Do you need a further touch?

Only once in the four Gospels are we ever told that Jesus performed a healing miracle in two stages. Have you every wondered why? I certainly have. Not that I could tell you for certain, but Mark seems to give enough clues to deduce a possible reason.

And why did Mark use up valuable space to tell us of a second miraculous feeding of another huge crowd of hungry listeners (Mark 8:1-9) when he had so recently told of a virtually identical miracle meal (in Mark 6:30-44)?

The answer may begin to become clear when he tells us immediately after the second big picnic that the disciples were panicking because they had forgotten to bring bread in the boat on their journey across the lake to Bethsaida. In fact, Jesus grilled them with a series of eight penetrating question (Mark 8:14-21). Four were on such practical matters as:

[] ‘Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread?’ (verse Mark 8:17);
[] ‘Do you not remember?’ (verse Mark 8:18);
[] ‘When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?’ (verse Mark 8:19);
[] ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?’(verse Mark 8:20).

He also asked them another four questions on more deeply significant matters:
[] ‘Do you not yet perceive or understand?’(verse Mark 8:17);
[] ‘Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?’ (verse Mark 8:18);
[] ‘Do you not yet understand?’ (verse Mark 8:21 – evidently a very important question because he repeated it); and the most searching question of all:
[] ‘Are your hearts hardened?’ (verse Mark 8:17).

Mark seems to have had a deliberate pattern in mind as he wrote Mark 7:31; 8:26 in order to challenge his first readers to see and hear spiritual issues clearly, to perceive and understand with their hearts. He began with a deaf mute and ended with a blind man, each of whom Jesus led by the hand away from public gaze, touched with his saliva, and healed! When  asked, ‘Can you see anything?’ (Mark 8:23), the man could have got carried away with excitement and answered, ‘Oh yes, this is fine. I see light and shade, and swaying trees. This is such an improvement of my life,’ etc. The disciples, and Mark’s readers then and now, need to be as honest and admit to limited vision.  Then ‘Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again’ and this time ‘he saw everything clearly’ (Mark 8:25). Mark’s very next episode is Peter’s confession of who Jesus really is – he can see, but only partially, for he still lacks any understanding of the necessity for his death (Mark 8:27-33).

The disciples needed a further touch to remove the crystallised cataracts from the eyes of their hearts – a touch from those hands that had broken bread to feed the hungry, hands that would be nail-pierced when he broke bread again in a home in Emmaus after he rose from the dead, opening the eyes of two followers (Luke24:13-35).

Now there’s a thought to take with us to the communion table, don’t you agree?

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