Mark 8: 22 – 26 Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida
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 spat 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 even go into the village.’
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On a first reading this is a straightforward account of a miraculous healing. It has, though, some slightly unusual features.
“…some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.”
This, in itself, isn’t unusual, but the way Jesus responds is:
“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.”
Why? Why would Jesus take the man outside the village?
“When he had spat on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him…”
Why did the man who could walk on water, and miraculously feed thousands, why did that man need to resort to a showman’s tricks? Surely a word would have been sufficient?
“Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’
He looked up and said, ‘I see people; they look like trees walking around.’ ”
It seems as though the healing took time, or perhaps happened in two stages. The man could see again, but his vision was distorted.
Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Don’t even go into the village.’
Why should he not go into the village? It was a hallmark of Jesus’ healing ministry that he restored people to wholeness, including their role in society.
Context. Let’s put this in context.
Immediately before today’s passage we have the parable of the yeast of the Pharisees. Before that we have the feeding of the four thousand, and before that, the healing of a deaf mute.
None of these seems terribly helpful in understanding today’s passage, so let’s look ahead. The next passage is “Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah.” The next after that is “Jesus predicts his death” and after that “The way of the cross”.
Jesus’ ministry is fast approaching a critical phase.
Jesus was fully human, and, just like the rest of us, he had to turn to God for guidance. We see this need in the way he would withdraw to find solitude for prayer. At this critical time in his ministry Jesus would have been acutely aware of the need to hear clearly what the Father wanted him to do. The last thing he wanted was to be at the centre of huge crowds of people. Jesus doesn’t tell the man never to visit the village again, he just sends him home so that news of the healing doesn’t cause crowds to assemble before Jesus and the disciples can move on. And I guess it was the same reason that prompted Jesus to take the man out of the village; there would have been fewer witnesses.
But what about the slow healing, and the showmanship?
Notice that the man was brought by others. Perhaps his own faith was weak?
It takes power to heal. When the woman with a haemorrhage touched Jesus’ cloak, he knew that power had gone out of him (Mark 5:30). Sometimes it takes prayer, as in the healing of the boy possessed by an impure spirit (Mark 9: 28 – 29).
Maybe the blind man needed a symbol that would arouse his faith, and his expectation? I can imagine how hope and faith would have flared up in him when Jesus asked him ‘Do you see anything?’ and he looked and, for the first time in years, he could see!
Jesus still does that today. He meets us where we are. He does what is necessary to help build our faith. All we need is the willingness to trust him. Every time we open our eyes at the Lord’s command, we can see a little better.
Thank you, Jesus, for your healing power in our lives!
Thank you for healing us by the intervention of Jesus. Thank you that even a mustard seed of faith is enough to allow him to start to working healing miracles in our lives.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.