I identify with the blind man healed in Mark 8:22-26. I’ve often sat in the optician’s chair as he’s moved lenses around pausing to ask “better here … or better here.” Ninety five percent of the time I find myself saying “about the same.” I used to worry that I was giving the wrong answer and tried to spot the minutest of difference but have realised that if things look the same, it’s valid to say so.
If earlier in the chapter we saw Jesus willing to repeat the same thing twice, here we find him breaking a miracle down into two stages. First of all, he spits in the man’s face and places his hands on him.
By the way, the fact that Jesus does different things when healing people problem helps prevent against the temptation to believe that there’s a perfect method to getting results and we just have to mimic it.
A friend of mine recently told me that back in the 90s, some US Christians came across to minister in the UK. They offered to pray for people and reached out their hands but instead of placing them firmly on shoulders or heads, they let them hover just over them. Their British friends thought that there must be something amazingly significant about this spiritually and began to mimic it. The Americans noticed and asked them what on earth they thought they were doing. They then explained that they were in the habit of doing this because in the southern states where they were from, it gets so hot and sticky that no-one wants another person’s sweaty hands pressed firmly down on them.
Well, Jesus, after spitting on the man’s eyes asks him what he can see. It seems that he can make out shapes but it’s all a bit blurry. So Jesus acts again, putting his hands over the man’s eyes. This time he is completely healed.
Why does Jesus do things this way? Does he make a mistake and get the healing wrong the first time or is there something about the man’s condition that makes it harder work to heal him? The answer is “neither.” The two-stage healing doesn’t indicate any limit in Jesus’s ministry. Rather, as with the double healing, the two part miracle serves to teach us something.
The disciples were very much like the man. The affect of Jesus ministry was that their spiritual eyes were beginning to open to the truth but they still weren’t there yet. They didn’t fully understand. They couldn’t properly see who Jesus was. As we will see shortly, they were beginning to realise that Jesus was the Messiah but didn’t understand what that entailed. They needed a further, deeper work.
So, here we are the halfway point of the Gospel. The disciples needed their eyes to be fully opened and that’s what we are going to see happen in the second half of the Gospel. They see partially, they know that Jesus is the true King. They’ve witnessed his power and they’ve heard his teaching. At the moment, they don’t get that Jesus must die for them. That’s the thing he is going to emphasise in part two.
Where are you in your spiritual journey? The very fact that we are still here tells us that we are works in progress. Jesus is still doing things in our lives. What stops you from seeing who Jesus is in all his glory? That’s where we need that deeper ongoing work as he helps us to clearly see him for who he is. One day we will see him face to face and see clearly who Jesus is and what he is like.