Mark 8:22-38 Part Two
It took only a moment for the traditional expectations of the Messiah to overpower everything that Jesus had hoped to teach and exemplify. Immediately after Peter’s profession of “‘You are the Messiah,’” as noted in Part One, Jesus switches to “Son of Man” language, but even this more pedestrian terminology cannot undo the bravado expectations of these men following Jesus. When Jesus offers His first execution prophecy, they are not only confused. They are offended. The Messiah will be recognized by the accompanying mighty works of God, not by the defeat of execution. Peter even dares to pull Jesus aside and “rebuke” Him.
Peter’s profession of Jesus’ Messiahship seems to have been offered as the judgment of all the disciples (Jesus ordered “them” not to say anything), but Peter’s rebuke of Jesus is his alone: “But turning and looking at his disciples, [Jesus] rebuked Peter …” I pause in repeating the remainder of this biblical quotation to emphasize what was obviously intended to be emphasized. Nowhere else in the Gospels does Jesus so forcefully reprimand another person. When Peter confuses the traditional expectation of the Messiah with Jesus’ revelation of the Messiah, the Christ, and when Peter then tries to impose this upon the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus’ words are never harsher: “‘Get behind me Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’”
Remember the miracle of Jesus’ two-part cure of the blind man? At first, he could only see partially. This must symbolize the spiritual vision of those like Peter who could only see according to their own expectations (“human things”), which blinded them to God’s revelation (“divine things”). Peter, thinking more of his expectations than of Jesus’ example and teaching, is equated with: “‘I can see people, but they look like trees walking.’” A crucified Saviour, a crucified God in the famous coin of phrase of Jurgen Moltmann, is Christianity’s eye exam. When we can see the sacred importance of our crucified God, then this is equated with the fulfillment of the miracle and “his sight was restored.”
But Jesus is not yet done. The Messiahship discussion was between Jesus and His disciples alone. Jesus knew the dangers of this topic and it was limited to His closest followers. With the discussion broached and then quickly put back away for another time (And at another time, we can discuss that Jesus next admits to His Messiahship during His hearing before the Sanhedrin when He is asked directly if He is the Messiah, and He answers unequivocally, “‘I am.’”), Jesus then calls together “the crowd with his disciples.” What Jesus is about to say is meant for everyone who would choose to be among His followers.
The revelation of Jesus’ execution startled the disciples. For as radical as it was, Jesus takes it further and we can only imagine what it must have been like when Jesus then drops the next bombshell. Not only does Jesus reveal a crucified God, He warns: “‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Only if the disciples and the people in the crowd are willing to accept this revelation of self-sacrifice as faithfulness and virtue, can they then equate themselves with the blind man when “he saw everything clearly.”
Mark’s inspiration is to let each generation of believers face this test of faith. Can we accept a suffering servant of a Messiah rather than a conquering hero of a Messiah? Can we go to the cross with Jesus and see it as His final testimony of true Messiahship? And can we then live our faith accordingly? There are no resurrection appearances in Mark’s Gospel. The question is, therefore, timeless. So, I guess the question is, do we “see people, but they look like trees walking” or do we see “everything clearly.”
These are the questions that Bible study encourages. Too often the Bible is cut up and dissected into such little fragments that it can say just about anything we want it to say. The Bible needs to read in a fuller context than this. We need to read, study and pray over the passages as part of a larger whole. This is why I always invite you to come and join us for Bible study. Our next meeting can be found by going to our current monthly newsletter and checking the calendar of events.
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