“Who do you say I am?” -Jesus
Do we see clearly?
During the Cold War, in 1955, the CIA built a plane that could gather intel on the ground while flying high enough to be out of reach of enemy missiles and fighter jets. The plane was called the U2. With an 80 foot wingspan the U2 flew higher than 70,000 feet while snapping pictures of the earth below. After returning from its first trip over the Soviet Union on July 4th, 1955, the pictures sent off alarm bells in the CIA, and then the upper echelons of government. The problem? The US had been using bad maps. The pictures showed that all our missiles aimed at Soviet targets were off by at least 20 miles. We weren’t seeing the other side clearly. In the horrific event of nuclear war we would have been missing all our targets.
Seeing clearly is vital in spiritual matters as well. We cannot afford to “miss” the Savior. If we don’t see Him clearly then we are in great danger. Today’s passage covers 2 events: the healing of a blind man and a private discussion with the disciples.
The first thing we see is Jesus heals a blind man in Bethsaida, a town on the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee. The healing has two interesting points: one, Jesus spits on the guy’s eyes, and two, the healing seems to take two attempts. Then Jesus moves way north to Caesarea Philippi. On the road there Jesus initiates a discussion with His disciples about His identity. Finally, our text ends with the famous moment when Peter rebukes Jesus and Jesus responds by telling him, “Get behind me Satan!”
I combine these two sections together because both of them have to do with seeing. The blind man could not physically see. The crowds were blind. The disciples, while seeing Jesus as the Christ, nevertheless were still blind to His purpose as the Christ: He came to die for sinners.
Our sermon will flow through 3 headings: 1) The Blind Man, 2) The Blind Crowds, 3) The Blind Disciples
The Blind Man (22-26)
A group of people bring a blind man to Jesus and they keep begging Him to heal the guy. Once again I have to point out with admiration the people interceding on this guy’s behalf. It’s like the deaf-mute guy in the previous chapter when his neighbors mobbed Jesus and they “begged Jesus to place his hand on the man” to heal him. And Jesus does. And just like Jesus led that guy away from the crowds to heal his deafness, Jesus leads this blind man away from the town to heal him privately.
We explored applications in previous sermons based on similar situations. But, I have another one I thought of. We have to bring others to the Lord and then leave them in His hands. They brought the blind man to Jesus, and, then Jesus takes the blind man away from them. The caring crowd had to stay back and watch Jesus and the man go away privately together. They had to trust the Lord would do with their friend what He decided was best. It is that way for us too. Are there people in your life that you’re bringing to the Lord constantly? Are you learning to leave them with Him? That’s the hardest part, isn’t it?
Now what happens is interesting and we have to explore it. Jesus spits on the guy’s eyes. I wonder if He even warned him that’s what he was going to do. Whatever, right? I mean, if Jesus is going to heal me He can hack a loogie on me all he wants. But then it seems that Jesus’ first attempt to heal the guy doesn’t work. The guy seems to be able to see, but, he doesn’t see clearly. He says that he sees “people and that they look like trees walking around.” I know I’m the guy preaching, but, I don’t know what to make of this. So Jesus, seeming like a doctor adjusting his treatment based on feedback from the patient, lays His hands on the guy’s eyes again. Now this time He doesn’t spit, and, the guy is healed and is able to see clearly.
Did it really take Jesus two tries to heal the guy? Or, did Jesus do it intentionally that way? Well, it had to be intentional. If we’ve seen anything we’ve seen that Jesus can very easily heal people. He is never seen “giving it His all” and failing. He never came across a sickness or a handicap that He couldn’t cure. Lots of them were done simply by verbal command, some of those at long distance. Other times there were unintended healings, like when the bleeding woman merely reached out and touched Jesus without Him knowing it and she was healed. Clearly Jesus didn’t swing and miss with this blind man. He didn’t need another “try” to hopefully succeed this time. So the question I ask is “Why?” “Why woudn’t He just speak and cure the guy in the first attempt? What is significant about doing it in two phases?”
Then it hit me. This two-step physical healing shows us a picture of the progressive nature of spiritual sight. The man did not see perfectly at first, but in part, and then in whole. “Now I know in part” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “then I shall know fully.” This is the connection with the very next scene: the disciples only saw Jesus in part – they did not yet see Him fully.
Luke 4:18, Jesus came to give sight to the blind. He can make your eyes see.
The Blind Crowds (27-28)
So Jesus moves on after healing the guy, goes straight north from Bethsaida, to Caesarea Philippi. While travelling there, Jesus inquires of His disciples: “Who do people say that I am?” Remember there were large crowds always around Jesus and the disciples were mixed in all the time. They were “eyes and ears” for Jesus.
