These are my notes from a sermon series. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
God’s Word is clear that all are born spiritually blind and in need of having our eyes opened to the truth. None of us have the means of gaining sight for ourselves, it is a gift of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The encounter with Jesus we are focusing on today does two things.
- First, it demonstrates the compassion of Jesus. Jesus loves people and wants to bless them.
- Secondly, it demonstrates our spiritual growth from spiritual blindness to spiritual sight. The account of this miracle is simple enough for a child to understand it. Yet, the setting which it is placed gives it significant meaning. It is no coincidence that the healing of a physically blind man immediately followed the demonstration of permanent spiritual blindness by the religious leaders (8:11-13) and temporary spiritual blindness by disciples (8:14-21).
This healing of the blind man serves as a dramatic illustration for the disciples and us regarding the growth of spiritual understanding. So, here we go. Mark says in verse 22, When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” 24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home” (NLT). From this we see several things about Jesus and us.
First of all, we see that Jesus receives. Jesus has proven Himself over and over again that He loves to receive people and minister to them when they come to Him in faith. Mark tells us in verse 22, “When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him.” They were in the boat, Jesus gives them a warning about becoming like the Pharisees (avoid legalism), Sadducees (avoid being unspiritual), and the Herodians (avoid being worldly). He uses yeast as an object lesson of how bad beliefs and behaviors can spread. Instead of hearing what Jesus was saying they started arguing over the lack of bread and who forgot to load it in the boat. Eventually “they arrived at Bethsaida.” This was the hometown of Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael (cf. John 1:44-45). The town of Bethsaida was near the place where Jesus fed the 5000 families (mark 6:41-44), and it is likely that many of the local residents were fed in that miraculous meal.
Mark goes on to say, “some people brought a blind man to Jesus….”[i] I’m sure that when Jesus arrived the word spread quickly. When “some people” heard about Jesus being in town they went and found “a blind man.”[ii] This “blind man” was probably a friend of these people or a relative. Either way, these people cared enough about this blind man and had enough faith in Jesus that they went and got Him and took Him to Jesus.
- Here is what we need to understand, those who suffered from blindness were helpless and reduced to begging (cf. Mark 10:46). In addition they were considered cursed by God (cf. John 9:1-2). The general belief was that any sickness, illness, or disease was considered punishment by God for something the individual did. As a result, they were considered unclean. Very few people would want to be around him or touch Him. This man was a blessed man because there were some people in his life that cared enough about him that they would risk being considered unclean by others for associating with him.
What we have here is a person who has a condition that cannot be changed by human power, but who is brought to Jesus by those who believe that Jesus has the power to help. They are demonstrating faith in Jesus on behalf of this blind man. These people who brought him to Jesus had already either witnessed or heard Jesus feeding the crowd with miracle bread and fish, along with healing others of various diseases and afflictions. They knew that they could not heal this man, but they knew someone who could.
In a similar way, none of us has the ability to open the spiritually blind eyes of another person. But as we are faithful to introduce people to Jesus through the message of the Gospel God can give them sight. Listen carefully to 2 Corinthians 4:5, “You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ [let the blind see] has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 We now have this light shining in our hearts [we now see and we now get it and we want others to see], but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (NLT). You may feel very fragile and very weak, but God can use you to bring the spiritually blind to Him, just like someone brought you to Jesus when you were spiritually blind. These people who brought this blind man to Jesus reminds us that we have a similar responsibility to bring others to Jesus as well.
Mark goes on to say, “and they begged him to touch the man and heal him.” A few observations worth mentioning here:
- Their begging (parakaleo – present tense) was continual. They didn’t just ask once, but repeatedly. This is the type of begging that does not give the other person an opportunity to answer. This is probably why Jesus doesn’t say anything and simply takes the man by his hand and leads him out of town. Remember, this blind man is an object lesson that Jesus is using to teach His disciples and us. One of the lessons I see is the need for us to faithfully and persistently intercede for others before Jesus.
- Another lesson I want to point out deals with them begging Jesus “to touch the man and heal him.” They were right about bringing the blind man to Jesus. They were right about begging and interceding for Jesus to heal the man. However, they were wrong in telling Jesus how to heal them man. Their theology and their belief expected Jesus to “touch” the man. To them, they already had a healing formula in mind. The way Jesus heals people is through “touch.”[iii] He could have simply said the word and the man would be healed. Here is where we must be careful in creating formulas for God. Here is a formula for healing, a formula for miracles, a formula for financial blessing, and a formula to hear from God. God’s work is not based on formulas, but by faith. Jesus is about to reach out and touch this man, but nothing happens until later.
