Published on February 19th, 2020 | by Stephen Barrington0
The healing of the blind man, Mark 8:22-26. February 19, 2020 by Buckshot
Nga mihi nui ki a koutou, rangimarie ki a tatou katoa. Warm greetings, may peace be with us all. Welcome again to our Wednesday gospel reflection, our text this week is Mark 8:22-26. The healing of a blind man at Bethsaida.
This is another interesting and inviting gospel text. Coming to Bethsaida marks the end of Jesus’ ministry around the lake and on the sea. Back in chapter 6 v45 he sent the disciples ahead in the boat to cross the lake and head for Bethsaida, but they never made it. A storm blew up, Jesus freaked them out walking on the water and they landed at Gennesaret. This was possibly 50 miles off course!
This wandering community which despite having been with Jesus on many adventures, learning and discipleship opportunities, has become blind to who Jesus is and what he is up to. Yesterday we read about more bread and yeast, still the disciples are blinded by the bread and miracles, thinking about their physical hunger rather than the ‘yeast’ that grows the kingdom of God. In their desire for bread to eat Jesus reminds them to beware of the ‘yeast’ of the Pharisees and the Herodians. Jesus questions the disciples in the text yesterday – “Do you have eyes and still not see?” They are blind and need their eyes opened to the kingdom. As disciples today, are we in need of this miracle also?
So they finally arrive at Bethsaida. Once a small fishing village it had become a city and had been renamed Bethsaida Julius by Herod the Great. Mark is keen for us to see and understand that the Kingdom of Jesus does not show itself much around centres of power. He calls the place by its old name and takes us outside it immediately. When the blind man is brought to Jesus, he leads him by the hand outside the village.
As in the healing of a deaf man earlier Jesus takes some spit, lays his hands on the man and asks ‘can you see anything?’ The man replies, “I can see people, they look like trees……..”, so Jesus again lays hands on him and asks again what he can see. This second time the man can see clearly, he was cured. So Jesus sent him home with the instruction to avoid the village.
In our journey together with Jesus, he will constantly lead us gently, ‘by the hand’ to the margins of our communities. He won’t force us, we are free to let go or pull away…….but the journey to the Kingdom of God is via the ‘outside’ places. Sometimes it can take us a while to get there, like the disciples have today. Once we get there, things may possibly look strange to us, especially if we have been taught that God moves in miraculous and wonderful ways in the centres of power. Those presidential prayer breakfasts and parliamentary prayer meetings can be very alluring, yet Jesus leads us by the hand away from that place to the extreme outside.
It can take time for our eyes to adjust to the new lighting and sights we see. We may need to pray again and again, to discern through the fuzziness the kingdom – as we stick with this journey our eyes will begin to see clearly. May we not be discouraged when things seem blurry and we feel out of control – chances are from today’s text that we are in the right place, and Jesus will open our eyes to see what he see’s as we pray, wrestle and persevere with Him.
Tomorrow Peter will exclaim that “you are the Christ’, but it is clear from the following story that he did not get what that meant in its fullness for quite a while afterwards.
Friends, have courage, trust in that strong hand that holds you and leads you – even if it is too unusual or frightening places. We were told before going to Kenya to be careful of pickpockets and opportunists, yet on our journey we only felt safe as we met time and time again welcome and hospitality, curiosity and community. We are all on a journey to having our eyes opened, we are disciples just like the original bunch. Have courage and also have grace for those times we are blown off course, or think others have lost their way.
As the Kingdom of God becomes more obvious and clear, may we be spurred on to trust in the ways of that kingdom and leave the yeast of the powerful alone. The yeast of Jesus will bring love, healing and belonging when we choose to trust again that solid and gracious hand that leads us, to the outside and beyond.
Buckshot – Wellington chapter, New Zealand