They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.” (Mark 8:22-26, NIV).
This is a curious story. It is curious because Jesus restored the eyes of this blind man in two parts…or rather three parts. First, Jesus leads the blind man out of the village. Second, He spit on the man’s eyes and then asked him what he saw. Third, hearing that the man was not yet seeing things accurately, Jesus touched his eyes again, after which the man’s sight was fully restored.
Why this long drawn out process? Other times Jesus healed at a distance without even needing to meet the person (Matthew 8:5-13). Other times He spoke to them and they were healed (Mark 2:1-12). In John 9:1-6 He used mud on a blind person’s eyes and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, and when the man did his eyes were healed instantly. But not here. It certainly isn’t because mud was a more effective conduit of His grace than His spit.
Why? It is not like this person’s blindness was more difficult. If Jesus could raise a person from the dead with a word (John 11:38-44), certainly there is no reason to think He could not instantly heal this man. Was it because the faith of the blind man was so weak? After all, it was his friends who brought him to Jesus, and it was his friends who begged Jesus to heal him, not the blind man himself. But the same could be said of the paralytic Jesus healed in Mark 2:1-12. That man also was brought to Jesus by his friends and there is no indication of that person’s faith being strong or weak either.
As I was praying about this, what I came away with was that it illustrates that sometimes Jesus’ work in us is gradual, and that He is going to keep working in us until His work is complete. In fact, the blind man in this story is kind of like a living parable isn’t he? When this man was still blind, Jesus was leading him. Certainly, regardless of his faith or lack thereof, this man knew he had been brought to Jesus to be healed of his blindness; and Jesus had not refused. But for whatever reason Jesus did not do what he or the man’s friends wanted right away. But it was always His intent.
We need to be learning that even when Jesus allows us to stay blind to where He is leading, He can still be trusted; He is leading us by the hand directly to where He needs us to go no less than He was this man. Jesus’ work in us is a hands on process that He will see through to the end; but it is also a process. As this man went from being totally blind to being able to see some things, we too can see God’s grace at work in our lives even when we can perceive that He is not done with us yet. And as surely as clear sight was what Jesus intended to give this man, we will see God’s grace fully restore us. One day, our sin will be gone and we will see correctly. As John said in 1 John 3:2 (NIV), the day is coming when the work Jesus’ grace has begun in us will be finished and we shall be like him, for we shall see him as He is.