- One more thought before we move on. I think the blind man had less faith than his friends who brought him to Jesus. It was the friends who “begged” Jesus to bring healing, not the blind man. Here in a couple of chapters (Mark 10:47) we are going to see another blind man be healed by Jesus, but that blind man is doing all the begging and his faith is clear and evident. But the blind man in focus in this passage seems to be very quiet and just letting things happen. He had enough faith to let his friends take him to Jesus. He had enough faith to let Jesus guide him out of town. He had enough faith to let Jesus spit in his eyes and touch his eyes. He has some faith, but it is a very passive faith, not an aggressive faith. I think this may be why Jesus healed the man the way He did, in stages. He was going to build this man’s faith along the way and through each stage. What this is about to tell me is that I don’t have to have perfect faith to be received by Jesus, I just have to have faith.
So, Jesus receives this blind man. Once Jesus receives him, what does He do with him?
Number two, Jesus cares. Mark says in verse 23, “Jesus took the blind man by the hand.” This was the awaited touch. Yet, nothing happened. They were expecting the miracle to occur then, but it didn’t. They were thinking that as soon as Jesus would touch the blind man his sight would be restored, but it didn’t. Jesus has something different in mind for this occasion. Jesus just demonstrated once again that His power is not attached to some formula.
When “Jesus took the blind man by the hand,” this was not a handshake. Jesus reached out, grabbed the man’s hand, and didn’t let go. Holding another person’s hand is very personal thing, especially if it held for any length of time. Without saying a word, Jesus was communicating to the blind man that He cared and that He was entering this man’s life. The blind man could not see what was happening, but he could feel what was happening.
I believe at this point that this blind man’s faith and hope began to grow. This Jesus that he had heard so much about had just taken a hold of him and wasn’t going to let go. This was an act of grace, compassion, and tenderness by Jesus. I think Jesus is demonstrating to us how to minister and reach those who are spiritually blind. You touch their life in some way, you communicate to them you care, you are here for them.
Jesus receives. Jesus cares. Number three, Jesus leads. Mark goes on to say verse 23 that after Jesus took the blind man by the hand, He “led him out of the village.” Why did Jesus do this? It demonstrated two things.
- It was an act of spiritual guidance. This is a beautiful picture of what Jesus does for us. Jesus took the man’s hand and guided him around obstacles, verbally directing him where to step and where not to step, and helping him when he stumbled. Can you see Jesus guiding and leading this blind man? Even though he is blind, Jesus is still leading him. I think that is the way it is with us. Even when we don’t see Jesus, don’t fully understand Him, or don’t fully believe He takes us by our hand and guides us to where we need to be in order for Him to do what He would do in our life.
- It was also an act of spiritual judgment. Why would Jesus lead this blind man out of town to heal him? I think the disturbing answer is found in Matthew 11:20 where Matthew says, “Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God.21 ‘What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. 22 I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you. 23 And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. 24 I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you’” (Matt. 11:20-24, NLT). Jesus had performed many miracles, taught about His kingdom, and demonstrated love towards these towns but they ultimately did not believe Him and was indifferent to His message. As a result, He left them to their own decisions and withdrew His blessings from them. He would not perform another miracle in those towns or villages, so He led the blind man “out of the village” and later would not allow the healed blind man to return to the village to testify of what happened (Mark 8:26). Judgement had already been cast. I believe there is a time when God pulls His presence and blessings away from a city as an act of judgement for how they have treated Him and His messengers. Although His blessing had been withdrawn from the community, He would show kindness to individuals as we see with this blind man.
Jesus leads. He led this blind man out of the village as a demonstration of both His spiritual guidance to the individual and as a judgement on the village.
Jesus receives. Jesus cares. Jesus leads. Number four, Jesus restores. Mark says in verse 23, “Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”
- This seems strange to us. Having someone spit in your eye is offensive in our culture and even if we were at a doctor’s office and he spits in our eye trying to heal us we would get angry at the doctor and call him crazy. In the first century and in that culture saliva was seen as a healing property along with the laying of hands on someone. Jesus was clearly communicating to the blind man and the disciples that He was going to heal this man.[iv]
- Rather than commanding the miracle to be accomplished or declaring it as completed, Jesus asked the man, “Can you see anything now?” Nowhere else did He ask about the effectiveness of His healing power. He did so here to illustrate a point that will become clearer as the story unfolds.
Then in verse 24, Mark tells us, “The man looked around. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.’”[v] Jesus had purposefully performed a partial healing. This is not an accident. Jesus did not have an energy shortage. The act was premediated. This was an object lesson for the disciples and for us. He was beginning to see, but not seeing clearly. Things were badly out of focus.
