And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him.” (Mark 8:22, ESV)

A couple of things strike me here.  First, the blind man seems entirely passive in this story right until the moment Jesus first begins to heal him.  The active agents are merely referred to as “some people.”  We do not know them.  We do not know whether they are Jew or Gentile, slave or free, what we do know is that they were good friends to this unnamed blind man.  It is “some people” that bring the blind man to Jesus because they think perhaps he can heal their friend.  It is “some people” who beg Jesus to touch him.

We would all do well to have “some people” like these as friends, because they are the ones who are there when we get ugly news from the doctor; they are the ones that bring meals by when we’re too tired or ill to cook them ourselves; they are the ones who pound on the doors of heaven for us in prayer when we simply cannot do it ourselves.  “Some people” salvaged this man’s life, not because of their own power, but because they knew enough to bring him to Jesus.

The second thing that strikes me here is the power of touch. “Some people” beg Jesus to touch the blind man.  They were obviously familiar with Jesus and the things that he had been doing by the power of touch.  He had healed these diseases simply by touch:

  • Leprosy – Matt 8.3
  • Fever – Matt 8.15
  • Unstoppable bleeding – Matt 9.29
  • Blindness – Matt 20.34; our own passage
  • Death – Luke 7.14

It’s no wonder that they begged Jesus to touch him.  Certainly he could heal a blind man if he just touched him.

And Jesus does heal him.  He heals him in a unique and unexpected way, but he does heal him.  He spits in his eye and then touches him and then asks, “what do you see?”  This is kind of odd, because surely Jesus knows what he sees, right?  This same Man will call forth Lazarus from the grave, he will know when power goes forth out of him in the middle of a jostling crowd, he is God in the flesh, so Jesus certainly knew what the man saw.  Why does he ask him?

I think he asks the man what he sees to emphasize the fact that he has only had partial healing.  What happened?  Is it just that, as one commentator claims, this blindness was very intractable and took a lot of extra work to heal? [which is odd because in John 9, Jesus heals a man who was born blind with one application of mud, what could be more difficult than that?]

In context, this incident seems to point both backwards and forwards.  Jesus has literally just rebuked the disciples because they are spiritually blind and they should not be blind, they should see, they have witnessed enough to understand.  Bob Utley points out that in the Old Testament physical blindness is a metaphor for spiritual blindness (Isa 56.10, 59.10).

Looking forward, Peter and the other disciples will immediately declare Jesus the Christ (vs. 29), but then in practically the same breath be rebuked by Jesus because Peter doesn’t think that Jesus should [or will] suffer and die.  The eyes of the disciples and Peter have a ways to go before they are healed of their spiritual blindness.

The Big Story of the Bible is creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, and here we witness Jesus at the very beginning of the process of the restoration of all things when he heals a man who is blind by touch. All of Jesus’ acts of healing are a down payment on what surely must come: the restoration of all things in and by Christ.

In a weird sense, we are this man and we are the disciples and we are the Pharisees and Sadducees and Herodians.  Left to our own devices we are just as spiritually blind as they are.  We are generally so blind that we need “some people” to drag us to Christ for healing, because we think we are fine on our own.  Jesus came to heal us by touch in the same way that he healed this anonymous blind man.  For him it was a physical touch, for us it is a spiritual touch, but the outcome is the same.  Mark puts it this way: “He saw distinctly. He was cured and could see everything clearly.” (HCSB) I can’t really think of a better description than this of what it means to come to faith in Christ.  This is the power of touch.