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27. Goat: A Detour in Conversion

 

Chapter 27

Goat: A Detour in Conversion

Matthew 25:31-46

Eric H. H. Chang

December 6, 1981

 

“When the Son of man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations and he will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the sheep at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you welcomed me; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger, and welcomed you, or naked and clothed you? And when did we see you sick, or in prison and visit you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me; naked and you did not clothe me; sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” And they also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Summary of previous teaching

Today, we turn to Matthew 25:31-46, and continue to study this passage again. We have previously touched on the following points:

1. Jesus commands the church to have obedience of faith to love

The first was the fundamental presupposition necessary for understand­ing this passage, namely, that the Lord Jesus teaches that God envisioned the church to be a community committed to loving one another. That love in the church is not optional. It is not something that you can “take it or leave it” as you please. Love in the church is the greatest and new commandment that the Lord Jesus speaks of (Mt. 22:37-40; Jo. 13:34), and failure to obey that command is to break the whole law. As James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, has become guilty of breaking all of it.” And in breaking the very spirit of all law, one is therefore in rebellion against God.

This means that faith, love and obedience cannot be separated in the Bible. To say that you have faith, but you are disobedient is nonsense. To say that you are obedient, but you don’t love is also nonsense. To say that you love, but you don’t have faith is an impossibility. Where there is love, there must be faith, because you can only obey to love by the power of God. These three things are so united in the Bible that they cannot be separated. So the fundamental presupposition in this passage is that, the new community of God is a new and wonderful society of people, who live under God’s government, God’s command to love. And it is only on this presupposition, that there is any sense in talking about, “because you did not do this to one of the least of these my brethren, you are out of the kingdom altogether”!

1 John 3:14 is saying virtually the same thing as in this passage: “Hereby we know that we have passed from death and entered into life because we love the brethren.” This love for the brethren becomes the criterion by which we know whether or not we have passed from death to life. Or put in the parabolic language of this section of the Lord Jesus’ teaching, that determines whether we are a sheep or a goat.

2. A change to genuine love by God’s power, is essential

The second point we saw is that this section of the Lord Jesus’ teaching shows that a change of the character is essential. We cannot love unless the Holy Spirit sheds abroad the love of God into our hearts. Love is a commitment in the Bible that has nothing to do with like or dislike. We love the person we dislike, because we are under the command to love. But to love in this way—contrary to our own likes and dislikes—is only possible by a change of character.

That is why we saw that this is not a “salvation by works”. We are not saved by giving somebody something to eat, or by giving him something to wear, because these actions are only meant to be manifestations of a genuine love. And this genuine love comes by a transformation of the character. That is, unless God’s power comes into your life and changes you, so that you become a different kind of person, who genuinely does these things because it is part of your character, you simply cannot love. And you, like the sheep in this passage, do these actions of genuine love for God, not even remembering you did them. When such people are told that they did this and that they said, “Is that so? I don’t remember having done these things.” It’s because you don’t keep an account of what you do out of your character. As the Chinese say, “你不计较.” And it is also because some of these things are so far back in history. Maybe you can remember more recent incidents, but one cannot remember things that are a couple of years back. One doesn’t even bother to remember.

If somebody insults you, you don’t remember it either. Someone once told me that he wrote me a very nasty letter some years before, severely criticizing me. I said, “Did you write me that letter?” He said, “Yes.” But I truly could not remember that he had written this nasty letter to me. Later on, as I stopped to think about it, it came back to my mind. You don’t keep an account of that. It doesn’t matter. After all, it doesn’t matter what a person thinks about you. You don’t have to keep an account of whether he thinks well or badly of you.

As Paul says, “forgetting the things which are behind”, I also forget the sins which I committed, because I have truly repented, and God has forgiven me. Not that I forget the lessons learned from those sad incidents, but I forget in the sense that these things don’t always have to be giving me a guilty conscience. God has forgiven me, and now I can have a clean conscience because of the blood of Christ.

But another thing Paul wants to forget is all his achievements that he gave up for God. It is very unhealthy to forever remember that “I gave up my profession for God, and I gave up a wonderful career for God, and I gave up all the other things for God.” Paul said, “These are like so much garbage that I have thrown away. They don’t matter anymore, and I don’t need to remember them anymore. I press on with full attention into the future.” Likewise for Christians who have chosen to serve God in a full-time capacity, they also don’t remember anymore whatever they achieved and gave up for Him. They have forgotten the things which are behind. Their whole life is geared to looking forward and what more they can do for God. That is one of the best cures for pride, otherwise we always think we gave up so much for God. It is not worth remembering because all that does is to give you pride, and pride is destructive for the Christian life.

