Jesus Heals the Blind and Lame on the Mountain - James Tissot

The Miracle of the Blind Man at Bethsaida

The men and women who approached Jesus for healing met the living manifestation of their hope. He fulfilled their most deepest desire, whether it be for their own health or for the life of a friend or a family member. They knew Jesus was their last and only hope. We need the same hope in Christ today as much as they needed him back then. Hope is the vision that the Almighty Father has prepared for us. When Jesus said that "he can do only what he sees his Father doing," he was seeing hope through a crystal-clear lens. Jesus saw hope in its final, true form. We must rely on Christ's perfect eye, for our sin-blinded eyes sees the Father and his kingdom only through the opaque lens of Christian hope.

Blind Man at Bethsaida
Material: A person, spit, hands
Formal: Blind man can see
Efficient: "Some people...begged Jesus to touch him." (faith); "Don’t even go [and tell anyone in] the village." (humility)
Final: "His sight was restored." (salvation)
Aristotle's Four Causes

It's no coincidence that Jesus healed so many of the blind for he was teaching us about spiritual blindness as well. Mark's gospel records a peculiar account of the healing of a blind man in Bethsaida. Why did he have to put his hands on him twice? Why didn't the miracle succeed the first time? And why did Jesus tell the man to not tell anyone?

But before we examine those questions, let's read Mark's brief account.

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 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. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go [and tell anyone in] the village.”

Mark 8:22-26

Oliver Sachs, a neurologist and well-known writer, commented on this miracle in his book titled An Anthropologist on Mars. In one chapter, he wrote about a man who had been blinded by cataracts from a very young age and it wasn't until his mid-40s that he was prompted by his wife to have the lenses in his eyes replaced. He was reluctant, but finally did so. But the odd thing was that, although he could see, his brain was still not wired properly, so his vision was only filled with colors and shapes. He was still unable to navigate his world properly. It was very disconcerting for the man. He still needed a helper to guide him and eventually his retinas fell apart and he lost his sight for good.

Sachs mentioned the account from Mark because after the first time Jesus put the spit on his eyes, the blind man could see, but people looked "like trees walking around." This was very similar to the experience this man had. However, unlike modern medicine, Jesus first healed the eyes then he rewired the man's brain. Our technology can heal the eyes but not the brain.

But we shouldn't stop there in our analysis. I feel this miracle teaches us something special about the healing of our spiritual blindness—that we might be required to go through a two-step process. Let's first take a close look at our spiritual blindness, our opaque lenses that view our Christian hope so dimly.

For years I've had a dark, bleak view of the future. I developed this view early during adolescence and have not been able to shake it—not even when I deeply embraced Christianity in my late-20s. I have until recently, and even somewhat now, been blind to the hope of God's kingdom. Now as a Christian, I have been given hope and I do certainly believe in that hope, but I see it like the blind man who saw the people looking "like trees walking around." I am no longer spiritually blind, it's just that my brain has not been rewired yet. And that takes a miracle, because I've been so convinced by the media and by my own intellect that doom and gloom is just around the corner. However, the truth is far from that.

My hope has only really consisted of a distant future hope, one that comes only when I am dead and go to heaven. But didn't Jesus say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"? When we say, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," don't we ask God to bring the kingdom here to earth? Why would Jesus teach us that prayer if it wasn't true. Clearly, my brain needs to be rewired as well. So many Christians need the eye, the lamp of their body, rewired. And here's why: God uses our hope (our faith vision) to transform our world.

There is a real and actual gravity to hope. Christian hope is a walk in faith because it is so difficult to do amid the climate of worldliness. But we must have the full vision of hope. We can't look at things half-way healed, like the half-blind man. We must ask Jesus to put his hands on the eye of our body, and rewire our vision of true Christian hope, the hope that says, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand!" The alternative is not an option. We can't go on thinking that our only hope is after death. And when we follow the advice of the media and run around like Chicken Little, it actually makes it more difficult for us to get to the kingdom of heaven, because fear has a gravity as well.

No, we are not Pollyannas. We know the reality of Satan and his cohorts and how they have temporary jurisdiction over the world. They are on the prowl and have deceived us. Even though our journey may very well take us to the cross, don't give them even one thought. When we give evil even a thought, the real and actual gravity of Hell draws us closer. This is why we all must say: Lord Jesus have mercy on me a sinner. We must allow Jesus to rewire us. All the ugliness, the movies, the news articles, the despairing literature that we've seen and read must be shuffled and rewired in our minds and hearts. They must be stored and categorized in our mind in a new file folder labeled: "Humbled having been deceived" or maybe just, "Can you believe we thought those things?" or more appropriately, "Beloved and forgiven." We must physically and bodily expect the kingdom of heaven to appear here, not that ethereal heavenly realm. But that real place, here, that we will call home.

We must understand what Paul teaches us:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

Like the man born blind from birth, it seems that Jesus used his saliva to heal the eyes as a way to consecrate (make holy) the man to himself. He literally uses the holy fluid from his body to transform the man's body. Likewise, we are consecrated through our baptism for Jesus and our role here is to consecrate the world with our body through our Christian hope. Let someone know what is beautiful, admirable, lovely and praiseworthy. We must go about our days giving ourselves, providing the failing world that lovely, noble vision of hope by our actions and deeds. And lo, the kingdom of heaven is at hand!

Understand that the miracle of the blind man from Bethsaida teaches us one more important lesson about how we are to go about rewiring the mind of God's children. We must not get the attention of the world as we do it. Jesus tells the man to not tell anyone in his village. Why? He's teaching us, his disciples, to act quietly and humbly. If "your left hand know what your right hand is doing," the reward is snatched for one's personal glory. Instead, we walk quietly and humbly on our journey consecrating the world to our beloved Christ Jesus.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:24-25

Tags: commentary, miracles