The Two Stage Healing of the Blind Man
There are some unique and notable things about the gospel of Mark. One such example is the peculiar healing of the blind man in two stages found in Mark 8:22-26. The bible says:
“And they *came to Bethsaida. And they *brought a blind man to Jesus and *implored Him to touch him. Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around." Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. And He sent him to his home, saying, "Do not even enter the village."
Why didn’t Jesus just heal the blind man in one step? Why take two? Did Jesus make a mistake the first time around and fixed it on the second occasion or was there a specific reason for why He did it the way that He did? I would argue that not only did Jesus have a specific purpose in performing the miracle this way, but He also did it to make a bigger point.
First of all, it is very interesting to note that only Mark records this particular miracle of the four gospels. The other gospels contain examples of Jesus healing the blind man but none like this. But as it pertains to the context in this chapter and really the overarching message of the book, Mark records this miracle of Jesus to show us its literary function. What do I mean by that? If we back up earlier in the chapter, Jesus feeds the 4,000 and immediately after, the Pharisees come and argue with Him. Jesus then told His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. They, however, perceived that He was talking about the fact that they didn’t bring bread demonstrating their complete lack of understanding. Jesus aware of the matter asks them: “Having eyes do you not see and having ears do you not hear…”(Mk. 8:18). He ultimately questions them in verse 21 asking them if they have not yet understood.
But the theme of woefully misunderstanding Jesus’ ministry and overarching purpose does not stop there. Later in this very chapter, Peter confesses that Jesus is the Son of God and he is absolutely correct about that (Mk. 8:27-30). Yet shortly after this, Jesus began to tell them that He must die and be raised from the dead. Peter’s response to this is a sharp rebuke telling Jesus that He will do no such thing. Jesus Himself then rebukes Peter calling Him Satan. But why? Even though Peter understood Jesus as the Son of God, He was still short-sighted in some areas. And this is where the story of the blind man comes in. When Jesus spits on the man’s eyes, he can see again but he is short-sighted and still relatively blind. Jesus touches him again and it is only on this second occasion that he is able to fully see. The point is that this miracle directly relates to the disciples’ lack of understanding. Like the blind man in the first stage, they could see but only to a certain extent. They were still very much blind to the reality of who Jesus was and what He was going to do. The blindness of this man functions as a metaphor for the disciples’ lack of understanding which leads me to my next point.
The literary structure in this section suggests a rhetorical effect. That is, it offers hope that, like the blind man, the disciples will be restored to full sight. Their vision and understanding of Jesus are very much partial to the point where they are blind. However, this metaphor that Mark uses demonstrates the rhetorical point that like this blind man their eyes too can be opened. Though they are called by Jesus and are His followers, they, like the blind man, are in need of a second touch to truly open their eyes to the understanding of Jesus as the Messiah. This particular miracle of Jesus is unique, and it functions to serve as an example for all of us today. We, like the disciples, often find ourselves blind concerning Jesus and the things that we need to understand. We should look at this example and pray to Jesus so that He can help us see and understand. Without Jesus we are blind, and we will always be blind!