“He saw every man clearly.”
“And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. And 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 upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.” (Mark 8:22-26)
This is another of those miracles related by none of the other Evangelists. Mark alone was inspired to tell us about the healing of this blind man at Bethsaida.
None of our Lord’s miracles were accidental or mere representations of his supernatural power over physical things. Every miracle performed by the Master was designed to teach us spiritual, gospel truths, particularly truths about the workings of his grace in his elect. On this occasion, we see a blind man who was healed gradually, by degrees. This is the only time in the New Testament that happened. So, we might properly expect that that is, in itself, highly significant and instructive. The healing of this blind man is a picture of the way God saves chosen, redeemed sinners by the almighty power and grace of his Holy Spirit. As our Lord Jesus took this poor blind man by the hand, he takes chosen sinners by his hand and leads them to himself, giving them light and grace and life by his omnipotent mercy.
Brought by Friends
Verse 22. “And he cometh to Bethsaida.” — Bethsaida was a fishing village, the home of Andrew, Peter, and Philip (John 1:44). The Lord Jesus came here on an errand of mercy. In verse 13 we read that our Savior left the Pharisees. What solemn words we read there, “And he left them!” Having left them in judgment, he came to Bethsaida on an errand of mercy, seeking one of his lost sheep for whom the “time of love had come,” a poor blind man who must now receive his sight. — “And they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.” — Here is a blind man brought to the Lord Jesus Christ by his friends. Mark tells us three simple, but very important and instructive things in this verse.
First, we are told that the man was blind. In that fact, he is representative of all men in their natural, unregenerate state. Whether religious or irreligious, educated or uneducated, all human beings are spiritually blind. This poor man did not have so much as one faint, glimmering ray of light, until the Lord Jesus touched him. So it is with every man by nature. Those who are without Christ, who alone is Light, live in darkness. They have no sight. They cannot see themselves. They cannot see the kingdom of God, or the things of God. They are blind. That is the condition of all men naturally. It is not that there is a lack of light, but a lack of sight. — “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11). — “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Fallen man is poor, miserable, wretched, and naked; but he cannot see it, because he is blind. Though the Son of God stands before him, he cannot see him, because he is blind. Though God’s salvation is displayed before his very eyes, he cannot see it, because having eyes, he sees not. He is blind.
Second, Mark tells us that this poor blind man’s friends brought him to the Master. We are not told that this blind man believed anything or expected anything from the Lord at all. He seems to have come to the place where the Master was simply because his friends persuaded him to do so. What a blessed man he was to have such friends! He did not know Christ, but his friends did. He did not believe Christ, but his friends did. He would never have come to Christ, but his friends brought him.
Third, having done all that they could do, this blind man’s friends “besought the Lord Jesus to touch him.” They could not heal him, but they knew Christ could. This blind man, it appears, did not have sense enough to pray for himself. So his friends prayed for him. Blessed is the man who has such friends! Blessed is the man who is such a friend!
In verse 23 we see our Savior performing his operation of grace upon this man in a most unusual way. We have no other picture like this in all the Word of God. He performs his work gradually and in private. Surely this is intended to teach us some things we need to learn and remember. This is what the Son of God does for sinners in the saving operations of his grace, when he turns them from darkness to light. — “And 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 upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.”
The Master “took the blind man by the hand.” Can you imagine how elated, how thrilled, how excited this man’s friends were when they saw the Master stretch out that arm which they knew was the arm of omnipotence in mercy, love, and grace to their friend? That was in itself an act of great condescension. But here is a far greater act of condescension. One day he Lord Jesus took me by the hand! He took me in his hand as my Surety in old eternity. Taking me in his hand, he separated me from all the rest of the human race by sovereign election and particular redemption. Then, at the appointed time of his love, the God of all grace stooped to take me by the hand in effectual calling.
If he takes a sinner into his hand, he will open his blind eyes. If he takes you by the hand, he will never let you go. If he takes you by the hand, you are perfectly safe. No man can pluck you out of his hand. If he takes you by the hand in time, he took you in his hand before time began. When the Lord Jesus takes sinners by the hand, he “becomes,” as John Gill wrote, “their guide and leader. A better, and safer guide they cannot have. He brings them by a way they know not, and leads them in paths they had not known before; makes darkness light before them, and crooked things straight, and does not forsake them.”
Next, he “led him out of the town.” As Hosea allured Gomer and brought her into the wilderness, that he might speak comfortably to her, so the Lord Jesus graciously brings the chosen sinner away to himself alone, that he might speak comfortably to his beloved in the time of love.
He led this poor blind man out of the town, because he was not interested in the town, but in this one man. He did not want the applause of the people of Bethsaida, but the heart of this sinner. The people of Bethsaida, because of their unbelief, were declared unworthy even to witness the wondrous works of Christ (Matthew 11:21). So “he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town.” When the Son of God saves his people, he calls them out of the world. He bids us come unto him without the camp: — outside the camp of human religion — outside the camp of worldly ambition — outside the camp of sin’s dominion — outside the camp unto him!
