Mark 8:22-26 — We are all Deaf and Blind

The healing of the blind man in Bethsaida is the last miracle in the first half of Mark’s Gospel. Mark 8:27 begins the second half of the Gospel.

The second half of Mark’s narrative will focus on the passion and death of Jesus. Jesus appears as the suffering servant of Isaiah throughout the second half of the book and provides a model of self-sacrifice that is the cost of discipleship itself. The first half of Mark’s narrative has focused on the kingdom ministry of Jesus—proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God through word and deed. While the second half of Mark depicts Jesus as the suffering servant of Isaiah, the first half of Mark affirms Jesus as the kingdom prophet who practices the good news of the kingdom of God.

This last miracle story in the first half is the second of a pairing that function as bookends in Mark’s narrative (see the parallels in the chart below). The first is the healing of the deaf mute in Mark 7:31-37. Between the healing of the deaf mute and the blind man is the feeding of the 4000. Both are fulfillments of Isaiah 35:5-6 where the Messianic Age envisions the healing of the deaf and blind. Deaf and blind people are only healed in the ministry of Jesus and in the power of the poured out Spirit of God in the Messianic Age. These healings do not appear in the Hebrew Bible. The healing of the deaf and blind are actualizations of the coming reign of God on the earth.

These healings, at one level, accentuate the deafness and blindness of the disciples exhibited in their understanding of Jesus’ healing of the 4000. At another level, reflect the general response to Jesus’ ministry. Everyone loves the healings but few, if any, truly hear and see the message of the kingdom.

Mark 7:31-37

Mark 8:22-26

Story is unique to Mark Story is unique to Mark
Story precedes feeding of 4000 Story follows feeding of 4000
Jesus is in the Decapolis Jesus is in Bethsaida of the Decapolis
Echoes healing of the deaf in Isaiah 35:5-6 Echoes healing of the blind in Isaiah 35:5-6
Others bring (pherousin) him to Jesus Others bring (pherousin) him to Jesus
Others beg (parakalousin) Jesus to heal him Others beg (parakalousin) Jesus to heal them
Jesus takes (apolabomenos) him away from the crowd Jesus takes (epilabomenos) him away from the crowd
Jesus uses spit in the healing Jesus uses spit in the healing
Two movements in healing – spitting and touching the ears Two movements in healing – spitting and touching the eyes
Elaborate healing procedures Elaborate healing procedures
Full healing in the end Full healing in the end
Tells him to avoid publicity—don’t talk Tells him to avoid publicity – avoid village

Who truly hears and sees the message? Isaiah 6:9-10 lingers in the background, a text that Jesus cited in Mark 4:12 and he alludes to it in light of the disciples’ inability to understand in Mark 8:18. The people see but they don’t perceive; they hear but they don’t understand. They are spiritually deaf and blind. In the physical healings Jesus enacts a parable that embodies his mission—to give eyes to the blind and ears to the deaf that they might turn and be reconciled with God in his kingdom.

In particular, the disciples are deaf and blind even though they themselves have been engaged in kingdom ministry for some time now. They do not yet see or hear clearly. In the next story—the turning point of Mark’s narrative—they will confess Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) but they do not understand what that means. They are like the blind man who needs two stages of healing. They come to “see” in part, but they do not yet fully see. They do not fully see until they see him resurrected and remember Jesus’ words about his suffering and coming glory. Their sight is fuzzy (like the blind man’s) at first but later they see more clearly (like the blind man).

We are all deaf and blind. We only see and hear through the healing and patience of God’s work within and among us. Our journey with Jesus is similar to that of the disciples. Only slowly do we come to “see” and “hear” the true meaning and cost of discipleship. We are the disciples in this story—we see but we don’t perceive, we hear but we don’t understand. And yet through our journey with Jesus our capacity for clear sight and sharp hearing grows.

3 Responses to “Mark 8:22-26 — We are all Deaf and Blind”

  1.   John King Says:

    The fact that Peter will confess Jesus as the Christ (8:29) and then take him aside and rebuke him (8:31), in the next story, shows just how blind and deaf disciples can be. We, too, reveal our disabilities when when confess Jesus as Lord, but refuse to obey His directions for our lives.

  2.   rich constant Says:

    john mark
    really its to simple it is not by works,it is faith in father,because of the sons faithfulness.because of a promise.
    the law was not made for a righteous man….so then it is by faith not by works the gift,, of god, the servant.

  3.   D'Angelo Joyce Says:

    Excellent observations, John! Richard Hays remarked that the odd healing proceding the confession (seeing people as trees) is indicative of the disciples vision and many times our own, at this point in the narrative. Jesus Messianic calling can only be confessed at the foot of the cross, rather than with illusory grandeur of military or political over throw.


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