It’s almost February 2013… and if you’ve been visiting this blog for the past year for the purposes of finding guidance and encouragement as you read God’s Word, it is likely that you’ve successfully read through the entire Bible. If so, congratulations! However, if you were less than entirely successful… take heart. You get another chance. It’s a new year; a fresh slate – an opportunity to start over.
To expound upon this, I’d like to consider one of Jesus’ healings. In the opinion of this author, one of the most intriguing miracles of the Gospels occurs in Mark 8:22-26. It is recorded as follows:
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
Why the two-stage healing? Why did not Jesus simply heal the man completely the first time? Was He unable? (Certainly that cannot be true.) There must be something significant about Jesus’ deliberate approach here. I could certainly be wrong, but my sense is that Jesus healed the blind man in two stages to teach the disciples (and us, by extension) a very important lesson about faith.
The disciples are not depicted in Mark’s Gospel as the most perceptive bunch. Consider the following: In chapter 6 the disciples witnessed Jesus feed 5,000 people with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Soon thereafter, they observed with their very own eyes Jesus walk atop the sea of Galilee. Upon reaching Gennesaret, Jesus healed many of the sick and infirm who were brought to Him. In chapter 7 Jesus cast a demon out of the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman. He then made a deaf man hear again. At the start of chapter 8 Jesus encountered another large crowd (this time the people were numbered at 4,000) and with only 7 loaves and “a few small fish” (v.7) He fed every hungry mouth.
Jesus’ disciples witnessed all of these signs and wonders. And yet, when they found themselves in a boat with only 1 loaf of bread (8:14), they began to worry and squabble:
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:17-21)
At this point in Mark’s Gospel, the two-stage healing of the bling man is recorded (vv. 22-26). Yes, I think the Author has an impeccable sense of timing in His storytelling.
You see, the disciples were like the bleary-eyed man who, when peering into his immediate foreground, saw only fuzzy images (people) resembling walking trees (v. 24). He had encountered Christ and was indelibly changed for the better, but his perception still had a ways to go. The same was true of the disciples. They had encountered the Son of God in a radical, transformative way, but they still could not see Him clearly.
Case in point: they sat hungry in a boat worrying about their next meal while presumably only feet away the very Multiplier of Loaves & Fish dangled His miracle-making fingers into the water on which He had only recently walked upon.
It’s almost comical.
But really, it’s convicting.
Because we are no different. We are bleary-eyed Christians who fail to behold the glory and grandeur of Christ even when it’s staring us right in the face. We doubt God’s provision. We confuse His purposes. We forget His Words.
We miss the point.
And like the bleary-eyed man in Mark 8, we need to be touched again by the gracious hand of God so that we might see Him more clearly. This is why reading through the Bible should become a regular practice for all Christ-followers. We can’t possibly perceive everything the first time through! We need to read it again, and again, and again, and again. Once we finish reading the Bible, we need to start over. Each time through the eyesight of our faith improves. Every time we are exposed to God’s Word we are exposed to God’s Wonder.
So whether this is your first time through or your seventh, there are beautiful, challenging, encouraging, and convicting lessons in store.
As always, please feel free to ask questions. You can either email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) or, if you’d like to start a broader conversation, you can post a public comment/question here on the blog. Thanks for reading.