‘Can you see anything?’ (Mark 8.23)
Bethsaida means 'house of fishing'. Its location suggests it was indeed a fishing village. Apparently it straddled both sides of the river Jordan as it enters the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, the eastern part was expanded and named Bethsaida Julias, in honour of Emperor Augustus’s wife.
The Gospel of Luke suggests that it was near Bethsaida that Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. By providing food near and healing a blind man at Bethsaida, he did more than upend the laws of nature. God had sent him, not to perform magic tricks, but to feed spiritual hunger, cure spiritual blindness and announce the messianic age of peace. The two-stage healing of the blind man happened literally, but can also serve as an image for our inner eyes gradually opening to the reality of God.
Some viral videos stand out as worthwhile views. One is of a baby with a rare sight disorder receiving their first pair of glasses. On-screen, you visibly see everything suddenly changing as they see life through clear eyes for the first time. Having clear vision is literally life-changing.
If we can get past all the spit, we see Mark’s clear intention in recording this story. The first half of his biography of Jesus is asking the same question the disciples asked: “Who is this man?” (4.41). His teachings surpass the authority of a carpenter; his miracles point to more than a teacher. Who is this man?
The blind man's healing is a snapshot of the disciples' journey, which is ours too. Their vision of Jesus is blurry. They know there’s something more, but they can’t work it out, just like the man’s vision of people looking like trees!
Jesus is going to open their eyes, restoring their spiritual sight. The cross and resurrection will make everything clear: that he is the Messiah (8.34) who came to do more than perform crowd-pleasing miracles. Now he’s offering to give you and me a vision of reality that changes everything about our view of today and give hope for the future.
Do we have a clear vision of Jesus? To see him clearly is to see life clearly.