A blind man’s eyes were opened, and he was “saved” as Jesus continued “on the way” to Jerusalem – Mark 8:22-26.
The preceding three stories highlighted the spiritual blindness caused by unbelief, especially the inability to perceive what God was doing in Jesus, as well as recognize who he was. Next, he restored sight to another Israelite so he could begin to see clearly. And his blindness was removed by the savior’s touch, the “Son of David” and the Messiah of Israel.
Bethsaida means “house of the fisher” or “house of fish,” and fishing was its major industry. The town was located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, near the entrance of the Jordan River.
- (Mark 8:22-26) – “And they come into Bethsaida. And they bring to him a blind man and implore him that he would touch him. And having laid hold of the hand of the blind man, he brought him forth outside the village, and having spit into his eyes, having laid his hands upon him, he was asking him, ‘Are you seeing anything?’ And having looked up he was saying, ‘I see men, because like trees I see them walking.’ Then again, he put his hands upon his eyes, and they saw clearly, and he was restored and was seeing everything very clearly. And he sent him away to his home saying, ‘Do not even enter into the village’.”
Eight different Greek words for seeing and sight are used in the passage to stress the restoration of this man’s sight, and to link the story to the preceding one concerning spiritual dullness. Conceptually, it also provides a link to the next story when the eyes of Peter were opened, at least momentarily, and he understood that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel.
Previously, Jesus used spit to heal a deaf man. The difference here is that the healing was not instantaneous; instead, it unfolded progressively – (Mark 7:33).
In the Old Testament, the laying on of hands was not associated with healing, but instead, was part of the ritual for slaying animal sacrifices when the supplicant laid his hands on the animal before it was slaughtered. Hands were laid also on a man when he was installed to the priesthood, and additionally, as a general means of blessing – (Genesis 48:17-20, Leviticus 1:4, 3:2, Numbers 8:10, 27:18-23).
Placing hands on an animal sacrifice or candidate for the priesthood signified its transference from the realm of the common to that of the sacred. Jesus did the opposite. Through the laying on of his hands on the blind man, he brought the holy blessings from God to the profane and the common.
Because he touched the man more than once does not indicate any difficulty in completing the healing. Previously, Jesus performed difficult healings and exorcisms with only a single touch or command. Possibly, in the larger context, the progressive healing symbolized the kind of progressive revelation that leads to genuine spiritual insight.
Nothing is said in the passage about the man lacking faith, or that the healing process progressed as his faith grew. Whether he had faith, acquired it during the event, or his faith had anything at all to do with the healing is not stated. The restoration of sight came solely through the initiative of Jesus, who summoned the man and laid hands on him.
The progressive healing provides a thematic link between the preceding and subsequent sections of the narrative. In the second half of Mark, the disciples develop spiritually in stages: From non-understanding to understanding, then to complete understanding after his death and resurrection – (Mark 8:17-21, 8:29-33, 15:39).
In the next story, Peter receives “sight” when he begins to understand that Jesus is the “Christ.” But his sight will be blurred as soon as he takes offense at the suggestion that the “Son of God” must suffer at the hands of Israel’s enemies. Though he began to see who Jesus is, he remained blind to what it means to be the Messiah of Israel.