Leading us out of sin city – Wednesday, 6th Week in ordinary time – Mark 8:22-26
This is another miracle story, in fact one of the many in the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel highlights the ‘some people’ who bring a blind man, begging him to touch him. Like the many Markan miracles, this one has nameless faces with desperation written all over the narrative and a plea for help. At its centre is a person who may or may not have had faith in Jesus. Yet this is a narrative where the twist is not in the miracle but in the details of the setting of the narrative.
We are told that Jesus has arrived in Bethsaida. Bethsaida translates as the house of the hunter or the fisherman. It is mentioned frequently in the Gospels and was situated by the Jordan River on the Sea of Galilee. According to Luke, it was the place of the feeding of the five thousand. The synoptic writers attest that Jesus performed “mighty works” here. Bethsaida was also the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip, according to the Gospel of John. It probably also was home to James and John who were partners in the fishing business with Peter and Andrew.
But Matthew’s Gospel gives us a little interesting information. It is in Matthew 11:21 that Jesus says, “Woe to you, Chorazin! 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.
Jesus emphatically declares two things; that he had worked mighty miracles here and yet they, having seen the power of God, had not repented. It is in this same village of Bethsaida that some people beg Jesus to do another ‘mighty work ‘for them. It is evident that Jesus worked the miracle at their request because he saw the faith of the man and the faith of his friends. They had come to Jesus that he might touch the man (and heal him).
The next few actions of Jesus tell us that Bethsaida is doomed and Matthew’s Gospel gives us the details. Matthew tells us why Jesus pronounced a woe against this city; they refuse to repent even though they saw the miracles. It is clear that Bethsaida had made up its mind. No matter what the lord did there they were not ready to repent. These were hardened hearts and so Jesus leads the man by the hand out of the village of hardened souls.
The miracle having been performed, Christ commands the man to go to his home. Clearly the man was not a resident of that faithless village for he is specifically commanded not to go into the village but to go home. This village was not a place where one who was saved should find refuge.
Archeologist have not been able to pin point for certain where Bethsaida is today. The woe of Jesus, harsh as it may be, wiped this city off the face of the earth. Bethsaida was that errant child who refused to mend its ways no matter how much he or she was loved. Stubbornness had taken root and the cancer of sin had spread.
Christ is leading many of us by the hand out of our sin situation, out of our village of sin; what or whoever that may be. In order to be healed we first need to make a clean break from the attachment to that which is sinful; be it a person an object or a place. Christ came to love the sinner not accept the sinner while they cling on to their sin. Allow Christ to first hold your hand, allow him to lead you away from your village of sin, allow him to guide you and then experience the gift of true sight that he wants to give you.