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Praying about Jesus’s miracles: Jesus heals a blind man twice

Lynne Baab • Thursday April 25 2024

Praying about Jesus’s miracles: Jesus heals a blind man twice

When I first encountered the story of Jesus healing a man twice at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26), it seemed crazy. I was 20, I’d been a committed Christian for a year, and I felt that things related to faith should be clear and straightforward. Why would Jesus have to heal a blind man twice? If he was there at creation (John 1:3), he surely knows how eyes work. If he sustains the creation and all things hold together in him (Colossians 1:17), he surely knows how to heal eyes the first time.

This is the story where Jesus puts saliva on the man’s eyes, a detail that seemed gross the first time I read it. And I wondered, if Jesus is our Creator and Sustainer, why must he use saliva to heal?

As the years have passed, I have become intensely grateful for the two-step process of this healing. I have discovered I am a person who needs many steps to grow into the healing God has been giving me. I now find this miracle comforting and encouraging.

Scholars believe that the two acts of healing in this miracle were probably designed to be a lesson to the disciples. Yes, they could see some things about Jesus, but they were still blind to a lot of what Jesus valued and intended. This miracle can encourage us to pray about spiritual blindness in the same way I recommended last week, but it also contributes something different. Last week I suggested praying along these lines: God, help us examine our lives to expose the ways we are spiritually blind so we can bring our whole selves to you for forgiveness and healing.

Right before this healing at Bethsaida, Jesus feeds the crowds with seven loaves and a few fish (Mark 8:1-10).  After an argument with the Pharisees, Jesus and his disciples get into a boat. The disciples are worried that they don’t have enough bread for the journey. Jesus says to his disciples: “Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17-18).

Jesus goes on to ask them to think back on the feeding of the crowd. In this discussion in the boat, the disciples remember that there was food left over, and Jesus asks, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:21). The double healing of the blind man comes right after these words. The disciples see the leftover loaves and fishes, but they still don’t see the fullness of who Jesus is.

We could stop there, regretting the disciples’ lack of vision as well as our own. But for me, this miracle reveals an additional way to pray about spiritual blindness: Jesus, thank you for your willingness to heal the man more than once. Thank you for your patience with the disciples. You led them step-by-step into deeper faith despite their inability to understand at first. Thank you for your patience with me. You interact with me over and over, allowing me to grow and heal at my own pace. You never abandon me in the healing process. Thank you.

I am also grateful for the tactile nature of this healing involving saliva and touch. I wrote two weeks ago about how Jesus’s healing of the man with leprosy has always moved me because Jesus touched the man. Jesus’s touch affirms that we are physical, embodied beings.

The Christian faith of my young adult life was largely disembodied. My wonderful mentors emphasized growing in cognitive understanding of the Bible and the Christian life. Studying the Bible and praying were the only spiritual practices that received much emphasis. And prayer happened either at one’s desk after studying the Bible or in a small group sitting together in a quiet room.

I discovered praying while walking in my 30s, a helpful form of prayer that no one else seemed interested in. I remember the first time I walked with another elder through a neighborhood near our church, praying for the people who lived in the houses we passed. I was in my late 40s. When I was in my 50s, I remember hearing from a friend that he prays when he swims laps, naming a different person each time he does a flip-turn. In that decade of my 50s, I walked a labyrinth for the first time and experimented with Eastern Orthodox fasting.

In this time when we worry about addiction to cell phones, rediscovering spiritual practices involving our bodies can be healing and life-giving. We walk with Jesus, who served and healed the people around him in tactile ways, making wine from water, touching a man with leprosy, and using saliva to heal a man’s eyes. After the resurrection, Jesus was revealed to the two disciples at Emmaus when he broke the bread.

Jesus, healer, thank you for your patience with us when we are slow to see your purposes and when we require multiple touches from you to receive healing. Please keep being patient with us—we are so slow to grasp your truth, values, and priorities. Thank you for making us physical beings. Help us grow in honoring you with our bodies.

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Next week: Let’s find someone to blame for blindness (John 9). Illustration by Dave Baab.

Some posts that relate to the physical world:

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