Conversion begins with regeneration, an instantaneous, invisible act of God in the soul imparting life, and immediately beginning to illuminate the mind, move the heart and incline the will. This proceeded in bursts in the disciples. Here is the Lord’s own illustration of this.
Here really is a wonderful lecture or lesson in pastoral theology, and the nature of conversion, and the relationship between regeneration and illumination. And particularly there’s a message here for all who have never yet come to Christ and sought him out. So verse 22: ‘He cometh to Bethsaida and they bring a blind man unto him.’ But verse 21 that precedes it – very necessary to look at this, just as we begin – ‘And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?’ This is the problem that was encountered when the Lord at sea, across the lake of Tiberius with the disciples, warns them about the hypocrisy, the leaven, the false teaching, of the Pharisees.
And they think, for some extraordinary reason that he is reproving them for not having taken bread aboard the boat before they sail. Well, of course these are the very disciples who had witnessed the miraculous feeding of the five thousand – five thousand men, [and] many thousands of others, including women and children – and also the miraculous feeding a little later of the four thousand. How could they possibly be being reproved for not having taken bread, when he is the one who can create if necessary, and make so much and feed so many? And he says to them, ‘How is it that ye do not understand?’ Of course he knew the answer to the question. He knew all things, but he challenges the disciples: ‘Do you understand yourselves?’ He might well have said, ’Well, you follow me. You’ve given up everything. You’ve given up your businesses, your work, your profession, and you follow me, and you see in me the hope of all things.’
Well, they were mistaken in some of their expectations. As you know, they thought he would be a political deliver and Messiah. They didn’t fully understand yet that he was entirely a spiritual deliverer or Messiah. But here he says, ‘How is it that ye do not understand?’ – that he could produce food if desired just at will. Well, how was it?
They had given up all. They knew that he was special, that he was probably the Messiah. They realised that he knew all things, that he had these great powers, that he fulfilled many of the prophecies. They loved him; they followed him.
You could say that their eyes were in a measure opened. Had they been regenerated by the Spirit of God? That is to say, had God put in life into their hearts to open them up to readiness to receive and recognise Christ? Surely so. Surely the work of God had begun in their hearts, without doubt.