Mark 8:22-26 Jesus Opens the Eyes of a Blind Man at Bethsaida
They land on the Northern shore of the Galilee at Bethsaida (v. 22). Similar to the previous healing of the deaf man, Jesus takes the blind man away from the crowds (out of the village), again perhaps to establish communication with this outcast from society (but Lane is not so sure). Again similar to the deaf man, Jesus establishes contact and enters into the world of this disabled man through the seemingly (to us) application of saliva to his eyes (he couldn’t see but he could feel what Jesus was doing). Then He does something without parallel in the gospels, though popular with us folks in the Vineyard movement: He asks, ‘So, did it work? Did anything happen?’ (v. 23).
Now I want to go on record as not speaking exegetically here, but there is something freeing about asking this question after praying for a person for healing: How do you feel? Is anything different? There is also great risk involved. In my previous experience in Pentecostalism you just didn’t ask this question. For one thing that would be to doubt and doubt is bad! The fact is that if they answer, “nothing” then you have to deal with that thorny ‘what if they don’t get healed’ issue. This is where a good solid “already, but not yet” tension in our theology of the kingdom of God (applied to healing) can be so helpful. As Steve Nicholson says: ‘we need a theology of failure’ and ‘never embellish the story.’ In my mind it kinda takes the pressure off me, ’cause ultimately its God (whose reputation is no the line, not mine) who needs to come though here.
OK, sorry about that experiential excursus… and now back to our text! And so the man responds, ‘well, I can see, but not so good’ (i.e. not quite 100%). The man’s description of his partially restored condition would seem to indicate that he has had some previous experience with sight (“people… like trees, walking” – v. 24). And again Jesus does something unprecedented, He lays hands on the man again!
Again this is something we like to do in the Vineyard: if there seems to be a partial healing taking place, we keep at it (keep praying)!
The text is pretty clear that now the healing is a complete restoration of his sight (v. 25)!
The parallels with the previous healing of the deaf man are strong and both infirmities are mentioned (blindness and deafness/mute) in Is. 35:5-6. But the immediate context is Jesus declaration of the disciples’ hard hearts and ‘eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear’ (Mk. 8:17-18).
But His blind followers are about to see! Exactly who Jesus really is, is about to be revealed (Mk. 8:27-30). And the glory of the Christ – the Son of God – will be seen (Mark 9:2-13). But the road ahead for a disciple is paved with suffering, and at the end of the road (Jerusalem) they will witness the death of their Messiah (Mark 8:31-38)!
It’s easy for us current day followers of Jesus to pass judgment on the 12 – “How can you guyz miss this!” Who hasn’t heard (or said them self): “Oh, if only I could have been there to see the miracles of Jesus, to walk with Him, to have talked with Him.” But it would seem that given human nature, once the first wave of suffering or persecution comes, our faith can begin to falter. The nation of Israel had only recently risen out of the “valley” of the Red Sea crossing when they first “grumbled against Moses” about the bitter waters at Marah (Ex. 15:22-24).
Are you ready for the journey to Jerusalem? Am I ready to see the glory of God, but uninterested in drinking the “bitter waters” of suffering as a disciple of Jesus. What has been some of your experiences of “trusting God no matter what” (i.e. through difficult circumstances). I know one of the things that I have been struggling with lately is the fact that I basically want my nice middle class life to be trouble free and filled with all the comforts of home. And yet I claim to follow a Messiah who was destined to suffer, die and rise again (v. 31). And He invites me to come after Him, take up my cross and follow Him to Jerusalem, and in so doing find life (v. 34-35)?!? Are you ready? Will you join us, join the Twelve, on our continuing journey:
“come, follow me” – Jesus (Mk. 10:21)