Then in verse 25, Mark tells us, “Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly.”[vi] Why did Jesus heal this man in stages? The gradual restoration of sight of this blind man was meant to symbolize the slowness of the Twelve in attaining spiritual insight. They got their eyes opened very gradually like this blind man. Jesus is saying, “You started off completely spiritually blind. Then your eyes were gradually opened to understanding Me and God’s kingdom. Over time you will see and understand clearly. I know things are spiritually fuzzy for you right now, but all will be made clear.”
This is also true for us. Paul addressed this issue of not seeing everything clearly when it comes to the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 13:9. Listen closely to what He says, “We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled…. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (vs. 9-10, 12, MSG). Jesus restores.
Jesus receives. Jesus cares. Jesus leads. Jesus restores. Finally, Jesus sends. Mark concludes this section in verse 26 saying, “Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Don’t go back into the village on your way home.’” Jesus didn’t tell the man not to speak of what had happened. He was free to testify once he arrived home. Jesus had a target audience in mind for this man and it wasn’t the people of Bethsaida.
Jesus’ statement has to do with His judgment on Bethsaida. By leading the man outside of the town and then telling him to avoid the town on his way home, Jesus was confirming His judgment on the unbelief and rejection by the village.
I’m not into scare tactics when it comes to sharing the gospel. But I do want to give a warning to those who are listening and who haven’t placed their faith in Jesus for salvation. The Bible is very clear that there comes a time for every individual when God decides that you have heard enough and quits knocking on the door of your heart. There comes a time when God does not send someone to you anymore to tell you about eternal life through Christ. This is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “The ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation” (NLT).
God’s Word is clear that all are born spiritually blind and in need of having our eyes opened to the truth. None of us have the means of gaining sight for ourselves, it is a gift of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
[i] According to Jewish sources, blindness was widespread in the ancient world (cf. Lev. 19:14; 21:18; Deut. 27:18; 28:29; 2 Sam. 5:6, 8; Job 29:15), and Jesus healed a number of blind men throughout His ministry (Matt. 9:27-31; 11:5; 12:22; 15:30-31; 20:30-34; 21:14; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 4:18; 18:35-42; John 9:1-12; cf. Isa. 42:7). We see others bringing people to Jesus several times in Mark (Mark 2:3; 6:55-56). This is the first mention in Mark’s Gospel of a blind man being brought to Jesus for healing, the second being in Mark 10:46.
[ii] Recall that healing of blindness is one of the signs of that the Messiah had come as Jesus relayed to John the Baptist (Matthew 11:5, Luke 7:22).
[iii] I have a question about this, why did beg Jesus to touch the blind man? Why not simply ask Jesus to heal the man? Where did the idea of Jesus having to touch someone to heal them come from? Back in Mark 3:10 we are told, “[Jesus] had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him” (NLT, see also Mark 6:56). There seems to be a connection between having faith in Jesus and touching Jesus that resulted in healing by Jesus. I’m sure these people and the blind man heard some of these stories about people touching Jesus and being healed. So they thought to themselves, “If that is true for them, maybe it could be true for him. We will take this blind man to Jesus and let Him touch him so he can be healed.”
Where did all these people, including those who brought the blind man to Jesus, actually get the idea of needing to touch Jesus or be touched by Jesus for healing? Stay with me for a minute, this was a superstition that was commonly applied during that time. People believed that rulers possessed power to bless those who touched them. For example, Alexander the Great was often mobbed by crowds who tried to touch his clothes, hands, or feet with the hopes of being blessed by his power. This is like rubbing a rabbit’s foot for good luck. For this people, they believed Jesus could heal the blind man but because of their superstition they thought Jesus had to reach out and touch Him. You and I already know that you didn’t have to touch Jesus, He could simply say the word and the person would be healed.
Why is this important? Mark, writing about this, and Jesus made no judgment about how she approached Him. Her faith may have been still mixed with some superstition and poor theology, but she still had faith in Jesus. You don’t have to have perfect faith or great faith to come to Jesus, you simply have to have faith. Jesus starts where you are in your faith not where you will end up. In some ways her faith was weak and mixed with superstition, but she had enough faith. I’m convinced that overtime her faith that started here would improve and become a healthier faith over time.
[iv] Much like He had done earlier for the deaf man (7:33; cf. John 9:6), Jesus used saliva to symbolize the transfer of healing power from Him to the man. Obviously, the saliva was not some sort of magic potion. The Lord did not need any props to accomplish His miracles, but it symbolized His healing power for a blind man who could feel the spittle on his eyes.
