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.” Mark 8:22-26, ESV
Have you ever begged for something? Have you ever begged God for something—for yourself or a loved one?
When I read the above Bible story recently, the word “begged” stood out to me. Trying to think of what it means to beg, I scrambled through my life memories for instances of “begging.” I recalled pleading with my mom to let me go to the playground alone (she only let me go when she or my dad could accompany me, which felt too rare). I remember a couple instances when I begged my parents for extra pocket money. And I remember begging my sister to share her part of the sweets my dad brought us every time he returned from working in a wealthier country.
Then I grew up, and I learned what it means to really hurt. I remember being alone in a foreign country, huddled on my bed in a room rented from a stranger, begging God to soothe my heart. I remember feeling really sick one night and hating it and imploring God to take my pain away. My begging—my grown-up begging—was a mix of tears and erratically repetitive, highly emotionally charged phrases. Nothing articulate. Nothing worthy of a bestseller. Just spitting out my plea in the plainest of words.
When we beg, we are desperate. We are desperately aware of our weakness, our incapacity, our insufficiency. And we desperately need someone who can do for us or a loved one that which we wish would happen but is not in our power to accomplish.
Begging for the Healer’s Touch
Mark 8:22-26 is a story about an explicit supplication and the resulting miracle.
Jesus comes to Bethsaida, and some people bring to Him a man who had lost his sight (verse 24 shows that he knew what trees and people looked like, so he must have once been able to see). These were probably friends or family who longed to see him restored. Their approach to Jesus is desperate. They beg Jesus to touch him. In response, Jesus foregoes words and does what He is besought to do: He touches the man. He takes him by the hand and walks with him like that, hand in hand, until they have left the village behind.
The blind man has one last walk to take led by Someone’s hand.
Interestingly, the man is not cured when Jesus touches him. Before being healed, he has one last walk to take led by Someone’s hand.
I imagine that his heart beat fast. I imagine that with every step waves of hope rose higher and higher, erasing piece by piece the shoreline of his debilitating boundaries. I imagine that he pictured what it would be like to see again, to be healthy again, to be able again—able to care for himself, able to see love in the eyes of another, able to cultivate his talents more fully.
Jesus gives him immediate attention, but He rushes not. He is too loving and too wise to disregard the need to protect both the sick man and His mission. Before curing the blind man, He takes him outside the village. Not only is he led away before Jesus intervenes miraculously, once healed he is commanded to strictly avoid Bethsaida and go to his home (evidently located in another village). The explicit command to “not even enter the village” suggests that he either used to frequent this town or actually lived there. But Jesus forbids him any contact with the village.
Thus, it is outside the confines of Bethsaida that Jesus lifts the blind man’s limitations. He touches his eyes with saliva and asks him: “Do you see anything?” The man looks up and replies: “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”
Jesus’ question is intriguing. Many instances throughout the Gospels indicate that He could read people’s minds. This means His question was not intended to aid His healing work. Rather, it was meant for the blind man. Jesus touches his eyes again, and his vision is restored fully.
Step-by-Step Journey to Wholeness
This brief account in Mark 8:22-26 includes three instances when Jesus touches the sick man: He takes him by the hand, touches his eyes once, and then touches his eyes again. The healing of this blind man is a healing in three steps. First, Jesus moves him to a safe place; then He heals him partially; and eventually He restores his sight fully.
Sometimes this is how God works with us. Before healing us, He leads us to a safe place where the miracle would not threaten our personal well-being (physical, emotional, spiritual) or the work of God. Then He heals us partially, involving us in the process in some form or another. Eventually, as promised, God will cure all our aches and restore us fully.
The encounter between Jesus and the blind man changes both of their courses. Jesus leads the steps of the blind man, yet the need of the blind man directs Jesus’ steps. He changes direction and walks away from the village, where He cures the man and commands him in precise terms the direction to take. The God who descended among us in human form makes Himself available to those who need Him, being willing to change His course in accordance with our needs. Yet as He crosses paths with us, He establishes the path we are to take as He moves us toward healing and restoration.
Jesus is a God who touches us.
For me, the most beautiful part of this story is the fact that that once the blind man meets Jesus, he is led by His hand until wholly restored. I find this beautiful because Jesus goes the extra mile. He didn’t need to take him by the hand personally. He could have simply asked those who brought the man to follow Him outside of the village. But Jesus is a God who touches us. He touches us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The same hands that formed us at creation touch us throughout the days of our lives. His touch, I learn here, is not always an instantly healing touch. But it is a touch leading us toward healing.
Sometimes we have to journey hand in hand with Him for a while until we are restored. At times this is a short walk. Other times it is longer. For some of us it may be a lifetime walk. God may choose to cure our ache in a moment, or He may choose to help us carry it until the final restoration of mankind. But once we meet Jesus—the kind of God who walks hand in hand with the sick—we know that our life will never be the same again. As we live with a growing anticipation of restored wholeness, each step in our walk hand in hand with Jesus is one step closer to our healing.