When will we cure blindness

August 26, 2007: Prof. Dr. Wilfried Härle on Mk 8.22-26


Sermon on Mark 8: 22-26

University service on the 12th Sunday after Trinity, August 26, 2007

Peterskirche Heidelberg




"The God of Peace be with you all"


Dear Congregation,

"The miracle is the dearest child of faith", Goethe lets his Faust say. That may have been true 200 years ago when these words were written, although by the end of the Enlightenment the belief in miracles had already become quite questionable and problematic for many people. In the meantime, many people - outside and inside the churches, under and in the pulpit - have rather difficulties with the miracle stories, including those that are copiously handed down in the New Testament. From the dearest child, miracles in our Central, Western and Northern European culture have developed into the stepchild, or more precisely (since stepchildren can also be very beloved children) into the unloved of faith. And this is especially true when they come across as strange, archaic and strange, as is the case in our sermon text from Mark 8, 22-26 today:

“And they came to Betsaida. And they brought a blind man to him and asked him to touch him.

And he took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village, put saliva on his eyes, put his hands on him and asked him: Do you see anything?

And he looked up and said, I see people as if I were seeing trees walking about. Then he put his hands on his eyes again. Then he saw clearly and was readjusted so that he could see everything clearly.

And he sent him home and said: Do not go into the village! "

What a bizarre story, in which at least three peculiarities and peculiarities stand out pretty quickly and make you think, ask, maybe even smile:

- The fact that sick people are brought to Jesus because other people hope and ask for healing for them also occurs elsewhere in the New Testament (see Mark 2, 1-12). But it is unusual that Jesus does not heal the blind man who has been brought to him where he is and in front of everyone, but that he takes him by the hand and him out in front of the village leads. Does he shy away from the public? And if so, why? Does he want to be unobserved? Doesn't he want others to see what he's doing and how he's doing it? Does he have something to hide? Is there anything wrong in the end? What strange secrecy !?

- Jesus does not heal the blind man by speaking a powerful word that will make the disease go away, but he does pretends to be wordless something, actually two things: he puts saliva on his eyes and puts his hands on him. This use of saliva as a remedy or miracle drug, which is aesthetically not entirely unproblematic for many people, raises the question of whether we are actually witnessing a miracle or an ancient medical treatment in this story, which was already used in antiquity (and to this day). known knowledge about the healing, immunological effects of saliva is used and applied. Or is this alternative, whether it is a miracle or medical treatment is involved, an incorrectly worded alternative? Could it - according to the biblical and today's conception - be both at the same time? In fact, even today many people say after a healing treatment that, contrary to expectations, went well: “That was a real miracle. The doctors had already given up on me. If I had not met Professor XY, I would no longer be able to walk today or would not be alive at all ”. Isn't it because of the attitude of patients and doctors whether there is a healing process just as medical therapy or also is experienced and understood as a miracle?

- Finally, the strangest thing, undoubtedly, and completely unique in the New Testament: the healing does not work properly - at least not right away. The healed man, if you may call him that, does not see properly at first, he sees everything very blurred, so that the people appear to him like trees running around. As if Jesus chose the wrong dose. How embarrassing! Did Jesus make a malpractice here? In any case, he has to start again and make improvements. And only when he made a second attempt did the healing work - thank God - and this time even very well: The blind man "was put back in order so that he could see everything clearly". But is such a 'breakdown' compatible with the work of a miracle worker?

If you let these peculiarities sink in, you might get the idea that it would be better not to pass such an incident in silence and not tell anyone about it. This is what Matthew and Luke must have thought, although they took almost all of the miracle stories from the Gospel of Mark and passed them on, but these (and two or three other similar ones) Not. Even the secrecy of Jesus, then the use of saliva by Jesus, especially the mishap during the first attempt at healing, were evidently so uncomfortable and offensive to them that they preferred to forego passing on this story altogether.

Anyone who, then or now, has difficulties with such a narrative, but cannot (or does not want to) eliminate or suppress it, since Markus passed it on (and it is proposed as a sermon text for the twelfth Sunday after Trinity), will of course still have this Possibility of them symbolic to interpret. Then the physical ailments become codes for mental or spiritual blindness or deafness, for the inability to speak, which is not caused by a physical defect, but e.g. B. through a deep-seated, unprocessed inhibition, perhaps through a feeling of guilt or an early childhood injury that has silenced a person. And so let yourself be all Also understand or interpret miracle stories of the New Testament symbolically, metaphorically, i.e. in a figurative sense. And that we are not misinterpreting them, but that in the New Testament they are already - also - New Testament research has long recognized and worked out wanting to be understood in this way.

Our story in particular is a prime example of this. The author of the Gospel of Mark has placed it between two other narratives that deal with the inner, spiritual and spiritual blindness and the inner, spiritual and spiritual seeing of the disciples. Jesus asks his disciples in the preceding story (Mark 8, 17-19):

“Do you not yet understand and do you not yet understand? Do you still have a hardened heart within you? Have eyes and do not see, and have ears and do not hear? "

And the story, which immediately follows the story of the healing of the blind, is about how the disciples finally become sighted, whose eyes have opened and who now recognize who Jesus really is when Peter says on their behalf: “You are the Christ! ”(Mark 8:29).

No question about it: the miracle stories already have a twofold, literal and symbolic meaning in the New Testament. They are about how Jesus helps people who are in physical, physical need, and they are about how people learn to understand, recognize and align their life and their world anew in the light of the holiness, mercy and love of God.

