Monday, December 05, 2016

Healed Again

One of the stranger, lesser talked about miracles is when Jesus healed a blind man at Bethsaida. Described only in Mark 8, Jesus spat in the man's eyes and asked, "Do you see anything?" The man replied, "I see men, but they look like trees, walking." It was after Jesus laid his hands on the man's eyes again that his sight was fully restored, and he saw clearly. He had to be healed twice.

This, to me, adds a feel of realism to the stories of Jesus' miracles. I like the idea of the personal interaction with people, and the concern that they really were well. But for some, it adds a layer of discomfort. Did the Great Physician really botch a healing?

This is a case where context is important. Mark has chosen to sandwich this story in between two other stories, and all of them shine different angles of light on a common struggle. Preceding it is the lesser discussed feeding of the 4,000 and a discussion with his disciples. He was warning them against the Pharisees' "leaven" but they were thinking he was talking about physical bread, since they didn't have any with them. The discussion ends with Jesus' words, "Do you not yet understand?"

Caesarea Philippi was several days' journey
from where they had been. The large rock
formation had a cave in front of it with a
pagan temple to Pan built onto it. The natural
stream of water from the cave was like a gate
to the underworld.  It provided a meaningful
location for Jesus to talk about building
his church on "rock" and how the "gates of
Hell" would not prevail against it.
Following the healing story is the journey to beautiful Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus had a conversation with them about his true identity. Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, but as Jesus began to explain the need for his betrayal and suffering, Peter protested, and Jesus offered the famous rebuke to Peter: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men."

In all of these scenarios, you have the issue of people who have a glimpse of God, but one that remains obscured. The disciples had learned something about God's provision, but couldn't seem to quit worrying about what's for dinner. The blind man could see something, but not clearly. The disciples could understand Jesus was the Messiah, but couldn't get comfortable with a Messiah who would be both a King and a suffering Servant.

Despite our best intentions, we all struggle sometimes to see clearly. Some have been glad to receive the Gospel, but manage to see only more Law where God has given Grace. Some have been glad to receive freedom in Christ, but apply it in a way that is destructive and negligent. Others have settled for a culturally appropriated version of Christ that fails to embody the courage and boldness of the Savior we meet in Scripture.

It's nice to know that for all of us recovering blind people, Jesus is still with us, wanting to know what we can see so that he can help us see more. What truth we've grasped has come by his mercy, and sometimes we'll need more mercy so that we can experience more growth. The good news is that he is patient, and quite willing to help us a second time to see better. Our challenge is to extend to each other the same patience.

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