Blind Men Everywhere: Thoughts on Mark 8

Mark chapter 8 might be called Jesus’ “whistle-stop tour.” He travels from Tyre and Sidon southwest to the Decapolis region east of the Sea of Galilee, back across the sea to Dalmanutha, then back again to Bethsaida, and finally up to Caesarea Philippi on the flanks of Mt. Hermon. As he winds his way through these regions, he is surrounded by blind men.  They are everywhere! His disciples only can see their need for bread. The Pharisees only see their mousetrap set for Jesus and long to bait it with a “sign.” The crowds on a hillside are eager only to be fed with the bread of this world. Finally, in the midst of the tour, a physically blind man is brought to him in Bethsaida and Jesus stops the train.

Jesus takes the man by the hand, leads him out of the village, spits in his eyes, lays his hands on him, and prays. Strangely—and it is only recorded here in Mark’s gospel—the man opens his eyes and sees “men like trees walking” (v. 24). Jesus once again lays his hands on the gentleman, prays one more time, and this time the healing is complete. What a remarkable scene! But we are left with a couple questions: Did Jesus need two passes at this? Did he need a mulligan on the first attempt?

Of course that cannot be true. Jesus—who calmed the very seas, who fed the crowds, who knew the hearts of men, and who numbered the hairs on their heads—healed in stages here, with divine purpose, and the context of the chapter tells us why.  The blind man was not the only one present who needed the master’s touch to be able to truly see.  Jesus had just asked his disciples, “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (v. 18).  The disciples must have understood that they too needed to be brought to full sight, and would soon come to see with increasing clarity that this provider of bread would be lifted up to die and conquer death for them.

Keen sight comes with a price, and the compassion of Jesus was everywhere in this story; a compassion for blind men who would slowly, over time, in stages, learn to see the truth in its majesty and its beauty and in its shocking horror.  May it be so for us, to be touched by the love of Jesus Christ; to see this world, our world, with his eyes—some of us, maybe, for the first time.