Mark 8:22-30

After a frustrating encounter with his disciples, Jesus moves on to the Jewish village of Bethsaida where a blind man is brought to him.  Bethsaida, which means “house of the fisher,” is located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and was the home of at least three of his disciples — Philip, Andrew, and Peter (c.f. John 1:44).  This is the same Bethsaida which excited Jesus to exclaim “woe to Bethsaida” (c.f. Matthew 11:21) when he grew weary of their unbelief.

There are two restorations of sight in this passage. The first involves restoring physical sight to a blind man in Bethsaida. The second involves restoring the disciples’ spiritual sight on the way to Caesarea Philippi.


#1 Jesus uses a process to open the eyes of the blind man.

22And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again. Mark 8:22-25a

Note that this blind man did not come to Jesus on his own.  He was brought by some people.  As with the deaf and mute man and the paralytic before him, the blind man would have been incapable of coming to Jesus on his own.  He was dependent on the mercy and kindness of others to bring him to Jesus.

Jesus spends considerable time with this blind man.  We are told that not only does he pull him aside from the crowd, (as he did with the deaf and mute man) but Jesus actually guides him out of the village altogether.  Since the man cannot see, it was important that Jesus took the blind man by the hand. Removing him from the village would have at the least ensured privacy though some have suggested on the basis of Matthew 11 that this was also an act of judgment against the village.  That is, because of their unbelief Jesus won’t allow them to witness another miracle.

Not only does Jesus lay his hand on him, but he spit[s] on his eyes.  Mark does not explain the significance of the spit. In the context of the deaf and mute man, we assume that Jesus was communicating with the man.  Here an explanation does not come as easily.  This isn’t the only mystery of the healing.  Rather than speaking an authoritative command like “be opened,” Jesus asks a question —  “Do you see anything?”

The man reports that, yes he does see, but that people look like trees walking.  This is not due to his confusion over what trees and people look like, but clearly is an indication that the cure which was applied to him was not yet complete.  And so Jesus again laid his hands on his eyes.

This is unlike any healing we’ve seen before. While it is certainly possible that other miracles of Jesus have included more of a process which went unrecorded, this is the only time in any of the Gospels that we hear clearly of a miracle taking place in stages.   But isn’t this our own experience most of time ?  Jesus could speak an authoritative word and take away our burdens, but very often it happens gradually.  Very often it is a process.

#2 In the end the blind man sees clearly.

Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  Mark 8:25

We note that the end result is that this man who once was blind, now can see.  Mark is emphatic at this point telling us he saw everything clearly.  Imagine how radically this single act changed this man’s life.  This touch from Jesus included more than just the restoration of his sight.  Can you imagine what it would have been like to walk with this man as he returned home?  For one no one was taking him by the hand anymore.  What was going through his mind when he took in the beauty and the wonder that was all around him?

It seems unlikely that this man went away complaining about the process.  He didn’t get home to his family and complain about what a long day he had had.  He wasn’t griping about how long it had taken.

#3 Jesus continues to insist on secrecy.

And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”  Mark 8:26

I am not sure if this was meant to be humorous but I chuckle nearly every time I read it.  We’ve been become accustomed to Jesus telling people to “tell no one.”  Now he says, do not even enter the village.  He tells the man to go directly home.  Again some see in these instructions, judgment on the village of Bethsaida.  Because of their unbelief, Jesus won’t even allow the man to go back to the village where he might share what happened.  Mark does not tell us the reason behind this command; though this command to silence is a repeated theme through his Gospel.


#4 Jesus uses a process to open the disciples’ eyes.

27And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” Mark 8:27-28

Jesus takes his disciples out of the Jewish town of Bethsaida over 20 miles north to the Gentile villages of Caesarea Philippi.  It will be here in this pagan region that the scales will finally be removed, at least in part, from the disciples’ eyes.  We will hear not from the lips of a demon but from the lips of a disciple a true confession of the identity of Jesus.

