Scripture: And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” Mark 8:22-26 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Friday’s Daily Focus, Mark chronicles the miraculous healing of a deaf man with a speech impediment. While Jesus sometimes laid his hands on the diseased, here, Jesus, in addition to touching the man’s ears, uniquely spits on his finger and places it on the man’s tongue. Sighing and praying to the Father, he turns toward the man and commands this man’s genetic defect to re-engineer to its intended form: “Ephphatha” (“Be opened!”). And it happens! The man could immediately hear and speak without impediment. Lastly, following his practice of early ministry healings, Jesus charges the man and witnesses to keep this miraculous healing to themselves (to minimize further disruption of his mission with the growing number of well-seekers). Still, as often happened, the word spread even more rapidly.
Today’s reading takes us to chapter 8, where we read the second miracle found uniquely in Mark’s Gospel. Its setting is Bethsaida (meaning “house of the fish”), located on the east bank of the Jordan River, where it flows into the Sea of Galilee. As would be expected of a blind man, “some people” led him to Jesus and “begged” the Lord to touch him (implying to heal him). Jesus indeed “touches” him by taking his hand and leading him away from the onlookers, spitting on his eyes, and laying hands on his eyes. But unlike the other healings that immediately transpired, Jesus heals in two steps. Questioning whether the man could see anything (of which the man reports seeing people walking, but undefined like trees), Jesus again touches his eyes, and immediately the blind man sees perfectly.
Finally, Jesus warns the now-sighted man to return home and avoid the village (for the same reason he cautioned the healed deaf and mute man to keep his healing to himself).
Takeaway: Unlike the story of Jesus healing the man born blind (see John 9), this man likely lost his sight, given he could associate his blurred view of humans with trees. And even though Jesus tells the man born blind in John’s Gospel to wash the clay off his eyes, in this story, Jesus distinctly heals in two steps. But why? John Calvin aptly contends, “He did so most probably for the purpose of proving, in the case of this man, that he had full liberty as to his method of proceeding, and was not restricted to a fixed rule.… And so the grace of Christ, which had formerly been poured out suddenly on others, flowed by drops, as it were, on this man” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Mark, Vol 2, p.285). The implication? We cannot put our Triune God in a box. He will heal as he deems best.
So what’s the significance of Mark including this healing and that of the deaf and mute man? As theologian Walter Wessel suggests, “Mark uses both incidents to lead up to the revelation of the messianic dignity of Jesus to the disciples (8:27–30). Their eyes too are opened, not by human perception, but by the miracle of God’s gracious revelation, which was as much a miracle as the opening of the blind man’s eyes” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Mark pp.691–692).
Our takeaway? There are three. First, when we pray for ourselves or our loved one’s physical healing, we must not presume how the Creator of the universe should act. He may suddenly or gradually heal us in this life or ultimately call us home. Secondly, when we pray for our loved ones’ spiritual healing, it might take more than one crisis to correct their spiritual myopia and see beyond the “trees” to the glorious horizon of Christ’s kingdom on earth. So persevere in prayer as Geoge Müller did for two of his friends for fifty-two years until they came to faith after he died. Lastly, concerning our next step after receiving physical and or spiritual healing, Jesus calls us to go to the “villages” and proclaim the good news in this post-Resurrection era. Still, he may want us to stop by the “house” first to share it with family.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who faithfully prayed to you for the welfare of his disciples (including us future generations). And we thank you that he faithfully followed your will by going, healing, and telling your people the good news of his kingdom on earth. So as his ambassadors, would you please help us to exercise patience and perseverance in prayer and then go and tell family and friends how you and your Son are restoring lives? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling