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Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast, I want to talk about the only time that Jesus asked if a person was healed after praying for him
We have no idea how many people Jesus healed during his three-year ministry, hundreds, maybe thousands.
But in all these healings only once did Jesus ask if a person was healed.
It was like the Holy Spirit was planting a massive neon sign beside this healing to tell us it was different and we need to keep an eye on this miracle because there was more going on here than meets the eye.
And it wasn’t until a couple of thousand years later that a strange thing happened that would turn this miraculous healing on its head.
A few months back, someone by th,e name of Jimmy Cricket, obviously a pseudonym, made a comment on one of my YouTube videos.
I have no idea who this person was, but he had an old black and white photo of a young Fidel Castro smoking a cigar for his thumbnail, so that may hint at his political leanings.
But he made this statement, writing:
“The Bible provides no evidence of anything.”
His accusation is that the Bible is not a historical document and can not be used as evidence that an event actually took place or a person actually existed.
Of course, the Bible talks about dozens of secular people such as the infamous Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who ruled over Christ’s trial and ordered the Lord’s crucifixion.
Though we have known about Pontius Pilate for nearly two thousand years, the first archaeological evidence confirming Pilate’s existence did not show up until 1961, when archaeologists discovered a 31” by 29,” what they refer to as the Pilate stone, near the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre in Caesarea, where Pilate dedicated a temple to the Roman Emperor Tiberius.
Or how about Mesha, the King of Moab mentioned in 2 Kings 3:4-27 that was written over 3,000 years ago? His existence was only confirmed in 1869, when archaeologists found a stone monument, called the Mesha or Moabite stele, where King Mesha commemorated his victory over the Israelites.
But in this podcast, I want to focus on a miracle that took place during the ministry of Jesus that provides evidence right within the text itself that the miracle actually took place.
Though, there have been discoveries, like the Ipuwer papyrus. which provides a description of the plagues that God poured on Egypt during Israel’s exodus, but from an Egyptian perspective, normally we have to take Biblical miracles by faith.
But there is one instance where the Biblical text actually provides evidence that the miracle took place.
That miracle is found in the book of Mark.
Mark tells us that Jesus and the disciples had ended up in Bethsaida, now we need to understand that Jesus and the people of this town had a history, and it wasn’t a good one.
In Matthew 11:21, Bethsaida was one of two cities that Jesus condemned stating that despite all the miracles Christ had performed there it never repented, adding that if the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon had seen similar miracles they would have repented centuries ago.
So, there was tension in the air when Jesus and the disciples arrived for another visit. And we are told that a group simply called “they” brought a blind man to Jesus and asked the Lord to touch him and heal him.
But a couple of strange things happened in relation to this miracle.
First Jesus took the blind man out of the town into the country, we are told. It is uncertain why, but maybe the Lord wasn’t going to waste another miracle on this town.
Then Christ spit on the man’s eyes and then touched him, we read:
23 Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” 25 Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. 26 And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” (Mark 8:23-26 NASV)
But here in this passage, Jesus asked the man if he was healed. Jesus asked the man what he saw.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the only time Jesus asked anyone if they were healed.
What was so strange about this miracle that Jesus would need to do this?
Did the Lord sense there was something different about this healing?
Or did the Holy Spirit lead Jesus to do this as a way of underlining this miracle, telling us that there was something unique going on here and we needed to pay special attention?
When the man answered that he saw men walking as trees, Jesus laid His hands on his eyes, and the man’s eyesight was completely restored, and the Bible says he could see clearly.
People have a lot of opinions about what happened here.
Some in the faith movement suggest that Jesus need more faith to complete this healing.
Others argued that its evidence that healing can come in stages. It can be progressive.
Others have wondered if it has a connection to Mark 4:12 where Jesus says people were seeing but not perceiving or understanding what they were seeing.
And Mark hints at this when he uses two different Greek words to describe the man’s ability to see.
When we read this passage we find the word “see” used several times.
