This year I've been trying something new: listening to the Bible instead of reading it. Faith comes by hearing, after all. I just open up YouVersion on my smart device of choice and play a professional recording of the day's passage (click here for more info).
It's been an interesting experience to listen instead of read. I'm not much for audiobooks; I can read FAR faster than someone else can talk, so audiobooks are always too "slow" to be really mentally stimulating. But this has been different. My mind still moves at its normal speed, but the "slowness" of the audio recording has the interesting effect of drawing me back to passages that I race past. I'm able to think about the words in a different way than I would if I were just reading through.
Today's chapter was Mark 8. Jesus has just finished giving the disciples a hard time about their lack of faith, pointing out that he'd just done a pair of miracles where he'd produced (literally) tons of food, but they still doubted him. "They" (the disciples? The crowd?) bring Jesus a blind man and ask Jesus to heal him. Jesus begins by spitting in the man's eyes, which is a more impressive feat than it seems. How confident are you that you could walk up to another person and spit directly into their eyes?
Regardless, Jesus spits on the man's eyes and... it doesn't take. The text says that the man regains his sight, but when he looks around he doesn't recognize anything. The men he sees "look like trees walking around." Obvious questions include: why does the text say he regains his sight if what he sees doesn't make sense to him? How does he know what trees look like, to compare people to trees? And, most importantly, what the heck just happened?
On the surface, it looks like Jesus tried to heal the man, whiffed, and then got it right on the second try. Why? Jesus seems to do some sort of calibration, but he's never had to do that in his other miracles. What's different about this one? What would have happened if the man had left halfway through the miracle?
I've read and heard a lot of different thoughts on this, and some of them are extremely compelling. But I wonder how many times I've missed the miraculous work of God in my life because it happened over a period of time, instead of instantly. This guy goes to see Jesus unable to see, and leaves able to see. That's miraculous. But what about the changes that happen over the space of a week? A month? A season? Are they any less miraculous?
Don't despise the small beginning.