A Day in Capernaum: Recovering the Sight of the Blind

Homes in Capernaum.
Homes in Capernaum.
This week in worship, we reflected on Luke 4:31-44.  Following are three vignettes of this day in Capernaum.

“‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.'”  Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.” (Luke 4:18-21, CEB)

Recovering the sight of the blind…a story from the crowd

They were all shaken and said to each other, “What kind of word is this, that he can command unclean spirits with authority and power, and they leave?” Reports about him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.

When the sun was setting, everyone brought to Jesus relatives and acquaintances with all kinds of diseases. Placing his hands on each of them, he healed them. Demons also came out of many people. They screamed, “You are God’s Son.” But he spoke harshly to them and wouldn’t allow them to speak because they recognized that he was the Christ. – Luke 4:36-37, 40-41 (CEB)

Word spread quickly that Jesus was back in town. I didn’t get a chance to see and hear him when he was in Capernaum before, so I arrived to synagogue early this morning. Jesus didn’t look like anyone special. I heard he was a carpenter. I’d believe that – he didn’t have the walk or build of someone who fished for a living. I guess that’s one of the differences between Nazareth and Capernaum. Jesus may have looked like a carpenter but he didn’t sound like one. He read and taught from the Scriptures like one who had been in yeshiva his whole life; he spoke with such knowledge and authority. But that wasn’t the only thing.

A man from another village was there; he was clearly agitated and uneasy. When Jesus was teaching, he yelled out at him saying he knew whom Jesus was and that Jesus had come to destroy us. Then Jesus rebuked the man and told him to be silent. But it wasn’t really the man Jesus spoke to harshly, but to the man’s words. Suddenly, the man was on the ground as if he had been hurled there by an unseen hand. But he wasn’t hurt. Actually, he never looked better. It was as if something dark was taken from him and been replaced with…peace.

Who has the power to do such a thing?

Later that day, I heard that Jesus had gone home with Peter’s family. The mother of Peter’s wife has been very sick. No one had seen her in days. But this afternoon, she was seen coming in and out of the house. She was well as suddenly as the man in the synagogue that morning. It was a miracle.

A miracle. I could use a miracle. My first-born, a daughter, once had a fever and lost her sight. It’s hard to look into those big brown eyes and not see any recognition. Her eyes used to sparkle and dance the way the sun does on a clear, early morning on the Sea of Galilee. But not anymore. What if Jesus could heal her the way he healed that man and Peter’s mother-in-law?

When the sun set, as soon as the Sabbath was over, I led Sarah by the hand to Peter’s house. I thought maybe Jesus would use his power on her, too. Maybe. When I got there, there was a crowd.   I guess everyone had the same idea. But Jesus was there, so we pressed closer to the house. When we got near Jesus I noticed his eyes. They were brown and full of life – like Sarah’s had been – and also full of compassion. I didn’t say anything, but Jesus knelt down, put his hands on either side of Sarah’s face and just looked into her eyes. And then, Sarah laughed.

What is difficult for you to believe about Jesus? Is it that Jesus lacks power or concern? Maybe it is that Jesus is a nice idea but not relevant to your everyday life. What blindness do you need to be healed of? Of what blindness have you already been healed?

Looking at the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum.
Looking at the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum.

When daybreak arrived, Jesus went to a deserted place. The crowds were looking for him. When they found him, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must preach the good news of God’s kingdom in other cities too, for this is why I was sent.” – Luke 4:42-43 (CEB)

Jesus demonstrates two final pieces of good news for us. The first is to find time to be alone and care for ourselves. This was often time Jesus used to pray, probably often to ask for wisdom for what was coming next. “We can’t give what we don’t have.” Allow yourself to accept this good news and find a few moments to be alone this week.

The second piece of good news is that it cannot be contained. The people of Nazareth tried to put it to death and the people of Capernaum thought that it must be held tightly. But the good news cannot be controlled by human will or effort. It must be proclaimed, it must be shared, for that is why it was sent. Whether we find ourselves in a place of unbelief of the goodness of God or the holding so tightly our belief is limited to the smallness of God, the good news is that God is both good and big.

 So Jesus continued preaching in the Judean synagogues. – Luke 4:44 (CEB)

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