‘Can you see now?’
By Sam Askew
They (Jesus and the 12 disciples) came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 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.” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” 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. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.” – Mark 8:22-26
When we are introduced to a woman at the well, a Samaritan traveler and a man lowered through the roof, it is likely that the story being told has a depth beyond the simple telling of a miracle performed. There is a point to be made and a question to ask: “Am I that person?”
An unnamed man was brought by some people. These people have no names and they are not designated as friends, relatives or persons who were closely acquainted with the man. That they brought him to Jesus and begged Jesus to touch him suggests they were followers or disciples of Jesus or they knew Jesus was not the run-of-the-mill rabbi. Any other rabbi would not think of touching someone so obviously unclean that God had afflicted the man with blindness.
The question Jesus first asks pertains to the manner in which Jesus leads. The hand of God is prevalent in Old Testament literature. God’s hand is one of protection and guidance for the people of God. As one might take the hand of a child to safely escort through a crowd of people, Jesus connects with the man. With Jesus there will be no stumbling or confusion about direction.
Having led the man outside the village, know that the village is in some way associated with the blindness of the man. Then there is the question that we must consider: “Do you see anything?” After Jesus spit upon the man’s eyes and touched them, the man could not see clearly. What he saw he described as trees walking. Had Jesus overestimated his own power to heal or should we consider how fully the man was blind? It took a second touch for the man sight to be restored and to see clearly.
I believe this is a story about the harm that is brought upon us by the choices we make about what and whom we allow into our lives. Jesus tells the man to return home but to stay out of the village. What had the man become blind to while in the village is a question worth reflecting upon.
In the world today there are those who turn a blind eye to situations that exist in their village. There is the addict who is blind to the abuse that is destroying health and wellbeing. There are individuals who are blind to the evil attached to great wealth and positions of authority. There is a blindness connected to issues of racism and privilege. There is blindness in broken relationships. There is blindness as we are challenged by environmental issues.
Being led outside the village enables one to see another perspective. In distancing, healing can be established. It is then that one can be enabled to see more clearly what is right and good. Some people saw a man in need and introduced him to Jesus. Jesus connected with the man in a personal way and stayed attentive until sight was restored and the man was able to see clearly. This is a story about Christian discipleship.
The apostle Paul, in giving witness to the healing and restoring power of God through the Lord Jesus Christ may have been familiar with this story. He wrote to the Corinthian Church a letter of concern for their blindness in love for their neighbor. After defining love, he assures the Church that they are not alone in the struggle to love in the manner of Christ. Paul writes:
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Cor 13:12)
In connecting with Jesus, clarity is assured.
Your servant in Christ,
SAM ASKEW is the pastor of Windsor Congregational Christian Church. Contact him at 757-242-4794.