Out of Darkness

“Thus saith God the Lord, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” Isaiah 42:5–7 KJV

When I was living in northern Arizona, I occasionally had the opportunity to fellowship with a young man, whom I will call Bill, who had been born blind. On Sabbath afternoons, Bill and some of the other church members and I would go for a walk through the ponderosa pine forests of the Colorado plateau. Bill would hold the arm of someone in the group and walk along with us as we enjoyed the beauty of the forest. It always puzzled me what this experience was like for Bill, as he was obviously missing out on what was to me the best part of the adventure—the magnificent scenery we were walking through. So I asked him one day what his perception of a pine tree was. He explained that he had felt the bark and needles, had smelled them, and had a sense of their size, but other than that, he couldn’t really explain how he saw them in his mind’s eye, as he had no frame of reference that was common to each of us.

I have pondered that experience for a long time, wondering how to explain to someone who had never had sight the scene that lay before them. There is no way to describe green, for example, to someone who has never seen any color.

Recently, as I was reading about the miracles that Jesus performed, this experience with Bill came to my mind again.

That Christ worked miracles is beyond question. The Bible gives a fairly detailed record of at least 37 specific miracles Christ performed, though there were undoubtedly many more. Exactly how many, we don’t know. But as we read the story of Christ’s life in the gospels, we can gain a sense that there were probably thousands.

Matthew 4:24 tells us, “They brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.”

Then, in Matthew 8:16 KJV, we read, “When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick.”

In Matthew 14 there is recorded an interesting series of events. After the beheading of John the Baptist, Christ sought solitude by departing, by Himself, by boat to a deserted place. “But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out, He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.” Verses 13, 14.

Indeed, in each of the four gospels, there are accounts of great multitudes of afflicted souls being healed by Christ of their various ailments. Thus we can be certain that Christ performed far more miracles than the 37 specifically delineated.

As John puts it in the conclusion of his gospel, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” John 21:25 KJV.

Inspiration addresses these miracles this way: “Entire cities and villages were freed from disease, and there was no work for a physician among them.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, 285.

Of the 37 miracles that are specifically delineated in the gospels, however, there are five that deserve special attention, as a study of them reveals more than what is initially obvious on first read.

The record of Christ’s miracle at Bethsaida, when He healed a blind man, is recorded in Mark 8:22–25: “Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, ‘I see men like trees, walking.’ Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.”

A study of the miracles of healing the blind will reveal an element common to them all.

We’ve just read Mark 8:22–25, about the blind man near Bethsaida who initially saw “men like trees, walking,” then “saw everyone clearly.” In John 9 we have a very detailed account of the healing of the man born blind.

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ [which is translated, sent]. So he went and washed, and came back seeing.” John 9:1–7.

There are several interesting aspects to this wonderful story. First notice that in verse one, the word Jesus is supplied by the translators. As it was written by John, it would read, “Now as He passed by … .” The word construction here indicates that this miracle occurred immediately following the rather ugly confrontation that Jesus had had with the Jewish leaders in chapter 8. They had accused Him of being the illegitimate son of a single woman, of being suicidal, and of being demon possessed. The chapter concludes in verse 59. Read that and the first verse of chapter 9 together, just as John wrote it, so that the continuity is obvious. “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. Now as He passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.” John 8:59; 9:1.

Imagine the selflessness required to leave a highly emotional confrontation such as is described in chapter 8 and immediately thinking of the welfare of someone else. I would have to go and stew for a while over being mistreated and criticized so harshly. But here, by the grace and mercy of God, we get a glimpse of Christ’s loving, selfless character that is truly eye-opening. Clearly His thoughts were always and only about the welfare of others. May the Lord give us a deeper understanding of what it means to be truly Christlike.

Continuing with this story of the man born blind, we read in John 9:8–11: “Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, ‘Is not this he who sat and begged?’ Some said, ‘This is he.’ Others said, ‘He is like him.’ He said, ‘I am he.’ Therefore they said to him, ‘How were your eyes opened?’ He answered and said, ‘A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, “Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.” So I went and washed, and I received sight.’ ”

“So I went and washed, and I received sight.” Keep this fact in mind.

Now let’s look at Matthew 9 and read about the two blind men whom Jesus healed. This chapter is full of miracles, but the one we want to contemplate begins in verse 27.

“When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, ‘Son of David, have mercy on us!’ And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you.’ And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, ‘See that no one knows it.’ ” Matthew 9:27–30.

“Then He touched their eyes … and their eyes were opened.” Another point to keep in mind.

The healing of the demon-possessed blind man is described in Matthew 12:22: “Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw.” This initially appears as three miracles in one: he was freed from demon possession, he was given the power of speech, and his sight was restored. We’ll see shortly that there was actually a fourth miracle performed here.