A Despised Means
The next thing our Savior did, if he had allowed anyone to see it, would have been looked upon as an utterly despicable, contemptible, and foolish thing. — “And when he had spit on his eyes.”
Why did our Lord do that? Many suggest that because it was a common medical practice (Doctors believed there was healing, medicinal power in saliva!), our Lord used the common medical practice of the day to heal the man, adding to it his divine power. Needless to say, I do not agree. The Son of God did not employ falsehood to perform his work. However, our all-wise Savior did choose (and still chooses) to use a terribly despicable means to perform his work of grace upon this poor blind man.
God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to save his elect. The spit from the Savior’s lips represents the eye salve of the gospel with which the Son of God anoints the eyes of the blind (Revelation 3:18).
After spitting on the man’s eyes, the Lord Jesus “put his hands upon him.” The touch of his hand is the symbol of his omnipotent grace, without which the means of grace, the preaching of the gospel, is utterly useless.
A Sovereign Savior
What we have before us is a picture of our Lord’s sovereignty in the exercise of his grace. God will not be put in a box. He never limits himself and cannot be limited by men. He heals some gradually and others immediately, some with spit and others without any spit. All saved sinners trust the same Savior, experience the same grace and believe the same gospel. But we do not all experience grace the same way. This will come as a shock to some; but God does not deal with us all the same way. In fact, we are told in the New Testament of four other blind men who were healed by our Savior (Matthew 9:27-30; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43; John 9:1-7). Three were healed by his mere word, without his touch. One was healed by the Savior spitting in his eyes and touching them. And another was healed by our Savior spitting on the ground, making clay, and anointing his eyes with the clay. In all five cases, there were certain things that were done differently.
The Lord Jesus required a confession from this blind man. — “He asked him if he saw aught.” Remember, this man had not expressed any faith in the Son of God. He had not even acknowledged his blindness and need of cure. Now the Master requires him to acknowledge both his infirmity and the power of God he had experienced. There is no salvation apart from a personal confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:1-10; 1 John 1:9). Secret disciples are always suspect disciples. No one can be looked upon, treated as, or think of himself as a child of God until Christ is confessed. Our Savior requires and deserves that we confess him before men.
After he touched the blind man’s eyes, the Savior asked him if he could see anything. He “looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking” (v. 24). He could see, but not very clearly. So it is with us. When the Lord God saves a sinner, he is immediately translated from darkness to light. Every saved sinner sees the kingdom of God; but we do not immediately see everything in the kingdom of God.
In verses 24 - 25 we see that the light of God’s grace usually comes gradually. Christ, who is the Light of the world and came preaching the recovering of sight to the blind (Luke 4:18), gave what he proclaimed and compelled the man who had received his sight to tell what had happened to him. This blind man confessed exactly what he knew and had experienced, no more and no less. He was not delivered from his blindness all at once, but by degrees. He saw a little, but not much; and what he did see he did not see clearly. He did not pretend to see what he did not see.
This blind man received his sight gradually. The work was as truly gracious, miraculous, and glorious as the healing of Bartemaeus, the healing of the woman with the issue of blood, and the healing of the leper. But it was less spectacular. However, it is not a miracle to be despised and ignored because it was gradually performed. Our Lord hereby shows us that his works of grace in the lives of chosen sinners are sometimes gradual. Men and women usually come to light and understanding in spiritual things gradually. J.C. Ryle, made three very simple, but profoundly instructive comments about this man’s experience and the lessons it is intended to convey. Ryle said…
While we are rightfully insistent that there is no saving faith, no conversion, no true salvation apart from the knowledge of Christ (John 17:3) in his true character, as he is revealed in the gospel, we readily acknowledge that saving knowledge is but limited knowledge while we live in this world. Be sure you understand this. Light is light; but it usually comes to our sin blinded souls by degrees. We all see spiritual things gradually. — First we see the sinfulness of our deeds, then the sinfulness of our hearts. — First we see the suitableness and ability of Christ to redeem and save, then his willingness to save us. — First we see the fact of forgiveness, then the experience of forgiveness. — First we see the good news of the gospel, then the great truths of the gospel.