As they were making their way north, Jesus asks his disciples a rather pointed question “Who do people say that I am?”  The disciples respond with three options but notice what they leave out. They leave out the suggestion of this own family that he is crazy man (c.f. Mark 4:21).   They leave out the suggestion of some of the scribes who insisted he was some incarnation of Beelzebul (c.f Mark 4:22).   They leave out what was most certainly the thought of the Pharisees that Jesus was a heretic deserving of death.

The disciples report to Jesus what was said about him from mostly friendly sources.  Some believed Jesus to be a reincarnation of John the Baptist.  This was what Herod thought.  Others believed Jesus to be Elijah thus fulfilling the prophecy found in Malachi that Elijah would return before the Lord visited his people (c.f. Malachi 4:5-6).  And still others believed Jesus to be one of the prophets.  Note that this is not prophet but one of the prophets; that is that Jesus is some other Old Testament prophet returned from the grave.

While these suggestions are certainly better than believing Jesus to be Beelzebul, none of them are accurate.  Just as in the days of Jesus, so in our day opinions as to the identify of Jesus abound.  Some believe Jesus to be primarily a teacher who came to instruct us in the ways of God and morality.  Others believe Jesus to be a kind-hearted charismatic leader to came to help us to be better people.  Still others hold that Jesus is one in a long line of prophets who may or may not have been sent from God.

Jesus then turns his attention directly to his disciples.

#5 In the end the disciples (almost) see clearly.

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”  Mark 8:29

It’s one thing to know what the crowds think, but Jesus wants to know what his disciples think. But who do you say that I am?  Peter steps forward and boldly declares You are the Christ.  The title Christ comes from the Greek word christos which means “the anointed one.”  In the Hebrew language of the Old Testament the word would be Messiah which of course means the same thing.

This marks a climax in the Gospel of Mark.  Finally, from the lips of a person, a disciple even, we hear a true declaration of who Jesus is.  It would seem the scales have finally been removed.  If we relate this back to the healing of the blind man, we ask is this Peter seeing everything clearly or is he still seeing people walking as trees?  If we stopped here, we would believe that finally Peter is seeing clearly.  But just a few verses later Jesus again is rebuking Peter saying “Get behind me Satan!”  Peter used the right words in saying Jesus was the Christ but clearly he has the wrong concept of who the Christ is.

#6 Jesus continues to insist on secrecy.

And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.  Mark 8:30

That Peter has used the right word to identify Jesus but failed to understand the meaning of the word, helps us to understand Jesus’ instructions to his disciples here that they should tell no one about him.  It would seem that Peter and others like him were only looking for a Messiah who would come as a conquering king.  Following Peter’s confession of the Christ, Jesus begins to teach them what it means.  He will suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and even killed.  Peter pulls Jesus aside to rebuke him.  Peter can accept a kingly Messiah but not a suffering Messiah.  It is not yet time for the disciples to be heralding the good news that the Messiah has come.  They do not yet understand what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think life was like for the blind man?  What may have been some unique challenges he faced being blind in the ancient world?
  2. What did the people do about the blind man’s condition?  Why do you think they did this?
  3. Describe what Jesus did to heal this man.  Why do think his healing wasn’t immediate?
  4. In what ways have we come to expect God to answer us immediately?  In what ways in your own life have you found sanctification to be more like cooking with a crockpot rather than a microwave?
  5. Some have have seen this two-step physical healing as relating to the disciples slowness to see Jesus clearly.  What are the possible connections between this man’s healing and the disciples slowness in coming to see?
  6. On the road to Caesarea Philippi Jesus asks his disciples two questions.  What is significant about the order of these questions?
  7. Who do people believe Jesus to be today?
  8. What does it mean that Jesus is the “Christ?”  Why won’t Jesus allow his disciples to tell anyone about this true identity?
  9. How can we be sure what we are seeing Jesus clearly?  What are some reasons our spiritual vision can sometimes be more like the blind man who saw people as trees walking?  What can we do about it?
  10. What is one thing you want to be sure to remember from this passage?


Add a Comment