Reprayer Man

trees

He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” (Mark 8:24)

Call it the “wonder blunder,” “God’s goof,” or “botch and pray.” For my money it’s the strangest incident in the generally enigmatic life of the Son of Man. Found in the Gospel of Mark, it’s casually referred to as “The Healing of a Blind Man at Bethsaida.” It probably should have been called, “Jesus the Reprayer Man.”

Here’s the deal: A blind man is brought to Jesus who spits on his eyes and put his hands on him. Jesus asks, “Do you see anything?” The guy says, “I see people, but they look like trees walking around.” Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes again and adjusts the miracle a bit. Voilà! 20/20 vision!

The spit-in-the-eye method (hack-n-hurl healing) is definitely funky, but it’s one of Jesus’ favorite shticks and falls within his renegade persona. I’m guessing that the spit thing is more of an artistic statement than anything, a kind of aesthetic signature Jesus adds to the miracle to give it that certain savoir-faire. (When he’s inspired to do some sculpting he adds a little dirt to make mud.) Anyway, so far so cool.

But what is totally whacked is that Jesus has to try twice before he gets it right. Excuse me? Jesus, the incarnation of the omnipotent God, screws up the first time? He has to do a miracle do-over? Holy spit, Batman! Mission Control, we’ve got a problem.

Okay. Here are three options:

1) Jesus does it on purpose. But why? To illustrate something? Like what? To err is human? If at first you don’t succeed try, try again? Lame. Let’s call this the Pee Wee Herman “I meant to do that” theory. It doesn’t work here for me at all. In every other case Jesus makes his point by success, not by messing up.

2) Blame the blind guy. His faith is weak, right? Shoot, even the venerable International Bible Commentary (F.F. Bruce) suggests this as a possibility. Talk about kicking somebody when he’s down. Besides, the blind dude eventually gets healed anyway, so his faith isn’t really at issue here. Still, it takes Jesus two tries to pull it off. The blame-the-blind-guy approach explains nothing, except maybe why he couldn’t parallel park a donkey.

3) Jesus screws up. I know you don’t like this one, but it sure accounts for the textual evidence. Maybe the Son of Man is on a learning curve on his way to qualify as the savior (He 5:9)? If we take the Gospel stories at face value, Jesus doesn’t always seem to know everything he needs to know; he has to find out. Sometimes he simply asks. With the blind guy, he learns from experience.

Maybe that’s why Jesus sends the formerly blind guy home, saying, “Don’t go into the village” and blab about this thing. Maybe Jesus wasn’t ready for prime time. Maybe he was still practicing?

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