One time when Jesus healed a blind man, the man said, “I see men as trees walking.” (Mark 8:24) This statement always puzzled me. Why was it recorded in Scripture? What did it mean? Until now I thought it merely meant that his vision was cloudy, that he could not yet clearly see natural things. Now I believe that it represented an opening of the blind man’s spiritual vision and concerns a work that God wants to do in all of us, and he wants to do it NOW. Consider the context.
Mark 8 begins with Jesus miraculously feeding four thousand people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. After they all ate to their satisfaction the disciples picked up seven baskets of leftover pieces. Immediately following this miracle the Pharisees demanded Jesus to perform some type of sign for them. This deeply troubled Jesus. Hadn’t he just done something quite amazing by multiplying a few loaves and fish into enough food to fill thousands? Even his disciples did not really understand what such a miracle meant and so, when they forgot to bring enough bread to eat, they fretted and feared when Jesus told them to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” (Mark 8:15) They thought Jesus referred to their failure to bring leavened bread to eat. Jesus knew their thoughts and said,
“Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:17-21)
Here Jesus lays bare the problem with all of us. Our hearts remain hardened by our lusts and the deceitfulness of sin. We have eyes to see natural things, but we fail to see spiritual things. We have ears to hear natural sounds, but we fail to hear the whispering wind of the Spirit. We have minds which remember many things, but we fail to remember the spiritual truths and the miracles which God has already done in our lives. And so live for our fleshly lusts and we fear and we fret when we forget something or our circumstances don’t look too bright or feel just right. So, Jesus then reminds them (as he reminds us now) of his miracles concerning bread and asks them (us), “Do you not yet understand?” He knows they don’t and so, by the Holy Spirit, Mark then records another miracle with a blind man. Why now? Because Jesus’ own disciples were still blind to the spiritual truth he taught and represented, just as many of his disciples even today remain blind to the truths revealed throughout the Bible. Here is the story which follows:
22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”25 Then Jesus[c] laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” (Mark 8:22-26)
When we come to Jesus we are as this blind man. We can see nothing. We are as babes just come from the womb with eyes open, but not yet able to fix them upon anything or understand anything. When we believe in Jesus we allow ourselves to be touched by him; we allow him to pour living water (spit) into our eyes. The question then becomes, do we now see anything? That is, do we see anything for ourselves, or do we just mimic and parrot what our teachers tell us?
This story of the blind man sets forth a two-fold work in believers. When we first believe in Jesus we receive the earnest of the Holy Spirit which is the power to become a son of God. See John 1:12. But, we do not yet see everything clearly. Instead, says Paul, we see through a glass darkly. Our spiritual perception remains dim during this season of our faith for now we see “darkly,” not “clearly.” But we, like Mark’s blind man, should at the very least see what looks like trees, walking. This means that we should be cognizant of and recognize God’s trees who walk in the earth these days. These are the men and women among us, and hopefully we ourselves, who bear the righteous fruit God requires of his plants. Consider the following verses:
Blessed is the man[a]
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1, ESV)
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;[a]
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;[b]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.[c]
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:1-4)
Yes, it is we, we who were born blind to God and filled with a sinful nature, who need God (Jesus) to spit (pour living water) into our spiritual eyes so that we can begin to see his ways. And as we learn to see we will begin to observe men (God’s servants) as trees walking, producing the fruit of righteousness that our LORD requires. And when we faithfully do that, then Jesus will touch us a second time, will heal us completely by giving us glorified, immortal bodies, and then, and only then, shall we indeed see clearly!