Saturday, May 26, 2012

Halfway out of the darkness: Mark 8

When reading through the whole Bible, there are places where just a few short verses really pack a lot of meaning. When you get to Mark 8 (link) those verses are Mark 8:22-26, and they summarize the entire chapter.

In these verses, Jesus is brought a blind man. One of the quirks of this passage is that the "they" brought a blind man to Jesus. We get no clear answer in trying to answer who "they" is referring to. The closest nominative would be the disciples in the paragraphs before, but that seems unlikely. Instead, my guess it that we're talking about the townspeople of Bethsaida.

On track, what we see here is the only story I can remember in the Bible where there is a half-way healing. Jesus first spits on the man's eyes (possibly puts saliva rather than a rude spit) and lays hands on him. He then asks the man if he sees anything.

The man sees, but he sees men unclearly, as if they are trees walking about. Likely, this clues us in that he was not born blind, but had lost his sight. This would not surprising: there are several diseases that can result in lost sight if untreated. Whatever else is inherent here, this much is certain: the man has not been completely healed. He's not blind, but you would not hand him the reins of the chariot, either.

Now, zoom back out to the whole chapter. What is happening in this whole chapter? First, we have the feeding of the 4,000. Once again, people follow Jesus without food. Once again, the disciples question how they are all going to eat. Once again, Jesus feeds the whole lot. The disciples still don't get it, the Pharisees and Sadducees don't get it, and Jesus has to explain it all again.

These folks see, but they fail to see clearly.

After the blind man, we have Mark's explanation of Peter's recognition of Jesus as the Messiah. Well, that and Peter's attempt to tell Jesus that He does not need to be crucified. These two need to go together: some Bible translations put a heading between Peter's confession and Jesus predicting the Cross and the Resurrection. These two go hand-in-hand: Peter makes a smart statement and a not-so-smart statement in them, and they are as much about showing the disciples' issues as they about Jesus.

Again, we see this: the disciples see. They see that Jesus is the Messiah but do not see that He has come to suffer for their sins and rise again. It seems that blurry vision runs through more than just the blind man. It runs through this whole chapter.

So, let us return to the blind man. He spends more time with Jesus. Really, just a few more moments. Yet those moments are all it takes. Those moments and one more touch, and the man can see everything clearly. The ISV uses the modifier of "even at a distance" showing that the man had truly gotten a very good healing of the eyes in this case.

What shall we do with this?

I would point you to our own times. There are many people who see, but see dimly, the words of Christ and the Word of God. They can quote portions of Scripture, but they have difficulty seeing the whole of what is happening.

In all honesty, most of us live somewhere in that, though some see more clearly than others. What we all need is to spend that extra few moments with Jesus and let Him touch us through His Word and the Spirit of God to get that much more clarity about what is really happening around us.

This is the only real solution to what is going on around us today. Whether it is within the church or with how the church relates to whatever culture we sit in the middle of, we need to draw near to Christ. Let Him help us to see rather than continue to be led about, running into trees and away from men.

Let's get more than half-way out of the darkness. Let us stay with Him until we see it all clearly, even the distance of eternity.

Today's Nerd Note: The miracle of healing the blind man here is one of only two that Mark records but no one else does. The other is the healing of the deaf man in Mark 7:31-35. Both of these miracles used the touch of Jesus and not just His word. This goes to the depiction in Mark of Jesus as a man of action.

Additionally in Mark 8 we see that the miracles of feeding the 5,000 and feeding the 4,000 are two separate events. Jesus refers back to both as He tries to get through to His disciples. This gives us one other key point: if Mark gives us an accurate record of the words of Jesus, then Jesus believed that 5,000 were fed from five loaves and 4,000 from seven loaves.

For those who would "demystify" the text and remove the miracles, holding only to the teachings, you are kind of stuck here. The Teacher Himself claims these two miracles to be true and uses them to illustrate His point. That means we either accept His teaching about Himself, that He could do such things, or we doubt His teaching. Alternately, you could claim Mark is inaccurate, but when you do that you need to answer this one: How do you know anything about Jesus if the Gospels are not accurate? The "this does not sound like Jesus" will not work: how do you know what He sounds like? Only through His Word. We either know Him from His word, or we don't know Him. He really did not leave us any other way.

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