Why would Jesus touch the blind man twice to heal him? Surely He had the power to heal him the first time. So, it would appear to me that there is some significance for why this healing happened this way. Though, in this as with all Scripture we must remember that the hidden things belong to the LORD but the things that have been revealed belong to us (Deut. 29:29). Thus, we cannot take all of the mystery out of this passage but we can offer a few reasons for why this miracle went down as it did (Remember Jesus could have done it much differently cf. Matt. 9:27-31; Jn. 9:1-12). Here is the text under question:
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And 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?” 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. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” (Mark 8:14-26)
As with any passage, the context must be considered. This is a cursory look at the passage but we should be able to get at the reason for the double healing. So in the broad context of the New Testament and the Gospels there is quite a lot about spiritual seeing. In Mark chapter four Jesus explains His use of parables. He said (see Mk. 4:10-12) I use parables “so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven’” ( cf. Is. 6:9-10).
In the immediate context in chapter 8 we see that Jesus talks about “seeing,” i.e. understanding. He says, “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to Him, “Seven.” And He said to them, “Do you not yet understand?’” (Mk. 8:18-21).
After this the disciples and Jesus (“they”) went to Bethsaida (Mk. 8:22). So there was some time that elapsed between verse 21 and verse 22 in historical reality. Yet Mark places the healing of the blind man directly following the conversation between Jesus and the disciples.
Why? And why such a strange healing? Why would Jesus spit in the blind man’s eyes and yet not completely heal him? Why would he still have poor sight (Mk. 8:24)? Why would Jesus have to touch him again (Mk. 8:25)?
Based on the context I think it reminds us of the disciples and their vision. They “see,” i.e. understand, but their understanding is still very poor. They too will need a second touch. Notice what follows this passage. Jesus asks His disciples, “What do you say that I am?” Peter as the disciples typical spokesman said, “You are the Christ.”
Jesus is essentially asking the disciples, “Do you see, do you understand?” The disciples respond, “Yes, we see you are the Christ.” Yet, they did not know but they didn’t see as clearly as they thought they did. They saw “men , but they look like trees,” you could say (Mk. 8:24). This is proven later especially by the once very vocal Peter as he denies Jesus (Mk. 14:66-72). He truly did not see what it meant for Jesus to be the Christ. He too needed a second touch. He too needed to be healed of his blindness.
Thus I think in retrospect the healing of the blind man in this passage is a type of parable. Jesus asked, “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mk. 8:18). The disciple did see and yet they did not see. It is a strange paradox. They had in a sense been healed as the blind man but their vision, their understanding, was still a long way off. Their vision would not be truly “fixed” until they saw the Lord again and He fixed them (Mk. 16:12-14). At the end of Luke, after Jesus’ resurrection, we see that Jesus gave the disciples the correct understanding of the Christ that they lacked (Lk. 24:27, 44-47). After this lens adjustment they could see clearly.
So why was the blind man healed twice? I think to teach something about the disciples. And about us. It appears that way to me based on the immediate context of the passage and the way that blindness and seeing is used in Scripture. It has also been pointed out to me that there is a chiastic structure in this passage. Here’s the diagram:
A: The Apostles don’t see clearly (vv. 14-21)
B: The blind man can’t see clearly (vv. 22-24)
B’: The blind man can see clearly (vv. 25-26)
A’: The Apostles see clearly (vv. 27-30)
We see that the blind man needed a second touch, the Apostles needed a second touch, and we often need second, third, fourth, etc., touches to see as well. We need more contact with Jesus the Lord of life if we are going to see.
In the book of Genesis we read of societal progress. There are advances in technology and the arts. Yet, the problem remains: We have sinful hearts. Thus relationships and truly the world remain fractured. Like humpty dumpty; we can’t put it back together again. The answer to my problem, humanities problem, and the world’s problem is external to us.
One would think that
“Auschwitz destroyed… the idea that European civilization at least was a place where nobility, virtue and humanizing reason could flourish and abound… It seems remarkable that the belief in progress still survives and triumphs… People still continue to this day to suppose that the world is basically a good place and that its problems are more or less soluble by technology, education, ‘development’ in the sense of ‘Westernization.’”[i]
However, today’s problems, like that of all history past, is not solved by advances in technology or even any sort of knowledge or morality. It is solved by a Savior. It is Messiah Jesus that will once and for all eradicate sin and suffering (see e.g. Rom. 11:26-27; Heb. 12:23; 1 Jn. 3:2; Rev. 3:12; 21:1-8, 27; 22:3).
When we control the measures to make a utopian society the way we think it should be, it fails. Whether we control “the stirrings” (e.g. The Giver), emotions (e.g. Equilibrium), everything (e.g. The Lego Movie), or the socioeconomic structure (e.g. The Hunger Games) the result is not paradise; it’s a sort of hell, at least for many. We messed up utopia, we can’t with our fallible minds design a new one. Only our Lord can. He has the only infallible and incorruptible mind. He perfectly balances justice and grace. And He alone can make us and all things new.
So the recent movie and classic The Giver does more than entertain. It teaches us a profound truth, one we would do well to remember: There is no utopian society outside of Christ. We can’t fix it. There have been many botched attempts throughout history. They lay died with their victims.
“Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team…” As catchy as The Lego Movie song is, it is not exactly right. Everything is not awesome, not yet. However, it will be. But not from our own doing (Notice I am not saying we shouldn’t work for social justice. We should! Yet, it will not bring the ultimate and forever peace that we long for.).
Heaven comes down (Rev. 21:2). We don’t, nor can we, build it here. I am with you and Miss America in saying I desire world peace, yet it won’t ultimately come until our Lord does. When our Lord comes He will wipe away all evil, pain, and tears, not some charismatic leader or government (Rev. 21:1ff). Jesus will make all things new. Jesus will bring utopia.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, come!
Sin is not good. But Jesus is. He will bring the shalom we all desire. Live for Him.
[i] N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, 22-23.
“Are the gifts of the Spirit for today?” This is a big question and an important one because it impacts the church, missions, and individual’s spiritual lives. It is an important question because many denominations and individuals are divided over it.
Truly and sadly very often “those who [speak] most loudly of being led by the Spirit [are] the very persons responsible for quenching the Spirit’s work.” Interestingly, this was also true of the Corinthians of Paul’s day. Yet, Paul does not say, “Away with the Spirit!” Instead, he says, “Don’t quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19)! The Spirit is not the problem; we are.
I think both camps, cessationists (they believe the gifts have seized) and continuationists (they believe the gifts continue), are right on some points and wrong on others. “Error is much more likely to be propagated, when it is mixed with truth. This hides deformity and makes it go down more easily.” Those who believe that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit continue and those that believe they do not both very often sound right. This likely means that both arguments have been construed wrongly.
Neither side is understanding the question rightly. Of course, I will not satisfy everyone, or, perhaps, anyone. But this is my attempt to satisfy myself on this subject. And I hope to bring you along as well.
We will first look at four negative arguments that people make that believe the charismatic gifts have seized. Then we will look at one positive argument in favor of the continuation of the charismatic gifts. I also have included a long excursus that outlines a somewhat chronological example of the ongoing powerful and uncommon work of the Spirit since Pentecost. Finally, we will look at a few practical reflections.