The story is found in Mark 8:22-26.
They arrive in the city of Bethsaida, and immediately He is brought this blind man and demanded that he be healed.
This is just following a similar event in Dalmanutha, where the Pharisees had come to Him demanding a "sign". The joke is easily lost in our ignorance of Hebrew culture. Pharisees were supposed to be the ones closest to God and most committed in their faithfulness. Jerusalem is the City of the Temple, where obedience to God was practiced: almost 80 miles away. The idea of finding Pharisees in Dalmanutha spelled hypocrisy in the most blatant of terms.
When Messiah comes to Bethsaida, a blind man is brought to Him. In our English translations, we miss what is going on. But, in Greek, it is clear that the blind man had no choice in this matter. It is possible that he didn't even know what was going on. These people literally just grabbed some blind guy off the street and
It must have been an embarrassing scenario for anyone who placed any value in human dignity.
Messiah's response was startling. He doesn't say a thing. The terms used in our Greek account suggest that His actions were aggressive and forceful. He grabs the blind man by the hand and drags him out of the city and spits in his face. Then Messiah asks him, "What do you see?"
The blind man's responds to Him with a terse rebuke, "I see men as trees walking."
In Deuteronomy 20:19, the Bible describes trees as the source of man's life. The Talmud (Jewish commentary on the Bible) expands this idea, suggesting that men are like trees: that each one possesses a value of their own, often buried deep under ground, sometimes lush with foliage, or ripe with fruit: all with seasons of bearing and seasons that are bare. The blind man's reference would have been clear to the Messiah, and to everyone else around, but completely lost on people of today. He was saying what everyone, but Messiah, had missed: I have value, too.
When we read the story in English, it almost looks as though the Messiah tried to heal the man, failed, then tried again and succeeded. In context, this is not what was going on at all. Messiah was proving a point that we all desperately need to hear. This man was not a shell of blindness that had no value. He was a person, deserving dignity and respect, even without the sight of his eyes.
We often miss this, in the way we elevate people with ability and devalue those with encumbrance. We often fail to see it in ourselves: that we are not a worthless candidate for healing, with obstacles in our lives that prevent us from being valuable. We are like trees: sometimes lush and green, sometimes dormant, always beautiful in a very distinctive way. And sometimes, God is just waiting for us to recognize and stand in that fact, before some trivial healing is wasted on us.