Let’s look now at the story of blind Bartimaeus. All three of the synoptic gospels tell his story, though only Mark identifies him by name.

“Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.’ And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ The blind man said to Him, ‘Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.” Mark 10:46–52.

Make note of how long it took for this man to receive his sight. According to the Bible narrative, it was immediate. The same is true of the man born blind, of the two blind men healed in Matthew 9, of the blind, mute demoniac that Matthew 12 and Luke 11 describe, and of blind Bartimaeus.

In each of these five instances, not only did Christ enable the blind to see, but perhaps even more miraculously, He enabled them to comprehend instantly what they saw. The significance of this “miracle within a miracle” has only recently been realized, as the scientific community has only just recently been able to accomplish in only a very slight degree what Christ did approximately 2000 years ago.

In 2009, a series of studies was done on individuals who had their vision restored, or stated more correctly perhaps, “activated,” after a lifetime of blindness. This activation provided a unique opportunity to determine how the human brain learns to make sense of a sudden flood of visual information—information that up to this point had been completely lacking in these individuals.

Just think about this for a minute. Suppose that you had been blind from birth. Imagine someone trying to explain to you exactly what they meant by “blue sky,” or describe a green pine tree to you. What words could they use that would not require a baseline of visual knowledge or prior visual experience to achieve some degree of comprehension? Every word that they might use to try to explain “blue,” for example, or “tree” would require an explanation as well. In light of this, we can perhaps have a deeper appreciation of the miraculous nature of Helen Keller’s achievements.

As the researchers in 2009 tested the patients within the first weeks following activation of their sight, they found that the subjects had only a very limited ability to distinguish an object from its background. They had no sense of depth perception and could not distinguish the individuality of overlapping objects, nor piece together the different parts of an object.

After treatment, one subject participated in a series of tests asking him to identify simple shapes and objects. He could identify some shapes, such as triangles or squares, when they were side-by-side, but not when they overlapped. His brain was unable to distinguish the outlines of a whole shape when it overlapped another shape; instead, he believed that each fragment of a shape was its own whole. For example, when a red circle partially obscured a yellow triangle, the subject identified the circle as a circle, but the triangle was perceived as an object having two straight sides and one concave side.

However, if the shapes were put into motion, the study subjects could much more easily identify them. With motion, their success rates for identifying shapes improved from close to zero to around 75 percent. Furthermore, movement greatly increased the patients’ ability to recognize objects within images.

During follow-up tests that continued for 18 months after treatment, the patients’ performance with stationary objects gradually improved to almost normal.

See https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090917115658.htm for full details of the study.

Note that it took a year and a half for the vision of the study subjects to improve to “almost normal.”

In the five stories of the men whose sight Christ restored or activated, once Christ had activated the sense of sight, the men apparently perceived what they viewed as if they had had sight from birth. So it is clear that Christ not only enabled these men to see, but even more miraculously, He enabled them to comprehend instantly what they were seeing.

Clearly, He brought these men out from a world of darkness into a world of marvelous light in every sense of the word. As Psalm 18:28 KJV says, “For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.”

There is another fascinating story about the Lord enlightening the darkness of someone—a story that we’re all familiar with—but in this story, the Lord brought enlightenment by causing someone to temporarily lose his sight. The initial telling of the story is in Acts 9.

“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” Acts 9:1–9.

The Spirit of Prophecy adds some interesting details to this story.

“On the last day of the journey, ‘at midday’ (Acts 26:13), as the weary travelers neared Damascus, they came within full view of broad stretches of fertile lands, beautiful gardens, and fruitful orchards, watered by cool streams from the surrounding mountains. [Think a minute about these details. They will be referred to later.] After the long journey over desolate wastes such scenes were refreshing indeed. While Saul, with his companions, gazed with admiration on the fruitful plain and the fair city below, ‘suddenly,’ as he afterward declared, there shone ‘round about me and them which journeyed with me’ ‘a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun’ (Acts 26:13), too glorious for mortal eyes to bear. Blinded and bewildered, Saul fell prostrate to the ground.

“While the light continued to shine round about them, Saul heard ‘a voice speaking … in the Hebrew tongue’ (Acts 26:14), ‘saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’

“Filled with fear, and almost blinded by the intensity of the light, the companions of Saul heard a voice, but saw no man. But Saul understood the words that were spoken, and to him was clearly revealed the One who spoke—even the Son of God. In the glorious Being who stood before him he saw the Crucified One. Upon the soul of the stricken Jew the image of the Saviour’s countenance was imprinted forever. The words spoken struck home to his heart with appalling force. Into the darkened chambers of his mind there poured a flood of light, revealing the ignorance and error of his former life and his present need of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.” The Acts of the Apostles, 114, 115.

