Trees Walking

by Stacy Smith

Mark 8: 22-25 – 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.

In my opinion, this is the most amazing healing miracle in Scripture. Most people do not agree with me. The other gospel writers do not seem to like it because Mark is the only place where we find this text. Members of the Early Church thought this was a bit embarrassing, and modern churches almost never proclaim this text in worship.

But the thing I like most about this story is that it is so different from the other healing miracles of Jesus. In this healing, Jesus has to heal the man twice. He does not seem to get it right the first time. We have no other account in Scripture of there being a process involved in Jesus’ healings. In every other circumstance he spoke the word or touched the sick, and instantly he or she was made whole.

For this miracle, however, Jesus employed a two-stage process. Why? Scholars have said a lot of things about why Jesus had to heal this man twice, but they usually revolve around two options: either there was something seriously wrong with the man, or there was something wrong with Jesus’ healing.

On one hand, perhaps this man was so sinful, or so blind, that his healing didn’t quite take the first time. Jesus had to have a do-over for this sinner, maybe because Jesus was trying to prove his powers and bring this man to faith. The other option is that Jesus did not have enough power to do this miracle. Some commentators suggest that story represents a weakening of Jesus’ powers. Perhaps he had reached a stage in his ministry where opposition to him was so intense, and hostility so increased, that his power was not quite adequate. Essentially, Jesus was tired and it took a double dose in order to accomplish the healing.

To me, both of these answers are pretty silly. Jesus heals many sinners in his ministry, and there is no indication that this man was a particularly tough case. I have to believe that the healing power of Jesus was not based on how he was feeling that day. Jesus’ power is not a video game, where he charges up his “Healing Power” by collecting points or coins, and loses power by spending them. Jesus is God, our Holy Creator on Earth among us, and if he has the power to raise the dead, I believe that he also has the power to heal anyone at anytime, and to do so fully and completely.

Yet that still leaves us with the question: why the two healings? Perhaps Mark is not trying to tell us something about miracles, but is trying to tell us something about healing. We all have things in our lives—our bodies, our minds, our spirits, our relationships—that need healing, and we are almost never healed the way that people in Scripture are. In fact, it can be frustrating to read stories where Jesus heals someone so quickly and easily. Why can’t it be that way for us? Why can’t Jesus come and take away something that brings us so much pain?

We come to health not by magic touch or special potion, but by commitment, hard work and hope, and this is part of what Mark is trying to tell us here. Jesus does have the power to heal, and to heal us of everything that harms us. But it doesn’t always happen right away. For us, healing is not one miracle, it is a series of miracles happening over and over again in our lives and in the life of God’s creation. God does not heal us once and only once. Rather, God is constantly healing us, and we are involved in the process of miracle-healing.

Like this blind man, there may be times when we cannot quite see everything that is happening; it may look fuzzy or strange or incomplete. This can be a difficult thing for us to admit (maybe that is why preachers do not like to preach on this text). But this story reminds us that we each get another chance for God’s healing. If for whatever reason, the first one, or the second, or the tenth one does not take, we always find God waiting to help us, heal us and give us sight.

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