We saw this back in chapter 6 that the crowds were confused. They proposed three possibilities:
One: Herod thought it was John the Baptist, and, apparently so did a lot of others.
Two: Elijah was thought to return right before the Christ would appear and many thought Jesus to be Elijah. Probably because of the abundance of powerful miracles Jesus was doing.
Three: Other explanations were simply that Jesus was a resurrected prophet from old.
There were other opinions going around though. Some thought He was a “good man” (Jn. 7:12); some thought He was the Christ (Jn. 7:41); some thought Jesus was a new prophet (Jn. 7:40); some thought He was a deceiver (Jn 7:12); some said He was raving mad and needed to be arrested (Jn. 87:44)
One thing the people were certain of: God was somehow empowered by God. John 7:13 says, “But no one would say anything publicly negative about Jesus for fear of the Jews.” The Pharisees even refused to arrest Jesus for a long time because they were afraid of the crowds – because the crowds held Jesus to be a prophet.
Application: Don’t depend on the crowd for your understanding of Jesus. Go to Him to understand Him.
The Blind Disciples (29-33)
So Jesus listens to them explain what the public thinks about Him. Then He asks them what they think about Him, “Who do you say I am?”
Jesus is still asking this question today. He’s asking you: “Who do you say I am?” What you say about Jesus says everything about you. What you say about Jesus determines what God will say about you. The disciples answered Jesus: “You are the Christ – The Son of God.” They had eyes to see that. They believed that. They left everything they had because and travelled constantly and uncomfortably because they believed that. They suffered the opposition and criticism from Jesus’ enemies right along with Him because they believed He was the Christ.
But, as was mentioned earlier, they, didn’t see with 20/20 vision yet. They saw Jesus as the Christ, but, they didn’t see clearly what He as the Christ came for. They understood who He was, they didn’t yet get the work He came to do. That is why the section ends with Peter’s infamous rebuke. Now we see the blindness of the disciples on full display, as well as the hubris of Peter.
After they affirm their belief in Jesus’s identity as the Christ, Jesus then begins to describe His purpose as the Christ. Read verse 30-31. Who He is: the Christ. Why He came: to suffer and die. This was not new. This was what the OT kept saying for hundreds and even thousands of years prior. One thousand years before Jesus Psalm 22:16 says, “a band of evil men have surrounded me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” 700 years before Jesus Isaiah 53: said, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed, the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all, because He poured out His life unto death and was numbered with the transgressors, He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors”.
Peter is having none of it. He takes Jesus by the arm, squares up to Him and tells Him, “Stop talking like this. There will be no suffering and dying and rising. This is nonsense. We are following you because we believe in you. We’ve left everything for you and now you’re going to throw it all away as some martyr?” And whatever else Peter would have said in anger. Mark is showing us the progressive development of the pride in the disciple’s hearts.
But Jesus is having none of it from Peter. Get behind me Satan. Stop right there. Satan can use God’s people against God. It is a sad thing to observe but too often the people of God can be the biggest obstacles to the work of God. When their minds are not on the things of God, their minds are on the things of men and therefore vulnerable to manipulation by the enemy.
Application: You must mind your mind! Your mind must stay on Christ. “Set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” Colossians 3:1 and 2 says, “Set your minds on things above not on earthly things.”
Application: Understanding comes from surrendering your intellectual pride……wisdom comes once you relinquish teying to make God what you want Him to be….
Do you love Forkie? One of our favorite movies right now is Toy Story. We watched the 4th one recently and one of the new lovable characters is “Forkie”. Forkie isn’t like other toys, he wasn’t made in a factory. He was made by the little girl, “Bonnie”. She made him out of pieces of trash. He was a spork, and then for arms he had pipe cleaners, and for feet popsicle sticks. His eyes are the funniest part, with one big craft eye and one small, and they never stay in place.
The thing about forkie though is that he loves to be in trash. The other characters have a hard time keeping Forkie from running and jumping into trash, and once he’s in, they have a hard time getting him out. He keeps running back to what he’s made of. He doesn’t realize that he’s not actually trash anymore. Bonnie made him into something new. He doesn’t yet realize who has been made into. He doesn’t realize how much Bonnie loves him and how much he means to her.
Do you keep running to trash? Do you keep going back to the trash in your old life? When Jesus makes you into a new creation He takes you out of the trash bin and transforms you into something wholly new. Do you know He does it because He loves you? Becuase how much you mean to Him? Do you see that? Do you see Him?