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The Jesus of the Gospels has the power to heal. So why does Mark record the partial healing of the blind man in Mark 8?

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

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Only 3 percent of Mark was used by neither Matthew nor Luke, and this pericope is part of that. So people have been asking your question since the 1st century. Which is to say, it's a good question but also very difficult. –  Noah Jun 8 '13 at 3:58
    
It is known that at this time blind men (particularly men) tended to have two blind eyes, and Jesus, having seen that after healing one of the eyes the now ex-blind man was still blind in one side leaving him depth-perception-impaired and thus proceeded to cure his other eye (commonly misinterpreted as healing the blind man twice). –  user2381 Jun 23 '13 at 21:35
    
See also: What did the blind man from Bethsaida see? –  Jon Ericson Jun 26 '13 at 16:42

3 Answers 3

Authored by Luke pre-Pentecost, the blindness in this passage is better explained in Chapter 9 of John's gospel,(who authored his gospel some 30 years after receiving the Holy Spirit Pentecost), where we see the healing of a man blind from birth as an illustration of two forms of blindness, one physical and the other spiritual: "Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt."

And those who are blind is further explained in Paul's 2 Corinthians 4:4, "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

Just as Jesus used Leaven of the Pharisees, where leaven is used as a euphuism for teachings, as when Jesus describes himself as the "Bread of Life", there is a lesson in the miracles of Jesus, which in effect act as a parable lesson beyond the act to "those who see" and are not of "little faith". Many times both the disciples and other followers made the mistake at viewing Jesus' words and acts they had witnessed in a narrow, literal way that the Lord, on more than one occasion, rebuked them as being "ye of little faith."

This is best illustrated in John Newton's beloved hymn "Amazing Grace", which expresses his faith testimony, where blindness and restored vision represent forgiveness and redemption of his sin through faith in Jesus Christ!

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Mark records the partial healing of the blind man to illustrate Jesus healing of his disciples partial understanding. Though the disciples see that Jesus is the Christ, they see only in part. Jesus is the Christ but not the Christ of their expectations.

The two-part healing of the blind man (8:22-26) is sandwhiched between Jesus' rebuke of the disciples for their lack of understanding (8:14-21) and Jesus' direct question to his disciples, "Who do you say that I am" to which Peter rightly responds, "You are the Christ." (8:27-30).

  • Jesus rebukes disciples for lack understanding. "Do you have eyes but fail to see...?" (8:14-21)
  • Two-Part Healing of the blind man (8:22-26)
  • Peter rightly declares Jesus "the Christ." (8:27-30)

But Mark quickly shows Peter's understanding as only partially correct. Jesus immediately begins to teach what it means for him to be the Christ.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (8:31).

Peter will have none of it. This isn't what he meant when he said, "You are the Christ." The title “Christ” in the mind of the Jews carried with it all sorts of expectations that were inconsistent with the suffering message of Jesus. The disciples believed that the Christ was going to be an earthly king, a conquering hero, a military leader who would kick the Romans off of Jewish soil. But Jesus understanding of this title was quite different from Peter’s; he viewed his mission as one of suffering and a death for the sins of the world.

Jesus gathers his disciples and teaches them what it means to follow him.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." (8:34-35)

This pattern (prediction, pride and paradox) will be repeated two more times on Jesus' journey to Jerusalem.

  • Jesus predicts his arrest, death and resurrection (8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34).
  • The disciples demonstrate pride in Jesus' role as an earthly ruler (8:33, 9:33-34, 10:35-40).
  • Jesus teaches a corrective paradox (8:35, 9:35, 10:43-44).

This section (Mark 8:22-10:45) is bookended on either side by the healing of blind men. The first is the two-part healing of the blind man at Bethsaida (8:22-26) and the one time healing of blind Bartimaeus in Jericho (10:46-52). Bartimaeus interestingly enough is the only person in Mark to call Jesus, "Son of David," echoing Peter's confession to Jesus being the "Anointed One" two chapters prior.

The section leading up to Jesus healing of blind Bartimeaus in Mark 10, is thus revealed to be, like the two part healing of the blind man, the healing of the disciples partial sight. They saw that Jesus was the Christ but they did not see fully what this entailed.

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In the Hebrew Bible trees are analogous to people, who bear fruit and grow, or who do not bear fruit and are therefore removed (Judg 9:9-15; Ps 1:3; Ps 52:8; Is 56:3; Is 61:3; Jer 11:16; Jer 17:18; Dan 4:20-22) and the same idea continues into the Christian New Testament (Mt 3:10; Mt 7:17-19; etc.).

Jesus took this man out of the village (Bethsaida), and what this blind man subsequently "saw" were that the people there had no root. That is, they were "uprooted" people that are described in Jude 1:12. In other words, Bethsaida had rejected the miracles of Jesus according to Mt 11:21 and Lk 9:10. As a result of the healing of the blind man, Jesus then directs him NOT to go back to Bethsaida (also compare Mt 13:57-58 and Mk 6:5-6).

To put it another way, the blind man saw what Jesus saw in these people of Bethsaida, who were the same ones that presented the blind man to Jesus.

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