“The marvelous light that illumined the darkness of Saul was the work of the Lord.” Ibid., 121.

When Paul tells of this experience to Agrippa in Acts 26:16–18, he adds more detail: “But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”

Paul makes an allusion to his experience on the road to Damascus in II Corinthians 4:3–6: “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Remember that the Spirit of Prophecy said, in speaking of Paul, “Upon the soul of the stricken Jew the image of the Saviour’s countenance was imprinted forever.” When he wrote to the Corinthians that God had given the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, he was speaking from first-hand experience.

That light, that marvelous light, is still shining to give the world the knowledge of the glory of God, though now it is to shine through His church.

“The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to ‘the principalities and powers in heavenly places,’ the final and full display of the love of God (Ephesians 3:10).” The Acts of the Apostles, 9.

“In His wisdom the Lord brings those who are seeking for truth into touch with fellow beings who know the truth. It is the plan of Heaven that those who have received light shall impart it to those in darkness. Humanity, drawing its efficiency from the great Source of wisdom, is made the instrumentality, the working agency, through which the gospel exercises its transforming power on mind and heart.” Ibid., 134.

This transforming power was demonstrated by Jesus over and over again, but quite clearly and quite literally in His miracles of enabling the blind to see.

Let’s look at some texts that give us greater insight into how we bring spiritual darkness upon ourselves:

Reproach has broken my heart,
And I am full of heaviness;
I looked for someone to take pity,
but there was none;
And for comforters, but I found none.
They also gave me gall for my food,
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Let their table become a snare before them,
And their well-being a trap.
Let their eyes be darkened,
so that they do not see;
And make their loins shake continually.

Psalm 69:20–23

“Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see.” Who is Christ referring to in this passage? Those who are not comforters, who do not take pity on the broken-hearted. And how are their eyes darkened? Through over-indulgence in appetite and in the abundance of luxuries—their well-being … two of the very sins that brought about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The pen of inspiration addresses rather specifically how we are personally responsible for creating our own spiritual darkness.

“It is not God that blinds the eyes of men or hardens their hearts. He sends them light to correct their errors, and to lead them in safe paths; it is by the rejection of this light that the eyes are blinded and the heart hardened. Often the process is gradual, and almost imperceptible. Light comes to the soul through God’s word, through His servants, or by the direct agency of His Spirit; but when one ray of light is disregarded, there is a partial benumbing of the spiritual perceptions, and the second revealing of light is less clearly discerned. So the darkness increases, until it is night in the soul. Thus it had been with these Jewish leaders. They were convinced that a divine power attended Christ, but in order to resist the truth, they attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. In doing this they deliberately chose deception; they yielded themselves to Satan, and henceforth they were controlled by his power.” The Desire of Ages, 322, 323.

This deliberate choice of deception is clearly illustrated in the miracle of the man born blind that we studied in John 9. The Jewish leaders said, “We see,” when in fact, they refused to see.

I would like to give one more example of the miracle working power of God, one that occurred almost 2000 years after Christ’s physical presence on earth. Following are a couple of passages from the Spirit of Prophecy that illustrate this miracle:

“The apostles boldly declared that they ought to obey God rather than men. Said Peter, ‘The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him’ (Acts 5:30–32). At these fearless words those murderers were enraged, and determined to imbrue their hands again in blood by slaying the apostles.” Early Writings, 195, 196.

“In order to secure healthy digestion, food should be eaten slowly. Those who wish to avoid dyspepsia, and those who realize their obligation to keep all their powers in a condition which will enable them to render the best service to God, will do well to remember this. If your time to eat is limited, do not bolt your food, but eat less, and masticate slowly.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 107.

“Satan has crippled our efforts by so affecting the church as to call forth from us almost double labor to cut our way through the darkness and unbelief. These efforts to set things in order in the churches have exhausted our strength, and lassitude and debility have followed.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 11.

Let me remind you that these words were written by an individual with a third-grade education. How many third-graders can correctly define imbrue, masticate, lassitude, or debility? Indeed, how many adults can define all of these words?

Just as Christ enabled those whose vision He restored to comprehend instantly what they were seeing, He gave an incredible depth of knowledge and understanding to Ellen G. White—an education provided by the same miraculous power that gave sight to the blind.

That power is still at work today, converting men’s hearts from the darkness of sin and unbelief to the glorious light of the truth and knowledge found in the word of God.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

John Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. After retiring as chief financial officer for the Grand Canyon Association, Grand Canyon, Arizona, he moved to Wichita, Kansas, to join the Steps team. He may be contacted by email at: johnpearson@stepstolife.org.