If you’ve ever wanted to know what God was doing, and why, don’t feel like you’re all alone. This week, I wrestled with that question a lot. I think the disciples did also. Ultimately, of course, I know that God has a plan. I just wish He’d give me a few hints now and then.
22. And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.
This story starts off in a typical fashion, people bringing someone who needs healing to Jesus, and takes an amazing turn almost immediately. Jesus took the guy out of the city and then He spat on the man’s eyes and then put his hands on him. I’m going to be honest with you here – I have trouble with this story. Normally, spitting in a man’s face like that would be considered an insult. I can’t imagine anyone here not agreeing with that statement, but if you do disagree, go ahead and see how people react when you spit in their face. One commentator I read talked about fluid from Jesus’s body bringing healing,like the blood cleanses us from all sin, but that seems almost sacrilegious to compare the two events. The only way I can deal with this story is to say that God works in ways that we don’t understand. That hits home personally this week. I’m not understanding a lot of what God is doing, which I talk about in the video that accompanies this study. Here’s where the story takes an even weirder twist. Jesus asked the man if he could see clearly.
24. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.
Normally, when Jesus applied the healing touch, it worked immediately. We’ve even seen cases where Jesus didn’t even need to touch someone to bring about healing – just say the word. In this case, Jesus spit on the guy and then touched him with His hands, and that still wasn’t enough. He saw men like trees, walking. I’ve never studied J.R.R. Tolkien and his works in depth, but I know that he was a Christian and I wonder if this verse was the inspiration for the characters known as Ents? In any case, either the touch of Jesus wasn’t enough, or Jesus had a reason for only healing the man half-way. I won’t say that it’s safe to trust Jesus on this or any issue, I will say that it’s best to trust Jesus – especially when things look their worst.
25. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. 26. And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.
Jesus repeated the process by touching the blind man one more time. This time, the healing was complete and he was able to see clearly. I have no doubt that the whole process was part of the plan, but I don’t understand why the guy had to be dealt with twice. It’s interesting that Jesus not only performed the healing away from the prying eyes of the town, when He sent the man home, He told him not to go back into town or tell anyone from the town, Bethsaida, about what had happened. Scholars label this situation as the “Messianic Secret,” but I don’t think that Jesus was worried so much that people knew that He was the Messiah as that He wanted people to discover that He was the Messiah under His own terms, terms that focused on the Good News of the Kingdom of God instead of Jesus as the miracle worker.
27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?
I don’t think that Jesus was worried what people thought about Him. He wasn’t taking a poll to see if He needed to change the way He was doing this messiah thing. If Jesus knows all things, He knew what people were thinking about Him. I believe that this question was designed to force the disciples to confront their understanding of who Jesus was by seeing Him through the eyes of others and then confronting that very question for themselves, as we see in the continuing discussion.
28 And they answered, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. 29. And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. 30. And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.
I wonder if people calling Jesus “John the Baptist,” or “Elias,” (Elijah) meant that they thought Jesus was a prophet like these two or one of the other prophets or if they thought that Jesus was that prophet brought back to life. Those who considered Him to be Elijah, or a prophet like him, understood that the presence of the Kingdom of God was near, since Elijah, or a prophet like him, was to be the forerunner to the Messiah. Jesus noted that John fulfilled the job of the prophet like Elijah, as noted in Malachi 4:5, in Matthew 17. Meanwhile, Jesus brought out the point of His original question: Who do YOU say that I am? Peter, as usual, was jumping up and down, raising his hand saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” Peter answered for the group, and he was correct: Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. Again, Jesus told Peter and the rest of the disciples not to go around telling people that He was the Messiah. He wanted people to discover that on their own as they heard His message. Obviously, we’re called to tell the world about the Messiah these days, because Jesus commanded us to go to all the world with the good news. Realize that today, people will never hear the gospel message without our proclamation; back in the days of Jesus, He was there to proclaim the Kingdom of God. The other problem was that the Jews had a misconception of what the Messiah would be like and equating Jesus with that picture would make it difficult for Jesus to teach about the Kingdom of God.
31. And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Now that the identity question was out of the way, Jesus began to teach them what being the Messiah meant in God’s plan. Jesus was not going to be the conquering hero who overthrew the Roman government and brought freedom to Israel again, instead, He would suffer and die, and then conquer death by rising again. Ultimately, the message of Jesus conquered the Roman Empire, but that message did so peacefully – well, as peacefully as anything happened in those days. Jesus told them that as Messiah, He wouldn’t be working with the Jewish leadership, but instead, they would reject Him leading to His crucifixion. Those were hard teachings to swallow, and as the story continues, we’ll see the disciples showing that they completely misunderstood what Jesus was saying to them, ultimately acting as if the crucifixion was the end of the story, and not the beginning of an amazing new story!
32. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
If you want to know why Jesus kept that whole Messiah issue under wraps, Peter’s example is why. As soon as Jesus started explaining what being the Messiah meant in God’s plan, Peter took umbrage and rebuked Him. Let’s face it, all the Jews knew that the Messiah would be a conquering military man who would overthrow the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel to the glory that David had given to the people. And let’s face it, the people who worked with the Messiah, could expect seats of honor, power, and wealth. When Jesus taught them God’s plan, Peter, and the others, saw their hopes and dreams of power and wealth fade away. When Peter tried to talk some sense into Jesus, so to speak, Jesus rebuked him and brought to mind the temptation of Satan for Jesus to be a powerful political leader and king. The common teachings of who and what the Messiah would be were wrong and Jesus contrasted those teachings with God’s teaching and plan. The Messiah, as Jesus taught, would not seek to be served, but would serve humbly while caring for people. Jesus practiced that during His whole earthly life.
34. And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. 36. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37. Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
And if that rebuke to Peter wasn’t enough, Jesus made it clear to anyone around: following Him would not give you power; following Him would lead to death. If you wanted to follow Jesus, you needed to stop worrying about your own comfort, your own hopes and dreams of greatness, and be willing to die. If you sought to save this temporal life by not following Jesus, you’d lose your eternal life. On the other hand, if you were willing to lose your life, figuratively or literally, and follow Jesus and proclaim the gospel message, you’d save your eternal life. The message was clear to anyone who really heard Jesus – His messiahship, and His Kingdom, was not of this world. If you want the wealth, riches, and power of this world, Jesus isn’t the one to follow. On the other hand, if you seek what God desires in this world, be ready to throw it all in and follow Him. We talk that way about our health and the modern proverb is that man forsakes his health and works hard so that at the end of his life, he’ll have enough wealth to take care of himself when his bad health catches up to him. What would you give up your good health for? At the same time, a more important question is what would you sell your soul for? Would you sell it cheaply for the things of this world, or would you place it in God’s hands and trust Him for all you need?
38. Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
Will you follow Jesus, or will you slink away because the teaching is hard? Would you hide any affiliation with Christ because of what people might think or do people recognize that you are a follower of Jesus by your words and actions? Jesus made it clear that while there is a better world coming, when the Son of Man (Himself) will come in glory, we have a call to live each day as His ambassadors in the midst of this sinful world. The saying about some people is that they’re so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthly good; in truth, those who follow Christ should be so heavenly-minded that our lives bless all we come into contact with and draw them to the goodness of God – even when we don’t understand all that we want to about God’s ways and God’s plans.