“And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. And 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 upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town” (Mark 8:22-26).
Mark is the only Gospel writer that records the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida. Once again, as with the man who was deaf and dumb, we do not know the reason for the particular method Jesus used to heal him on this occasion. Just a word and a touch from Him brought about the miracle the man needed. The story is very brief and presented in a matter of fact way; Jesus took the blind man out of the town, spat on his eyes, placed His hands on him, and restored his sight. Some have asked the question, “Why was the man led outside the town?” The answer is revealed by comparing Scripture with Scripture, for Jesus had already pronounced the doom of Bethsaida because of the wicked unbelief of the people, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you” (Matthew 11:21-22). The miracle He was about to perform would have been lost to their sin-darkened minds. This is the reason why He forbade the man testifying about what had happened to him.
As Lord, Jesus must work according to His own sovereign will. He does not have to explain to us why He chose to work the miracle in this fashion. What catches our attention in our text is the gradual nature of the miracle. We should not understand this as Jesus having two goes at healing the man, for He could have done it in an instant, but as a means of teaching His followers important truths. There is a deep meaning in every word and work of the Lord’s earthly ministry.
The prevailing darkness
The blind man’s gradual healing illustrates the way in which the Holy Spirit deals in the souls of men. Before we became Christians we were spiritually blind and walking in the darkness of this world. “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matthew 4:16) … “He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth” (John 12:35) … “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). Salvation is having God’s light illuminating our souls, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). That light gradually worked upon the darkness in our hearts until it penetrated even its most secret places. “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130). Then a wonderful transformation took place, for God the Father “which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” has redeemed us through the blood of Christ (Colossians 1:12-13) … “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) … “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
The present dispensation
None of this means that we see everything as clear as we should, for in the present dispensation the Holy Spirit is still working the light of Christ into our minds on a daily basis. How many times have we had to question certain doctrines and practices, until we dug deeper into God’s word to find the answer? There are many things we could not understand right away, but with patience the Spirit of God uses “precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:13) until we are able to “comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of His word (Ephesians 3:18). At best, and until we see Christ face to face, the fullness of God’s glory is dimly seen and imperfectly understood by us, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Like the blind man in our text, we see “men as trees walking.” It is not until the work of God has penetrated deeper into our hearts and everyday lives, and we have matured in Christ, that we begin to walk in the light of holiness and sanctification. In our early days as believers the need of purity and dedication did not dawn on us, but after the Holy Spirit persistently revealed the Scriptures to us, we saw the doctrine in the full light of day, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105) … “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). If our hearts are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, then we will come to perfect 20/20 spiritual vision, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
The Lord Jesus Christ did not leave the man with partial sight. The second touch brought about clarity of vision. The very fact that the Holy Spirit was sent on the Day of Pentecost reveals to us that God wanted His church to walk in the light. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come” (John 16:13). He continues to work in us until the day when Christ will return for His church, “the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). Until then, we watch, wait and work for the Lord’s return and experience the joy of having our spiritual eyesight perfected. Nevertheless, there are many in our churches who only know the doctrines of Christ in a vague way, and some not at all. To them the Lord would say, “Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Revelation 3:18). The Great Healer is still able to “To open the blind eyes” (Isaiah 42:7).