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.” (Mark 8:23-24)
Blindness plays an important role in the gospel accounts.
Matthew has three ‘healing of the blind’ stories, Mark two, Luke and John one each.
In Mark, this story comes hot on the heels of Jesus’ frustration with his disciples after a second ‘feeding of the multitude’ story which, except for the number of people fed, sounds much like the first story. The second story underscores the disciples’ amazing spiritual blindness.
John has a similar story, but there are subtle differences – one of which is that John’s account highlights the spiritual blindness of Israel’s religious leaders. Mark’s account highlights the blindness of the disciples. That this healing story happens in stages makes it different from not only John, but every other miracle Jesus performs.
Mark’s account helps to explain why Jesus, though disappointed with his disciples, doesn’t just leave them in disgust. Some blindness doesn’t go away immediately – even by the power of God. It takes time, and the patient persistent ministry of the sighted. Lives aren’t changed just because they are taught better. It’s a point we all should remember as we serve.
Eventually, of course, with proper treatment, the spiritually blind are expected to see; willful blindness is not an option for the child of God. It’s all a part of the required ever changing, ever growing Christian life.