When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”
24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”
25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.” – Mark 8:22-26
Trees don’t walk. Nevertheless the once-blind man says that the people he saw looked like trees walking. He was half-blind. He could see something, but nothing clearly. Jesus’ healing touch was, for some reason, only half effective the first time around.
This man expected something better than a fuzzy healing from his blindness. When Jesus asked him if he could see anything after his first attempt, the man did not pass off his half-way healing as sufficient or all done. He was honest with Jesus, and willing to let Jesus know the status of his restored vision.
Notice that Jesus did ask the man. Whether he was testing the man to see if he would settle for a half-healing, or just wanted to know is not told us. Mark simply reports that Jesus asked and the man answered. I’m inclined to put this in the “Let’s See if this Man has Faith in the Fullness of Jesus’ Power” column. In other words, I believe Jesus was testing the man’s faith.
Faith is all about ascribing to God good intentions, great power, true love, and a pure heart. Faith isn’t really about us. It’s about God, what we believe about him, what we expect from him, and how we approach him in prayer.
Some may say that humility requires that we do not ask too much. While that may be true, faith is bold because it holds to God and his promises. There is nothing arrogant about taking God at his word. I’m remembering Martin Luther’s prayer for his friend and colleague/helper, Philip Melanchthon. Melanchthon was sick and Luther payed.
Filled with fear, [Luther] said: “O God, how the devil has shattered this instrument for me!” Then the faithful and manly friend approached his God in prayer for his much beloved friend, by throwing, as he, himself afterwards said, “the sack before the door, and by rubbing his ears with all the promises from His own word.” (CTQ, Volume 76:1-2 January April 2012)
Our timidity in prayer may be because we know our prayers are not good or right. They may be selfish and self-serving. Restraint under those conditions is good and proper. But if we approach God with a good request, flowing from our love for God and neighbor, we need not hold back. We can “throw the sack at the door” and “rub God’s ears in his promises.” While that may be heroic faith (cf. the above-referenced article), it may also be what is needed at that moment.
And when God does answer, don’t settle for walking trees.