The man born blind: discuss or heal?

In John 8, Jesus had a heated discussion about his ministry and credentials with Jewish leaders in the temple. He left, noticed a man born blind, and healed him. It was the Sabbath, so the leaders who were offended at him before became more offended and took out their frustration on the formerly blind man. Jesus’ disciples also saw the blind man, but they took it as a springboard for a theological discussion about sin (John 9:1-7). Has the church to this day understood what Jesus said and did?

Who sinned?

Christ heals the Man born blind

Healing of the Blind Man / by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308-11)

A blind man sat near the entrance to the temple.… Read the rest

Stubbornness and faith: the man with the withered hand


At the height of his popularity, but when the Pharisees were beginning to view him with suspicion, one Sabbath Jesus entered a synagogue, by definition a Pharisee stronghold. Not that it was unusual for him to attend synagogue services; he probably attended somewhere every Sabbath of his life. But on the occasion Mark describes, a man with a withered hand was there.

All the Pharisees looked Jesus and the man with the withered hand, and what they saw was not so much a man in need as a reputed law breaker in their synagogue. Would Jesus have the audacity to heal the man on the Sabbath?Read the rest

New life on both sides of the grave


Christians look forward to the resurrection of the dead, as promised through Jesus’ own resurrection. What about the resurrection of the living? How many of us go through life doing the same things, including making the same mistakes, over and over? Someone has observed that a rut is nothing but a coffin with the ends knocked out. Just as there is new life after physical death, so is there new life after stagnation. Lazarus died physically, but we can take his death and rising from death as a metaphor for reawakening to new life after a period of spiritual slumber.

When Lazarus became deathly ill, his sisters sent for Jesus.… Read the rest

Trusting Jesus when it makes no sense: healing the blind man of Bethsaida

Christ Healing the Blind Man of Bethsaida (14th. c.) 

Mark’s gospel records a very odd healing. Some people in Bethsaida brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. Usually in Scripture we see Jesus instantly
moved to compassion, but these people had to beg him. Then, instead of laying his hands on the man, he led him out of town, where the story becomes odder still. Implicitly Jesus had challenging questions for the blind man, his disciples, and all of us: Do you believe me? Is trusting me still an option for you?

In Luke 10:13, Jesus pronounced woe to Bethsaida fir its unbelief at the miracles performed there.… Read the rest

The blind man of Bethsaida and a warning

Blind man of Bethsaida

Blind man of Bethsaida

In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus performed his only two-part healing. In an earlier post, I pointed out the significance to Mark’s structure of the fact that Jesus had to lay his hands on a blind man twice before his sight was fully restored.

That is not the only odd thing about this miracle. Notice that Jesus and his disciples entered the village of Bethsaida, where some people asked him to lay hands on a blind man. He did not do so immediately. Instead, he took the man by the hand and led him out of the village.… Read the rest

The odd healing of the blind man of Bethsaida


In recent centuries, philosophers have doubted miracle stories. Some of them have asserted that only uneducated people who don’t know much about science could believe them, so the stories must have some time after Jesus’ live passed into the realm of legend.

Others have claimed that the biblical authors deliberately made up stories that couldn’t be true in order to gain a mass following among the unsophisticated and credulous.

One question, then: if someone made up a bunch of tall tales to make Jesus seem like more than just another teacher, why would they make up a story about a miracle that seemed not to work?… Read the rest

Grace and forgiveness for the chief of sinners—and the rest of us

My mind often races around like a fly, landing here and there from time to time, but circling around unpredictably and at random. That’s weird, but I guess it’s normal enough. I’ve heard and read about enough other people who testify that their mind does the same thing.

Once in a while, something I think about or see or hear or read triggers a memory of something I did or said some time in the past—even as long ago as grade school. And whether it is that long ago or much more recent, likely as not, I remember doing or saying something stupid, and I feel great shame at the memory.… Read the rest

Stretching Out a Withered Hand

“He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.”–Mark 3:5, NIV

Yesterday I touched on the first half of this verse. Today we’ll look at the remarkable second half.

Picture yourself as the man with the withered hand. Make a fist as a symbol of a withered hand. Now, pretend that the computer screen is Jesus and move your fist towards it. Have you stretched out your hand? No. You have stretched out your arm. The man with the withered hand could have done that easily, but that’s not what Jesus told him to do.… Read the rest