Jesus Heals a Blind Man
22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man's eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, "Can you see anything now?"
24 The man looked around. "Yes," he said, "I see people, but I can't see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around."
25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man's eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, "Don't go back into the village on your way home."
A blind man is brought to Jesus and, in a manner reminiscent of the deaf mute, Jesus leads the man away from the crowd and restores his sight in stages. He then sends the man home, telling him to avoid the village.
A blind man (Mark 8:22)
What makes this miracle so unusual is the fact that it occurred in stages.660 Beyond demonstrating Jesus' obvious compassion, this miracle seems intended to teach that: 1) "no matter how complete the blindness, Jesus [is] able to give (in)sight,"661 and 2) "spiritual truth is not always perceived clearly at first."662 (The next incident recorded in Mark's gospel [vv. 27-33] bears this out: In his limited understanding of Jesus and his mission, Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ but then tried to prevent Jesus from suffering and dying.663) This ties into Jesus' warning his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah/Christ (Mark 8:30): the disciples' limited understanding of who Jesus was could/would be cleared up only after Jesus died, rose again, returned to Heaven, and established his Church via the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.664 Then the disciples would be free to do as they, in fact, did do: take the Gospel to the entire world.
Why did Jesus tell the man to avoid the village as he returned home? Perhaps in order to encourage the man to meditate on the tremendous blessing he had received before sharing it first of all with his family and friends.665
See (vv. 23, 24, 25)
Like Jesus' miracles in general, this one in particular was intended as an acted parable, a real life illustration of what it means to follow Jesus. We should note the fact that this story contains several different forms of the word "see" (Greek blepo). Besides referring to physical sight, this word is used "frequently in the sense of becoming aware of or taking notice of something."666 It is probably not too much of a stretch to find in this story a reminder that it is only as we take our eyes off ourselves and direct our vision/attention upward to Jesus that we are able to see/understand clearly and to plainly distinguish God's will for our lives.
"Sight was a widely used metaphor for understanding. This miracle depicts the correct but incomplete understanding of the disciples."667 Points of comparison between the blind man and Jesus' disciples include:
Blind Man: Physical blindness prior to meeting Jesus.
Disciples: Spiritual blindness prior to meeting Jesus.
Blind Man: Led away from the crowd.
Disciples: Called out of the crowd.
Blind Man: Touched by Jesus.
Disciples: Taught by Jesus.
Blind Man: Like a baby, he could see only shapes.
Disciples: Like spiritual babes, they had only a partial understanding of who Jesus was.
Blind Man: Sight fully restored after a second touch by Jesus.
Disciples: Full understanding after the resurrection (and Pentecost).
Blind Man: He was not to tell others what had happened.
Disciples: They were to keep Jesus' identity secret until after the resurrection.668
As recorded in John 8:31-32, "Jesus said to the people who believed in him, 'You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" Noted Bible teacher William Barclay finds in these words "a complete picture of discipleship":
True discipleship starts with belief.
Next comes remaining in Jesus' word, which includes: listening, learning, penetrating, and obeying.
It leads to a knowledge of what is most important in this life.
And it brings freedom from: fear, self, other people, and sin.669
"The Gospels reveal three stages in the development of a disciple": 1) the curious, 2) the convinced, and 3) the committed.670 The curious never do see Jesus for who he truly is. The convinced recognize and accept Jesus as the Messiah. The committed see Jesus for who he is and ache with the longing to share that vision with others.
??? What can this passage teach us about our own spiritual growth and development?
Peter's Declaration about Jesus
27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"
28 "Well," they replied, "some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets."
29 Then he asked them, "But who do you say I am?"
Peter replied, "You are the Messiah."
30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
Jesus inquires of his disciples concerning public opinion regarding himself. The general consensus is that Jesus is a prophet. When he presses them for their opinion, Peter acts as spokesman for the group and confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, or Christ.
