My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, November 9, 2009

"The Most Important Question of All Time" - Mark 8:22-30 (11/08/09)

We all live with unanswered questions. We are all plagued with questions that come to us in the night and rob us of sleep. Questions like…
  • Why are there Braille signs on drive-up ATM keypads?
  • Once you’re in Heaven, do you get stuck for eternity wearing the clothes you were buried in?
  • Why is it that people say they “slept like a baby” when babies wake up screaming every two hours, all night long?
  • Why do people pay to go up to the top of tall buildings and then put money in those stupid binoculars to look at things down on the ground?
  • How come we get to choose from just two people for President, and fifty for Miss America?
  • Why do doctors always leave the room while you change clothes? They’re going to see you naked anyway.
  • Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?
  • Why do we say something is out of whack? What is a “whack” anyway?
  • And why is it you can be “overwhelmed” and “underwhelmed”, but not simply whelmed?
  • Why is the word “phonics” not spelled the way it sounds?
  • Speaking of that, if a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how would we ever know?
Those are questions that make us go, “Hmmm” but they are not really all that important in the grand scheme of things. But let’s think for a minute about some of the really important questions of life that most of us have to answer:
  • “What are you going to be when you grow up?”
  • “Do you take this woman to be your wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse…?”
  • “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
  • “Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic…?”
  • “What do you believe in so strongly that you would be willing to die rather than back down?”
  • “Why did you become a Christian, anyway?”
This morning we are going to take a look at a question that Jesus posed to His disciples. I believe that it is the most important question in the world, the most important question of all time. In fact, the answer that we give to this question will determine where we go when we die. It is that important.

