OUR LORD'S SPECIAL MIRACLE OF SIGHT
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 verse 22 - 25.
This breath-taking account of Jesus giving a man his vision is a window into the mechanisms of healing that Jesus had access to.
In this particular case, the man was profoundly blind to the degree that his eyes could not function and on top of that, his brain could not interpret images.
When the blind man was brought to Him, the people were asking Jesus to touch Him. Normally, a touch from Jesus was probably enough to heal most ailments (for example, the woman with the issue of blood merely touched Jesus' coat and was healed), but Jesus knew there was a complexity involved in this case that needed special conditions to correct the man's blindness.
There were five distinct steps that Jesus undertook to complete this miracle:
The first thing Jesus did was take the man by the hand and lead him out of town. As well as to make the miracle a discreet event, this was to take him out of the confusing and unnatural setting of the city and into a simpler backdrop of the countryside that would facilitate the reconstruction of the man's mental mapping between visual objects and their attendant meanings.
The second step was that Jesus spit into the man's eyes. This is an unusual action but not entirely unique. It is recorded that Jesus used spit to heal blindness in another miracle told in John 9 verse 6 where Jesus made mud with spit and clay and placed the mixture on a man's eyes.
In this case however, Jesus spat directly into the man's eyes. The spit itself may be seen as a component of healing in several ways. In the same way a mother may use her spit to clean her child's face before receiving company, the spit may have been used as a cleaner to prepare a suitably clear surface for the miracle to take place. Alternatively, the spit may have provided some molecular scaffolding on which the healing miracle could occur. Perhaps the spit served both these functions.
The third step was that Jesus laid his hands on the man. This step is a commonly seen action taken to actualize miracles. In many cases, Jesus and His apostles laid their hands on sick or disabled people and they were healed. This step was probable the way that miraculous power was conferred to the man to initialize his healing.
The fourth step is that Jesus asked the man if he could see anything. This question is very revealing. This man's case of blindness was complex enough that it was necessary to perform the restorative miracle in stages. The question was a diagnostic tool to verify what stage of healing the man had reached. The man looked up and replied, "I see men like trees walking".
This response is extraordinary. The man, in responding to Jesus' question, described his visual experience as one where he could see men but he saw them like trees walking.
Remember that Jesus had led this man discreetly into the countryside and so what was all around him were trees and a few people who had brought him to Jesus. In his visual cortex, the man was now perceiving trees and men when he looked up but his brain was blending the perception of trees and men and interpreting these blended items as a man/ tree hybrid and he thus exclaimed, "I see men like trees walking."
Upon receiving this response, Jesus carried out step five where He laid His hands on the man's eyes again and when Jesus got him to look up, the man's vision was restored.
The progression of events in this narrative gives us insight into the workings of a miracle where the stages are slowed down enough for us to see how distinct stages of healing are completed before successive stages are undertaken.
Whereas other miracles done by Jesus are recorded as single events, it is reasonable to understand that most healings would necessarily be procedural in nature but the healing miracles are conducted swiftly and seamlessly and written about as single events.
Here, a special case of a staged healing was allowed for the sake of letting us gain insight into the powers that Jesus and His followers wielded as they went about healing the sick.
Bless the name of the Lord.