The Blind Man at Bethsaida

[Jesus] 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?’ And he looked up and said, ‘I see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly” (vv.23–25).

- Mark 8:22–26

After Jesus’ feeding of four thousand Gentiles and His rebuke to the disciples for their failure to believe (Mark 8:1–21), our Lord moved on to the village of Bethsaida. There in thablind man. But as we will see, the process of this healing was unusual.

Note first that Jesus did not heal the man in the village proper but cured his blindness outside of the town (vv. 22–23). Such a move may have been due to Christ’s judgment on the town for its unbelief. Recall that Jesus refused to give the Pharisees a sign of His identity given their persistent unbelief in the face of His many miracles (vv. 11–13). Since Jesus also condemned Bethsaida for its disbelief even after the people there had seen Him do many signs and wonders (Matt. 11:21; Luke 10:13), His healing the man outside the town confirms His unwillingness to continue performing miracles before those who refuse to accept His teaching about His person and work.

Second, Jesus’ use of His spittle in the healing was unusual, though not unprecedented (7:31–37; John 9:1–7). We have noted elsewhere that the use of spittle may be related to Jesus’ desire to give the man confidence that His sight would be restored, for it was a common belief back then that healers could bring about healing through such means. Moreover, John Calvin suggests that Jesus did not limit Himself to one method of healing in order to demonstrate His sovereignty. Christ healed people in various ways to show “that he had full liberty as to his method of proceeding, and was not restricted to a fixed rule, so as not to resort to a variety of methods in exercising his power.” Jesus will not be limited to one way of healing others; rather, He will exercise His kingly prerogative to heal however He sees fit.

Finally, the healing described in Mark 8:22–26 stands out for being the only healing in the Gospels that occurs in stages. In his commentary Mark, Dr. R.C. Sproul theorizes that the movement from incomplete healing to the full restoration of the man’s sight said something about the disciples. Complete hardness in heart was not the reason they still did not understand who Jesus was after His miracles (see vv. 14–21). In fact, their continued presence with Him shows that they had started to see dimly, enabling them to begin to know Christ’s true identity. Yet, they had not yet come to know Jesus in His fullness. Jesus would have to do more to open their eyes and hearts to see Him as the promised Savior of the world.

Coram Deo

That Jesus may work in a manner that seems slower in some cases than in others—such as the blind man in Bethsaida—is encouraging. It tells us that we should not give up on those who seem to be hardened the most against the gospel. God may yet change their hearts, so we should continue praying for them and preaching the gospel to them as we have the opportunity.

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 32:22–32
Deuteronomy 29
Mark 4:26–29
Romans 15:14–33

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