As for others who never gave up much for God, they would be forever burdened with a guilty conscience. No, rather, they could look forward to seeing what they can accomplish for God from now on, by His grace.

So the second thing is the essential change of character to genuine love, which is accomplished by God’s power.

3. This change must be expressed in a genuine love

The third is the need to express this change of character in a genuine love. We express that love through showing publicly how much we love one another, whether by embracing one another, or by any other means that we can show this love. It is essential to let that love be seen so that all men will know that we are the Lord Jesus’ disciples.

Error: transformation from goat to sheep is gradual

We talked about the above three points in our exposition of the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, but we have by no means finished with the riches in this section. There are a number of questions that still remain to be answered.

One point we already discussed was that sheep and goats are in fact, members of the same family, although they are quite different in character. The parallel is very much like eagles and vultures, who are of the same family, but are very different in character. So we saw that this teaching of the Lord in parabolic language refers to Christians, or disciples. We saw that the goats represent people who got baptized and have become “Christians”; they had a true conversion but the change was not deep enough. They have not yet been sufficiently “conformed to the image of God’s Son,” to use Paul’s language.

But we must avoid a mistake, which is to think that if the change is not deep enough so that the person becomes a goat, further transform­ation from goat to sheep can be a very gradual process. That is to say, you sort of gradually move along and then you lose your horns, and somehow by a very gradual process, you become a sheep. The fact is, the change from goat to sheep itself is a manifestation of God’s transforming power.

I will try to illustrate this with some drawings on the overhead pro­jector. This is a picture of a sheep, and this is a picture of a goat, and here is a picture of a very cute dog. Now you must understand the imagery in the Bible is that the non-Christian is compared to a dog. This doesn’t mean that dogs are not cute. Looking at these pictures, it seems you would prefer the dog to the goat any day, and it is as cute as the sheep. This has nothing to do with whether dogs are nice or not nice. Often, a dog is really much more fun than sheep. Dogs can wag their tails, and sheep never wag their tails. When you throw a ball, dogs can bring it back to you, and no sheep ever does that. It’s no wonder that dogs are so popular.

But let us take a look at Revelation 22:15, which is talking about the New Jerusalem:

“Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

The language of the Bible is, outside the kingdom are the dogs. There are other places in the Bible which use this imagery. The dog, representing the non-Christian, is of course, from a completely different family from goats and sheep. Goats and sheep are the same family.

Goats are aggressive and individualistic

Now what happens is that when people become Christians, they can either become a sheep directly, or many people for one reason or another, and usually through a lack of commitment, end up being goats instead of sheep. Goats are far more aggressive and individualistic; they don’t have the spirit of meekness, co-operation and unity. The important trait we particularly look for in people who apply for disciple training is, whether a person is able to co-operate with others, or whether he is very individualistic. If he is very individualistic, he is likely to be a goat, not a sheep. The true Christian harmonizes very well with other people. He learns to put aside his own feelings and ways, to really seek to work in harmony with others. When this quality is lacking, even if this person is already in training, you will begin to realize that that person is unsuitable for God’s work, unless there is a dramatic change in that person’s life. Unfortunately, from time to time, it has happened where we have to ask the person to leave the training program altogether, until there is a real change in that person’s life, because we see there is a goat-like charact­eristic. If we keep people with this kind of goat-like characteristic within the Training Team, they will be bucking and kicking and creating all kinds of problems in the team as well as in the church. In each case, we find people like that have not yet allowed the transforming grace of God to come into their lives in such a way that their character has changed totally from the dog-like character. There is still the aggressiveness of the wolf within them.

The step from goat to sheep is as big as from dog/wolf to sheep

In fact, dogs in Bible days, were not like the dogs we have today. The dogs were semi-wild, and you still find that in Palestine today, the dogs are not approachable. You cannot pat them on the head because you are likely to have your hand badly bitten. They were much wilder than the ones you see nowadays, therefore they were more like the wolf. In fact, the non-Christian is even compared to the wolf. The Lord Jesus said to his disciples when he sent them out, “I am sending you out into the world among the non-Christians, and you will be like sheep among wolves” (Matthew 10:16).