When God first saved me, I knew whom I believed; but I did not know much about him. I knew that the Lord Jesus Christ is my God and Savior; but I did not know much about eternal Sonship and the distinction of persons in the Holy Trinity. I was convinced of my sin; but I did not know the difference between iniquity, transgression, and sin. I was convinced that Christ had brought in everlasting righteousness for me, and that I had no righteousness but him; but I knew nothing about imputation and forensic righteousness. I was convinced that judgment was finished by the judgment of my sin in Christ my Substitute; but I did not know a thing about forensic justification. I knew that it was God who had saved me, that “Salvation is of the Lord;” but I didn’t know a thing about the decrees of God. If you had asked me about lapsarianism, I would probably have said, “I don’t know anything about Lapland.” If someone had asked me about election, I would most likely have said, “I’m not old enough to vote.” — I knew my Savior; but I really knew very little about how he had saved me. I could say with the blind man our Lord healed in John 9, “Once I was blind, but now I see.” Yet, I did not see much. All I saw was “men as trees walking.”
Yet, the Son of God never does his work partially. This man’s healing was soon completed. Once he has begun his work of grace in a man’s soul, he never stops working until he says, “It is finished.” — “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
The healing of this blind man gives us a picture of both the present and future condition of God’s saints. As long as we live in this world we see as through a glass darkly. We are like men traveling by night. We see what the light before us reveals; but we see very little around us. We see many things here that we simply do not understand, particularly in matters of providence. There are many things in the Word of God as well, which we simply do not understand. We are at best able to perceive spiritual things, like this man, as trees walking, so long as we live in his world. But the time will soon come when we shall see all things clearly. When the Lord Jesus comes again, our spiritual eyesight will be greatly improved!
The Second Touch
“After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly” (v. 25). — When the Master touched this man’s eyes a second time and made him look up, he was restored and “saw every man clearly.” It is written, “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).
So it is with us. Our shining light increases, and shines more and more unto the perfect day. The fact is, as long as we live in this world, the light we have is far from perfect, even among those who see the most and see most clearly. I am sorry to have to tell you this, but there are some things you do not yet know, and some things you know, about which you know very little. It must be acknowledged, if we are truthful, that we “see through a glass darkly.”
After reading this passage in one of our evening worship services several years ago, Bro. Rex Bartley said, “When Christ heals a sinner, restores his sight, and makes him look up to him, he sees every man clearly.” Then he named four men spoken of in Holy Scripture, and said, “When a sinner is taught of God, he sees these four men clearly.”
When a sinner is taught of God, he sees the first man, Adam, clearly, as both a representative man representing all the human race (1 Corinthians 15:45) and a typical man typifying our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:12-21).
Every saved sinner sees the second man, Christ our Lord, clearly. The first man, Adam, was made in the image and likeness of the second Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the God-man, our Mediator, our divine Surety, Jehovah’s righteous Servant, our sin-atoning Substitute, the Lord our Righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). — “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:9-10).
Then, the Scriptures speak of the natural man, that is man in his lost, ruined condition, without Christ. All who are taught of God see the natural man clearly. The natural man is dead in trespasses and in sins, without Christ, an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, a stranger to the covenant of promise, having no hope, without God in this perishing world.
There is another man set before us in the Book of God; and all who are taught of God see him clearly, too. The Holy Spirit calls him “the new man” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). This new man is that holy thing in you called, “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” that which is “born of God,” “his seed” that remaineth in you, “the spirit,” “the divine nature.” John tells us “he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” The new man “created in righteousness and true holiness.” The new man, “the spirit,” that is in you is at war with the old man, the natural man, “the flesh.” The new man delights in the law of God (Galatians 5:16-25). This new man is a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:13-15; Colossians 3:10-11).
We see “every man clearly,” but not perfectly. Soon, that will change. Soon, we shall see face to face and know even as we are known. How clearly will all things be seen in the new Jerusalem. There will be no need of the light of the sun or the moon of gospel ordinances there; but Christ, the Lamb, will be the everlasting light of that City, in which the nations of them that are saved shall walk! Then, when we see our Savior face to face, and not until then, will we see all things perfectly.
Tell it Not
There is one more thing I want you to see in this passage. It may seem strange, and it should. In verse 26 the Lord Jesus Christ, our God who “delighteth in mercy,” performs an act of judgment. That, too, is his work; but it is “his strange work.” — “And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.” Our Savior told this man to go home, specifically commanding him not to go back to Bethsaida and not to tell anyone in that town what the God of all grace had done for him. Why?
The Lord Jesus had done many wonderful works among the inhabitants of Bethsaida; but they did not believe him. Therefore, because they would not hear him and would not believe him, he left them to themselves. As Matthew Henry observed, “Bethsaida, in the day of her visitation, would not know the things that belonged to her peace, and now they are hid from her eyes. They will not see, and therefore shall not see.” This is horrible to consider; but it is his just judgment upon men who will not receive his Word (Proverbs 1:23-33). What great wrath our God heaps upon those who refuse to believe him! He orders his servants to preach no more to them. He allows none to tell them of the good news of life and salvation by him. He even commands his prophets not to pray for them. And even if they try to do otherwise, they simply cannot.
As soon as our Lord had healed this man, he took his disciples and left town (v. 27), but not until he had healed the man he came to Bethsaida to heal.
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