In the story of the Blind Man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26) we hear of a man who is brought before Jesus to be healed. Jesus puts his saliva on the man’s eyes. Yet, the man isn’t completely healed. He is still blind: “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Jesus gives it another shot and the man is completely healed. For this man, his journey of healing was also a journey of faith.
When I first read this Gospel passage, I was thinking to myself, “Jesus kind of messed up that miracle, didn’t he?” I mean, He had to go in a second time to completely heal the man. There is no other story in the Bible where Jesus has to go back in a second time to complete a miracle. Some biblical scholars suggest that later Gospel writers struck this passage to ease their discomfort at the possible interpretation of a Christ who was not strong enough to heal the sick in one fell swoop. Their discomfort makes sense, because it can be the same discomfort that we sometimes experience in our own faith lives. A God who answers all of our prayers and fixes our problems with the snap of a finger is far more attractive than a God who takes His time and might need to give us a second shot—but the God we want might not be the God we need.
It is likely that we have all heard a variation of the proverb, “Give a man a fish, and he can eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” What if Jesus’ miracle was exactly that? It was not an indiscriminate offering a one-time gift to this man, but the even greater gift of accompaniment—the miracle of getting the man to believe in his own light and worth, fostering within him the desire for a life that he once knew (since he apparently knew what trees looked like), a life lived basking in the light of God. Jesus waited for the man to see for himself the restorative power of faith. Jesus was willing to accompany the man as he came to his own conclusions about his healing.
At the end of the story, Jesus tells the man not to return to Bethsaida. This turning away from a sinful place is the fruit of faith that the blind man experiences. He is free from the place that caused him blindness. Is that not what Jesus might want for us—to be free from the places that harm us? Maybe that looks like leaving behind friendships which devalue us, walking away from institutions that force our complicity in their structural sin, and even leaving behind the states of mind which tell us that we are unworthy of being loved. Jesus seeks our freedom in the same way that He sought the freedom of the blind man from sin. No matter how long our journeys of faith are, Jesus is willing to wait for us, to return to us, and accompany us when we are ready.
I want us to spend some time reflecting on the blind man’s friends, who brought him before Jesus. They saw in Jesus the potential to have their friend turn his life around. Who are the people in our lives who see our need to turn away from the dark places which surround us, and who ignite in us those flames of hope which illuminate our pathways out of the darkness? Is it too much of a stretch to think of Jesus as constantly accompanying us on our journeys through the presence of our loved ones? Personally, I don’t think so.
When is the last time that you let someone be Jesus for you? Who is a loved one that you can think of right now who is offering you a healing that you have yet to accept? In some ways, the blind man modeled for us radical vulnerability. He allowed Jesus to touch something painful and even allowed him to try again when things didn’t go exactly the way he had hoped. His incredible openness is truly something to be admired. My challenge to you today is this, friends: let someone be Jesus for you this week. You never know, you might be able to see again.