"Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything.
And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.”
Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.” (Mark 8:22-26)
Three Unanswered Questions
There are three things about this particular story of healing which have always bothered me. I have heard people preach on this passage before, but no one has ever satisfactorily answered my questions. Here are the three questions:
1. Why did Jesus lead the blind man out of town to heal him?
2. Why did Jesus spit on the eyes of the blind man?
3. Why did Jesus have to pray for the blind man twice?
The purpose of this article will be to answer these questions and, in doing so, increase your faith to be healed.
Why did Jesus Lead This Man Out of Town?
The answer to this question is found in Matthew 11:20-23:
"Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum,who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day."
Jesus chose three Jewish cities and rebuked them for their unbelief. They heard His preaching and saw His miracles yet had not repented, accepted Jesus as their Messiah, and received salvation. He compared them to present and past Gentile cities that were filled with sexual perversion, idolatry, and heathenism. These were the cities of Tyre, Sidon, and the ancient city of Sodom. Jesus said these cities were better than the cities of Israel, because if these cities had seen the same miracles and heard the same preaching, they would have repented. At the Great White Throne of Judgment, it will be more tolerable for the three heathen Gentile cities than for the Jewish cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.
Think of how this statement appeared to the Jewish mind! Jesus said Capernaum had been exalted to heaven but would be brought down to hell. Capernaum was exalted to heaven because it was the city from which Jesus based His preaching and healing ministry - it was the hub of His ministry in Galilee. This was the city where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, a paralyzed man let down through the roof of the synagogue, and the leper who was cleansed. This was the city of the centurion who was commended for his great faith, where the woman was healed of the issue of blood, and where the daughter of Jairus was raised from the dead.
Yet, it was also a city gripped by religious cynicism and unbelief. These attitudes are clearly seen in the story of Jairus' daughter (Matthew 9:23-26). When Jesus went in to raise the young girl from the dead, the mourners had already arrived. They laughed Jesus to scorn for declaring the daughter was not dead but asleep.
Notice Jesus removed them from the room before He prayed. This was for Jairus' sake. The father had already begun to fear when he heard the report his daughter had died (Mark 5:36). Jesus did not want this man surrounded by the unbelief so rampant in Capernaum. Jesus separated the man from unbelief.
So, why did Jesus take the blind man by the hand and lead him out of town before He healed him? Because this blind man lived in Bethsaida, another of the cities Jesus cursed for its unbelief (Mark 8:22). Jesus separated the man from the unbelief of the city. Jesus did not want snide remarks and insults to be hurled at this man who was young in faith. Jesus could heal in the midst of unbelief, but this man could not maintain his healing surrounded by the ridicule of the city in which he lived. This is why Jesus led the man out of town and healed him away from the view of the religious population Bethsaida.
Notice the last thing Jesus told this man after his sight was restored: "Go back to your home, but do not go back into the city or tell anyone in the town of your healing." (vs. 26) What wonderful advice to anyone needing healing today who is bothered by the reports of unbelief given by friends, relatives, church or business associates. We can go home, but we need to separate ourselves from the village of unbelief which could so easily sway us and cause us to lose our healing. At home we can be alone with God to pray and study His Word.
God is asking us today, "Whose report will you believe?" To believe His report, we must study it until it becomes a part of our lives. Then, one day, we will become strong enough not only to live around unbelief, but to overcome it!
Why Did Jesus Spit on the Eyes of the Blind Man?
No matter where you look in the Bible, you will find it is a great insult to spit on someone, or to be spit upon. Anyone under the Law of Moses who was spit upon had to wash themselves and their clothes. Even after washing, they were considered unclean until the evening (Leviticus 15:8). Other scriptures deal with the insult of being spit upon (Numbers 12:14, Deuteronomy 25:9). Jesus was spit upon as a great insult before He was crucified (Matthew 27:30).
In explaining why Jesus spit on the eyes of the blind man, many ministers have said that the spit of Jesus was different, that it was not a curse or insult, but a blessing. "This creative spit. Jesus' spit will heal you," they have explained. They have missed the point of the miracle and the insult Jesus was giving. Jesus did not spit on the blind man, He spit on the blindness. This was the ultimate insult to sickness and disease. If Jesus could speak to sickness and rebuke it, then apparently sickness can hear (Luke 4:39). If sickness and disease can hear, it can also be insulted. Jesus released all of His contempt for Satan and his works when He spit on the blindness.
Jesus spit on Satan's works two other times in the New Testament. He healed another blind man by spitting in the clay and rubbing it on the man's eyes (John 9:1-7). He also spit on the tongue of a man with a speech impediment (Mark 7:33). Notice in each of the three cases, Jesus spit on the part of the body which was diseased, again showing He spit on the disease, not the person.
When Jesus touched people to heal them, He did not always lay hands on the part of the body which was diseased. For example, He touched Peter's mother-in-law on the hand to heal her of a fever. When He touched, He touched the person, but when He spit, it was not on the person, but directly on the devil and his works.
Why Did Jesus Have to Pray for the Blind Man Twice?
Jesus spit on the blindness, but He laid hands on the man for healing. In fact, He laid hands on the man twice. After the first time, the man's eyes opened partially and he told Jesus he saw men walking, but they were out of focus and looked like trees. Apparently, this man had seen before. He was not born blind, but at some point in his life, perhaps through an accident, he had become blind. He knew what men looked like. He also remembered what trees looked like. When Jesus laid hands on him again, the man's vision was completely healed and he saw clearly.
This is the only case recorded in the Word where Jesus laid hands on a person more than once. Why? The answer goes back to the city in which this man lived, Bethsaida. Because of the unbelief of this city, the man was filled with doubt concerning the ability of Jesus to heal him. Being separated from the people of the city allowed this man to open himself up, although with skepticism, to the healing power of God. Once he could see partially, his faith increased, and he determined within himself to be healed completely. Jesus did not lay hands on this man twice to release more of God's power. God's full power was in manifestation the first time. Jesus prayed twice because this man was now more open to receive God's healing power.
Although this is the only case where Jesus prayed twice for a person, it is not the only case where a person was prayed for more than once. Remember when Jesus had to cast a demon out of a boy who had already been prayed for by the disciples? Jesus cast out the demon and then upbraided the disciples. They had failed because of the skepticism of the religious leaders and the pressure of the crowd. They had failed because of their unbelief (Matthew 17:20). I see nothing wrong with a person coming to a prayer line for a second time if they know they have grown in faith since the first time they were prayed for. If they have conquered more of their doubts and taken into captivity more thoughts and human reasonings, they are welcomed by the Lord Jesus, not condemned when they ask for hands to be laid on them again.
If you see yourself in this story - a person growing in faith, but surrounded by doubt and unbelief - you now know what to do. You must separate yourself from the pressure of people's opinions and your own reasonings. Separate yourself from unbelief and into God's Word. Study it until it becomes a part of your life, until it is more real to you than the circumstances you see around you. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing God's Word (Romans 10:17), so hear God's Word and let faith grow.
Jesus will heal you by His power and grace if you will release a mustard seed amount of faith in His goodness.