The Blind Man of Bethsaida

“The Blind Man of Bethsaida” (3 panels)
Mark 8:22-26 in a tercet
Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
©2022 by Gloria M. Chang

When they arrived at Bethsaida, they brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?” Looking up he replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” Then he laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”

Mark 8:22-26

As soon as Jesus and his disciples disembarked at Bethsaida, news of their arrival stirred the faith of a blind man’s friends who brought him to be healed. An intimate journey hand in hand with the Lord followed. Step by step away from the village, Jesus led the man into a quiet place away from the crowds.

As with the deaf-mute (Mark 7:33), Jesus used his spittle as a healing balm, this time on the eyes rather than the tongue. Unlike the case of the deaf-mute, however, restoration was not immediate but required a second laying on of hands.

Like a skilled physician, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” Medicine, whether physical or spiritual, operates differently on different subjects. The man had not been born blind because he could distinguish people from trees. Jesus laid hands on his eyes again and the man’s sight was “restored” (apekatestē). The Greek word indicates that the man recovered his original condition. Trees and people came into sharp focus and distinction. The first face he beheld was that of his loving Savior. 

Jesus sent him home with the injunction, “Do not even go into the village.” Similarly, the deaf-mute was not permitted to tell anyone about his miracle (Mark 7:36). Why some people are commanded to share their stories (e.g., Mark 5:19; Luke 8:39) while others are not remains mysterious.

Perhaps Bethsaida, which was denounced by Jesus along with Chorazin and Capernaum for their lack of faith, was deemed unworthy to hear the blind man’s testimony (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13). Perhaps Jesus wanted to spare the man from the ridicule of those unable to appreciate the grace he received: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

The pearl of Christ himself was nearly destroyed before he even knew how to speak when Herod massacred Hebrew sons in his frenzied pursuit of the infant king (Matthew 2:16). Knowledge is a dangerous thing in the hands of evildoers. 

Thus Jesus’ earthly mission, dynamic and hazardous, was choreographed in real time with his heavenly Father. Amid constantly shifting circumstances, the action and reaction of crowds, scribes, Pharisees, Herod, Pilate, and the chief priests were assessed as Jesus gauged the right timing to make his identity known. 

Jesus’ association with John the Baptist who was beheaded by Herod Antipas made him a target of authorities from the beginning of his public ministry. At the wedding feast at Cana, his mother Mary accelerated the mission that led to his crucifixion by her compassionate request on behalf of the married couple whose banquet ran out of wine. “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come,” Jesus admonished (John 2:4).

During the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Gospel of John records that Jesus moved about secretly “because the Jews were trying to kill him” (John 7:1-13). When his faithless relatives challenged him to leave Galilee and go to Judea for the feast, publicly manifesting himself to the world, Jesus responded:

“My time is not yet here, but the time is always right for you. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I testify to it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, because my time has not yet been fulfilled.”

John 7:6-8

Jesus was constantly being judged and evaluated as rumors praising and vilifying him volleyed in the multitude. In such a fickle crowd, he could be crowned king one moment and crucified the next, as happened from the time of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem riding on an ass (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; John 12:12-15)

Little wonder that Peter, James and John were charged not to speak of the Transfiguration to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9; Luke 9:36). Jesus’ entire life and teaching acquired unimpeachable credibility by the fact of his resurrection.

Like the blind man, the eyes of humankind open slowly and gradually to the light of truth. The Spirit of the Lord must continually touch the eyes of our heart to bring us to awareness of the Father’s love through his Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus spat and touched my eyes outside the village.
I saw men as trees, walking—a blurry image.
He touched my eyes again and I saw Christ’s visage.

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to his call.

Gospel Acclamation
(Ephesians 1:17-18)

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