Now the goat is no longer a wolf. He has already been changed, but not enough. God’s power has not been allowed to do a complete transforming work. The result is he ends up as a goat. This is most important for you to understand, because instead of becoming sheep, many people ended up becoming something related to the sheep. That is to say, they become some sort of a “Christian” but not yet a genuine Christian, not because they did not want to become a genuine Christian, but the problem is that they were not correctly taught in some cases, so that if your spiritual father were a goat, you are hardly likely to become a sheep. Goats give birth to goats. And in other cases, the problem is that they were correctly taught, but they were blinded by self-righteousness or reservation towards God, and still did not give God their absolute commitment.

Some people are so enthusiastic in evangelism, and evangelism is extremely good, but first, make sure what you are yourself. If for example, you have a church full of goats, then your spiritual children are going to be goats too. You are not going to get sheep from goats! That is the great problem. That is what the Lord Jesus was saying in Matthew 23:15 when he spoke to the Pharisees, “You are so enthusiastic in making converts that you go through land and sea to do so, but the result is that you made these people twice as worthy of hell as you are.” The Pharisees being themselves unspiritual, could not produce spiritual children. If you use another way of putting it, a disciple is not above his master. If the master is a goat, his disciples are going to be goats too. You cannot make sheep out of his disciples. He doesn’t even know what sheep are. So you have to be exceedingly careful. Before you rush out to do evangelism, what are you in the first place?

I am thinking of the inadequacy of teaching in many cases. They did not realize what is necessary for a total commitment in becoming a Christian. This means that many people ended up becoming goats. They have taken a big step to becoming a goat from a dog, and they have to take another step, just as big, to become a sheep. The result is that goats have to go through another spiritual experience before they become a sheep. This is what many Pentecostals were trying to say when they talked about “a second blessing,” but the result is that they ended up somewhere else in another corner, because of wrong exegesis of the Scriptures.

Let us take some examples that we may understand this point very, very clearly, and it is very important to understand.

John Wesley

We have a detailed spiritual account of John Wesley. John and Charles Wesley were brothers. John Wesley’s father was himself a minister of the church, apparently a godly man. His mother was a very godly woman from what accounts we have. Then John Wesley went to study at Oxford, and when he completed his studies there, he became a minister of the Church of England. He knew theology. He grew up in a Christian family. He was taught Christianity since his baby days; he virtually drank it in with his mother’s milk! Yet he himself was unconverted, as he knew. Even before he was converted, he was very zealous. He even went so far as to preach the gospel in Georgia, in the United States, and the Methodist Church he started was very powerful in the United States even to this day, but the spiritual foundation was not there. The result was, not until John Wesley himself was converted later on, did he realize that all along he was only a goat, not a sheep. He had to go through an experience of conversion before he became a sheep. Remember that he was a pastor, a minister of the gospel, who needed yet to be converted! Now what do you say? He was not a Christian at all? No. Did he not believe in God? Certainly he believed in God. Was he not genuine? He was very sincere. Even at Oxford, he led the “Holy Club”. He was already very concerned about holiness at that time. Is that not strange? It is remarkable isn’t it? Yet he needed to go through conversion. Something had to change in his life.

Myself

I found this in my own case too. I became a Christian in China. I was very genuine. I was very sincere. I really tried to walk with God, to love Him, to study His Word every day, and pray every day. But I did not realize that I was still a goat. In fact, I had had a very genuine conversion experience, but I had only been converted from dog to goat.

Until one day, I realized that I was losing my battle with the flesh. I could not go on living this Christian life. I felt that I was so constantly defeated that something was wrong with me. Perhaps I grew up in a church also of goats—although those people were very genuine—so I did not know what it was to be a sheep. I don’t mean that they were all goats. Some of them indeed were sheep, otherwise I probably would never have known that something was wrong with my spiritual life. Often, when you see another person who is truly a sheep, then in comparing yourself with him you realize, “Hey! I am a Christian and he is a Christian, but he’s got something different from me.” And I was trying to find out what they had was different from me. It was people like Henry Choi, who I often mention, who made me realize that something very important was missing in my life.

