Encapsulated within the divine framework of our Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry were the miracles, healing and teaching that He carried out. This ministry brought Jesus into direct contact and sometimes conflict with the authorities, the good and the great of his time, as well as contact with the marginalised, outcasts, infirmed, and even the dead, to all of whom He showed extraordinary compassion.
As for Jesus’s ministry with the infirm, the Gospels report a number of remarkable encounters He had with lepers, demon-possessed, lame, blind, and the deaf, to name but a few. The focus of this Devotion is on Jesus’s relationship with the blind; in particular, the extraordinary encounter He had with the blind man of Bethsaida, during which he restored the man’s sight.
This healing event was extraordinary for a number of reasons:
First, the event took place in Bethsaida, a city of special historical significance in Jesus’s ministry. It was the place where Jesus fed the five thousand. It was also the home of some of Jesus’s disciples – Andrew, Peter, Philip, and James and John who were partners in the fishing industry with Peter and Andrew. Bethsaida was situated by the Jordan River, a place where Jesus himself was baptised by John the Baptist.
Secondly, the encounter between Jesus and the blind man happened just after Jesus had fed the five thousand strong crowd, and it marked the continuation of a series of other extraordinary events by Jesus leading to the climax of His mission on earth.
Thirdly, it would appear, that this particular blind man must have been in the crowd that Jesus had earlier fed. The Bible says, he was brought by people [possibly, some of those who had been present at the feast or his own relatives] to Jesus with the one plea and faith, that all that Jesus needed to do, was to touch him and his sight would be restored.
Fourthly, the procedure undertaken by Jesus in restoring the blind man’s sight was more elaborate than the people and perhaps the blind man himself had anticipated. It was not a quick fix, as the people had anticipated. There were seven steps involved in this procedure: “Jesus took the blind man by the hand” [step one]; “and led him out of town” [step two]; “spat on his eyes” [step three]; “put His hands on him” [step four]; “asked him if he saw anything” [step five]. The blind man looked up and said, “I see men like trees walking”. Then Jesus “put His hands on his eyes again” [step six]; and “made him look up” [step seven], and his sight was restored and he saw everyone clearly [final outcome].
The approach taken by Jesus in healing the blind man somehow reminds me of my times at the Optician’s. Sounds familiar? You sit in the chair, asked to put on the trial frame, trial lenses are then slotted in one at a time, and you are asked to read some letters of the alphabet until the lenses of the right strength for your sight are found.
Similarly, here we have our Lord Jesus Christ, the Master Optician, demonstrating sight restoration through a divine procedure.
Surely, Jesus could have just commanded that the blind man’s sight be restored. Why would He choose to go into such extraordinary length with just one person, considering He had earlier fed a crowd of five thousand and also the time, energy and patience it must have taken to feed such a large crowd of hungry people? The Bible does not provide any explicit reason.
Notwithstanding, what I believe matters most is the spiritual import and deductions for us as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ?
First, this extraordinary length taken by Jesus Christ, could only indicate the patience, compassion, and love that characterised His ministry. This event demonstrated that, not only did Jesus meet the needs of those who came to Him in faith, He also had time and consideration for everyone regardless of their social status. An extraordinary example of mercy and compassion having primacy over other considerations. This was a case of unconditional love.
Secondly, in restoring the blind man’s sight, Jesus did not go about it in line with the ‘scripts’ of the people who brought the man to Him. This would suggest that the way God goes about working out His plans for us may be different from how we would have envisaged. The course of God’s plans may take a different and sometimes an unexpected trajectory; it may be more prolonged or even more complicated than anticipated. But one thing is for sure, with faith, if you believe that GOD IS ON THE CASE, then the outcome is assured. Only God determines the outcome!
Thirdly, neither the blind man nor those who brought him to Jesus, resisted, doubted, or questioned how Jesus was going about restoring the sight of this man, considering that all they had thought Jesus would do, would be to just touch him and his sight would be restored. This is an extraordinary demonstration of patience, trust, faith and total submission to the will of God.
Fourthly, the story of the blind man of Bethsaida is the story of how each one of us is God’s work in progress, and the need to give God the space and time to perfect His plans in our lives. For God to perfect His plan and work in our lives, total submission and patience laced with sustained faith in the power and grace of God are required.
Fifthly, the story also illustrates the fact that our God is a perfect God, who evaluates the work of His own hand. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not abandon the work of restoring the sight of the blind man halfway. He saw the work through to completion until He was satisfied that it was good and then certified the man’s sight as fully restored.
The story of Creation as documented in the Book of Genesis, revealed that God reflected on and evaluated each facet of His work of Creation before declaring that it was good. In seven instances during the work of Creation [as recorded in Chapter One of the Book of Genesis, God evaluated each phase of Creation and certified it as good [“And God saw that it was good] [Genesis 1: 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 31 – “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good”].
Each one of us is God’s creation. However, the Bible says that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, hence the need for redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ [Romans 3: 23]. Therefore, when we give our lives to Jesus Christ [as the blind man of Bethsaida gave his to Him] we become a new creature, nurtured by the Holy Spirit with the aim of bringing us into fellowship and perfection with God [2 Corinthians 5: 17]. Our sight will be restored, darkness will depart and the light of God will shine into our lives, so we can be led by the Holy Spirit and walk in the path of righteousness [1 Corinthians 13: 12].
As Christians, in an attempt to facilitate God’s work of perfecting us, it behoves us to have moments of self-reflection and self-evaluation, when we move away from the hustles and bustles of our busy and materialistic world into a quiet spiritual space where we, not only are able to listen and understand God’s plans for us, but also allow Him to search our innermost part and purify it. “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way [or impurities] in me. And lead me in the way everlasting [the way of perfection, the way of righteousness]” [Psalm 139: 23-24].
Will you give your hand to our Lord Jesus Christ and allow Him to lead you in the way everlasting? “So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town” [Mark 8:23].