Mark 8:22-38 is often called “the Heart” of Mark’s Gospel, for it reveals the True nature of Jesus and what it means to Follow Him.
They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Do you remember those Verizon Wireless commercials where this guy’s walking around everywhere by himself, not with the huge crowd we saw him with towards the end, and he’s walking through swamps, jungles, cities, inside elevators, tunnels, talking to somebody on his phone? And all we hear him saying is, “Can you hear me now…Good!” Well, often times in Scripture, you’ll find that Jesus will give 3 accounts of the same story (like Luke’s chapter 15: Lost and Found), sort of as a way to make sure it’s understood (or received). For instance, today we start with the event where Jesus cured a blind man at Bethsaida (which is on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee). After spitting and laying His hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” The man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Once more, Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus then sent him home, telling him not to return to the village.
Now, I’ve heard people preach about this in the past and look at Jesus as failing to completely heal him. But that’s not the case at all. Look at what the man said: “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Why did he see this? Who was the man looking at? Well, if he saw such, was he looking at Jesus, or was he looking at everyone else? He was looking at everyone else. So Jesus “tries” a 2nd time, then asks, “Can you see now?” The man looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” But the reason that he can see clearly now is because this time he’s looking at Jesus, not the other people. You see? So that’s #1.
Next, Jesus took His disciples to the villages around Caesarea Philippi and asked them who people were saying that He is. Answers ranged from “John the Baptist”, to “Elijah”, and even “one of the prophets” (because they didn’t see clearly). Then Jesus asked them who they say that He is, and Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” That’s #2.
Third, Jesus foretells His death and resurrection. First, He taught them about how the Son of Man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, be killed, and will rise again after three days. Hearing all this, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. Then Jesus counter-rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
See, even though Peter recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah, he still didn’t see clearly, for if he had, then he wouldn’t have rebuked Jesus when he learned of His suffering to come. Instead, Peter wanted to take out the suffering part of Christ:
• ‘No, you’re here now…you’ll save us from the Romans, you’ll claim victory for all Israel, you can’t suffer and be killed!’
• ‘No, we’ve given everything for you…we don’t want to suffer, so you can’t either…but if you suffer, that means that we will also.’
Peter was so much against Jesus’ need to suffer and die that he rebuked Jesus! That’s why Jesus rebuked Peter…he had the things of man (the comforts of this life) in mind, not the mission of God.
So what we have here are 3 examples of seeing unclearly. Jesus’ next move is to demand a response to their seeing clearly:
“If anyone wants to become my follower, let them deny themselves, take up their cross’, and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Going back now to the Verizon Wireless commercial, the whole point was to show that they have the best coverage and least dropped calls, and therefore we should sign up for their service. So can you hear me, good, now respond by getting our service. In the same way, if you can now “see” Jesus for who He is, just knowing (or seeing) isn’t enough, for you must now respond.
This is the real gospel: Accepting Jesus will cost you nothing (salvation is free), but following Jesus will cost you everything!
But unfortunately, many Christians today live as if this is the only life we have. In the introduction to his book, “Evidence for Christianity”, Josh McDowell said in response to tolerance: “Christians today don’t want to ‘offend’ others, so they accept everything else. But this tolerance isn’t being open-minded, but closed-minded, for they’re willing to accept everything but the Truth. The Truth says there can only be 1 way to God in Heaven. So even when confronted with the Truth, they choose not to accept it or teach it to others because they’re afraid that the Truth will offend those who choose to hear the lies instead.” In other words, Christians have taken Jesus out of the equation of the Gospel!
But Jesus responded to this future problem when He said “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life…Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Are you sure you want to know about this Jesus fella? Are you sure? I promise you, knowing Him is so much better than not, but once you know, you must respond, for it’s not enough to just know.