The reference to this symbolic meaning only becomes problematic when it turns into a squeeze on the question of the historical reality of miracles, a pinch and evasion of the historical question of truth. But it is precisely this that makes the story of the healing of the blind from Mark 8 - together with some other miracle stories - actually superfluous and in some respects even impossible. Had such stories been thought up and invented merely to emphasize the importance and divine dignity of Jesus, i.e. to increase his prestige and honor, then they would not have turned out as we find them, and early Christianity would undoubtedly have been more impressive, more convincing to come up with more impressive stories. No, here we come across texts that clearly show in their fragility and problematic nature that they are on real physical experiences and experiences refer and make something visible of the healing, liberating and life-saving powers that must have emanated from the person of Jesus. These texts are different and the effect of his person on the people living at the time cannot be understood or explained differently.

But now the striking thing: Jesus, and this is a continuous feature in almost all miracle stories, made his miracles journalistic nothing done. As a rule, they end with a command of silence, and even at the end of our story there is not the - in itself and especially for us so obvious - request to return to the village and to give the people (especially those who brought him to Jesus) the impressive To present the results of the healing and to let them participate in it so that as many as possible become followers or even disciples of Jesus. No: He sends him home with the express request: “Don't go into the village!” The hair of a church representative for public relations would stand on end if he had to listen to and watch it.

However this mystery and silence motif is ultimately to be understood and explained, it is an indication that the healing and saving power with which people come into contact through the person of Jesus is one that originates from, proceeds from God, with God is a connecting force that cannot withstand sensational advertising, glaring publicity, or public spectacle, because it is misunderstood and suffers damage as a result. Anyone who brings it to the public eye and wants to market it as a new success story will damage it or even destroy it. That is why it is still a good and reliable criterion for the differentiation of spirits to ask how - loud or quiet, screaming or cautious, grandiose or humble - people deal with the healing powers that have been bestowed upon them.

And precisely when this does not cause a sensation from outside, but when people tend to be shy and discreet with their gifts in this regard and protect them from the spotlight of the public, the second, the symbolic, symbolic, metaphorical meaning of such wonderful and unlock wonderful experiences. Then it is not a 'trick' if the miracle stories are also understood as references to experiences of forgiveness, liberation, perspective and encouragement and in this Senses are designated or interpreted as healing and saving miracles of God. And it is precisely then that the deeper meaning of the miracle stories also becomes apparent for people who are not physically blind, dumb, deaf, lame or leper or who suffer from another ailment.

In this symbolic respect, two messages have become important to me in the preparation of this sermon:

- God's healing, correcting, saving work on people can go through whole everyday, unspectacular, earthly Things happen: through saliva and the laying on of hands, through immersion in a river (as we heard in the altar reading from 2 Kings 5: 1-3 and 9-14), through an attentive conversation that opens up new perspectives, through a friendly gesture , a good book, an impressive film. I remember a little amusing and at the same time thought-provoking anecdote that one of my sons brought home from his community service in the hospital years ago. His duties included measuring blood pressure, and he did it with his own cheerful, affectionate manner. When he came back to one of the sickrooms several hours after taking an elderly patient's measurement, an elderly patient said to him: “So you know, taking my blood pressure this morning was so good for me. I'm feeling much better now ”. From a medical point of view it is of course to laugh (or smile), but seen holistically it expresses something of a great hunger for closeness and touch and of the great - or should one rather say: deep - effects that small gestures and touches for People who are hungry for affection and closeness. And why should such an experience not turn into a small and concrete experience of God for a person? If people have the feeling that nothing of the work of God can be felt in their life, then this can also be due to the fact that they are too fixated on the extraordinary, the unique, the spectacular and thus cannot perceive what is given to them in everyday life, that they gain courage to live, gain confidence, gain support or a healing perspective. To be able to perceive that is itself - understood symbolically - a Healing miraclethrough which our inner blindness is overcome and we become one Look and seeing eyes gain for God's reality and work in our life.

- God's healing, correcting, saving work on people can happen to them not all at once) what they have hoped or asked for from God and need for their lives is given. Perhaps the inner, spiritual healing of a person begins with him only slightly - still indistinct, indefinite, fuzzy - recognizes, but not everything yet, that him justsomething is granted, but stillnot everything, that him justsomething succeeds, but stillnot everything. That can easily be disappointing, and I have occasionally met people who had come into internal contact with the Christian faith and had gained the conviction or hope that everything in their life could become good and the power of evil from the heart and life disappeared. But then after a while they had to experience that it is not like that. The old weaknesses and dangers reappear, the old wounds and injuries break open again, the inveterate bad habits and mistakes make themselves felt again and again. It has gotten different and better in my life, but not everything has turned out well. Anyone who discovers this can be disappointed turn away or give up on it resign. But both of these do not lead any further. On the other hand, it is helpful to stick to the change, renewal and healing process that has started, to let yourself be touched and touched again - and not just a second time, but again and again - by the healing powers that have become noticeable for a person. "A Christian is not in the process of becoming, but always in the process of becoming," Luther once said. And in the wake of this insight, the evangelical church and theology speaks of the Christian as a person who is “at the same time righteous and sinner” (“simul iustus et peccator”) - on the way and not yet at the Destination, but on the way to the goal that says, "He was put right again".

And the peace of God, which is higher than all reason, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus - on this way to this goal. Amen

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