When I was a teen-ager, I purchased an old car for $300. It looked pretty good but there was a small dent at the end of the hood. Not knowing how to pull dents, I decided to mix up some Bondo and fill in the dent. The package told me that the process had two steps. I was to mix the included body filler with a tube of hardener and then apply it to the dent on the car. In my excitement, I quickly mixed the product and pasted it on the dent hoping that it would stick and make my car look better. As you can imagine, my Bondo job didn’t turn out well. A few days later, the chunk of Bondo fell off the car while I was driving down the road.
In today’s passage, we will see a two-step process used by Jesus on two different occasions. The first had to do with the healing of a blind man in Bethsaida. The second had to do with the disciples and their understanding of Jesus’ identity. In both situations, Jesus took His time to accomplish His purpose in two steps.
- The two-step healing of the blind man (Mark 8:22-26)
In these verses, we will see how Jesus healed a blind man using a two-step process. Why He did that, we will discuss below.
What does it say?
When Jesus arrived in Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to him. The concerned friends begged Him to touch the man for healing. Apparently, they had heard about the woman who was healed when she touched Jesus. Instead of touching the man to heal him right there, Jesus took him by the hand and led him out of the town. He then spat on the man’s eyes, put his hands on him, and asked if he saw anything. The man looked up and said that he saw people who looked like walking trees. This gives us the idea that this man was not born blind since he recognized what people and trees looked like. Jesus then put His hands on his eyes a second time and made him look up. At that point, the man’s sight was completely restored and he saw clearly. Jesus then instructed the man to go to his house and to not go into the town or tell anyone in the town what had happened.
What does it mean?
Jesus was known for His ability to heal people.
Bethsaida is only mentioned twice in the Gospel of Mark. The first mention was when Jesus sent the disciples in the boat to Bethsaida while he spent time praying (Mark 6:45). They never did make it to Bethsaida as a storm forced them to land at Gennesaret instead. The second time Bethsaida is mentioned is in this chapter. I mention that because this seems to be his first public visit to Bethsaida.1
Despite this being his first visit to Bethsaida, people immediately knew who Jesus was. The news of his miracles had preceded Him. This was true because so many people had told others what Jesus had done for them. Can you remember some of the different miracles done by Jesus so far?
Mark 1:21-28 – Capernaum – Jesus cast out the demon from a man in the synagogue.
Mark 1:29-31 – Capernaum – Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever.
Mark 1:32-34 – Capernaum – Jesus healed many sick and possessed people.
Mark 1:40-45 – Capernaum – Jesus healed a leper who told everyone.
Mark 2:1-12 – Capernaum – Jesus forgave and healed the paralyzed man.
Mark 3:1-6 – Capernaum – Jesus healed a man with a withered hand.
Mark 3:10 – Capernaum – Jesus healed many and cast out demons.
Mark 5:1-20 – Gadarenes – Jesus cast out a legion of demons from a wild man.
Mark 5:21-24; 35-42 – Other side – Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter back to life.
Mark 5:25-34 – Other side – Jesus healed the woman with the flow of blood.
Mark 6:53-56 – Gennesaret – Jesus healed many sick people who touched Him.
Mark 7:24-30 – Tyre and Sidon – Jesus casts out the demon from the woman’s daughter.
Mark 7:31-37 – Decapolis – Jesus healed the deaf man with the speech impediment.
All of this is evidence that Jesus was well-known around the Sea of Galilee because of the many people whom He had healed. It is also evidence, according to Matthew 8:17, that Jesus was the promised Christ. Consider what Isaiah said about the coming Christ in the passage below.
Isaiah 53:4a – “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
How gracious Jesus was to those He came to help and, because of that, He was well known around the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus had a reason for using a two-step process to heal the man.
Did you notice how Jesus healed this blind man? He spat on his eyes and placed His hands on him. But the man could still not see clearly. So, Jesus put His hands on the man again and he was completely healed. Knowing that Jesus is the Son of God and that He created the world, is there any doubt that He could have healed this man instantaneously? Jesus healed the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter from a distance. And yet Jesus chose to heal this blind man in two steps. Why was that? Several possibilities have been suggested.
Reason 1 – Jesus failed the first time and then got it right.
