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.
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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.