I did the best I could. It was 35 years ago, and I was to preach my first sermon. The venue was a very small country church east of Dallas. The church was so small it did not have a full-time pastor. The associate pastor at our church asked me to fill in for him at that church one Sunday, and I accepted. I had a very intriguing question raised by a story from Scripture, but I had very few answers.
For a bit of background, one can tell from Scripture that Jesus was very concerned about how well we could see. The four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record over 220 passages where “see, seen, sight, and blind” are used by Jesus. In some cases, these Gospel passages also refer to the Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, who said one would come (Messiah) who would restore sight to the blind. For example, see Matt. 11:15 and Isa. 35:4-6.
My intriguing question for that small congregation that day came from the book of Mark, chapter 8, verses 22-26. In the story, the people of Bethsaida bring a blind man to Jesus and beg Him to touch him. Jesus took the man outside the village, spit on his eyes, and touched him, and asked if he could see anything. The man replied he could see people, but they looked “like trees walking around”. In other words, he could see, but not very clearly. Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes a second time. “Then his eyes were opened, his sight restored, and he saw everything clearly.” Jesus sent him home.
It took two attempts to heal the man’s blindness. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was the miracle worker without limitations. He took His orders only from God the Father, yet He needed a second shot at restoring sight to the blind man. That seemed so unusual. Was He having a bad day? Were His powers in need of a tune up? That was not the case at all. The message of this story is a physical representation of a quite common spiritual occurrence.
Isaiah foretold, and Jesus knew that when He came to earth, there would be more than one, in fact three types of blindness He would encounter:
1. A certain portion of the population would have physical and literal blindness from eye diseases, accidents, and other causes. This was the case with the man in Mark 8 above. Jesus would miraculously heal these cases.
2. Others, a much larger portion of the population, would have eyes (for natural sight), but could not see in the spiritual sense. See Matthew 13:13, where Jesus was asked about speaking to the people in parables. He said “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” He was actually quoting Isaiah 6:9-10, which goes on to say “this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.” In other words, there would be some blind because of callousness of heart, and they could not see Jesus as the Son of God. They might see His miracles, and hear the wonderful words of Truth taught, but they would not fully see (comprehend), and they would miss the spiritual connection with Jesus. In addition to a vision correction, they would need heart surgery to correct the callousness (Ezek. 36:26-remove the heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh) in order to connect with Jesus.
3. Finally, there would be the hard-core blind, those who thought they saw perfectly but were deceived. They neither needed nor wanted any other help or enlightenment, and out of pride would persecute those who might be led by sight toward the Light of Jesus. See John 9:39, where Jesus says “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see, and those who see will become blind.” Most of the Pharisees fit into this category, as did Saul before his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Saul, persecutor of converts to The Way, literally became blind in that encounter with Jesus (Acts 9). He got his physical sight back (and a new name-Paul) when Jesus later called him to carry His name before the Gentiles.
Today, thanks to eyeglasses, modern medicine, hygiene, and vastly improved surgical techniques, physical blindness is not as prevalent as in Jesus’ time. Regarding the man’s blindness in Mark 8, it took more than one touch by Jesus to heal his physical blindness, just as it often takes more than one touch for the rest of us to be healed of our spiritual blindness toward Jesus. There was no power shortage on Jesus’ part that day. He gave us that story as an example and encouragement.
Symptoms of spiritual blindness might be any of the following, and there are probably others:
1. We are too busy or uninterested to pursue Jesus. He does not fit into our high priority category. There are plenty of other things crowding our schedule.
2. We go to church, know about Jesus, but we do not know Jesus through a personal relationship.
3. We are a good person leading a good life, and that should be enough to get us into Heaven.
4. We tried Jesus, and it did not work out.
5. The cares and worries of this world have beaten and worn us down to the point we have become calloused to the things of God. There appears to be no help for us.
In terms of blindness, Jesus knew what He was facing when He walked the earth, and He still knows today. He is willing to address these symptoms, and He is willing to touch the deepest parts of our being to bring about healing. He demonstrates from the story that He is willing to, and often does, touch a second time, and a third, and more to bring about the restoration of sight. He came from Heaven in the form of a man, and lives and reigns today, so that we can see (and hear) Him clearly, can follow and pursue Him, and come to know and understand Him as our personal Friend and Savior, Lord and King.
Jesus did not need a “do-over” to heal the man of blindness in Mark 8, but the man did. Often we do also. Ask Him to touch you again.