Posted on March 19, 2014
#46: When Blind Eyes See
During my college years, a friend suffered a retinal injury that left him temporarily blind. He wore patches over both eyes for several weeks during which he had to be led around campus. He found amazing ways to adapt. Still, he was relieved to see blurry images once the patches were removed. Over the next week his sight cleared until it was fully restored. He understood like never before that sight is a great gift.
Read Mark 8:22-26, an account only found in this gospel.
Jesus and His disciples had crossed the Galilean Sea and come to Bethsaida. Pause. Let’s talk for a minute about Bethsaida, because the location is significant.
This was the hometown of three of the Twelve: Peter, Andrew, and Philip (Jn. 1:44). Jesus had been there many times. In the hills outside Bethsaida, He had spent half a night praying before He walked on the water (Mk. 6:45ff). And on a nearby plain, He’d fed more than 5000 people (Lk. 9:10ff). Later, Jesus rebuked Bethsaida and neighboring Capernaum, saying, “…Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And you, Capernaum. . . If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.” (Mt. 11:21-23)
Bethsaida had been given the chance to “see” many times, yet remained blind to the Messiah in their midst.
Now, back to our story. When Jesus got to Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man and asked Jesus to heal him. Jesus’ first response was to take the man by the hand and lead him out of town. If you’ve ever led a blind person, you know it’s not a speedy process; it requires patience and careful guidance. Why did Jesus take the time to lead him away from town? We can only guess, but maybe He was unwilling to provide any more miracles for people who wanted a sideshow but refused to believe.
Once apart from the crowd, Jesus turned to the man and spit on his eyes. I wonder if the blind man knew it was coming, or if the spittle hitting his face stunned him. Did he recoil, wondering why Jesus would do such a thing? Jesus touched his eyes and asked, “Do you see anything?”
The man answered, “I see men who look like trees walking.” A mix of excitement and disappointment probably tinged his voice; this wasn’t the degree of sight he’d hoped for, but it was better than darkness.
Then Jesus touched him again, and everything came into focus. Mark wrote, “His eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
When Jesus healed, the results were usually immediate—described by words like “instantly” or “at once.” In fact, this is the only two-stage healing recorded. Jesus had healed other blind eyes instantaneously, and certainly could have here. Why the delay?
“Sight” was—and still is—a widely-used metaphor for understanding. This miracle, sandwiched between the disciples’ misunderstanding of Jesus’ “yeast” comment (Mk. 8:15-18) and their vague notions of who He was (Mk. 8:27-29), was a picture of the correct but incomplete “sight” of Jesus’ followers. The clear view was what He still longed to give them.
In the Old Testament, God’s prophets often were commissioned to dramatize a message. See, for example:
• Isaiah – Isaiah 20:2-6
• Jeremiah – Jeremiah 19:1-15
• Ezekiel – Ezekiel 4:1—5:17 and 12:1-11.
Jesus was likely doing the same.
His treatment of the blind man was a perfect depiction. When He teaches us, He approaches it like leading the blind—patient, guiding us carefully, leading us, and spitting in our eyes (with purpose) when we need it. He gives us sight by degrees as we’re ready to receive it. When spiritual insights and breakthroughs come to us, no one is more thrilled than He.
Paul would later write, ” ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’—but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. . . that we may freely understand what God has given us.” He doesn’t intend to leave us blind. There’s much He wants us to understand! And He longs for the Day when we’ll see the whole picture clearly.
Pray for Him to open Your eyes. Look into His Word every day, and give Him opportunities to teach you more. He’s willing!
On a side-note: When you study your Bible, don’t overlook the power of the internet. For example, if you read about a place like Bethsaida, search for it on Google or YouTube. You’ll be amazed what you learn! Bethsaida’s site was uncovered and positively identified in 1987 by archaeologist/professor Dr. Rami Arav from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Since then, Dr. Arav has led many teams to Bethsaida to learn more of its ancient secrets. Here’s one short video, showing some exciting discoveries that help confirm the Bible and teach us about the world Jesus walked in. Check it out!
© Diane McLoud 2014