An unusual miracle is described in Mark 8:22-25. A blind man was healed in two steps. First, Jesus restored sight. He asked the man if he saw anything. The man answered, “I see men like trees walking.” Second, Jesus restored the man to clear sight.
This miracle is unique for two reasons. First, it is found only in Mark, not in the other gospel accounts. Second, this is the only time recorded of a miracle of Jesus involving more than one step. There must be a significance, one would think.
Why two steps? This has puzzled more than a few Bible students. A common explanation is that this is designed to teach a lesson about spiritual sight. One commentator explains, “The disciples had begun to gain spiritual insight but still did not understand clearly. They needed to continue their diligence to gain a second touch, to see adequately Who and What Jesus was” (Ancil Jenkins, Mark, p. 80). It is true that clear spiritual sight, and insight, does not come all at once. We must grow (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 5:12-14). Is this the contextual point? (cf. Mark 8:13-21). Perhaps, but this is not very clear to me.
There is another possible explanation. It may be that both the eyes and the brain needed Jesus’ touch. Moreover, Jesus, by using two steps, may have provided us with faith-building accuracy.
In 1689, an Irish philosopher named William Molyneux set forth a question: If a man born blind can feel the differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he, if given the ability to see, distinguish those objects by sight alone. This is known as “Molyneux’s problem.” Some philosophers answered “yes” and others “no” (e.g. John Locke) to this question. The issue was not resolved.
Flash forward to 2011. “That year, per the New York Times, ‘researchers tested five subjects from rural northern India, four boys and a girl ages 8 to 17, all of whom had been ‘blind since birth.’ But had these children grown up in a more developed area, their vision would have been improved through advances in medicine. The subjects’ blindness was caused by cataracts (or in one case, a damaged cornea), and the researchers were able to improve their vision – and did. The Times explains: “Before their operation they could perceive light, and two could discern its direction, but none could see objects. Afterward, they all had vision measured at 20/160 or better, good enough to distinguish objects and carry out the tasks of daily living.” That improvement included giving them the ability to see the shapes – spheres and cubes – that they could previously not discern. As a result, we were able to put Molyneux’s to the test. And it turns out that Locke was right. The children couldn’t tell the difference between shapes by sight alone” (The Solution to an Unanswerable Question, Now I Know, May 16, 2018, nowiknow.com).
Our brother Steven Lloyd wrote an article entitled “A Two-Fold Miracle” which appeared in the Gospel Journal, May 2000. He wrote, “Dr. Sacks compares learning how to depend on sight – after being blind all one’s life – to learning a language for the first time, not learning a second language, but learning to speak for the first time.” He quoted from Keith Mano, who said of Mark 8, “A faker, not knowing about post-blind syndrome would have reported that Jesus had given him perfect vision.” Again, “The blind man must be taught (in one miraculous instance) what you and I have known since childhood – how to see.”
Jesus could have cured the man in one step. He did not. I believe that this provides us with subtle evidence for authenticity.