A second touch – Mark 8:22-26

Sometimes our surroundings can stop us from meeting with Jesus and receiving His blessing. We know from other parts of the Gospels that the town of Bethsaida was particularly unresponsive to Jesus’s ministry.
Matthew 11:21 “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

There in Bethsaida the blind man was surrounded by unrepentant, unbelieving people. Jesus took him by the hand and led him away to separate him from those people.

God sometimes has to take us away from particular people, or certain places, so that we can meet with Him and receive His blessing. Abraham had to leave Ur. Lot had to leave a wicked Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses had to leave Pharaoh’s household to meet with God in the desert at the burning bush. The Israelites had to escape the oppression of Egypt. Jonah had to get off that Ship. The disciples had to leave their families and their jobs to follow Jesus. Paul had to give up the privileged status of a Pharisee. God sometimes has to take us away from people or places or things so that we can truly meet with Him.

Was it because he hadn’t really believed in Jesus – his friends had brought him to Jesus but the man himself didn’t believe? Perhaps the man needed to experience that partial healing for him to have enough faith that Jesus could heal him completely. Why wasn’t the blind man healed straight away? The truth is, we just don’t know! This account only appears in Mark’s Gospel and I don’t think Mark tells us enough for us to know for sure why this healing came in two parts. But there is one conclusion we can draw. The important thing here is that the man was completely open and honest with Jesus.
Perhaps this miracle occurred in two stages specifically because Jesus was actually testing this man’s honesty. After all the man had lots of reasons to cover up the fact that he had not been completely healed. What if he offended Jesus? What would other people think of him, if he wasn’t healed instantly, when everybody else was? Was it due to a lack of faith? Was it due to some sin he had committed so God wasn’t going to heal him properly? The man could so easily have kept quiet about the fact that his sight had only partially returned.
I believe there are many Christians who actually face the same dilemma at this man. Their spiritual experience doesn’t match up to the experiences of people around them. They aren’t winning the battles against temptation like everybody else seems to. They don’t enjoy the joy and peace which their friends talk about. Their prayers don’t seem to be answered when everybody else’s are. Especially in some churches where everything is about victory and success, I think there is a real temptation which many Christians give in to, which is just to keep quiet about their own disappointments or failures or doubts.
The message from this story is very clear. This blind man was completely honest and open with Jesus.
24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
The blind man didn’t hide his problem. “Men like trees walking.” He told the truth. And we must always do the same. We must be honest with God. If our love for God has grown cold, we should admit it. If we don’t have the same joy we used to have, we need to tell God. If we are struggling with doubts or besetting sins we need to be honest with God. God knows the reality of our lives anyway. He knows us inside out and He loves us just the same. We can’t fool God!
That man could have kept quiet about his problem. Instead he was open and he told Jesus, who already knew all about the problem anyway.
25 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.
Complete healing came from that second touch of Jesus. But we will only know healing us and joy and peace and victory if we are completely honest and open with God. Jesus is only the solution when we admit we have a problem.

This story is unique in the gospels. This was the only occasion when Jesus healed a person in two stages. Normally when Jesus worked a miracle the healing was instantaneous and complete. Sometimes He healed people with just a word, or by telling them they had already been healed. Sometimes Jesus healed people by letting them touch Him, or by laying His hands on them. This is the only occasion when the first miracle was not 100% effective in bringing healing. Because this story is a unique exception to the usual pattern of Jesus’s ministry we must be very careful as we draw out general principles from it.

I believe the best way to understand this miracle is to view it as an enacted parable.
All of us start off like that blind man. Naturally we are all in a state of spiritual blindness. Without Jesus, people can’t see God. They can’t see God’s way of salvation. They have no vision of heaven or hell. And people don’t even realize that they are blind and lost.
2 Corinthians 43 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God

This man gives us a picture of people who are spiritually blind. He had no natural sight at all. He was trapped in darkness. He could see nothing and did not have the least bit of light, or understanding of reality in this life, until he was touched by Jesus.

When Jesus does touch a person’s life, there is often a dramatic transformation. Jesus talked about being born again. It is if life begins afresh. Everything is new and different. It’s like John Newton wrote in his hymn.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
Lost, now found. Blind, now seeing. Dead, now alive!

The old King James translation talked about being “converted.” An instantaneous and complete transformation.
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
That is the experience of sudden transformation which many people have when they first meet Jesus Christ – that was my experience at the age of 16, a very long time ago!

But many other people find that their experience of Jesus comes gradually, or in different stages. When they first hear about Jesus, their eyes begin to be opened to spiritual things, they begin to see. But they only see a blurred picture of reality, like the view you get when you open your eyes underwater in a swimming pool, “men like trees walking.” Sometimes to begin with people only get a touch of Jesus. Enough to change their view a little, but not enough to enable them to see Him clearly.

Martin Lloyd Jones described such people like this. “They seem to know enough about Christianity to spoil their enjoyment of the world, and yet they do not know enough to feel happy about themselves… they see, and yet they do not see”.

People who need a second touch. In Mark 4 Jesus told his parable of the Sower and the different kind of soils and then he explained what it means.
Mark 4 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”

The people represented by the seed sown on the path are still blind. They can’t see anything of Jesus. The fruitful people represented by the seed in the good soil are those who can see. But the second and third groups of people are the ones who need a second touch from Jesus. Those who give up when trouble and persecution come along. Those weighed down by the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and desires for other things. These people need a second touch from Jesus! If they don’t go to Jesus for that second touch then eventually the dark clouds will overwhelm them and they won’t be able to see him at all!

Another writer said this. “Millions of people live in a sentimental haze of vague piety, with soft organ music trembling in the lovely light from stained-glass windows. Their religion is a pleasant thing of emotional quiver, divorced from the intellect, divorced from the will, and demanding little except lip service to a few harmless platitudes. I suspect that Satan has called off his attempt to convert people to agnosticism. After all, if a person travels far enough away from Christianity, he or she is always in danger of seeing it in perspective and deciding that it is true. It is much safer, from Satan’s point of view, to vaccinate a person with a mild case of Christianity so as to protect him from the real disease.”

People who have been touched by Jesus, but need a second touch. Or a third touch. Or a fiftieth touch! Jesus will gladly touch any person’s life time and again, as many times as it takes until they see Him clearly.

And the reality is that sometimes Christians too may need a second touch from Jesus. Because as time goes on even as Christians we can lose our focus. Our vision of Jesus can become hazy. We can become spiritually far-sighted or near-sighted. We can develop tunnel vision. For all kinds of reasons Christians can lose sight of Jesus. We can need a second touch .

25 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 wants every one of us to see Him clearly. Whether we are only just beginning to see spiritual things or whether we are Christians who are losing our focus, Jesus is ready and willing to touch and to bless every one of us as many times as we need. It’s not because God can’t do it all at once. The thing is there are certain things God chooses to do gradually. Sometimes the blessing is limited by our ability or our willingness to receive. So we all need lots of touches from God. Being changed to be like Jesus takes a lifetime!

And the starting point for each of us is to be honest and honest with God about where we are spiritually. Are we blind? Can we see clearly? God wants to bless each of us so much. The man looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” This morning Jesus is asking us, “Do you see anything?” How much can you see? Do you need a second touch from Jesus?

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