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Third Millennium Study Bible
Notes on Mark 8:22-26
I see people; they look like trees walking around - Mark 8:22-26
In this pericope (section of verses), we observe Jesus literally healing a blind man in rather unusual way. Jesus was in a Gentile territory. "They came to Bethsaida." Edwards states:
The boat journey mentioned in Mark 8:13-14 brings Jesus and the disciples to Bethsaida. Located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, Bethsaida lay immediately to the east of the outflow of the Jordan into the lake. Like several towns surrounding the lake, Bethsaida, meaning "house of the fisher," derived its name from its chief industry. It lay in Gaulanitis in the tetrarchy of Philip, just east of the Galilee border. Along with Caesarea Philippi, Bethsaida-Julias had been built by Philip and named after Caesar Augustus's daughter, Julia.
It is possible that the blind man and his friends, as the Gentile woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5:28, had come to put more trust in Jesus' touch than in Jesus himself. In that case, Jesus honored her uninformed faith, but immediately made it clear that it was her faith which brought healing and not the touch, saying, "Daughter, your faith has healed you" (Mark 5:34).In Mark 8:23, we see Jesus taking the blind man by the hand. Note: (1) the man was not immediately healed by Jesus' touch, (2) Jesus' tenderness to act as the man's guide, (3) the total intimacy of what was transpiring. Then Jesus spat on the man's eyes. Compare the deaf-mute in Mark 7:31-37. In that particular case, Jesus applied saliva to the man's tongue and in this he spat on his eyes. The meaning is clear: "Something will be done for your eyes ... and I will do it" (Hendriksen).
The man did not have immediate 20/20 vision. Instead, when Jesus asked him what he saw, he looks up and responds, "I see people; they look like trees walking around" (Mark 8:24). Hughes says, "For the first time in years, the man saw light and color. And dimly, as if through water, he saw the form of Jesus' disciples and his friends, like walking trees! If his expectations were surging before, they were now soaring! As he strained to focus, he could hardly contain himself. He believed! Oh, did he believe! In Christ's eyes, the man's faith was far more important than his physical healing."
So, in this case (and every case, though not always stressed), Jesus was active in giving the man faith in the right thing - Person. Jesus first removed the man's false belief concerning his superstitious belief of "the touch." Jesus took the man by the hand to lead him out of the city - but he was not healed by Jesus' touch (Mark 8:25). Then Jesus touched his actual eyes (Mark 8:25), but the man was not fully, but only partially healed. Finally, after the man's faith increased, after his eyes began to see a little ("I see people; they look like trees walking around"), Jesus touched his eyes again (Mark 8:25) and the man's eyes were "opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly." So, Jesus emphasized and gifted "faith."
While Jesus was teaching this blind man something concerning the elements of faith, we should not miss the fact that Jesus was still teaching his disciples about "seeing" as well - "Do you not understand" (Mark 8:17). Edward's states:
So, Jesus was gradually healing the disciple's spiritual sight and that while they "still [did] not understand" (Msrk 8:21) who Jesus was, they, like the blind man, were about to see "clearly" (Mark 8: 25) the mystery of his person (Mark 8:27 ff).
In Mark's account of the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida not only the climax of the story but the entire narrative is constructed on the motif of "seeing" In English translations several of the words used for sight are the same, but in the original Greek there are eight different words used for nine instances of seeing in Mark 8:23-25! The redundancy of references to sight and seeing provides a counterbalance to the redundancy of accusations of blindness and misunderstanding in the previous story. Yet another link between this miracle and the previous story occurs in the speech of Jesus to the blind man. At a miracle Jesus normally speaks an authoritative word or makes a pronouncement. Here, however, he asks a question, "'Do you see anything?'" (Mark 8:23). That unusual question looks like an echo of Jesus' pleading questions of the disciples in the previous story, the first of which was "'Do you still not see?'" (Mark 8:17). The blind man's response that he can see people who "look like trees walking around" (Mark 8:24) is a clue that the disciples themselves will be enabled by Jesus to begin the process of moving from blindness to sight.