This is a ridiculous idea. But some look also at what happened to the demoniac of Gadera as a failure at first. Jesus commanded the legion of demons to leave the man but they argued with Him instead. Was Jesus a failure because they didn’t leave immediately? No, the demons were eventually cast out of the man, but Jesus allowed it to happen slowly for an undisclosed reason. Jesus did not fail on either occasion.
Reason 2 – Jesus was testing the man’s faith.
“Perhaps it was to test the blind man’s faith. After all, Mark doesn’t record that the blind man asked Jesus to heal him. That request was made by those who brought the blind man to Jesus. Perhaps Jesus wanted the man to demonstrate his own personal faith in Jesus.”2 We don’t know how much the blind man knew about Jesus. When you go to a new doctor, are you totally trusting him or are you a little uneasy until he proves himself? Perhaps this was the same way for the blind man. But when Jesus partially healed him, he had hope that a complete cure was on the way.
Reason 3 – Jesus was using this as an illustration.
“Sight was a widely used metaphor for understanding. This miracle depicts the correct but incomplete understanding of the disciples.”3 This explanation makes sense to me because Jesus had just confronted the disciples about their lack of understanding.
Mark 8:18 – “Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see?”
Remember how he likened the false teaching of the Pharisees to yeast? All they could think of was their lack of bread on the boat. But He was trying to teach them a lesson about the bad influence of the Pharisees. Somehow, they had missed the point. But later on, Jesus will again test their understanding by asking them some questions. We will see later how they did on that test.
Jesus did not want notoriety at that time.
There are a number of reasons why Jesus would not want the blind man to publicize his healing.
First, Jesus didn’t want another run-in with the Pharisees. He had already confronted them about their hypocrisy. At one point, they had been planning ways to destroy Him. If the blind man were to announce what had happened, it would be difficult for Jesus to accomplish His other goals (teaching and discipling) if the religious leaders were constantly hounding Him.
Second, as Hendriksen says, “it was not the purpose of Christ’s coming to create excitement and encourage false expectations of approaching political deliverance.”4 If the people heard about this miracle, they might immediately get the idea that Jesus was going to at this time begin His kingdom and free them from Roman rule. That was not Jesus’ purpose at this point in time. His kingdom would not take place until a future time. But if people got too excited about it, they might get in the way of God’s purpose for that moment.
Third, it may be that He didn’t want to do miracles in a place known for its lack of faith. Do you recall what Jesus said about Bethsaida at another time?
Matthew 11:21 – “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”
Apparently, the people of Bethsaida had not responded well to Jesus. They had not repented of their sins and put their faith in Him. Sadly, their unbelief led God the Father to hide the truth from their hardened hearts. This may have been the reason why Jesus didn’t want the blind man to talk to those in the city. They had rejected Him themselves, so He hid the truth from them.
How does it apply?
Have you ever wondered about God’s timing?
In this case, the blind man was not healed instantaneously. “The question as to why such a procedure fits this case and not others belongs altogether to Jesus — his insight (John 2:25) knows what is best in each case.”5 While we may never know why Jesus healed the man in this way, the fact that he was healed gives us hope. When we come to God with a difficult situation, He may take care of it immediately or allow it to remain for a period of time. We won’t always know why God does things the way He does, but we can be assured that He does care and will always do what is best for us and the others who are involved. Trust Him to do what He deems best.
- The two-step understanding of Jesus’ identity (Mark 8:27-30)
In these verses, we will see the two-step process used by Jesus to make sure the disciples knew who He was. He asked two questions and led them to the place where they voiced their own understanding of who He was.
What does it say?
Jesus and his disciples went to the towns of Caesarea Philippi. Look on your map and you will find that this city was located about 25 miles north of Bethsaida. While on the road, Jesus asked the disciples who people thought He was. They informed him that some thought He was John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets. After this, Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was. Peter’s response was that Jesus was the Christ. “It is the equivalent of the Hebrew term from which we derive our word Messiah.”8 After hearing Peter’s statement, Jesus strictly warned them not to tell anyone about Him.
What does it mean?
Some people had wrong ideas about Jesus.
In the first step, Jesus asked the disciples who other people thought He was. They had heard that some people thought Jesus was either John the Baptist, Elijah, or a prophet. While these were complimentary guesses, “all three responses were wrong, indicating that Jesus’ identity and mission remained veiled from the people.”6 Sadly, there are still people today who don’t really know who Jesus is. They have a high view of Him but not a real faith in Him. The responses of the people show that this was true then as it is now. But why were they mistaken? The reason they didn’t know His real identity was that they hadn’t invested the time in listening to Him or in trying to learn from Him. He was just someone they were curious about but were not committed to.
