Note: For those who read Mark in Lent, we have now caught up with the Lenten readings. However, Mark is so rich we can always learn new things. I know I have and therefore some of the Lent devotions have been rewritten or changed slightly to reflect my new learning.
The story begins in Bethsaida, a small city at the mouth of the Jordan River on the northern shore of Galilee.
Prepare to listen. Silent preparation before praying: Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. (Psalm 86:11)
Read Mark 8:22-26
22They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ 24And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ 25Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently, and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’
If the only element of this story worth considering was the miracle of sight to the blind, we’d left with more questions than answers. This healing, that was gradual and progressive, is not like other healing miracles that required just a word or a touch. What’s the point?
Sometimes we need to look beyond the miracle and discern another story within the story. What if Jesus’ odd behavior was intended to tell a ‘parable’ to his disciples? Remember, Jesus had just lamented about their failure to see and understand his identity and mission, despite all the teaching he’d given thus far. If we look for a ‘parable’ in Jesus’ elaborate actions to heal the blind man, we’ll see a message for disciples (including us today) who fail to see the truth in front of them.
The ‘other’ story Jesus told through his actions, goes something like this: ‘You disciples are as blind as this man. You still don’t perceive the truth about me. Take my hand and come with me, away from the hustle of the city and demanding crowds. Be still and patient while I perform something unexpected, even a bit disgusting, like saliva on your eyes. Be patient and still while I work deep within you.’ Jesus then asks, ‘Look and tell me what you see. Be honest; no pretense.’ The disciples look and complain, ‘We see people, but they look like trees walking?’ ‘Your sight,’ says Jesus, ‘is still distorted. Admit your failure to see and come closer. Let my hands touch you again.’ He touches them and again asks, ‘Now what do you see?’ The disciples look and excitedly exclaim in unison, ‘We can see clearly now.’
Not really, as Jesus knows. They will desert him, deny him even betray him because they struggle to understand and see. But, for today they see clearly. But, as Jesus knows, tomorrow he’ll need to touch them again, so they see even further. To the disciples he says, ‘Yes, you can see clearly—for now. Just keep quiet and avoid the village. You’re not ready for that yet.’
What story do you see in Jesus’ actions with this blind man? What does it teach you about what you need from Jesus today?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord Jesus, help me always be honest about my failures to see what you want me to see. Lead me by hand to the place where you can touch and heal me, and I can see clearly for now. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world where Jesus leads us by hand.