Here is a puzzling healing. The man in Bethsaida was blind. And then he could see partially – thanks to Jesus. And then Jesus touched him once more, and his sight was restored fully.
We must wonder why Jesus’ first attempt to heal the man didn’t seem to take. Was this just a really bad case of blindness? Could God himself – the creator of eyes – struggle with this one? That doesn’t seem plausible.
So Jesus must have been making a point. Blindness, partial vision, full vision. Maybe they are three steps on a path. This happens to us sometimes, after all.
I like to joke with Mary, reminding her of how she didn’t want anything to do with me when we first met in college. She thought I was a nerd. She was mostly right. I tell her she was blind! And then she got to know me a little bit and decided she could tolerate me. Of course, things progressed, and she “saw everything clearly.” She said “yes” when I eventually proposed.
The disciples were a tough bunch of men who simply didn’t seem to understand. They couldn’t see clearly. They got in a boat headed for Bethsaida. They’d been on a boat headed for Bethsaida before, but they didn’t make it (Mark 6:45). During that first attempt, the wind was against them, and Jesus walked out on the water and met them. Then he took them on a divine detour – teaching them along the way.
Finally, they were again on a boat bound for Bethsaida, with only one loaf of bread, puzzling over Jesus’ teaching and the strange “leaven of the Pharisees.” And Jesus reminded them about how he fed the 5,000 and how he fed the 4,000 – and exactly how many basketfuls of food were left over each time – 12 and seven, respectively. Those are significant numbers, probably made more so by the fact the first feeding took place in Jewish territory while the second feeding took place in Gentile territory.
Much of this seemed to go over the disciples’ heads. Much of this still goes over our heads! And Jesus looked at them and said, “Do you not yet understand?”
Do we even yet understand?
Jesus laid his hands on that blind man in Bethsaida, after the divine detour, and permitted the man to see partially. The man could make out the vague outline of people, but they looked more like trees. This healing wasn’t complete – until it was.
Jesus later asked the disciples who people said that Jesus was. Peter stood tall. “You are the Christ.” That is, Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of Israel. Peter did well. He could see. Or, rather, he was beginning to see.
Peter later rebuked Jesus about his predictions of death and resurrection. That didn’t go well. The fact was Peter could see in a blurry kind of way. He could sort of make out who Jesus was and what he had come to do. But his vision wasn’t yet full. He could not see everything clearly.
But he would.
That’s the purpose of the two-step healing in Bethsaida. Jesus was giving us a picture of Peter – and a picture of ourselves. We are coming to see, even as we stand in salvation, professing Jesus as our Lord and Savior – as the Christ. But there’s so much more to know as we walk with him. We ought not to forget to continue the journey.
The apostle Paul said of all Holy Spirit-filled Christians, “for now we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). I hope you can relate to that. I pray your humility is such that you understand – even with all your understanding and past Bible studies and longtime exposure to things of the faith – that we’re still coming to know the fullness of God. We’re living into Christ, and he’s showing us more about himself as we follow him.
“Do you not yet understand?” We’ve been given enough understanding to grasp the salvation of God – a salvation that’s given to us through the free gift of grace, through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. We understand that much. And we understand we still have more to learn. We still have wisdom to gain.