I suspect it has happened to a lot of us who wear glasses, particularly as we get older. We notice that things aren’t quite as crisp as they used to be or that our arms are not as long as they used to be when we try to read. It’s time for glasses or a new prescription for your glasses. You get them and put them on with high expectations. Now things are going to be better! And they are..... to some extent. There are still things that aren’t quite right and it takes a time of adjustment. And sometimes we have to go back to the doctor and the prescription gets adjusted.
In this passage, there’s a bit of that dynamic when Jesus heals a blind man. Jesus heals him and he could see but he’s not completely better. So Jesus has to touch him again to heal him fully. So what are we to make of this odd little episode? Well, it must be seen in light of the overall context. Jesus had just told his disciples that they were blind to what Jesus was doing. In this miracle Jesus shows them that even persistent hardness of heart and spiritual blindness can be overcome. This leads to Peter’s amazing confession. Let’s read Mark 8:14-30.
I. First, let’s look at this interesting healing of the blind man in verses 22-25.
Jesus and his disciples are now in Bethsaida on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. While at this large city a number of people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged Jesus to touch the man’s eyes in order to heal him. We don’t know for certain why Jesus led the blind man out of the town. It was not Jesus’ usual way to isolate himself from a crowd of people when healing or casting out evil spirits. He certainly doesn’t do it later on when he heals blind Bartimaeus. Generally speaking healings were public events and not done in secret.
Yet there are three exceptions when Jesus heals privately. When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, Jesus didn’t allow the crowds to see his life-giving power. In Mark 7:33, Jesus removed the deaf and mute man from the crowd in order to establish a personal communication with a man who had been cut off from society. Here as well, Jesus wanted to establish a personal relationship with the man. And it is also possible that the healing of a blind man in this large city could easily have caused many to worship Jesus for all the wrong reasons. Jesus always avoided those things.
This man had evidently not been born blind since he was able to identify objects and could visualize a tree; still it is likely that he had been blind a long time. All this suggests that the man’s’ sight was restored gradually and with difficulty. The vivid scene expresses the excitement and action in this healing. Still eventually the man’s sight was fully restored. I take comfort from this odd story for it means that sometimes there are stubborn things in our lives that take extra effort on the part of the Holy Spirit to remove. A sin that keeps rising up and keeps tripping us up and causing us to stumble. We fight it constantly and, while we see a little progress, it still persists. Here’s the good news today regarding that sin: Jesus will cure us eventually.
Jesus then tells the man to go home without going back into the village. This is a common command from Jesus to be silent about his miracles. At other times, the reports of Jesus’ healings caused major disruptions to his ongoing teaching and ministry. Likely Jesus said this so that Jesus could continue his work without interruption. What is more significant is that this again fulfills the promised action of God from the Old Testament: the blind will see and the deaf will hear. In Isaiah 35, this is something that the promised Messiah would come to do. In Psalm 146:8 it makes it clear that this is something that will occur with the coming of the new kingdom.
All of this points to the confession by the disciples that follows in verses 27-30. Remember in the previous verses that Jesus had just told his disciples how blind and hard of heart they were. It was something as radical as helping the persistently blind see that finally opens the disciples’ eyes to see who Jesus is. Now they are ready to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
Now going on their way to the area of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do people say I am?" and the disciples respond by giving several views popular among the people. Some were saying that Jesus was John the Baptist. John had urged the people to repent and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. He had been killed not too long before this and evidently some people thought that he had come back to life in the form of Jesus. Others were saying that Jesus was Elijah. Elijah was the great Old Testament prophet who brought God's word with power to a nation that had wandered from God. The prophet Malachi had said that Elijah would come back again. And so some thought perhaps Jesus was Elijah coming back. Still others were saying that Jesus was likely another prophet to help the people prepare for the coming of the Messiah.
However, the people in general didn't understand who Jesus was. There is some evidence that Mark uses the word "people" to describe those people who have not had the truth of the gospel yet revealed to them. In a real sense, they didn't understand who Jesus really was because the Spirit hadn't opened their eyes to that fact. That is true today of people as well, isn't it? Perhaps you know people who don't seem to understand who Jesus really is. They think that Jesus was just an interesting person but nothing more. It may well be that the Spirit has not opened their eyes to the truth and they cannot see who Jesus really is. That means that we must pray for open eyes and hearts so that they may see who Jesus is.
I had a friend who for a number of years refused to believe any of the things that he had been taught as a Christian growing up. He fought it and fought it through his early adult life. Even when his wife became a Christian, he steadfastly couldn’t see how it could be true and rejected the claims of Jesus Christ. Then one day the Spirit simply broke through, opened his eyes and he knew it was true; he believed it and he became a disciple of Jesus. There are people like that all around us – co-workers, children, neighbors – and we must be praying that God will open their eyes to the truths of the Bible. However, Jesus is making the point that while common people may not understand who he is, his followers must be certain of who he is.
III. And so in verses 29-30, Jesus reveals to the disciples that he is the Messiah.
Jesus asks the disciples, "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Jesus takes the topic from the theoretical to the personal level. "Never mind what others are thinking; what do you who are following me think?" Peter responds for the whole group by saying, "You are the Messiah!"
The word "Messiah" or “Christ” means “anointed one.” In the Old Testament, a person who was chosen by God for a special service was anointed by pouring oil over the person's head. Prophets were anointed in this way to show that God had chosen them to be his special spokesman to bring God's word to the people. Priests were anointed, symbolizing that God had chosen them to bring the needs of the people to God. Kings as well were anointed, symbolizing God's special person chosen by God to rule over the people. An anointed person was a person chosen by God to do something special for God and his people.
Now as the Old Testament developed, God revealed that at some point in time, one person would come who would be the “anointed one. This would be the "Messiah," or in the Greek, the "Christ." This one person would be the one who would be the one who would bring God's full blessing on the people once again. Now as time went on, the people's picture of this Messiah also changed. The Jews began to expect someone like King David who would restore the nation and people to their previous place of honor in the world. By the time of Jesus, the people believed the coming messiah would be a national figure who would free the Jews from the Romans. The messiah would be a ruler chosen by God to rule over Israel’s earthly nation.
Now likely when Peter claimed that Jesus was the Christ, he had this kind of person in mind. He knew that Jesus was more than just another prophet. He was convinced that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Jesus was the One whom God had chosen to save the people. However, the disciples' knowledge of Jesus as the Christ was limited. They didn't fully understand what it meant for Jesus to be the Christ.
And so in verse 30, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone yet that he was the Messiah. If the word got around that Jesus was the Messiah, the people would expect Jesus to become a leader who would lead them against the Romans. The disciples weren't able at this point to fully explain what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah. Moreover, Jesus didn't want them to fill his messiahship with their own dreams.
So what do we learn from this strange, but powerful episode? There are some sins in our lives that are stubborn like that blindness in that man. Take comfort that if we look to Jesus and believe in him, those sins and the effects of those sins will someday be overcome. Whatever we are struggling with, either physically or spiritually, Jesus will not leave us languishing but he will ultimately heal us. At times, our lives may seem like men walking around as trees to us now, but Jesus will someday bring us full and complete restoration of our lives.
In the meantime, let’s submit fully to Jesus as the Christ and Lord alone. Let’s seek to live for him in obedience and constant repentance. Confess Jesus as Lord in our lives and then we can experience the power and love of our gracious God as we submit more and more to him in his kingdom. And then thank God as those fuzzy trees, the persistent sins and nagging effects of sin, slowly come into focus and we see Jesus and walk with him more and more.