Day 19: Seeing Jesus for who he is
'They came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and brought him out of the village. Spitting on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people—they look like trees walking.” Again Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes. The man looked intently and his sight was restored and he saw everything clearly.' Mark 8:22-25.
One of the biggest barriers we have come up against when sharing the hope of Jesus is not that people don’t know Jesus. The reality is we expect that to be the case, but the problem often is that people think they do. Glasgow still has a veneer of religion and Christianity, at least in the schemes of the East End where we are. Most of us would identify as either a Proddy or a Catholic. Likely that means we have heard of Jesus and would identify, at least in part, as a Christian. And yet often it has far more to do with the traditions we have been brought up with or the football team we support rather than a real understanding of who Jesus is and why he came.
At this point in Mark’s gospel Jesus heals a blind man, in stages, to get at this exact problem. So far the key question Mark wants us to consider is ‘Who is Jesus?’. In 1:1 we are told he is ‘Jesus Christ the son of God’, but so far the demons he casts out are the only ones to properly recognise this. In the verses surrounding this miracle we have crowds, religious lads, and even his own disciples not truly recognising who he is and why he came. That’s what this miracle is here to illustrate. Notice this is the only time in Mark’s gospel that Jesus heals in two parts. First the blind man is enabled to see ‘people (that) look like trees walking’ (v24). Only when Jesus touches him again could he ‘see everything clearly’ (v25). Jesus is not having an off day, he’s making a point. There are those who think they see who he is, but they’re not seeing clearly.
Right after this two-stage healing Jesus’ conversation with Peter reveals his point. At first it seems Peter can see. When Jesus asks the key question (‘Who do YOU think I am?’) he answers correctly ‘You are the Messiah’. Bingo. Got it in one. Jesus is the Messiah, the coming King they expected to arrive and rescue his people. But as the conversation continues it is clear that the fullness of what this means is still a blur to Peter. Jesus goes on to explain that because he is the Messiah he ‘must’ (v31) suffer and die and then after three days rise again to life. Peter immediately recoils at this, takes Jesus aside, and ‘rebukes’ him. The original wording makes it clear that Peter is calling this kind of thinking satanic. Jesus replies, ‘Get behind me Satan’ (v33)! Seeking Jesus without his cross, that’s what’s really satanic.
See, if we don’t understand why Jesus came we’ll never understand who Jesus is. This is what Mark will now explain in the rest of his gospel.
Peter’s experience here is insightful for us all. He thought he could see Jesus, but he only saw him partly. He thought Jesus was coming as a warrior, that he would smash the Romans and in that way bring peace. But Jesus was coming to die for his enemies, enemies like Peter, paying for their sin and in THAT way bring peace. Jesus had to die, his death was a substitute for his people. He died so all who would turn from their sin and believe in him would know forgiveness of sins, rescue from hell, reconciliation to God, and an eternity of hope.
The problem for many of us today is that we make the same mistake Peter did. We think that we know Jesus when we really don’t. We think that he came to deal with our external problems, like Peter thought, but we don’t trust him to take care of our sin, which is why he came. Maybe we see Jesus as a traditional religious figure who came to give us an identity or purpose. Maybe we see him as a moral teacher who came to show us the right way to live. Maybe we see him as a vending machine so we put in some coins and try to use him to get what we want. Maybe we see him as a social justice warrior who came to put an end to all the injustices we see in our day and age. Maybe we see him as a 999 call we make when things get particularly tough. Maybe we see him as a theoretical system that makes no change to our day-to-day life. Not all of these are far off, some of them are close, partly there even. But Satan wants us to be close, as long as we miss the real Jesus, the sin-bearing Saviour that he came to be. You see the thing we need most in life is not freedom from our addictions, our struggles, our enemies or even our past. What we need most is freedom from our sin and that is exactly what Jesus came to bring.
It’s our prayer that as we continue to work through Mark’s gospel, the Spirit enables us to clearly see Jesus as we reflect on what he came to do on the cross. For the most important question that we will ever have to answer is that question of Jesus in v29 ‘Who do YOU say that I am?’. Hope comes now and forever when we see and trust Jesus for who he really is. Then we’ll get the answer to that question right.
Written by Pete Stewart.
Passage for today: Mark 8:22-33
A thought to remember: Only seeing Jesus as your sin-bearing saviour gives lasting HOPE.
A question to ask: Where might I be trying to use Jesus and so not trusting him as the saviour he is?
A song to sing: Show us Christ