Friday, September 18, 2009

Degrees of Healing

As I studied Mark 8:22-26, I was astonished at an element of the story that I have always overlooked. Here is the passage in the NIV:

“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 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.” Once more Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”

Why is this miracle different than the other miracles surrounding it? I was astonished that the healing did not “work” initially. He could see better, but he could not see fully. Previously, in this same chapter, Jesus had performed the incredible miracle of feeding the 4,000. He did this completely on the “first try.” There was no step one, and then step two. His miracles never had worked in the degrees that this one was composed of. Was this specific miracle flawed? Was there something wrong with the blind man’s faith? Did he not have enough faith? Was Jesus’ touch not quite as influential as it should have been? Was this blindness especially severe? Jesus doesn’t offer any reasons, nor does the author of Mark. As students of the word and sensitive recipients of the Spirit’s messages, we can look a little bit deeper, and we can make some guesses.

I was so perplexed by the slow progression of this miracle. It seemed almost like a trial-and-error process. It deeply disturbed my spirit, and I could not understand why. I got some help from the great biblical scholar Matthew Henry in my understanding of this passage.

Jesus could have been taking this man slowly through healing, building his faith in steps, so that he could see the full healing more completely. This gradual nature of this miracle was not typical. The man looked up after the first touch, with his sight somewhat recovered, but he could not discern great details. Men were only distinguishable from trees in that they were walking around. But Christ doesn’t only heal partially. He wants to say, “It is finished.” So He placed His fingers in the man’s eyes again, and this time he looked intently. He could see clearly.
Christ would not be boxed. He would not be tied to a specific prescription of healing. He still won’t. We try to package Him, and He breaks the mold. Henry says, “Providence gains the same end in different ways, that men may attend its motions with an implicit faith.”

Why does this hit me with such power? The reason is this: I did not experience immediate healing. Hands were laid on me, and I was healed. Partially. I found freedom that I had never known before. Previously, I had never been able to even see shades of light. I had never beheld people or trees, so the blurry image of tree-people was pretty good. Then the Lord asked, “What do you see?” And I told Him. He was not finished. Next, I saw the outline of their silhouettes, the shading of their clothes, and the backdrop of the green, but there was no detail. It was better than anything I had ever seen, so I was pretty happy. Jesus asked again, “child, what do you see?” I told Him, but He still had more. He will keep building my faith. He will keep increasing the power of my vision until I am finally able to look intently and see crystal-clearly. Until then, He will keep asking “child, what do you see?”

Some people find complete healing at once. Their faith may very easily be stronger than mine. He can heal immediately. He made the deaf hear immediately. He restored the sight of some blind men immediately. He raised Lazarus with one beckoning call. The cool thing was that this blind man got two touches from Jesus, while the other recipients of His healing only got one touch or a word.

I do not resent this progressive healing. God knows what He is doing. He is healing by degrees not because my God is less powerful or incompetent. He is meeting my need right now. And yeah, the people and scenery that I observe now are a little bit blurry, but I get to spend the process with my Lord as He keeps on anointing my eyes with His blessed touch. He won’t stop until He can say, “it is finished.”

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