God-Soaked World Bible Guide – Day 30
April 4, 2017
Tuesday, April 4 – Mark 8:22-26
22 They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He 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?” 24 And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”
Points of Interest:
- Bethsaida was likely located along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee – it was a largely Jewish fishing village familiar to Jesus and his apprentices. Jesus’ reputation as a travelling teacher and healer would have been well established in this area.
- I’m struck for the first time by a small detail. When the blind man’s friends or family or neighbors take him to Jesus, the first thing Jesus does is take his hand and walk him out of the village.
Partly, Jesus has his own reputation to consider. The gospel of Mark spends its first eight chapters pretty systematically developing the idea that Jesus is the Messiah, or the Christ – a Hebrew title for the promised messenger of God who will lead God’s people back to glory. He’s the leader they’ve been hoping for, and just after this passage, in a climactic moment in this section of Mark, Jesus’ apprentice Peter will say this too. But as much as Mark develops this claim, Jesus doesn’t seem to want anyone to know. He’s constantly trying to avoid acclaim, perhaps because he’s aware of just how different he is from the expectations most people had of this awaited ruler. As much as Jesus is Messiah, he’s also counter-Messiah. He’s God’s messenger, for sure, but not the one people have been hoping for. So Jesus keeps doing his best to operate in private.
I’ve got to think, though, that Jesus is also being considerate of this blind man. The sound and attention of this crowd was likely intimidating, and Jesus gently offers his hand and walks him away from a scene of spectacle. At the end of this encounter, perhaps again for both these reasons, Jesus sends the man home, way from what would have been a curious crowd downtown.
- Regardless of Jesus’ intentions, this attention and touch must have been a good feeling for the blind man. I even think Jesus’ earthy touch of rubbing his own saliva onto the man’s eyelids might have been more welcome than creepy.
- Saliva was believed to have medicinal properties by those in the first century Mediterranean world and was associated with healing. So it’s interesting that Jesus used a means for healing that was expected in his culture. Today this scene might look like Jesus walking this man to a local clinic and paying his co-pay for him.
- The two-phase healing of this scene is striking and unique in the memoirs of Jesus’ life. Is this just the way it worked that time? Was it kindness to this man to adjust to his new sight in phases? Both of those, or something else entirely? We don’t know. The line about him first seeing people looking like walking trees is certainly poetic.
- In the end, the man sees great. There’s a triple emphasis in the penultimate verse – he looked intently, his sight was restored, and he saw clearly.
Prayer for your region – I’m gripped by the half-way sight of the man after Jesus’ first touch. For me, this image of hazy sight has been a rich metaphor. Consider any ways that people and culture in your region have been touched by Jesus, but in a way that has left only a hazy rather than fully clear and good impact. I think, for instance, of the nostalgia and spirituality that white-steeple churches evoke in New England – lovely, but something short of Jesus’ full healing power. Or misunderstandings or half-understandings people have of Jesus may come to mind. Pray that Jesus would restore full spiritual sight to many in your region, that people would look intently at the life and words and good news of Jesus and see clearly.
Spiritual Exercise – This week our spiritual exercise will be a modified version of a spiritual practice called Immanuel Prayer. One of Jesus’ nicknames, or titles, is Immanuel – Hebrew for “God with us.” Immanuel prayer is a mode of praying in which we invite Jesus to help us perceive Jesus as with us in all things. Take a moment today to call to mind a place in your life where you lack clarity – perhaps you are utterly confused, or perhaps you can see the way forward, but only in a hazy light. Call this situation to mind for a moment, thinking of what clarity of vision you wish you had. Then thank Jesus for being present and available in confusing situations. Ask Jesus to help you to “see everything clearly.” What comes to mind as you do that?