by Jeannie De Groot
One day His disciples brought a blind man to Jesus and begged Him to touch the man. Jesus…took the blind man by the hand… laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?”
The man looked up and said, “I see people – they look to me like trees walking.” Again Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes, and he saw distinctly. He was cured and could see everything clearly.” Mark 8:22-25
I find it intriguing in this miracle of Jesus that the blind man, touched by the Healer, did not see his fellow men clearly; he saw them as “trees walking”. It took another touch of the Master’s hand for him to see clearly.
Life is often like that for people who have received God’s grace. There is often a distance from the first moment we see…and our ability to “see clearly”. Because Grace works.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the life of the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace”. John Newton was a notorious slave trader in the 18th century, captain of several slave ships.
It was in 1748, during a violent storm at sea, when He cried out to God. Having been spared from shipwreck, Newton marked this experience as the beginning of his life as a Christian. Yet he still did not renounce the slave trade, and even made further trips as captain of slave ships.
Eventually John Newton gave up the slave trade, was ordained in the Church of England and began to write hymns. “Amazing Grace”, probably the most recognized hymn today, was written in 1773, 25 years after his conversion.
Yet it would be a full 40 years after Newton’s conversion that he would speak out and denounce the slave trade as abhorrent and unspeakably cruel. He would actively campaign to abolish it. Grace works.
40 years for grace to work, chipping away at the blindness that only allowed Newton to see certain dark skinned people as “trees walking”.
Amazing Grace. Grace was amazing that very first day Newton was touched by the Master. But it would take years and years for the work of grace to get at the very root of his blindness so that he could “see everything clearly”. Grace works – the hour we first believed. And grace continues to work all the days of our lives, until it leads us home.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see.