Wednesday, February 15, 2006
A messiah who looks like a tree
Bible study night at The Rock/La Roca. Sarah requested I get back to posting the recap. I'll do my best.

Last week we closed the second main block of material in the Gospel of Mark, 3:7-8:21. In that section we saw a Jesus full of riddles. We saw a Jesus telling a joke without a punchline. And nobody gets just what is going on. Least of all the disciples. We saw a kingdom of seeds. We saw a Jesus who conquers water both from a boat and also on his sandaled-feet. Where Jesus goes, crowds follow. Rejection follows. Misunderstanding follows. But he leaves in his wake a multitude of healed bodies. We saw 5,000 fed. We saw another 4,000 fed. And hearts are hard, and the disciples do not get it. Nobody knows who Jesus is, save a couple of raving loonies just before they get the demons cast out.

So tonight we turn a new chapter. From 8:22-10:45 we will shift focus ever slightly. The curtain pulls back. But just part way. The puzzle pieces of this charismatic carpenter from Nazareth start to fall together. The picture ever slowly is coming into focus.

Our discussion centered on 8:22-9:1. Essentially four things happen here. Jesus heals a blind man. Jesus finally pushes the identity question on the disciples, and surprise of surprises, they get it right. But maybe not completely, and Jesus comes down hard on Peter. Finally, Jesus draws a line in the sand, and for the first time in Mark articulates just what is involved in discipleship. This is what he meant this whole time when he first said "Follow me" back in chapter 1.

When I looked at it, I was struck with the way that the narrative regarding the blind man illustrates the present spiritual condition of the disciples. We've just seen the vast ineptitude of the disciples in 8:21. They are blind as bats and twice as dumb. There's a parralism in the questions Jesus asks - "Can you see anything?" and "Who do people say that I am?" What do you, my disciples, see in me? he seems to be asking.

The scene reminds of Monty Python and the Holy Grail as Sir Bedevere reasons the townfolk through the witch trial. "Cherries!" "Gravy! "John the Baptist!" "Elijah!" "One of the prophets!" And Peter brashly blurts out, "Messiah!" Christ. Anointed One. The one who brings the Kingdom of God behind him.

Yes, Peter, but... Jesus immediately proceeds to talk about suffering, rejection, death and resurrection. This is too much. Messiah won't suffer. Who in their right mind rejects Messiah? What pagan would dare kill Messiah? This is not the Messiah Peter was talking about. Maybe this isn't exactly what Peter signed up for back in the beginning? Peter's blind eyes have been opened, but only partially. He sees a shadow of Messiah now. He sees a Messiah that looks like a tree walking around.

And this leads to all sorts of questions: What are our expectations of Jesus? What box have I been conditioned to put Jesus in? Have I made a Jesus in my own image? Am I submissive to the rule of Messiah in my life, or am I rebuking him, arrogantly bossing Messiah around? Is my mind on divine things? Ultimately, will I deny myself, that is, deny my preconceived notions? Will I take up my cross, that is, accept the hard reality that discipleship is not about my preferences or convenience or spiritual fetishes? Will I follow Jesus, or ask Jesus to follow me?

Jesus touched the blind man a second time, "and he saw everything clearly." In a few short chapters, so will the disciples. And so will we.

posted by Peter at 11:46 PM
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