Mark 8:22-26

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 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?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.” Mark 8:22-26

There is an old joke (that I can never remember) about how all the people who had been healed by Jesus showed up at a convention. Then began arguing about the correct way to be healed by Jesus since their experiences were each slightly different. The punchline is that this was the beginning of modern denominationalism. Today’s reading features a man who would argue that healing is a two-stage process.

It is a strange reading, isn’t it? The surprise comes when Jesus doesn’t get it right the first time. This is the only time this happens. The rest of the story has all of the elements that we have come to expect – people bringing a friend for healing, Jesus taking time to respond, restoring his sight, sending him home with instructions not to say anything to anyone. But what’s with the two tries before he sees clearly?

I honestly don’t know. But I think the surprise is worth pondering.

The last thing we should do with this story is to get all literal about it. I can well imagine someone in a Bible study asking, “But if the guy was blind, how could he recognize that people look like walking trees, if he had never seen trees or people before?” Then it is off to the speculation races on how the guy might have lost his vision in a childhood accident with an Official Daisy Red Ryder Range Model 1938 Shepherd’s Staff.

Maybe today we should just live with the question. We can ponder ideas like these:

  • There is a difference between looking and seeing, just like the difference between hearing and listening.
  • We don’t always see as clearly as we think we do.
  • No one is as blind as the one who refuses to see.
  • There is always more to learn, more to discover. More meanings emerge over time as we make our way through life.
  • We simply don’t look at things the way we used to…which is a good thing.

Let us pray: Open our eyes, Lord, that we might truly see. Heal the blindness we can’t see. Restore your vision to our eyes. Give us the patience that healing sometimes requires. And thank you for friends who aren’t content to leave us to our struggles but encourage us to get the help we need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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