It was not until I got to Hong Kong, that one day, as I came back from church, I felt so miserable in myself. I felt that something wasn’t in order. I wanted to live the Christian life but I couldn’t. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak; I could not do it. I remember how I knelt down before the Lord that day, and said, “Lord, I can’t live the Christian life. Really, I can’t. I’ve tried my best, and I think I should no longer go on in this hypocrisy. I love You Lord, but I don’t want to disappoint You. I would rather be a genuine non-Christian than a hypocritical Christian. And given this choice, I will take the choice of being a genuine non-Christian.” I knelt down, as it were to say goodbye to God, telling Him that I still loved Him, but because I loved Him, I did not want to dishonor His Name. I just thought I would kneel down for the last time to say, “Thank You Lord. You know I tried, but I couldn’t make it, and therefore goodbye.”

And that very moment, God dealt with me and said, “You know, you have made a mistake here. You have tried to live the Christian life in your own strength. You have not allowed My Holy Spirit to fill your whole being. You have not handed over the reins of government of your life to Me. The steering wheel of your life and all the controls are still in your own hands. So what you have done is you have written out the deeds of ownership of the car to Me, but you have retained control of the driver’s seat. So the car is in My name, but you are still driving the car. You decide to go wherever you want to go.”

And I notice so many Christians are like that. They say, “Yes, God, the car is Yours; it’s in Your name, but I’ll go wherever I want to go with the car.” So what is God going to do with that car? He cannot do any­thing. It is like somebody gives you a car and says, “Here it is, it’s in your name.”

And you say, “Wonderful! So I’m going to go for a drive.”

And he says, “No, I’m sorry. I’m the one who is driving.”

So you say, “Oh yeah? Can you take me downtown? “

And he says, “Oh no, I’m busy. I’ve got to go somewhere else.”

And you say, “When do you have time?”

He replies, “Really, I don’t have that much time, but when I have spare time, I’ll take you for a drive downtown.”

Then you ask, “Is there any more meaning that you have given me

this car? I don’t have a car, do I?”

The reply is, “Oh yes! Your name is there, see? It’s your car.” There is a problem here, isn’t there?

I see so many Christians like that. Isn’t it true that is the way of their Christian life? Now when we hand over the name of the ownership of our lives to God, we can say there has been a real change. After all, you were not even willing to do that before. But now you have been willing at least to hand over its deeds to God. You cannot say there is anything unreal about that change. There is a change, but there is a lot that we don’t want to let go yet. At least we want to keep the driving wheel. We say, “Lord, You’ve got the back seat, but I’ll take You wherever I want to go.” That is not much good.

This is exactly what happened to me. I had already genuinely handed over the ownership of my life to God, but I had retained the driver’s seat, and I realized my mistake. No wonder I was in trouble all the time, spiritually speaking. And on that day I said, “O Lord, now You’ve got the whole car and the driving wheel, and everything! If You want me as the chauffeur, that’s fine. If You don’t want me as the chauffeur, I’ll get into the passenger seat. You go ahead and take me wherever You want.” That resulted in a complete change in my Christian life! It is as simple and yet as profound as that.

Now there is the difference. That meant I had to go from dog to goat, and then from goat to sheep. A very big transformation! For me, that was a fundamental change in my life. I find that many Christians have exactly this problem.

Give God complete ownership of your life—go from dog to sheep

When you are a goat, you belong to the sheep family, and you can truly say you are a “Christian”. There is nothing false. Yet God cannot control your life in the same way. The sheep follow the shepherd. The goats follow too, provided you have a good barking dog to keep them in line, and nip at their heels from time to time, to keep them in order. But their great problem is often more with one another. For example, at that time, I knew I ought to love my fellow Christians, but I couldn’t do it. My nature was far too selfish to allow me to do anything like that. It would be so much more wonderful if we could go straight from dog to sheep! Yet many of us had to go through this detour; and some never made it out of a detour. Becoming a goat is very dangerous because you can get stuck there. It is dangerous precisely because you think that you are of the sheep family, as you are in effect associating with sheep.

Sheep and goats in Palestine grazed together in the field; they mixed with one another. They all belonged to the same flock with the same shepherd. The difference came out only on the Judgment Day, and the Lord Jesus Christ separated them. I want to impress this upon your mind more strongly, because this is the point the Lord Jesus is teaching here. And we find that it is something we constantly experience.