[v] The fact that he saw trees and recognized them as such indicates he had seen trees before so this was not congenital blindness. In the Middle East Chlamydia Trachomatis is a common cause of scaring of the eyes and blindness. He had either become blind by disease or an accident.
[vi] Some notes on this verse: (1) The phrase “his eyes were opened” is from the Greek verb diaplebo and means “to see through” or “to see with a penetrating gaze.” The fog was gone. His vision was in perfect focus, so that he was able to see everything with sharp clarity. (2) “Restored” (apokathistemi) – means literally to restore to an earlier condition. Meanings include to restore, to give or bring back, to reinstate. To return to a former condition, place or position. (3) The phrase, “he could see everything clearly,” uses a rare word that means literally to see clearly from afar. In other words, he had 20/20 vision! (4) This healing has the unique distinction of being the only recorded miracle which Jesus performed in distinct stages. This is remarkable, since it occurs in a Gospel that repeatedly stressed the immediacy of Christ’s miracles (cf. Mark 1:42; 2:12; 5:29, 42; 10:52). (5) The narrative contains three compounds of blepo (ana, dia, and en). The first denotes looking up in the tentative manner of blind men, the second, looking through (a mist as it were) so as to see clearly, the third, looking into so as to see distinctly, as one sees the exact outlines of a near object. (6) Modern faith healers sometimes allege that this verse supports the notion of incomplete healings, but it clearly does not. None of the Lord’s healings ever resulted in partial, imperfect, or gradual restoration, nor was there ever a period of rehabilitation necessary. This miracle was no exception. In a matter of moment, the blind man went from debilitating blindness to perfect vision. Such is obviously a far cry from the fraudulence and failure that characterizes self-proclaimed healers today (MacArthur, 409, Commentary on Mark). (7) There are other theories of why the partial healing. We are not told why the Lord healed this particular man in stages. Perhaps an unusual satanic hindrance was present; after all, the people of Bethsaida were under sentence of impending judgment. Perhaps the man himself only half believed. The Lord had been unable to do many mighty works in His hometown of Nazareth because of hindering unbelief (Luke 4:16-30; Mark 6:1-6). Or maybe the Lord wanted to teach a deeper lesson, namely, that spiritual illumination often comes gradually. Even the best and most mature believer really sees only partially (1 Cor. 13:12). The Lord’s own disciples could barely grasp the simplest lessons and failed even the simplest tests, as they had only just proved. The Lord had only minutes before had to say to even them, “Perceive ye not?… Having eyes, see ye not?…” (vv. 17-18). (8) After the partial healing Jesus touches the man again leading to the full restoration of His sight. As we keep reading we also see that this miracle serves as a turning point for the disciples. While the previous passage is about their inability to see, in the next passage Peter declares His belief in Jesus as the Christ, marking a clear transition in the faith of the disciples.
[vii] “This was a private miracle performed by Jesus for His disciples, and it underscored a number of important truths for them.
- First, it served as a confirmation of Jesus’ deity, since only divine power could open the eyes of the blind (cf. 146:8). In the very next section of Mark, perhaps thinking back on this miracle, Peter rightly confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16; cf. Mark 8:29).
- Second, it provided the disciples with a glimpse of the future messianic kingdom, when Christ will reign from Jerusalem for a thousand years (cf. 20:1–6). During that time, death and disease will be greatly reduced, including maladies like blindness (cf. Isa. 29:18; 35:5).
- Third, it marked a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. The Lord’s public ministry in Galilee was over, and His focus was on training His disciples. From this point forward, with the cross only months away, Jesus began to speak plainly to the Twelve about His coming death (cf. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:32).
- Finally, this miracle served as an illustration for the disciples of temporary spiritual blindness. Spiritually speaking, they had once been like that blind man. Having been raised in traditional Judaism, they had been taught to follow the guidance of the blind Pharisees and scribes ( 23:16). Even with the light of Old Testament Scripture (cf. Ps. 119:105), and the advantages inherent in being part of God’s chosen nation (cf. Rom. 3:2; 9:4–5), their understanding of spiritual truth had been hopelessly blurred by centuries of rabbinic tradition and religious hypocrisy. All of that changed when they met the Savior. His saving touch removed the veil of darkness that once shrouded their unbelieving hearts (cf. 2 Cor. 3:14–15). In an act of infinite compassion, the Lord Jesus miraculously gave them eyes of faith, as He does for every sinner whom He saves, so that they could clearly apprehend truth for the first time. He is, as the apostle John describes Him, “the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (John 1:9). (For related discussion see MacArthur’s sermon Mark 8:22-26 Jesus’ Power over Blindness)