“And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?” (Mark 8:17 ESV)
Mark 8:1-26 records a paradox of vision. The disciples are all physically able to see. The blind man of Bethsaida cannot see. And yet, when we understand all that Mark is seeking to accomplish as he builds his narrative, the blindness of the disciples becomes the obvious target of this passage. “Having eyes do you not see?”
What didn’t they see? Though they had been with Jesus for a time now, though they had witnessed his miracles, though they have placed their lives in his hands, they still lacked the faith to trust him for their daily sustenance. They didn’t see that Jesus was who he said he was and therefore all that they needed.
The disciples were in a boat with Jesus. They had been there before. They had just left another display of Jesus’ power in which he fed 4,000 people with seven loaves. They had also been there before, at the feeding of the 5,000. But, in this boat, there was no bread. One would think they would have no need to worry considering they were in the boat with the Lord who fed 5,000 and 4,000. One would think. But this wasn’t the case, was it? In fact, they began to fret about it!
It is from this place of fretting that Jesus rebukes them. Do you not see? Do you not understand? How can they be so blind? To further press the issue, Mark includes another miracle immediately after this conversation, in which Jesus heals a blind man. Jesus isn’t just the solution to hunger, he is the one who makes the blind see!
What a vivid illustration of Jesus’ power! If not even the regular witnessing of powerful miracles can bring a man to understand the truth, then what can? Only the power of Jesus! He not only must make the physically blind able to see, but more importantly, the spiritual blind able to see! And the latter miracle is the new birth that Jesus came to bring.
Now before we write off the disciples as fools, let us consider ourselves. How many displays of Jesus’ power have we seen, yet continue to doubt him for the next need? How many times have we stood to sing the glories of his majesty, only to function as if Jesus is not all he’s cracked up to be? How many times have we confessed his sovereignty and deity, said “amen” to his power, read about him in the word, and yet carried on life as functional atheists?
This passage is a glorious reminder of the work that God has done in us by his Spirit to make us to see – to understand that Jesus is Lord! But the passage is also a warning. You may physically see. You may say amen, sing songs, witness miracles, and confess truth, but to really see is to trust in Jesus, the one about whom we say amen, sing those songs, and confess those truths! May this passage help bridge the gap between seeing and believing.