Jesus and his followers came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch the man. So Jesus held the blind man’s hand and led him out of the village. Then he spit on the man’s eyes. He laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see now?”
The man looked up and said, “Yes, I see people. They look like trees walking around.”
Again Jesus laid his hands on the man’s eyes, and the man opened them wide. His eyes were healed, and he was able to see everything clearly. Mark 8:22-25 Easy-to-read Version
What’s going on here? Why did Jesus have to lay His hands on this man twice to restore his vision? At first glance, it seems like Jesus had to double the amount of power before the miracle could be finished. But that doesn’t match the limitless power of God!
When I was growing up, I only thought how fun it would be to see “trees walking.” The story is part of the 6% of the book by Mark not repeated by the other gospels so it’s easy to miss. But, there is so much we can learn from it!
Seems like the only explanation I ever heard from a pastor or Sunday school teacher was that maybe the man didn’t have much faith, so it was his fault Jesus had to do it twice. But there are no signs of this in the passage. In fact, you see Jesus expecting the man not to see properly.
Years later, I read an article on doctors restoring sight to the blind. The more I read the more I recognized what Jesus was doing.
When a baby is born, they spend the first year building brain connections like crazy. Even a newborn who seems to do nothing but sleep, eat, and fill their diaper is developing nerves they will use their whole life. The more interactions they have with people and objects, the more brain connections they make.
These connections don’t have a chance to form when a baby is born blind; the part of their brain designed to help them understand what they see has nothing to do. We’ve found they start using this area to help them understand language and even to read Braille. But their brain never practices figuring out what their eyes see.
Jesus designed our eyes and brains. He knew how big a task it was to heal this man and apparently decided to use him to prove He knew. When He first spit on the man (I wonder if this means Jesus didn’t have any bad germs in His mouth?) and put His hands on him, He healed him perfectly. The man’s eyes were able to instantly see 20/20 or better.
But Jesus didn’t heal the man’s brain and He made sure the disciples and everyone who read the Bible would know it by asking what the man could see. Then, He touched him again and instantly gave the man all the brain connections he needed to perfectly interpret what his eyes were telling him.
Jesus was way ahead of His time. In 1688, a man named William Molyneux wondered what would happen if something like this occurred. He realized sight is a complex thing. It took over 300 years before doctors could answer his question.
No, it isn’t an automatic thing for the brain to interpret images, but the younger a person is when they gain vision, the better their chances.
At least one adult has learned to get around pretty well with her new vision, but it will never match what a person who has seen since infancy can understand. This is why doctors are extra careful to screen babies for vision problems. If there is something wrong which can be corrected, like cataracts at birth, they usually try to take care of them within 3 months.
Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. John 9:32,33
This is still true. These men not only had eyes to see but a brain to understand!
For more, check out Phys.org: Out of darkness, sight: How the Brain learns to see