And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
We see another aspect of Jesus’ dealing with unbelief in the healing of the blind man outside of Bethsaida (8:22-26). This was the only recorded gradual miracle performed by Jesus Christ; a partial healing was followed by a second touch and complete restoration of sight. Jesus could have accomplished this miracle any way He wished; why did He do it this way, outside the village alone, using His spittle, and commanding the man to keep still about it?
The reason for the private setting is found in Jesus’ cry in Matthew 11:20-22: “Then He began to upbraid the cities where 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 done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.”
We find here a picture of a judged world from which the Lord is saving individuals before the wreckage of all. A man of Bethsaida is to be healed, but the Lord is not going to heal him in Bethsaida. Christ is going to follow His own command and is not going to cast pearls before swine. Within Jesus was a combination of unswerving divine judgment on the town and intense compassion and love toward the individual; so He takes the man out of the town.
We learn even more when we consider the miracle from the blind man’s vantage point. He could not see the love on Jesus’ face. He had not come strictly of his own volition; friends had brought him. The only way to reach him at first was to touch him, so Jesus took him by the hand, and led him out of the village, step by step. How patient God is with our slowness, our ignorance, and our hesitancy. It would seem as if the gradual healing was an accommodation of Jesus’ power to the slowness of the man’s faith. Generally, Jesus worked on the principle that says, “according to your faith be it unto you.” Here He takes small steps to go with the steps of a child. And just as the man’s perception of the scene around him improved gradually, so Christian progress does not consist in seeing new things, but in seeing the old things more clearly—the same Christ, the same cross, only more deeply and distinctly apprehended.
Why did Jesus perform miracles privately?
Why did Jesus heal people? How was he able to do this?
How does this story teach us about the mercy God has toward humanity?
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