For example, recently, our sister was baptized, much to the astonish­ment of many people. She is in the Training Team! She has committed her life to God! Many people said, “If she has not committed her life to God, then who has? We are all in trouble! What else have we got to do?” But that is the point. She realized that no matter what other people thought, nobody knows herself as well as she does. She knows what are the thoughts in her own mind. We could only see the outside, but she saw what was inside, and she did not like what she saw. She was deeply disturbed by this and said to me, “I am living in constant defeat. Other people may think that I seem to be good, but I am not. In fact, I have never died to the flesh.” In other words, she recognized that she was a goat.

I knew her problem because that was exactly what I had gone through myself. Other people thought that I was a very fine Christian. After all, very early on, I took over leadership in the church. Many people thought that I could preach very well even as a young Christian, but I realized that I was a goat. That was what happened to me.

This sister realized that she was not really a sheep, and that something had to be done. And this dear sister lost a great deal of sleep. Many times, I saw her with dark rings around her eyes during the Training Program, and I am sure many of you noticed that. She knew that something had to be done, and the step was as big as becoming a Christian from the position of a non-Christian. The point is this: the step is as big from dog to sheep, as from dog to goat, as from goat to sheep.

Are you sure that you are a sheep? Are you sure that the driving wheel of your life, and the driving seat of your life are in God’s hands? Or are you still running your life but saying that the car belongs to God? Oftentimes, goats are very annoyed when you challenge them at that point. There was a person who kept saying, “My house belongs to God, my car belongs to God, and everything belongs to God.” I said, “Is that really the case? Look into your life. Or are you only giving Him a nominal ownership of your house, of your life and of whatever else, but in fact, you are in charge of everything?” He was so angry with me that he refused to talk to me anymore. Strange, isn’t it? After all, if God is running your life, why should you be angry? I must have cut into something in his life just by asking the question, that he felt so offended.

I hope you will ask me that question very often, and if I am offended, you will know that I am a goat. A sheep has nothing to be offended about. I wish that you will constantly search me and ask, “Are you a genuine person? Is your life really under God’s control? Or are you still running your own life, and giving Him nominal control of it?

This is the point that is so important to grasp, brothers and sisters. Make sure you have got this straight, otherwise your Christian life will be one of defeat. You will belong to the goat family. Your behavior may not even reveal too much outside, but inside of yourself, you know that you are rebelling against God. Other people may even think that you are wonderful. You may even be in the Training Team like this sister, but there is not yet the fullness of the Christ-like character living in you. I beg of you to see it!

You remember that our brother also got baptized recently, and I am sure he won’t mind me mentioning him, because it is vital to our life. Again, I fully understand because I had exactly the same problem. He too, was brought up by very fine Christian parents, in the constant teaching of Scripture. His father functions virtually as a missionary, albeit a medical missionary, but a missionary all the same. Everyone thought of our brother as a Christian, and he could correctly be called a Christian, yet he knew that something had to be put straight, otherwise he was going to live the rest of his life in defeat. The result was, as you saw, he too sought to take the step from goat to sheep, seeking that complete transformation, opening his life totally to God, through getting baptized again.

This step is a very, very difficult step to take, because often, it seems so humiliating. It is humiliating in the sense that people may think, “Come on, I’ve thought of you as a Christian all the time. What are you doing getting baptized again?” And our sister had to face this very problem even with teammates in the Training Team. They said, “Here you are in the Training Team and you are getting baptized again? What is this?!” This is not an easy step to take. You have got so many questions to answer, so many objections to face.

Rather, go straight from dog to sheep. You don’t have to make this long detour. And some people never even get around the detour, because they get stuck in a cul de sac. Now this is the whole key to understanding this part of the Lord Jesus’ teaching. It’s most essential that you grasp it.

Goats: Pray for God ’s grace to open totally to Him

If you discover that you are still a goat after all, pray to God that He gives you the grace to open your life totally, unconditionally to Him. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to be baptized again. In my case, I did not get baptized again. I simply yielded my life totally to Him. But for others, it is necessary to take a step which is decisively clear in their own minds, that they have broken with the past of being a goat, and they need to be baptized again. If this is the case, by all means be baptized again. I have spent much time to stay on this one point because it is so vital for us to grasp it.

