By David Faust
Nor is it surprising to see how Jesus dealt with the situation. “He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village” (v. 23), kindly guiding him away from the gawking crowds where Jesus gave the fellow his personal attention.
It is unusual, however, how the rest of the miracle unfolded. “When he had spit 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” (vv. 23-25).
At first the man’s vision remained blurred. (I am so nearsighted that without my glasses, at 100 yards I wouldn’t be able to distinguish a close friend from a cedar tree.) The fact that people looked “like trees” to the man suggests that he hadn’t been blind his whole life; he had an idea what trees looked like.
Nowhere else does the Bible mention that Jesus healed anyone in two stages. Most of his miracles happened immediately and resulted in complete healing. In this case, why did the Lord restore the man’s sight partially at first, then finish the healing with a second touch?
J. W. McGarvey noted that Jesus could heal “instantly or progressively, as he chose,” so everyone would recognize that “the healing was altogether a matter of his will.”
Consider the larger context of Mark chapter 8. At the beginning of the chapter Jesus fed the 4,000, and despite the fact that he had performed a similar feat by feeding 5,000 earlier, the disciples still didn’t understand the significance of his miracles. When the Lord told them to “watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod,” they missed his point altogether and thought he meant they had neglected to bring bread with them (vv. 14-20). They saw his miracles, but missed his spiritual lessons. Frustrated, Jesus asked, “Do you still not understand?” (v. 21).
Then came the gradual healing of the blind man. And immediately afterward, Jesus solemnly predicted his death and resurrection, and soberly said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (v. 34).
Jesus was gradually helping his disciples overcome their spiritual blindness and understand his deeper purpose. Like the blind man, they were starting to see, but not with full clarity. Preoccupied with material things, they struggled to discern spiritual truth.
It takes time to develop mature faith. According to William Barclay, the gradual healing of the blind man reminds us how little we see at first glance—that the riches of Christ “are inexhaustible, and if a man lived a hundred, or a thousand, or a million years, he would still have to go on growing in grace, and learning more and more about the infinite wonder and beauty of Jesus Christ.”
Do you ever struggle to get a well-focused vision of God’s purpose for your life? It’s OK if the Lord has to touch you more than once before everything becomes clear.
1. In what areas of life do you wish you had a clearer vision?
2. What lessons of faith have become clearer to you in recent years?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for April 28, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Corinthians 12:14–31
1 Corinthians 13
Judges 17, 18
1 Corinthians 14:1–25
1 Corinthians 14:26–40
Judges 20, 21
1 Corinthians 15:1–28