I can think of fewer things more tragic than to be blind. To live in a world of darkness - never be able to read a book or see a sunset or watch the waves breaking at the crack of dawn. To never be able to watch a bird in flight or the smile of a baby or the royal colors of a rose garden.
But perhaps a greater tragedy would be to have the ability to see without actually seeing. To go through life with oneís eyes tightly shut, refusing to ever open them and see the world. The Pharisees had adopted that sort of spiritual blindness. They had witnessed the miracles of Jesus and had heard His teachings and had resolved to deliberately close their eyes and stop their ears to the evidence that was so clearly manifested before them.
Unable to deny His supernatural power, they attribute it to Satan. It is with this spirit that they come to Jesus now.
A. THE BLINDNESS OF UNBELIEF.
The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him.
Sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, "Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." (Mark 8:11-12).
The Pharisees come and ask Jesus to perform a miracle. But this is not a sincere request. It is made in the midst of an argument. They are making this request in order to test Him. If He does not perform it, then they will say that He has demonstrated His inability. If He does perform it, then they will say that He is receiving His power from Satan.
Jesus refuses to grant a sign. This will mark a turning point in His ministry. Up to this time, there has been no shortage of signs. There have been an abundance of all sorts of miracles. But that is over. There will be very few public miracles performed from this time onward. And none shall be performed in the presence of the Pharisees.
B. A CRYPTIC WARNING.
Leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side.
And they had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them.
And He was giving orders to them, saying, "Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." (Mark 8:13-15).
This warning is unusual in that there were hardly two positions that were further apart than Herod versus the Pharisees. The Pharisees represented the conservative party. They were nationalistic patriots. They held to the Scriptures. They believed in angels and a literal resurrection.
Herod Antipas was not even Jewish. His father was an Idumaean. His mother was a Samaritan. He held his authority from the hated Romans.
But Jesus lumps them both together. What did they have in common? What could be both the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod?
Leaven always carries with it the idea of INFLUENCE. You take a little piece of leaven and place it in a lump of dough which you are going to bake and that little piece influences the entire lump, causing it to rise.
Both the Pharisees and Herod were parties of influence. They had both seen and/or heard of Jesus. And they had come to some conclusions regarding Jesus. These conclusions are given to us in Markís account.
Both of these parties had made false assumptions about Jesus. And He warns His disciples against following in their footsteps. When we get to Mark 8:29 Jesus will ask His disciples as to their own assumption of His identity - "But who do you say that I am?"
This is one of the most important questions you can ever be asked. Who is Jesus? It is a life or death question. If you look at Him and see only a Galilean rabbi or a good man or a profound teacher or a miracle-worker, then you have missed Him.
C. THE BLINDNESS OF THE DISCIPLES.
They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread.
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?
"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 you picked up?" They said to Him, "Twelve."
"When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they said to Him, "Seven."
And He was saying to them, "Do you not yet understand?" (Mark 8:16-21).
Instead of hearing and understanding the warning of Jesus, the disciples focused upon their lack of bread. Jesus was speaking of the spiritual. They were looking only to the physical. He was speaking of the spiritual leaven which characterized unbelief. They saw only the leaven which is used in a bakery. And this generates a discussion among the disciples. The discussion is over the fact that they have only a single basket of bread. Seven baskets had been collected the day before. Six had been left behind.
Jesus asks a rhetorical question. He will ask it twice. "Do you not yet understand?" What is it that they are supposed to be understanding? What is His point?
It is that they are worried about bread and they have not yet come to terms with the fact that the Creator of all bread is in their midst. They are worried about lunch and they have missed the fact that the One who holds all things together by the word of His power is with them and able to provide for them.
He has already done it. They have seen Him do it. They saw Him feed 5000 people and they picked up 12 baskets of leftovers. They saw Him feed 4000 people and they picked up 7 baskets of leftovers. They have seen so many miracles that it is starting to get monotonous. Yet with all of this, they have missed the central point to which these miracles have been pointing.
Jesus asks the double-barreled question: "Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? They have just seen Him heal a deaf man of his deafness. In the next paragraph, He will heal a blind man of his blindness. Jesus is asking, "Are you also blind and deaf?"
Healing of deaf man (7:31-37)
Feeding 4000 bread and fish (8:1-10)
Unbelief of Pharisees & disciples - theme of bread (8:11-21)
Healing of blind man (8:22-26)
D. THE MIRACLE OF SIGHT.
And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him.
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?"
And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around."
Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.
And He sent him to his home, saying, "Do not even enter the village." (Mark 8:22-26).
Up to this point, we have been dealing with spiritual blindness. But now we are given an account of a man who was physically blind. The juxtaposition of these two accounts is no accident. This healing of the blind man will serve as an illustration of what Jesus must do to heal spiritual blindness.
This particular healing is unique. It is the only time that we ever see Jesus healing in stages.
Jesus: Spits onto the manís eyes and lays hands upon him.
Jesus: Lays His hands upon the man.
The Man: "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around."
The Man: Began to see everything clearly.
After the initial work of Jesus, the man looked up and instead of darkness, he could actually make out images. They resembled trees. But there was something wrong with these trees. They were walking. The man had only a partial restoration of his vision. The miracle was not yet completed.
Jesus again laid His hands upon the man. And this time, the manís vision was completely restored.
This brings us to a question. Why did this healing happen in stages? Couldnít Jesus have healed the man all at once? Yes, He could have. But this healing is a parallel to the spiritual work which Jesus is going to do in the lives of the disciples. And I think that is why the healing is accomplished in stages.
You see, your spiritual blindness is not completely removed in a single instant. It is a gradual removal. When you first begin to see Jesus for who and what He is, you do not immediately have all knowledge concerning Him. Such knowledge is gained bit by bit. Here a little, there a little. Line upon line and precept upon precept.
Have you seen Jesus? Have you recognized Him as the Messiah? The Christ? That is good. But donít stop there. There is more to see. Keep on looking at Jesus. And you will be amazed at how much more you shall see.