surgery, there are complications that come along. Change doesn't happen as easily as we would have hoped. The process ends up taking much, much longer, and it ends up being much more expensive than we would ever have imagined. Spiritual growth is a process. And the key to that process is that we have to be willing to let God do the work he needs to do in us.
Mark 8:22-26 is a story about a blind man needing a second touch from Jesus. It’s a great example of how change ends up taking longer than we would expect. This is a miracle story with complications. Of all the stories of Jesus healing in the Gospels, this is the only recorded incident in which restoration does not happen instantly.
So why did Jesus need to give the man a second touch? The clues are there in the text. One of the themes that we often do see in Mark's Gospel is the difficulty faith. Throughout his stories, Mark emphasizes how much faith is needed in order for miracles to happen. It seems that this blind man had trouble trusting in what Jesus was be able to do for him. Maybe he didn't even know who Jesus was, since after all, it was his friends who arranged the whole meeting. Secondly, Jesus uses his spit to heal the man. Now that seems strange to us as modern readers, since we think of spit as something that's gross or a rude habit. But it was just the opposite during biblical times. Romans and Jews both believed that saliva had healing properties, so it was often used in ancient medical practices. And technically, it's true. Some of the enzymes in your saliva actually are antibacterial, so the idea of licking your wounds, for example, actually works. Now of course Jesus doesn't need to use medicinal agents in order to help people. But he WILL use whatever is available, in order for us to trust in him more. You might have felt Jesus speaking to you at unexpected times, whether it’s through a song, a TV show, or a word from a friend.
A lot of us are just like the blind man in this story. We need a second touch from Jesus. We need him to take us through the next phase of our spiritual growth. It doesn't matter how young or how old you are: in this life, spiritual growth will always be a process. The key is to let God do his work in you. Maybe you’re not even sure what you really believe. I think it's ok to be honest about that. It's fine if you don't see your future clearly yet, if things look a bit blurry. We're all facing complications. Just make sure that you're not allowing yourself to be stuck, in that place of frustration. You don't have to stay in your depression, when Jesus WANTS to give your life a second touch.
There are some of us that have been burned by the local church. I know, I'm one of them. I know people who are scared to even step foot inside of a church, because of how badly they were betrayed. Ask God for a second touch. I know there are others here, who are dealing with the complications of your relationships. It's times like these that your vision seems to be at its blurriest. You're not sure of what the future holds. You're not sure if you're making the right decisions. You're not sure how much longer you can keep going. You just want to give up and leave all the drama behind you. Ask Jesus for a second touch.
Now the interesting thing about Mark 8 is that the entire chapter is about blindness. That's another one of the things that Mark does well, he fits his stories together and tries to make you see the overarching message. Throughout these stories, we see the disciples’ lack of faith. About how their spiritual understanding is so, so slow. EVERY time they get something right, the next thing they do is screw it all up. It sounds exactly like me. When you make the decision to follow Jesus, it doesn't mean things are going to come easy. We, as Christians, are no less in need of healing. In fact, we need that second touch even more. Because what happens as a believer is you begin to see just how far off you really are from the standard of Jesus. It takes such a long time before we can really form a picture of what God is doing in our lives.
Remember, we don't get to see things the way the surgeon gets to see things. We don't get to see all the complicated work that needs to be done: on our emotions, on our attitudes, on our beliefs. We don't get to see all the wounds that need to be repaired inside of our hearts. Jesus is doing major surgery on you, right now. It's ugly work, and it's going to take some time.