Many scholars believe that Mark wrote down the words of Peter the Apostle to create the Book of Mark, the second Gospel in the New Testament: “The early Christian Fathers are unanimous in testifying that Mark wrote under Peter’s superintendence by his authority.” The 2nd century christian writer, Justin Martyr, goes as far as to name the Gospel of Mark “Peter’s memoirs” (The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary, Mark, bk 22, pg. 2-3).
So when we read Mark’s account of Jesus’ interactions with the disciples, we can understand that Peter’s eyes were the receiver of the information and his mouth was the publisher. Mark listened to Peter and wrote down his words, so that we too could hear the revelations of Jesus and dig deep to find the treasures of Truth buried in them!
Only in the Gospel of Mark is told the story of the blind man being healed in the wilderness outside the small village of Bathsaida; therefore, something about this typical healing of a blind man spoke directly to Peter. In fact, it was after that account that Peter confesses to Jesus and the other disciples that “You are the Christ,” a declaration Jesus “strictly charged them to tell no one” (Mark 8.27-30) (emphasis added).
“And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 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?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he send him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
-Mark 8.22-26 (ESV)
Peter has saved for us such a small story with such a profound revelation from God! Please explore a little of the history with me, so we can apply the truth to our lives today!
Bethsaida was in the region of Galilee. Included in Galilee was Nazareth, the village where Jesus was raised into adulthood. The people of both these villages show great unbelief and hardness toward Jesus as the Son of God. They had known Jesus’ humanity, and they were incapable of seeing His divinity.
Jesus said about the people of Bathsaida, “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago…” (Luke 10.13 NLT). And Jesus said about Nazareth, “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown” (Luke 4.24 NIV).
Therefore, when the blind man was brought to Jesus, He led him into a desert place just beyond disbelieving people of the village. Incidentally, this wilderness is the same place where Jesus had just miraculously fed the 5,000 (Luke 9.10-22). Sometimes we must get away from the doubt of others in order for our faith to burst through!
Although it is not directly stated, we know that Jesus brought along His disciples with Him because the incident was recorded by Peter and because the blind man will prophetically see people who look like trees that are walking. Jesus purposefully brought His disciples into the middle of nowhere because He had something to show them.
Jesus does miracles and heals to prove His divinity, but He is always teaching the 12 individuals whom God entrusted to Him. They are His main mission because they will ignite the proclamation of salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross to the world. Jesus prays to His Father with wisdom, knowing that His glory to the world would be displayed through the disciples:
“I have revealed you to those [the disciples] whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.”
– John 17.6-10 (NIV) (emphasis added)
I’m sure the disciples were wondering why Jesus was wasting so much time, taking them all the way out to the wilderness to heal one blind man. Jesus had healed hundreds and hundreds of the blind, lame and broken. Why all this work for one man? It seems like such a low occasion compared to the high occasion of Jesus healing the “multitude” (Matthew 14.14).
I can see the disciples milling around the desert, waiting while Jesus spat in this blind man’s eyes, asking him what he saw. And what the man saw in the spirit before his eyes were “restored” was a message for the disciples, for the miracle benefited the blind man but the message benefited Jesus’ most intimate followers. Only Peter stood close and still enough to hear it.
What did the blind man see? He says, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”
As I contemplated this image, I knew that Jesus was whispering something to Peter, and this message reaches those of us who are willing to stay still and close enough to receive it.
Trees in both the Old and New Testament have a very profound meaning. They signify life-giving water is near. They provide shade. They bear fruit for eating. They produce material for establishing. If planted near a good water source, a tree can benefit many people. The fact that the blind man supernaturally sees the people around him (the disciples) as trees before his sight was restored makes for a beautiful picture of how God sees us!
The tree illustrates the righteous side of humanity. Our salvation is through the cross made of a tree. Jesus is the allegorical representation of the Tree of Life in Genesis and Revelation. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit written down in the Bible, God sees His people as trees!
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1.1-3 ESV) (emphasis added).
“To grant to those who mourn in Zion– to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified” (Isaiah 61.3 ESV) (emphasis added).
So what the blind man saw and Peter recounted was the God sees His disciples as amazing trees with the possibility to bear much fruit and provide God’s children with the blessings of God’s goodness. The only problem was that they were WALKING! They weren’t planted fully in Jesus, the River of Life (John 7.38). They weren’t still and close enough to receive from the Lord.
To be sure they were His most beloved disciples, but it would take the death and resurrection of Jesus for them to finally stop searching for meaning and purpose based on their own worth and works, and find their complete identification solely in Jesus! There is no life when we plant our roots outside of JESUS!
What a powerful message for us today! We are God’s beautiful trees, but we need to stop walking and searching for meaning in other things. We can plant ourselves in money, things, feelings, our looks, pleasures, relationships, popularity, good-works, personal strength or other fleeting idols. We can only find peace, rest, satisfaction and supernatural purpose when we stop walking and plant ourselves in Jesus. Only then will we become huge trees, full of fruit and a brilliant blessing to this world!
So let us be trees, planted firmly in Jesus Christ, so our roots can grow deep and our branches expand over the earth. And we can declare boldly like Peter that Jesus is indeed our “Living Hope.”
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1.3-5 NIV) (emphasis added).