When you have taken that step, you will find that there is a love from God beginning to pour forth through your life for others. And you know that you have passed from death to life. It is not at all easy, but it will begin to come, as Paul says in Romans 5:5, “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” You will begin to find that you are able to do this, not because it is in your nature to do it, but because His Spirit is moving you forward.

Many passive people are healed in two stages

Finally, I would like to illustrate this point from a miracle that the Lord Jesus performed. The Lord Jesus’ miracles are themselves parables. He did not perform miracles to impress people. He performed miracles to teach a spiritual lesson. And one striking miracle that has puzzled many people is in Mark 8:22-26.

“And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man, and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes, and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees walking.” Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and saw everything clearly. And Jesus sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

Now notice that other people brought the blind man to the Lord Jesus, who after healing him, told him not to enter the village. The Lord Jesus did not heal people so that he gets publicity out of it. He did not want this man going back to the village and announcing the healing. He did not want to be known as a faith healer. His healings and miracles were done entirely out of compassion. But time and again, when he healed that person, it was a sign, a parable.

Now notice, like so many Christians, this person was healed not in one stage, as in most other healings, but he was healed in two stages. These two stages of healing show me very much the similarity: one stage to goat, and another stage to sheep.

This often happens because in many cases, we come to God in a rather passive sense. This blind man was brought to Jesus. Maybe he be­lieved, but not yet with a totality of believing. Oftentimes, people become Christians mainly because they saw their friends becoming Christians, and they thought, “Well, I’d better go along with them,” and they just drift along with the group as it were. This is very dangerous because you might become a goat like that, but not a sheep. You don’t become a sheep until you yourself take the great step of complete faith. It doesn’t mean that these people don’t genuinely believe, but that they have not exercised total faith of obedience.

God’s Word together with God’s power transform our lives

Now notice, the Lord Jesus spit on his eyes. The spiritual meaning of this is by no means difficult to see. Whether or not there is healing property in spittle is really beside the point. The spittle, often is representative parabolically of the Word. It is in the mouth and it comes out of the mouth. When we take away the parabolic element, we are talking about the Word of God. So there is the spittle and the laying of hands upon the blind man, that is, the Word of God, and God’s saving power channeled through Christ Jesus, as he touches him. It is the Word of God as well as the contact with God’s power in our lives that open our spiritual understanding, isn’t it? You can hear the Word of God and nothing happens to you, because unless God’s holy Spirit touches us, nobody is going to be saved.

I am talking now of the spiritual meaning of this healing. Notice, although the Word of God opened the blind man’s eyes to some extent, it did not completely heal him. He was blind before, but now he could see, yet he could not see too well. Like many Christians, you could truly say, “I was blind before but now I see.” The goat also sees, but his life is not yet totally yielded to God, and it had to take another step as great as the first one to become a sheep. The Word of God did not have to be spoken again. He knew now the Word of God, but he had to be touched by Jesus’ hands to channel God’s power once more to heal him.

When you were blind, you saw nothing but blackness, but now you see light. But when you see people looking like trees moving around, it is not really very good vision. It shows you how poor the vision was. Of course, it is better than when you were blind. So he had to go through another step of transformation, another step which was as big as the original one. He had, as it were, come only half way. When the power of God came upon him through the laying on of Jesus’ hands the second time, he saw clearly.

But notice, not before he himself did something. Verse 25 says, “he looked intently.” This time, he exercised his faith. His faith was expressed in this intent looking, and then he saw clearly. This time, he no longer saw trees walking around; he clearly saw people walking. He saw truth as truth really is. There is the beauty in this parabolic miracle of the Lord Jesus. So many Christians are like that. You cannot say they don’t see. It is quite true they do see light, but what they see is so blurred that it is just about as good as still being blind. In fact, you can say that he was half-blind until God’s power touched him the second time. This time, he really saw. In the same way, many Christians needed God’s power to come in a second time. And this time, they exercised their faith by concentrating, because “look intently” means concentrating their vision, making a spiritual effort on their part, and then they saw clearly as they should see.

Warning: you may never get out of the detour of goat!

Would to God that most of us don’t have to be touched twice, that the first time would have been good enough! We go straight from dog to sheep! Yet many people have to go through the detour, and some people never make it out of the detour. They simply stayed being goats and never became sheep. This is a most important lesson, and I beg of you to grasp it! There are some other points in this passage that we have no time to touch on, but we must take deeply to heart this point of the Lord Jesus’ teaching.

 

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church