They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’
A healing curiously in two stages. Those with perfect eyesight may find it hard to enter fully into the story. As my mother’s sight deteriorated a deep, heartfelt frustration was only seeing her children like trees walking, unable to make out our faces. In that predicament, you know there is so much more than you can see, but nothing in your power can give you access to it. Some of us know that special moment when a skilled optician finds the right prescription: suddenly the world comes into focus, and the range of possible activities to enrich life multiplies.
There is a hint the blind man was not fully concentrating the first time. Perhaps he was so excited by finding Jesus alongside him that his mind was all over the place. How often are we so full of what we want to tell Jesus that we fail to hear exactly what he wants to say to us? We need to look at him intently.
Mark’s wider point is that up to this stage in his Gospel people have only seen vaguely what Jesus is about. This story is a bridge to the second half of his Gospel when God will provide the lens through which God’s great plan can be seen in focus. This sharpening of the vision will be set out in tomorrow’s verses in another way.
Meanwhile we might remind ourselves that sometimes Jesus assures us of his presence without answering all of our questions or meeting our urgent desires. Sometimes we have to wait until another stage to find out with clarity what he is about in our lives. And for impatient people like us, that can be as hard as being half blind.
Lord Jesus When you give only part of what I hoped for: make me a grateful disciple show me if I am the blockage give me patience if the time is not yet. When you give what I had hoped for: make me a grateful disciple show me how to use your gift in your service give me confidence for the future. Thank you for the Love that is more than I could hope for. .
John Ellis, Synod Area Leader for West Kent and East Sussex and Secretary of Capel United Church.