16 February 2011

Mark 8:22-26

"Can you see anything?" (v. 23)


This passage is unusual in that it presents Jesus healing a person in two stages. The modern reader is likely to be asking, as of all the healing stories in the Gospels, did it really happen? Some may assume that Jesus suspended the normal laws by which things occur, so that anything was possible. But if we try to judge each case individually, part of the difficulty is the absence in the text of any scientific diagnosis, (in this case of the nature of the blindness), or any assessment of the person's ongoing condition after the cure. This is not to rule out the possibility of some forms of faith healing, for which there is evidence in the present day, and which may lie behind today's story.

It needs to be remembered however that none of the miracle stories in the Gospels are told just as wonderful events but because they reveal and illustrate important truths about Jesus. They can still be read today for those insights, regardless of what 'actually happened'. In a chapter in which the recurring theme is the difficulty people have in recognising who Jesus is, it is likely that Mark saw this story primarily as symbolic. As the blind man only gradually recovered his sight, so coming to believe in Jesus may not be an instantaneous discovery but a process in stages. It is significant that today's passage follows immediately after the question "Do you have eyes, and fail to see?" (verse 18) and immediately before the moment at Caesarea Philippi where Peter confesses Jesus to be the Messiah, yet fails to see the implication that Jesus must suffer (verses 27-33).

As often in Mark's Gospel Jesus tells the man to keep a low profile. It is not clear why. Perhaps it is the danger that people will get the wrong impression of him and see only part of the truth (compare this with Mark 9:9).

To Ponder

Reflect on how you came to the faith you now have. Can you point to a particular moment, or to a series of such moments, or was it a gradual development?

How would you distinguish between partial and complete faith?

To what extent is faith an achievement or a gift?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..