Do you believe that I am able to do this? Matthew 9.28
A pair of men who are visually impaired see a golden opportunity – a teacher, whose reputation for performing miraculous healings is growing like wildfire, just happens to be passing by.
Approaching him, they cry out, “Have mercy on us,” calling out to him using a term that conjures up deep messianic connotations. The prophet Isaiah said that this much-expected Messiah would “open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf,” when “the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy” (Isa 35.5-6). The coming of the Messiah would mean a new day, not least for those who suffered the exclusion that comes from being marked down as disabled.
So, if Jesus really is the Messiah, the blind men reason, then he will have mercy on them; and they will gain have their sight. So their need – and its inner logic – drives them to faith. It’s interesting that – despite their lack of physical vision – they are apparently able to see far more clearly who Jesus is and what he is about than the vast majority of the sighted followers and hangers-on and observers.
The teacher is a busy man – he’s on a journey, he’s got places to go and people to see – but he stops along the way, perhaps to drop in on Matthew, his recent host in the area. They follow him inside as he escapes the the heat of the day.
It’s plainly evident that these men would like to be able to see… and that they are asking Jesus, believing him to be the Chosen One, to accomplish that. Now, inside the house, Jesus asks them an unexpected, but critical, question.
Do they believe that the thing they seek is actually possible – at least for Jesus? It is one thing to turn to God because you need to see the impossible happen. It is another thing to turn to God because you believe that in him there is no such thing as impossibility.
There is a difference between a cry of desperation – grasping at anything because you have nothing to lose and you’ve lost all hope – and a cry of faith – believing that the wholeness you are seeking is, despite all evidence to the contrary, possible with the Eternal. In posing this question, Jesus not only draws out the implications of their petition regarding himself, but helps them clarify their perception of where the horizon of possibility lies.
Their simple answer in the affirmative indicates that their faith is authentic and well-placed. Jesus could simply “said the word,” but he takes the time to respond to their faith by touching them, not only affirming their faith verbally, but affirming them personally through the connection of gentle physical contact – something that could not have been done without Jesus having “taken on human form.”
(As an aside, I have heard and read many musings on the subject of the meaning of the “doctrine of the incarnation,” many deeply theological and philosophical. Might a significant reason for the incarnation be that God simply wants to touch people?)
Practically everyone we encounter in our daily lives is carrying a list of things that they would like to see happen, that they would like to believe CAN happen. As we interact with those in our path, we can ask these sorts of question to draw out from them the nature of their perception of the realm of the possible. What COULD God do? Are your problems too big for God? Are you open to what could be?
What do you believe needs to happen? Do you have it in you to believe that God can do what needs to be done?
We have the ability to use questions to help others unpack their concerns, fears and the limits of what they are ready to believe. You cannot commit yourself fully to anything (be it Jesus, your goals in life or work, happiness in your marriage, your own recovery) if you cannot honestly believe – even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles – that it is not impossible.
My son wrote a very touching essay this week about how his desire for – and belief in – the possibility of embracing nature by surfing the breaks again, kept him going. My conviction that nature is not a brute fact, but displays the hand and mind of the Creator, allows me to see and uncritically celebrate his embrace of life, even though we interpret it differently.
What keeps you going? Do you – can you – believe that what you desire can be done?