People say (Mark 8:27)
Public opinion held that perhaps Jesus was John the Baptist returned to life "to continue the work of preparation for the kingdom,"671 or perhaps a prophet like Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:15-18), or perhaps even the great prophet Elijah who had been taken alive up into heaven via a chariot of fire and a whirlwind, and who was to be sent by God "before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD" (see Malachi 4:5, NASB; compare Mark 6:14-16).672 These responses reflect the fact that "there was considerable messianic speculation among Jews in late antiquity ... There were anticipations of a coming prophet, or priest, or king - all based on prophecies and/or typologies in Scripture."673
The Messiah (Mark 8:29)
Jesus asked the disciples: "'But who do you [plural674] say that I am?'" (NASB). Speaking for the group, Peter confessed Jesus as "the Messiah" ("the Christ" NASB) (Greek Christos: "literally, 'one who has been annointed'675). As rendered by the NASB: Matthew: "the Christ, the Son of the Living God"; Mark: "the Christ"; Luke: "the Christ of God."676 "Messiah" (Hebrew) and "Christ" (Greek) carry the same meaning. "This affirmation of faith in Jesus was the anchor of their discipleship despite their temporary failures and defections."677Although true, this confession placed the disciples squarely in the minority, and thus illustrates the fact that "a true believer is one who is willing, whenever necessary, to fly in the face of popular opinion and openly to express a conviction that is contrary to that of the masses. In the best sense of the term, the believer is willing to come forth boldly in the interest of the truth."678
Most notably in the OT, prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed. "In such settings the anointing signified that the person was commissioned and approved (by God and the people) for the special office or task."679 By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, there was much anticipation regarding God's specially Anointed (= Messiah/Christ) to deliver and restore Israel. The NT writers consistently present Jesus as the Christ or Messiah, with expectation having given way to fulfillment.680 Here we might note that: "Anointed as prophet, [Jesus] leads us into all truth (John 6:14; 7:16); as priest he intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:21); and as king he reigns over us (Philippians 2:9–10)."681
"Every aspect of the salvation which God has intended for and bestowed upon the world is, for the whole of the NT, bound up in Jesus, in so far as he is the Christ."682 While "Christ" eventually "became part of the name-formula for referring to Jesus, for the Evangelists [= Gospel writers] the term retained a connection with ancient visions of God's decisive eschatological intervention on behalf of his people. For the Evangelists the Jewish rejection of Jesus was their rejection of Israel's Messiah. As perhaps no other christological title, the Evangelists' use of 'Christ'" testifies to the Jewish roots of the Christian faith while simultaneously asserting its universal character.683
Not to tell anyone (Mark 8:30)
Why did Jesus not openly claim to be the Messiah? For two reasons, really. First of all, the disciples had only a partial understanding of who Jesus was.684 "The fulness of what 'the Christ' meant was not yet revealed to them."685 Secondly, Jesus was not the type of Messiah the people were seeking. People simply were not looking for "a humble, patient, loving, peaceful Messiah, God's suffering servant as pictured in Is. 53."686 As one source puts it: "[T]he dominant popular hope was of a king like David, with a role of political liberation and conquest. ... Jesus' conception of his Messianic role was so much at variance with the popular connotations of christos that he preferred to avoid the title."687 By the time Jesus came on the scene, the expectation for a national deliverer who would restore Israel to greatness had reached fever pitch. In the gap between the last OT prophet and John the Baptist, the OT prophecies concerning Israel's renewal were used as the groundwork for apocalyptic writings depicting Israel's complete triumph over her enemies. By brute force and bloody determination, the Messiah would crush the Gentiles and reestablish Israel as God's chosen people. "These are the Messianic ideas which were in the minds of men when Jesus came. They were violent, nationalistic, destructive, vengeful. True, they ended in the perfect reign of God, but they came to it through a bath of blood and a career of conquest. Think of Jesus set against a background like that. No wonder he had to re-educate his disciples in the meaning of Messiahship; and no wonder they crucified him in the end as a heretic. There was no room for a cross and there was little room for suffering love in a picture like that."688
An Honest Confession
The story is told of a German prince who was traveling through France during the reign of Louis XVI. The prince visited Toulon and was told by the commandant there that he could set free one galley slave.
The prince interviewed several of the prisoners, all of whom complained of injustices and mistreatment. All, that is, except for the one prisoner who admitted he had been nothing short of a wicked and desperate wretch deserving of death.
The prince "scolded" the man and said that he would not be allowed to remain another day in the company of all the other honest and upright prisoners.
And the prince set him free.689
The first step in confessing Jesus as the Anointed One of God who came to set us free, is to acknowledge that we in no way deserve the freedom he offers us. To see Jesus for who he really is, we must first see ourselves for who - and what - we really are.
??? What does it mean to "confess" something? What does it mean to confess Jesus as Messiah?