Mark 8:22-26 (NIV): They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”
This event stands out strongly among all of Jesus’ miracles, because it seems to have not been entirely effective at first. In no other case in the gospels did someone require a second touch for the healing to be complete.
This miracle happened during a brief stopover in Bethsaida (“House of fishing”), the hometown of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1:44) on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. We are told very little about the blind man, except that He did not live in Bethsaida proper (cf. verse 26). But it’s important to note that what looks at first like a failure on Jesus’ part was actually right in line with God’s plan. We know that Jesus understood that His first touch would not restore the man’s sight completely simply because of His question: “Do you see anything?” In every other recorded miracle, Jesus merely touched the person, or spoke the word, and the complete healing immediately followed. He never asked the person if the healing had worked.
Some think that the man’s faith wasn’t strong enough to be healed completely. But the man’s faith (or lack of it) was never addressed by Jesus. Others wonder if this case was just very complicated. But it was no more complicated than that of the man who was born blind (John 9:1-7) where the healing was completed with a single touch.
It is the context of this miracle that helps us to understand what was going on. It immediately followed Jesus’ chastisement of His disciples over their inability to understand God’s working and Jesus’ teachings (Mark 8:14-21). On the way over to Bethsaida, Jesus had accused them of having eyes but failing to see, and of having ears but failing to hear. And then this blind man is brought to Jesus for healing. (Coincidence? I think not!)
Jesus took the man out of the village, away from the crowds. There He spit on the man’s eyes and laid His hands on him, all of which His disciples had seen before, and either of which should have resulted in an immediate healing. But to the disciples’ amazement, while the man could now see, his sight was defective – blurred to the point that the disciples looked to him like trees walking around rather than men. To complete both the healing and the lesson, Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes, and his sight was instantly perfected. Everything was now crystal clear. Jesus then sent the man home, telling him not to go back into the village.
So what was the point that Jesus was trying to make with all of this? Most of the disciples had been with Jesus for a couple of years by now. They had heard Jesus teach so many times, they had experienced so many miracles (including doing some themselves), that they believed that they were quite spiritually advanced. But in reality, even though their spiritual eyes had been opened, their vision was blurred and indistinct, to the point that they were missing some things that should have been obvious to them, and many things that they did see, they misinterpreted.
Jesus knew that what they really needed to help them to see clearly was a second touch, a touch to their hearts and minds that would take away the fuzziness and make everything crystal clear. That second touch would come, but not until the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit would enter into the very core of their beings, and would transform them from the inside out. He would not merely give them power, He would also clarify their sight and enhance their understanding, so that everything would become clear. Until then, Jesus would have to deal with their shortsightedness and their lack of understanding.
Some might be critical of Jesus for “using” this man to make His point, but they shouldn’t be. The man was neither harmed nor inconvenienced in this miracle. Instead, over the course of 2 or 3 minutes he went from total blindness to completely clear vision. The fact that it happened in two steps didn’t bother him a bit.
Father, it seems the easiest thing in the world to convince ourselves that we can see clearly, especially in the spiritual realm, when the whole time, even though our eyes have been opened, we are so nearsighted that we are practically blind. (cf. Revelation 3:17-18) Until we are actually given real clarity of sight and understanding, it is difficult to see just how blind we really are. Open our eyes, Lord, so that we can truly see everything clearly. Amen.