I See Men as Trees, Walking

Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. (Mark 8:22–25, NKJV)

Although Jesus healed many more people than the Bible records, none on record is quite like this account of Jesus healing a blind man… in steps. My working assumption about God is that he always has a reason for doing things — even when those reasons are not apparent — and I’m sure he had his reasons for including this healing in the Bible while omitting others. It’s just that his reasons are not apparent — and this invites conjecture. But we should summarily dismiss some of the ideas that are out there — like that Jesus was underpowered for the task.

For example, some postulate that Jesus had to perform this miracle in two steps in order to achieve a full healing. Others say that this man's sin was particularly grievous — and it took some extra healing to fix him! Yet others say that this blind man had some undeclared demons which fought so tenaciously that they thwarted Jesus’ first attempt at healing.

But even after we throw out these clunkers, two questions stand: why did God include this miracle in Mark… and why did he have Jesus do it this way?

First of all, all miracles point to God. Signs and wonders were given so that people with stony hearts could see that God was with Jesus — and in a big way! Now, miracles had obvious benefits for their recipients: the hungry were fed, the lame could walk and the blind could see! But this healing would do nothing for me unless I had a chance to think about it. After all, its presentation in Scripture is the gateway to my learning. So, what was Jesus teaching by using this two-step process instead of a straight-on healing? I’m not sure. But I have a few observations.

First, this miracle is bracketed by two instances where the disciples misunderstood Jesus’ teachings. The verse immediately before this miracle ends with Jesus asking, “How is it you do not understand?” And the teaching after this miracle ends with Jesus rebuking Peter by saying, “…. Get behind me, Satan! …. You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Was Jesus teaching his disciples that they could only make progress in "seeing" who he was in steps… and in time they would see him in full? This is plausible.

Another idea looks at what the blind man saw after the first step of his healing: he saw enough to recognize that these were men… but he could not see them distinctly. He saw them rather as trees walking. Now, trees have a vertical aspect… and this is what he saw… men as vertical entities. Could Jesus be teaching that before we attempt to deal with each other horizontally, we must establish ourselves vertically — in a relationship with God? That’s plausible, too… and with Mark being the earliest Gospel written, this would be an important inclusion.

It doesn’t take much reading to discover that Jesus is indeed the Great Teacher. But even earthly teachers understand that some questions do more service when they remain unanswered…. and I think we have one here. But, in spite of not having all the answers, we do have all the information: Jesus heals. What a miracle! 

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