Then he came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to him, and begged him to touch him. So 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 on him, he asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then he put his hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. — Mark 8: 22–25
Jesus helps us to see our neighbour properly.
The account of the healing of a blind man near Bethsaida gives us some insight into a special event. The people brought a blind man to Jesus and asked him to help the man. Jesus “spit on his eyes and put his hands on him, [and] asked him if he saw anything” (Mark 8: 23). Already at this point, the man was able to see, but his vision was still not sharp: he saw people moving around as if they were trees. The miracle of healing was not yet complete. Jesus laid his hands upon the blind man once again, and this time the man was able to see everything clearly.
People can only see things properly in the spiritual sense – in other words, gain the proper knowledge and understanding – when Jesus touches them, and when they allow themselves to be touched by him. This account emphasises that the healing of the blind man occurred in stages, beginning with an initial, as yet unclear kind of vision – which was really only more of a vague idea of things – and finally concluding with a clear vision resulting from the repeated touch of the Lord.
In view of the divine service on the coming Sunday, Jesus’ actions can also be applied to the realms of the departed. The spiritually blind are to have their eyes opened for divine salvation. However, in order for them to be completely restored – such that they can recognise the love of God, open themselves to it, and allow themselves to be overcome by it – they will need to be touched once more by the hand of the Lord.
On a second level of meaning, however, we can also derive something of note for ourselves. The Lord seeks to open up our eyes so that we can see our neighbour clearly – and in view of the coming Sunday, this refers to the souls in the beyond. This occurs when we allow ourselves to be touched by him.
Seeing our neighbour
Those who have been touched by Jesus Christ and his gospel will come to the initial insight: “I no longer want to think only of myself, but rather also give thought to my neighbour, think about his needs, and show compassion to him.” Such individuals are no longer blind to the cares and sufferings of others, but rather see their need.
Seeing the soul that is loved by God
Jesus leads us even further, however, such that we are even able to see in each human being the soul that is loved by God. Those who can be led to have such sharp vision will see the soul that God seeks to deliver, even if this soul does not believe in him, resists him, and mocks him at first. Those who have such sharp vision will see that Christ even died for those who once made war on one other, who failed to heed God’s commandments, and who destroyed his creation. They will see that he even brought his sacrifice for those who were rejected by everyone else, for those who were despised, reviled, and excluded from society. Jesus Christ already had all of these souls in mind when he brought his sacrifice on the cross.
Such sharp vision also gives us an inkling of the magnitude of God’s love. God gave his Son for the life of the world, and thus for all mankind. No human being who has ever walked the face of the earth is excluded from this.
Let us allow ourselves to be touched again and again in the divine services in order that we may always see properly.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for service held on Sunday, 22 February 2015 at Midrand Congregation