Why would Jesus tell two different people to do two different things? I came upon this in my regular reading, and I found it very interesting. If you’ll bear with me as I summarize the stories, I think you’ll find these lessons as valuable as I did.The first passage I came upon was Mark 8:22-26.
22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying,“Do not even enter the village.”
When I read this, two phrases struck me as peculiar. First, before healing the blind man, Jesus led him out of the village. Second, after the healing, Jesus commanded the man to not even enter the village.
Why did Jesus take such effort to keep the blind man from his own town? To find the answer, I looked at two other instances of Jesus’ healing, where circumstances were pointedly different.
Consider Jesus healing the demon-possessed man from the Gerasenes in Mark 5:1-20. Verses 18-19 tell how the man who was healed begged to follow Jesus where he was going. Instead, Jesus commanded him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Hmm… why would Jesus tell the blind man at Bethsaida not to go back to his hometown, while he told the man at the Gerasenes to go back to his hometown?
First, let’s look at where the man from Gerasenes went to tell about Jesus. Mark 5:20 says, “And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” Everyone marveled.
Let’s look at another example of the people of the Decapolis region in Mark 7:31-37. Just like the man at Bethsaida, Jesus took the deaf man of Decapolis aside. After the healing, although Jesus charged him to tell no one about it, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He just HAD to tell everyone what Jesus had done for him! And what was the people of the Decapolis’s reaction? “And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.'”
The people of the Decapolis were open to Jesus. They were open to faith.
Now, let’s look back at the contrast between the people of the Decapolis and the people of Bethsaida. This is important to understand why Jesus would have told the blind man at Bethsaida not to go to his hometown, while he told the man at the Gerasenes to go back to his hometown.
Matthew 11:21 gives us some frightening insight on the town of Bethsaida: “Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”
The people of Bethsaida lacked faith. Even after seeing the mighty works of God (it is estimated that many miracles occurred there, such as the feeding of the five thousand), they still refused to believe. Their hearts were calloused.
Jesus knew that the blind man of Bethsaida, with sapling-like faith, needed to be transplanted away from such a faith-dry town, even if it was his own hometown – most especially, in my opinion, because it was his hometown. The man needed to be surrounded by people of faith so his faith could grow. Going back to a place where faith was absent would only choke his growth. He might even reject his newfound faith in Christ, despite having been cured of blindness.
So what can we learn here?
1. It is possible for God to lead believers in two different, even opposite, directions. One has to look carefully at the hearts of those involved and the circumstances surrounding them to see why. Sometimes the reason may not be clear, but based on these passages, I believe it is definitely possible.
2. Sometimes God may lead us to flee from places and people where our faith is rejected. This is confirmed by Jesus’ commands to the disciples to shake the dust from their feet and leave when people reject the faith. The people of Bethsaida had been given ample opportunity to believe. We don’t quit loving. We don’t quit forgiving. But it is possible that God could be telling us to move on.
These lessons aren’t clear-cut by any means. As believers, we must be in tune with the Holy Spirit in matters as sensitive as this.
What are your thoughts?