Verse 22: They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
  • Bethsaida sits right on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, just a little to the east of Capernaum. It was just a sleepy little fishing village in Jesus’ time but many of the NT events happened there, or close by.
  • Once again Jesus’ reputation has brought people looking for Him to help them. This particular healing is recorded only in St. Mark’s Gospel.
  • “Some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.” Once again in Mark’s Gospel we are seeing a group of people bring their friend to Jesus. We have no idea who these people were and we have no information about the man other than the statement that he was blind. We must assume they were all Jews and that they had heard of the miracle-working power of Jesus. They had enough faith to take their friend to Jesus and beg Him for help.
  • On top of these facts, I personally believe that this man had been able to see at one time. Perhaps he lost his sight in an accident or because of an illness. However, because of his responses to Jesus I believe that he had been able to see at some time in the past.
Verse 23: 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 took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.” Why did Jesus do this? We don’t know for sure but we can make a couple of educated guesses:
  1. Matthew 11:20-21 gives us one possible reason. That Scripture says, “Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! [and later also Capernaum] For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the Day of Judgment, than for you.’” I think that maybe Jesus was just following through on this curse and simply refused to do another miracle in Bethsaida.
  2. Moreover, Jesus knew that the resultant healing of the blind man was likely to cause a near-riot of excited people and He was trying to avoid unnecessary publicity. (This was only about 6 months before Jesus went to the cross.)
  3. Or perhaps He sensed that the blind man was timid and did not want to embarrass him. At any rate, we see the gentleness of Jesus as He took the man by the hand and led him out to a quiet place outside the village to perform the miracle.
  • I told you a couple of weeks ago that Jesus never performed any two miracles in exactly the same way. The four Gospels record five specific instances of Jesus healing blind people. They mention that He healed many others but these five are described in detail.
  1. Case of two blind men in Capernaum (Matthew 9:27-34) – Jesus touched their eyes and spoke these words, “Be it done to you according to your faith.”
  2. Case of the man who was demon-possessed, causing him to be both dumb and blind (Matthew 12:22) – Jesus did not touch him or speak to him. Jesus simply cast out the demon and the man was instantly able to see and speak again.
  3. Case of the man born blind (John 9:1-41) – Jesus spit in the dirt, made some clay, applied the clay to the man’s eyes, and ordered him to go wash himself in the Pool of Siloam. When the man obeyed he was instantly healed.
  4. Case of the blind men near Jericho (Matt. 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43) – Matthew records that Jesus touched their eyes and then spoke to them. Mark and Luke only record Jesus’ words: “Go your way and receive your sight. Your faith has made you well.”
  5. ***Now in the case of the blind man of Bethsaida in our text for today (Mark 8:22-26) Jesus healed the man in two stages. In STAGE 1 Jesus first put some saliva on the man’s eyes, then laid His hands on the man and asked if he could see yet. In STAGE 2, Jesus then put His hands on the man’s eyes, completing the healing.
  • So what’s the point? Answer = Jesus did not operate by formulas or magical incantations. He could heal blind people in a hundred different ways, one by one, or all at the same time. Had He chosen to He could have healed every blind person in the whole world at the same time. He had the power and authority to do it.
  • So then why did He heal this man in two stages? I’ve wondered about that for years. This is the only time He ever healed in stages. That has to be significant, but why? Over the past week I’ve pondered this a lot because I knew that you would be asking the same question. I’m still not sure I have the answer but I at least have a theory.
  • In order to understand this miracle we have to understand the broader context and tie this story to what had been going on just previously. Two Sundays ago we studied Mark 8:1-21, which describes the miracle of the feeding of the 4,000 and also the conversation Jesus had with His disciples afterward about their lack of understanding and insight into both of the miracles of the Feeding of the Multitudes (5,000 and later of the 4,000). Jesus accused them of having hardened hearts, spiritual blindness and deafness, and darkened understanding, not to mention their lack of faith. Though they had been active participants in both miracles they were still clueless about what had actually happened and what it meant. Now look at verse 21, the verse that immediately precedes our text for today about the two-stage healing of the blind man of Bethsaida. The text says, “And He was saying to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’” The form of the verb indicates that He said this more than once. He was emphasizing to them His amazement at their lack of spiritual understanding.
  • Now we come back to our text for today. I believe that Jesus healed the blind man in two stages for the benefit of His disciples, and for us, as a teaching illustration to say something about how their spiritual eyes were being opened little by little until they were finally corrected to 20/20. What other explanation can there be? It is certain that Jesus did not need two runs at the job to get it done right. He did not “fail” the first time and have to have a do-over. That is a ridiculous idea, though one subscribed to by some.
Verse 24: He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
  • As I have already said, this healing is unique. It is the only two-stage healing recorded among Jesus’ miracles. First, Jesus applied saliva to the man’s eyes. That was stage-1. It opened the man’s eyes partway and made it so that he could see vague, shadowy images. He could see light and he could see movement. He knew that what he was seeing was people moving about but he described them as looking like trees. Remember when I said that I thought this man had been able to see at some time in the past. How else would he know what a tree looked like?
Verse 25: 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.
  • After hearing the man’s answer Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes once again—stage 2. This time the man was completely cured, his blindness totally taken away. The cloudiness was gone, the clarity had come.
  • Though Mark does not record it, I believe that this miracle performed in the presence of the disciples resulted in a teaching session of Jesus saying to them, “This is how spiritual understanding comes about, gradually, little by little.” Paul says in I Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part.” That is our condition today—we “…see through a glass darkly” (KJV). There are still many things that we do not understand. But the day is coming when we will have perfect sight, 20/20 spiritual vision. When we come into His presence the Bible says “…but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” That will be the last stage, when our spiritual blindness is completely cured.
  • A footnote in the Nelson Study Bible makes this observation: “Jesus’ healing of the blind man in stages paralleled the disciples’ imperfect perception of Jesus. Like the man, they were no longer blind, but they could not see clearly either. Only the Holy Spirit could clear their vision.” I just love it when commentators agree with me! 
Verse 26: Jesus sent him home, saying “Don’t go into the village.”
  • Jesus was still trying to hold back the publicity storm that would eventually overtake Him. He was not in this for the benefit of the television reporters. He was not looking for a story on the evening news. He did not heal this blind man to receive the praise of men.
  • Apparently the man lived not in the village but somewhere close by in the countryside. Can you imagine the reception when he got home, able to see perfectly, overjoyed, crying and trying to tell the story to his loved ones through his sobs and laughter! I would love to have been there to witness that homecoming.
Verse 27: Jesus and His disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
  • After parting company with the recently healed blind man of Bethsaida, Jesus and His disciples headed north for Caesarea Philippi. This was a Galilean town approximately 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and is not to be confused with the much larger city of Caesarea which was located on the Mediterranean coast.
  • This same story is recorded in Matthew 16, where the apostle Matthew gives a fuller account of the events and the conversation between Jesus and the disciples. Mark’s version is like a Cliff Notes summary.
  • Remember, Jesus never asked questions to gain information. He already knew all the answers. He asked questions to prod the disciples into thinking about what was really going on around them.
  • His question brought the same answers we heard given to Herod back in Mark 6:14ff when he was trying to figure out who Jesus was. Herod heard all of these same suggestions and added one of his own: he thought that Jesus might be John the Baptist come back from the grave to haunt him and make his life miserable, and he was dead serious!
Verse 28: They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the [OT] prophets.”
  • Here the disciples were just reporting the scuttlebutt that was flying around in the towns and villages. People knew (or thought they knew) things about Jesus, but very few knew Him, and even less knew who He really was. For the most part it was pure conjecture. Notice too that all of these were high opinions, but all of them fell short of the truth.
Verse 29: “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
  • This whole conversation was a setup on Jesus’ part to finally get them to this point, to answer this key question! This is the most important question in the world, the most important one of all time. Moreover, it is the question whose answer will determine where every man, woman, and child will spend eternity.
  • Matthew gives Peter’s complete answer while Mark gives only the shortened version. Matthew 16:16 says, “And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Living God.’” YES! THAT’S THE RIGHT ANSWER! PETER FINALLY GOT IT! Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, the Anointed One, the Promised Messiah who came to be the Sacrifice for our sin, the Lamb of God, the Redeemer, Savior, Lord of All, and Righteous Judge of both the living and the dead. Jesus is all that, and more. He is the King, the Healer, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of peace.
Verse 30: Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about Him.
  • This is hard to understand until you realize that these guys did not yet have the whole story. Starting in the next verse we see Jesus beginning to fill them in on the details, but He didn’t want them going off half-cocked, telling half the truth. We’ll take this up next Sunday.
Today Jesus is here, and He is looking each one of us square in the face and asking us, “And who do YOU say that I am?” What is your answer to Him? But don’t be too quick to respond. Jesus said that on the Day of Judgment there will be many who stand before Him and will say, “But Lord, we did all kinds of wonderful things in your name. Of course we should go to Heaven.” But He will say, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” I must therefore conclude from His words that it is possible for a person to delude himself into thinking he is a genuine Christian when he isn’t, and that will have devastating consequences.

Paul exhorts us in II Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves! Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” That is an examination that no one can afford to fail, a test that each one must pass if he/she is to enter the gates of Heaven.

Have you made your peace with God? Have you invited Christ into your life to forgive you and to save you? Have you placed your faith and trust in Him alone to save you from your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness? If not, I urge you to do it now, here, today, while He is calling out to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

Stat Counter