What About that Two-Stage Miracle?

Some have charged that one of Jesus’ miracles was incomplete on the Lord’s first “attempt,” and that such reflected upon his power. What is to be said in response to this charge?
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

No narration available

“In Mark 8:22-26 there is the record of where Jesus healed a blind man. Why did Christ put his hands on the man twice, to restore his sight? Was his power inadequate on the first try?”

Let us carefully consider the facts of this case. For the record, we cite the full text (which has no parallel in the other Gospel accounts).

“And they come unto Bethsaida. And they bring to him a blind man, and beseech him to touch him. And he took hold of the blind man by the hand, and brought him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes, and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, Seest thou aught? And he looked up, and said, I see men; for I behold them as trees, walking. Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked stedfastly, and was restored, and saw all things clearly. And he sent him away to his home, saying, Do not even enter into the village” (Mk. 8:22-26).

As the Lord and his disciples approached the city of Bethsaida, near the Sea of Galilee, they encountered a blind man. The gentleman’s companions had brought their sightless friend to the Savior, and they urged Jesus to “touch” the man. The Greek term reflects more than just a light touch; it signifies to “hold on” to something. Obviously these friends believed that Christ had the power to remedy the man’s affliction.

The Lord took charge of the situation. He took hold of the man’s hand, led him out of the village, and, at the appropriate time, spat on the man’s eyelids, also laying his hands upon the unfortunate soul. Though it was commonly believed in the ancient world that saliva had curative properties (Pliny, Natural History, 28.37), Christ was not applying a medicinal remedy on this occasion. The act was symbolic, providing a point of contact with the Savior, with, perhaps, a hint of the healing about to transpire.

Presently, Jesus asked the man: “Do you see anything?” There is an interesting point here. The verb “asked” is in the imperfect tense, suggesting a process. “The question indicates Jesus knew that the recovery of sight at this stage would be only partial” (Edmond D. Hiebert, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1994, p. 230). The man responded that he was able to see dimly; he could barely distinguish men from trees, except that the former were walking about.

Then, for a second time, Christ laid his hands upon the gentleman — this time touching his eyes. Suddenly, the man “looked steadfastly, and was restored, and saw all things clearly.”“Looked steadfastly” is an interesting term; literally it signifies “to see through,” almost as if the man’s vision pierced a fog-like obscurity. The fact that the man’s sight was “restored” reveals that he had not been blind his entire life. Now he could see “clearly”; the miracle was complete.

The afflicted man went from total blindness to seeing clearly in a matter of moments. The fact that the sign was not instantaneous, as Jesus’ miracles normally were (with the exception of this case) is of no real consequence. The miracle was performed in two stages; nonetheless, it was entirely supernatural.

Some, however, allege that this would reflect upon the Savior’s power. Not so. The reality of “stages” does not nullify the divine orchestration. The creation of the Universe was accomplished in six “stages,” i.e., days. Such by no means negated the amazing display of divine power (Psa. 33:9; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 11:3).

As noted already, Christ’s miracles were usually accomplished instantaneously (cf. Mt. 8:3; 20:34, etc.). And these were amazing demonstrations of the validity of his claims. But is it any less astounding when one is able to start a process, suspend it, and then complete it? Hardly. Such a phenomenon manifests total control of the circumstances.

Finally, there is this very telling point. Did the beneficiary of the miracle complain to the Lord, “Sir, I protest! It took you two attempts to restore my sight. I am offended and refuse to acknowledge your power!” The very thought is absurd.

If that man did not protest the situation, what business does a critic of our day have in doing so?