There’s this episode in Mark’s gospel which is particularly puzzling. Here it is in chapter 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.”

Besides the spit and trees, which are odd enough, what’s the deal with this two-part healing? In Mark, Jesus can raise the dead and overpower a legion of demons but he botches this man’s healing on the first try? What’s the point?

  • 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, 2013 at 3:58
  • 1
    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, 2013 at 21:35
  • See also: What did the blind man from Bethsaida see? Jun 26, 2013 at 16:42

4 Answers 4


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 this only in part. Jesus is the Christ but not at all the Christ of their expectations.

(Please see this video for a visual breakdown of this answer.)

The two-part healing of the blind man (8:22-26) is sandwiched between two stories: Jesus rebuking his disciples for their lack of understanding (8:14-21) and Jesus asking 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 which 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 Jewish soil. But Jesus understanding of this title was quite different from Peter’s; he viewed his mission as one of suffering and 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 Bartimaeus 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.

  • Very good. The scene is a recapitulation of the idea of Noah being seen naked, and the Shibboleth. It is wrong to see Jesus as ONLY a man. The first healing adds to his temptation to not want to die. He has performed a miracle which is sufficient to make people follow him without the cross. It is a living tree (walking). The reality is that Jesus did not perform the miracle, since he said he would only give one sign. It was done by the Father on his behalf, as with the prophets. It was used to nudge Jesus in his commitment to the cross.
    – Bob Jones
    Feb 9, 2021 at 14:18

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.


To understand why some miracles have seemingly differing results, you need to put the miracles into a context. And there are two. Two broad groups - those Miracles he did in the early part of his ministry, and those later. But more, you need to see the ‘difference’, the ‘why’.

Those in the early part of his ministry were ‘signs’. That is, they were ‘foretold’ in the Tanakh (Old Testament). These were ‘signs’ that the Messiah would perform - and only the Messiah would be able to do these. These were specifically to announce the arrival of their Messiah. Example, healing someone born blind.

Because they were prophesied, they ‘would be’, that is, they would ‘happen’ independent of the recipients ‘faith’ - because prophesies ‘will be’. Gods word, what God has spoken, will come to pass.

But after being ‘rejected’ as Messiah, Jesus went about ‘doing good’. He already had a reputation of being able to deliver, but those seeking a miracle now required ‘faith’, the persons ‘faith’.

So now there is a ‘variable’ - or, in other words, the miracle was dependant on something outside of Jesus. So we see ‘your faith has made you well’, or, ‘as you have believed, so be it done unto you. Note ‘your faith’, ‘you’.

So, we see, for example, when Jesus could not ‘do’ any (great) Miracles, (Mark6:5) , if people’s ‘faith’ was lacking, (unbelief), he would ‘build’ it up by straight away starting to teach them. As well, he would sometimes have to move away from people casting or generating unbelief - go out of the town, or tell everybody to leave the room.

So .... The blind man who was only ‘partially healed’, needed his faith ‘built up’. (a little more).

The point here is it is people’s faith, not Jesus’s ‘power’, that was the variable. And, we appreciate this now comes into a contentious ‘zone’, so will leave it here. Nevertheless, it is an answer to this question.


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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