By Adrienne Bumpers
Mark 8: 22-26: They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, waking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and [the man] looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home saying “Do not even go into the village.”
I recently read through this scripture and was truly stumped. This is the first time that I remember Jesus performing a miracle in two stages. This seemed weird to me and sparked my curiosity so I started looking at what transpired before this miracle to see if that could give me clarity. When I read from Ch. 8:11-21 (go read it!), it seemed as if Jesus was showing some frustration with the Pharisees and even the Disciples.
My first reaction was “did Jesus let frustrations pile up so much that He allowed it to distract him and He had to try twice to heal this blind man?” I immediately laughed at my question. Sometimes I just want to see Jesus as human. I totally let frustration distract me at times, but that obviously wasn’t the reason for the two stages of healing.
So, after feeling even more stumped, I did some Google research and what I found was that you wouldn’t get the full effect of the miracle in v.22-26 without the context of v.11-21. The context reveals that Jesus is increasingly aware that everyone around him, specifically the Pharisees and even the disciples, are not fully getting it. The Pharisees wanted proof and the disciples keep forgetting, both displaying a lack of faith. Jesus ignores the Pharisees and lectures the disciples.
How frustrating that must have been for everyone.
So then Jesus’ next step was to respond to the need and the faith of this blind man in the next village. Some say the disciples were with Jesus at this time, so it makes sense to think that Jesus deliberately chooses to perform this miracle in front of them in two stages. The first stage the man can see but he doesn’t fully understand what he sees. Then the second stage Jesus allows him to see with full understanding.
I guess the thing that encourages me most from all of this is that Jesus extends the invitation for others to see clearly and more fully understand. Through my process of trying to better understand the two attempts at healing, I feel like that same invitation was directly extended to me. Might I remember the constant invitation that is extended to me to not only see but to exercise my faith and more fully understand.
Prayer: Gracious and loving God, give us the curiosity to see more deeply what you reveal to us each day. Heal us in as many stages as you need to show us the importance and majesty of your great love. Amen