By Ken Asel
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 8:22-33
22 They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” 24 And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”
27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Jesus and the disciples come to Bethsaida. There are several encounters with villages of similar names explored in the New Testament. This healing of the blind man appears to have taken place in Galilee and not the more familiar pool of Bethsaida in Jerusalem. The healing we witness today is unique to Mark. Two events command our attention.
First we meet the blind man who captures the surrounding crowd. Someone asks Jesus to heal the blind man. Jesus and the man move off to themselves, visible, but apparently private. Making a salve with spittle, the Lord lays hands upon the man’s eyes, shown poignantly in the famous painting by A. Mironov. But the man doesn’t see perfectly right away. “I see men like trees, walking.” The Venerable Bede suggests this event is actually caused by the man’s profound spiritual blindness, which requires a second action, a second event of mercy to complete the man’s healing. Jesus repeats the process, resulting in a cure. Unlike with other healings, the man is sent on his way; there is no command to show himself to the leaders in the synagogue. He is sent on his way, and never appears in Scripture again.
Celtic mystics point out here the disagreement between Jesus and Peter, where the Lord appears to feel the continuing presence of Satan’s temptation to distract him, not only from the healing of the blind man, but from the larger mission of transforming what is broken into what is healed and made whole. This healing is a demonstration of the Savior’s focus on what God will not allow to be sidetracked a new manifestation of mercy and blessing. Here Jesus heals a man of deficient sight. Might it also be an invitation to those in the 21st century who seek to follow Christ to become more committed to healing what is broken in the neglected and violent world of our own?
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married for 30 years and have recently relocated again to the West and the Front Range. Ken hopes he never will need to move again.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Southwest Florida
The Diocese of Doko (Church of Nigeria)