jesushealingblind02Mark 8 Continued

22. Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him.

He comes again to Bethsaida, a town on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee. Here, the people bring to Him a blind man, begging Him to touch him. They were implying, of course, that He would heal him, referring to the healing touch of the Lord.

23. So 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 on him, He asked him if he saw anything.

The Lord again appears to not want a great deal of publicity, so He leads this blind man out of town before healing him. First He spits on his eyes and puts His hands on him, and then asks him if he can see anything.

24. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.”

The blind man claims to see “men like trees walking around.” This is interesting for two reasons. First of all, it indicates that his healing up to that time was only partial, not total, which is an interesting difference when compared to most of Christ’s healings. Secondly, we make note that not only were the blind man’s eyes healing, but a divine impartation of knowledge was given to him as well. How would this man have known how either a tree or men walking looked? (Assuming, of course, that he had been blind from birth.) Therefore, the Lord first gave him the knowledge that comes with sight, and after that restored his sight.

If the blind man was not blind from birth, this delay in the miracle is harder to explain. It may be that, blindness often being used symbolically for failure to see and understand the truth, the Lord was pointing out here that, even when the man’s sight was restored, he still had a problem with a wrong perception of things. Many there are who come to God for salvation, but who still do not see many of the things of God clearly. Further help is needed if such are to truly see. Whether this is the explanation or not, one thing is certain: this man had more than one problem to deal with with his eyes, and the Lord took more than one step to fix them.

25. Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.

The second time the Lord places His healing hands on him, his sight is restored completely, and he sees everyone clearly.

26. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.”

The Lord now instructs him not to go into town and not to tell anyone in the town what had happened. Christ was still not preaching Himself, but only God’s Kingdom. It could also be that, since Bethsaida had rejected so many other miracles that He had worked, that He was not willing to give them any more evidence. They would have just rejected it as they had done the previous evidence He had sent them.

This miracle is again an illustration of what God’s health care program will be like in the Kingdom. At that time, the Lord will not share His rule with any malady like blindness!

27. Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”

As the Lord and His disciples travel the region of Caesarea Philippi, He begins to question His disciples as to who men say that He is.

28. So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

Some seemed to think that John the Baptist had come back to life, or that his spirit had entered Jesus Christ somehow. This was not true at all, of course. No resurrection had yet occurred. Others said He was Elijah, which made more sense since the Bible indicates in the Old Testament that not only has Elijah not died but is dwelling in heaven (II Kings 2:1-18,) but also that he will return to earth someday to do a great ministry (Malachi 4:5-6.) That they might have imagined that the Lord was he is not totally nonsensical. Why some would have thought He was one of the prophets is beyond what this author can guess. Perhaps they simply meant that that is what these men said He was: just another prophet.

29. He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

Peter reveals the truth here by divine inspiration (Matthew 16:17.) He answers for all the disciples, excepting Judas. They did not agree with these others who identified Him with some other great, godly figure. Rather, they believed that He was the Christ. Remember, Christ and Messiah are the same word in two different languages. Peter was saying that Jesus was the Messiah, the Anointed One Who was going to rule Israel and save them from all their enemies.

30. Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

After Peter makes this bold statement, the Lord sternly warns the disciples, just as He had the blind man, that they are not to tell anyone about Him. The proclamation of the Lord Jesus to Israel as their Messiah was not to occur until after His death, when the disciples preached this message to the people of Israel as is recorded in the book of Acts.

31. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

The Lord now beings to reveal to His disciples His coming sufferings, rejection by the leaders, and death. Yet He also reveals to them that He will rise again afterwards.

32. He spoke this word openly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.

The Lord openly speaks of His coming death and resurrection, but Peter does not believe the word and takes Jesus aside to quietly rebuke Him. As usual, the disciples seemed to hear only the part about His death, and took little if any thought to the part about rising again afterwards.

33. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

The Lord turns around and looks at His disciples. Perhaps He wanted to see the effect that Peter’s lack of faith was having on them, or to challenge them not to doubt Him in the same way. Then, He rebukes Peter. Surely this statement must have seemed very harsh to Peter, and must have shamed Him greatly. This was indeed a sudden turn around on Peter’s part after his statement of faith in verse 29. Yet are not many of us the same way…standing on faith, standing up for God, and standing for what is right one minute, and playing right into the hands of Satan the next? It seems that Satan was behind Peter’s error, attempting to get Christ to abandon the idea of dying on the cross. The Lord Jesus does not stand for it for a minute, however, and rebukes the evil one who was behind Peter’s faithless statement.

34. When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Many people like to quote the part about “take up his cross, and follow me.” Few actually think about what this means, however, and they act like this is something they try to do every day. When we think about it, though, this seems to be a nonsensical statement. A cross was an instrument of torture and terrible capital punishment in those days. This would be about the same as the Lord saying they should deny themselves, pick up their electric chair or gas chamber, and follow Him. Why would anyone want to carry around an instrument of capital punishment? Did Christ want them to kill people who disagreed with them? Surely this is not His will for us?

The problem is resolved when we come to realize what is behind the Greek word for “cross.” The word is stauros, and indicates not a cross but a stake. The cross was not a stake, of course, but it came to have this name, much as we call the electric chair “the chair.” It is far more than just a chair, but somehow this shortening and simplifying of the name seems to be a common thing when it comes to such instruments of capital punishment. Perhaps giving such items nicknames like this makes them seem less sinister, or perhaps it makes them seem even worse. But this is not unusual. Nevertheless, we must not forget that the word “stake” could be used of a literal stake, just as the word “chair” might be used of what I am sitting in right now, which most certainly will not be shocking or killing me anytime soon. So when Jesus told them to take up their “stake” and follow Him, He was not talking about an instrument of death, but rather of a literal stake.

But why would Christ want them to take up a stake? The idea is very similar to the illustration often used in our cartoons. In the cartoons, any child who is planning on running away from home is always shown with a stick to which he has tied a handkerchief filled with his few worldly possessions. This is the same idea as we have in this passage. Following Jesus meant denying yourself and giving up all your worldly possessions to follow Him. You would literally have to leave your home and all you owned and follow Him carrying only those things you might wrap inside your handkerchief and tie to the end of a stick. This was called “taking up your stake,” and is what the Lord is referring to here. This has nothing to do with taking up a literal cross. Moreover, it is nothing that we could possibly do today. Even if we wished to give up all our possession except what we could tie on a stick, the Lord Jesus has long since returned to heaven and literally following Him has been utterly impossible ever since. So this command is nothing that we can apply to ourselves today. We do not have to deny ourselves or take up a stake in order to follow Christ in anything like the manner in which He was speaking of.

35. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Desiring to save your life (or soul) causes you to lose it, whereas losing your life for the sake of Christ and the gospel causes you to save it. The idea is the same as that of taking up your cross. It means not stubbornly keeping your life for yourself, but rather giving up all you have and all you are to follow Christ. This is how one could lose his life in order to save it. This was something that these disciples had all done. Yet there is no way that we can do this same thing today. Christ is not wandering the earth today, so we cannot give up our lives to follow Him.

36. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

The word “soul” here is the same word as in verse 35, but this time it is translated properly as “soul.” The Lord had a good point. What good would owning the whole world (the whole kosmos or orderly system of men upon the earth) do to someone if he lost his own soul? Thus, the disciples’ sacrifice was actually the most sensible thing they could have done. They benefited greatly from the loss of their lives for the sake of the Lord and the gospel.

37. “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

What could be worth the same to us as life itself? If one exchanges his life for something, he is a fool, for he is no longer around to enjoy what he traded for!

38. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Some were not following Him not because they were unwilling to give up their earthly possessions but rather because they were ashamed to be associated with Him, as He was unpopular among the religious leaders of the day. These were willing to exchange their souls for a good reputation in the sight of the Lord’s enemies. He informs all such that He too will be ashamed of them in the same way when He comes in the glory of the Father with the holy angels. This would be a sad fate indeed, to be a shame in the sight of the Lord!