In Mark 8:22–26, why does Mark put the healing account between the rebuke of the Pharisees and disciples?

NIV 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.”

2 Answers 2


The healing story in 8:22-26 is one of the major hinges of the Gospel of Mark and serves to bridge the first section of the book with the middle section. Another healing of a blind man - the beggar Bartimaeus - will serve as the other major hinge into the third and final section of the Gospel.

In the first section of Mark, Jesus is revealed as the Messiah in power. He performs many healings, drives out demons, and demonstrates his power over nature. Woven into this section are three boat stories and three bread stories. The boat theme in the calming of the storm and walking on water along with the bread theme in the feeding of the 5000 and the feeding of the 4000 find their common culmination in the story leading right up to ours, which I'll return to in a moment.

In the second section, though, the Messiah is revealed in weakness. Jesus begins to teach the disciples that the Messiah must suffer, be rejected, and die. Three times he tells his disciples this and three times he corrects their misapprehension of his purpose.

To return now to the third bread/boat story, we find Jesus warning the disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees, the disciples failing to understand him and worrying that they have not brought bread, and Jesus rebuking them by reminding them of the feedings and asking, "Do you still not understand?"

Immediately following our healing story, Jesus asks the disciples the key question of the Gospel: "Who do you say I am?" In one sense we see that Peter has begun to understand, but in the immediately following story Peter shows he does not yet fully understand, being rebuked by Jesus for his protestation of Jesus' pronouncement about his coming death.

Finally we're in the place to see why Mark places the healing story between the rebuke on the boat and the rebuke in Caesarea Philippi. The healing serves as a parable or metaphor of sorts to the condition of the disciples. The question from the previous section - "Do you still not understand?" - begins to find a positive answer. This is reflected in the first stage of the healing. Just as the blind man begins to see but not quite right, so also the disciples have begun to understand about Jesus as the Messiah, but they do not yet understand quite right because they do not yet grasp that the Messiah must suffer and die.


Mark 8:18-21 is a summary by Jesus of an integrated set of passages with ten references or allusions to food, with a minor theme of not understanding. The author sets out to complete this set, which encompasses Mark 6:33-8:21, before introducing a new theme. There is only space to summarise the material, but I provide references and links in my summary:

  • Jesus and the disciples had no leisure so much as to eat , so they went into a desert place
  • Feeding the 5000 (6:33-44)
  • When Jesus walked on water the disciples were amazed, for they considered not the miracle of the loaves (6:45-54)
  • Pharisees complain about the disciples eating with unwashed hands (7:1-8)
  • Discourse - what goes into a man goes into his belly and does not defile (7:9-23)
  • Greek woman metaphorically begs for crumbs from the table (7:24-30)
  • Feeding the 4000 (8:1-9)
  • Disciples are hungry and have only one loaf of bread (8:13-14)
  • Jesus warns the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees and they reason, "It is because we have no bread," showing they do not understand (8:15-17)

Similarly, Mark 8:27-28, in which Jesus asks who people say he is, is closely associated with Mark 8:29-30, in which Jesus asks the disciples who they say he is. It is difficult to split these passages without losing some of the impact.

The healing account is placed between the set of passages about food and not understanding, and the passages about understanding who Jesus is. This created a break that shows that the first, quite long set of passages is complete, before the reader goes on to the passages about who Jesus is.

  • What about Mark 7:31-37? Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 0:20
  • @RevelationLad You're right. That seems to create a 'sandwich' between 7:31-37 and 8:22-26. Certainly, 8:22-26 marks a break or pause between the first major set and the second, but it is unclear why the author created a break within the first set. I call them a sandwich because they are intentionally related - hearing/speech and sight, with Jesus using spit in both cases - the only time in the Gospel when Jesus did this. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 0:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.