The first two times, Mark uses the Greek word ‘blepo’ that refers to the physical act of seeing, which was used when Jesus asked what the man saw and the man answered he saw men walking as trees.
But Mark uses a different Greek word to describe the man as seeing clearly after he had been touched a second and his sight was completely restored.
It is the compound word ’emblepo’ and means to focus on and according to Strong’s Greek Dictionary means “metaphorically to look at with the mind. To consider.”
It seems to add a mental aspect to the seeing.
But there was much more going on in this passage than just that and I suspect it is this latter thing that is the real reason why the Holy Spirit emphasized this miracle.
But to find the answer to that, we need to hit the fast forward button and make sure you stop when you reach the year 1991, where we will take a look at an eye procedure done on a man named Shirl Jennings, aged 50 at time.
Shirl, who died in 2003, had been blind since he was ten years old after being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. It is a condition that attacks the retina affecting how it responds to light and can result in permanent blindness.
Dr. Oliver Sacks, now deceased, was a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, when he wrote an article in 1993 entitled, TO SEE AND NOT SEE, for The New Yorker.
In the article, he told of the strange thing that happened to Shirl when he received his sight after basically a lifetime of blindness, becoming only one of a few people to have experienced this, including the man at Bethsaida.
In 1991, Shirl’s girlfriend was seeing an eye doctor, Dr. Trevor Woodhams, because of her diabetes. After telling him about Shirl, Woodhams encouraged her to have Shirl come to see him because though Shirl had been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, Woodhams wasn’t convinced that was the problem because Shirl could still see light.
In fact, Shirl had very thick cataracts on his eyes and after Woodhams removed them incredibly Shirl was able to see.
But there was a problem.
Sacks quotes a passage from the journal written by Shirl’s girlfriend that stated for several weeks Shirl struggled to see properly.
She wrote that Shirl:
“… often felt more disabled than he had felt when he was blind… Steps posed a special hazard because all he could see was a confusion, a flat surface of parallel and crisscrossing lines; he could not see them (although he knew them) as solid objects going up or coming down in three-dimensional place.”
She added that the cat was a real challenge. Though Shirl recognized the various parts of the cat such as its paws, tail and ears, he was not able to visualize these separate parts as a complete unit.
Sacks described what was happening, writing:
“His retina and optic nerve were active, transmitting impulses, but his brain could make no sense of them.”
But then Shirl’s girlfriend made a statement in her journal that is oddly similar to our blind man in Mark. She said that it took several weeks before Shirl could see the branches, leaves and trunk as being part of a single tree.
And this was exactly the same problem that the blind man was having when he saw men walking as trees. The images of the men and trees were all merged together and they were not making sense to him. They looked like one unit.
Though it took several weeks for Shirl to finally sort this out, when Jesus prayed for the blind man in Mark a second time, he was able to see clearly.
In fact, this was not a two-stage healing, like Shirl, the blind man would have eventually learned to see properly to distinguish the different images.
And here is the incredible thing about this story. That statement, ‘I see men walking as trees’ is proof of a miracle taking place because only a man who had been healed of a lifetime of blindness would have had that problem.
We didn’t know about this until modern medicine was able to restore sight to a blind man about 2,000 years later.
I think we have a pattern developing here. Pontius Pilate was mentioned in the Bible in the first century AD, confirmed in 1961. Then King Mesha, an Old Testament king, whose confirmation is found in an old Moabite Stele discovered nearly three thousand years later, and now a man who saw men walking as trees, his miracle is confirmed in 1991.
The Bible is the word of God and we can trust it.
- To See and Not See: The New Yorker (the Way Back archive)
- Mano, Keith, How a 20th century eye operation shows the Bethsaida miracle actually happened, (Western Report)
- The ‘Pilate Stone’ in Israel’s Caesarea-by-the-Sea: Deseret News
- Archaeologists Find First Evidence of Existence of Pontius Pilate: Jewish Telegraphic Agency