Some people knew who Jesus was.
H. A. Ironside says that “it is not enough to be familiar with other men’s views of Christ, be they right or wrong. Our Lord’s question was intended to emphasize the responsibility of individuals to know Him for themselves.”9 This is true. In this second step of Jesus’ test of the disciples, He asked them who they themselves thought He was. Peter spoke for the disciples in saying that they believed that Jesus was the Christ. After being with Him, hearing His teaching, and seeing the miracles, the disciples had been convinced that Jesus was God’s promised Christ.
Some people were not supposed to know who Jesus was.
Jesus strictly told the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. There may be several reasons for what Jesus says here. As mentioned earlier, the Jewish people were expecting a military leader who would bring back their freedom. “But Jesus’ messianic mission was broader in scope and far different in nature. So He was reluctant to use this title.”7 In addition to that reason, the disciples still had much to learn about who Jesus was and what His purpose was. They needed to learn more before they could accurately relate the truths about Jesus. We will see more about that at the end of the chapter.
It may be also that these truths about Jesus were being hidden from those who were hard-hearted toward Him. Because of their poor response to Jesus (think of the Pharisees and Sadducees), God was choosing to hide the truth from them (see Matt. 11:25-27). Sadly, these people rejected the One whom they needed as He had come to save them from their sins.
How does it apply?
Sometimes it takes a process for someone to realize who Jesus is.
I recently watched a video of a man who had been searching for the truth. During his search, he noticed that all religions talked about Jesus as a good man, prophet, or teacher. He figured that if all religions had good things to say about Him, he should probably learn about Jesus for himself. That is what led him to read the Bible and finally put his faith in Jesus for himself.
If you are currently talking with someone about the Lord, don’t give up hope when they don’t believe right away. It may be that they don’t have a good understanding of who Jesus is or what He has done. It may be that you will need to point them to what the Bible says about Jesus. Without a clear understanding of these things, how could they put their faith in Jesus. So, be patient and share the truth. With the Lord’s help, they will eventually understand.
There comes a point where you have to believe for yourself.
On the other hand, there does a come a point where each person has to believe in his heart and confess it with his mouth. The Bible says…
Romans 10:9-11 – “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.'”
Have you believed in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God who died for you and rose again? That is good. Now will you confess your belief publicly by telling someone else about it? It could be a friend or a relative. It doesn’t have to be on a street corner where many are watching. But what is in your heart should eventually come out of your mouth. Will you speak up about your belief in Jesus to someone today?
We have looked at two events where Jesus used a two-step process to accomplish something. In the first instance, He used a two-step process to heal a blind man. The two steps helped the man to believe Jesus and they also led to a lesson for the disciples. In the second instance, Jesus used a two-step process to convince the disciples to state what they truly believed about Him. This resulted in them confessing their belief in Jesus as God’s promised Christ.
As you have read these paragraphs today, I hope that you have come to the place where you are convinced that Jesus is who the Bible says He is. And as you come to that understanding, I hope that you will put your faith in Him both in your heart and show it outwardly with your speech. Who do you believe Jesus to be?
1 However, Luke tells us that after feeding the 5000, Jesus took the disciples to a wilderness near Bethsaida (Luke 9:10). And John tells us that Philip, Andrew, and Peter were from Bethsaida (John 1:44). And in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13, Jesus notes Bethsaida’s unwillingness to repent despite the miracles done there. So, there may have been other times when Jesus visited Bethsaida. Mark just doesn’t mention any other visits by Jesus.
2 “Why did the man Jesus healed…”
3 Grassmick 138.
4 Hendriksen 323.
5 Lenski 330.
6 Grassmick 139.
7 Grassmick 139.
8 Hiebert 234.
9 Ironside 126.
Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.
Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.
Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: BJU Press, 1994.
Ironside, H. A., Expository Notes on the Gospel of Mark, Neptune: Loizeaux, 1948.
Lenski, R. C. H., Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 4, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.
“Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee)” as viewed at https://bibleatlas.org/full/sea_of_tiberias.htm on 2/10/2023.
“Why did the man Jesus healed in Mark 8:24 at first see people ‘like trees walking’?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=72276 on 2/10/2024.