Last week a Muslim writer at the FFI forum brought up this part from Mark's Gospel and contended that this two-stage miracle (peculiar to Mark) denied Jesus' omnipotence! I responded to this assertion by simply saying that Jesus actually opened the eyes of the blind man the first time He tried. However, the man's sight reached perfection gradually.
The following day I realised that the Muslim writer had quoted this argument from an article of a famous anti-Christian Islamic apologist named Shabir, whose mistaken presumption had been rebutted several times by the answering-islam team.
This is what Shabir wrote:Christians and Muslims agree that God is all-powerful and all-knowing. The Gospels show that Jesus was not all-powerful, for he had some limitations. Mark tells us in his gospel that Jesus was unable to do any powerful work in his hometown (ch. 6, vv. 5-6). Mark also tells us that when Jesus tried to heal a certain blind man, the man was not healed after the first attempt, and Jesus had to try a second time (see Mark ch. 8, v. 22-26). Therefore, although we have the utmost love and respect for Jesus, we need to understand that he is not the all-powerful God.
The answering-islam team debunked Shabir's baseless claims and gave an answer similar to the one given by brother ialmisry:In relation to the blind man not seeing immediately notice what the following commentaries state is the purpose behind Mark recording this episode:
"The importance of this story for Mark is that it anticipates the opening of the eyes of the disciples. This is the second in a pair of incidents that only Mark records (the first one is 7:24-37) and that fulfill the OT messianic expectations of Isa 35:5-6. Mark uses both incidents to lead up to the full revelation of Jesus' messianic dignity to the disciples (8:27-30). Their eyes too were opened, not by human perception, but by the miracle of God's gracious revelation- which was as much a miracle as the opening of the blind man's eyes." (Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament [Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids MI, 1994], p. 166)
The St. Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, one that Shabir highly recommends states:
"8, 22-26: Jesus' actions and the gradual cure of the blind man probably have the same purpose as in the case deaf man (Mk 7, 31-37). Some commentators regard the cure as an intended symbol of the gradual enlightenment of the disciples concerning Jesus' messiahship."
That Christ's miracles often served to illustrate certain spiritual truths can be seen from the Gospel of Mark itself. After Jesus' second miraculous multiplication of food where he fed four thousand men, Mark records:
"Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 'Be careful,' Jesus warned them. 'Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.' They discussed this with one another and said, 'It is because we have no bread.' Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?' 'Twelve,' they replied. 'And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?' They answered, 'Seven.' He said to them, 'Do you still not understand?'" Mark 8:13-21
Christ expects the disciples to see the spiritual significance behind his miraculous feeding of the multitudes. Interestingly, this conversation immediately precedes the healing of the blind man. This reinforces the point made above that the blind man's healing signified the gradual enlightenment of the disciples.
The rest of Shabir's charges and his rebuttal can be found at http://www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Shabir-Ally/omnipotent.htm