Devotional #23 (3/4/13). Who is Jesus and What Will You Do With the Answer?
Intro: Last week we saw Jesus feed over 4,000 people with bread and fish but He was giving a picture (along with feeding 5,000) that He completed men’s needs both physically and spiritually. His disciples didn’t understand it right away and that will play in a little bit in today’s study also.
This Week’s Reading: Mark 8:22-38.
vv. 22-26. Jesus takes a blind man and spits on his eyes. Why would he do that?It is possible that the man’s eyelids were stuck together (as is the case in some forms of blindness) so the saliva was used to separate them. But the miracle of returning sight was done when Jesus laid His hands on the man (Source 1). It seems that it took Jesus two tries to heal the man’s eyes but that isn’t the case. If we think that then we’ve missed Jesus’ power through the last chapters. When the man looks and sees men walking around but they are fuzzy and kind of look like trees Jesus was illustrating something for his disciples.Jesus was “showing them then that their spiritual blindness – shown in the previous passage – will be healed, but only gradually.” He goes on to say that most believer’s “growth happens little by little” in the same way as this man (Source 2). Then He tells the man to not tell anyone, probably so He could leave without getting mobbed. Jesus, displaying forethought, had taken the man “out of the town” (8:23) possibly for this reason and maybe because He wanted to have a personal conversation and time with him. MacArthur concurs with this and adds that apparently this man obeyed Jesus and didn’t go back into town immediately (Source 3, p. 1476).
vv. 27-29.This is where Jesus gets to the heart of His mission, He asks, “Who do men say that I am?” In order to be saved men must acknowledge who Jesus is. So His disciples give Him some of the current theories. They mention John the Baptist, remember when Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist returned from the grave? They also say “Elijah” which referred to the common belief that Elijah’s spirit would come back to save them (see Malachi 4:5). Then Jesus asks the most important question that you can be asked: “But who do you say that I am?” Make no mistake every one of us is asked this question, and we must be careful with how we answer since it is the difference between going to heaven and hell! Some say: ‘He was a good man’, ‘He was a prophet’ or ‘He was a great teacher’ but Peter answers correctly. He simply says, “You are the Christ.” Peter insinuates that Jesus is the Messiah (even if they thought He would bring immediate political relief) and that He is God.
v. 30. Here Mark leaves out the acknowledgment Jesus gives to Peter which is recorded in Matthew 16:17 (“…flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My father who is in heaven.”) I imagine Jesus proudly looking at Peter as a father does a son and saying, ‘very good Peter, you finally get it.’But why did He not want them to tell others of His identity? MacArthur notes that the disciples didn’t have the most important piece of the Messiah puzzle: His death on the cross. So for them to tell others that He was the Messiah would have driven them to “make Jesus king by force”, which was not to happen yet (Source 3, p. 1477). We must remember the time line and plan of God is far above our understanding (as we’ll see next in Mk. 8:32-33).
vv. 31-33. Jesus speaks plainly about all of the things that would happen to Him but Peter doesn’t want to hear it. For Peter if Jesus died He wasn’t going to come back to life. So Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan!” which doesn’t mean that the spirit of Satan had possessed Peter, rather it was that Peter was going against God’s will and Jesus’ whole purpose in coming to earth, which is exactly what Satan tries to do all the time.
v. 34. Here Jesus tells His disciples and us exactly what will happen if we become Christians. He says if you believe I am God and want to go to heaven then earth will be hard for you, but I’m not making you do anything. Jesus tells us to “deny ourselves” which He lived out constantly as the perfect Servant. We are commanded to give up everything that gives us comfort and anything we take pride in and to completely depend on He who gives comfort and take pride in Him.
But that’s not all; we also “take up our cross” which Jesus also did first and led by example. So this doesn’t mean we can nail our sins to the cross and it doesn’t mean we have the ability to save ourselves or do good works. It means we share in a burden. It is not the burden of ours or anyone else’s sins but a small version of the burden of making Christ known and ourselves unknown. It means we must walk the Via Dollarosa every day, putting others needs before ours, dying to our old flesh as Jesus brings us back to life both now on earth and eternally in heaven. I am going to be speaking on Resurrection Day (most people call it “Easter”!) at our church’s sunrise service on the pain that the Christian goes through. I don’t have enough room here to go into it!
vv. 35-38. When Jesus talks about someone giving up their “soul” it is psyche in the Greek which is “the vital force which animates the body” in other words their breath (Source 4).
We must understand that there are three parts to a human: body, soul and spirit. The body is the physical matter that we can see. The soul are emotions, “…the seat of feelings, desires, affections, aversions…” (Source 4). And the spirit is the part of us the understands the Holy Spirit, the part that lives eternally. So Jesus isn’t making a direct comparison from earthly to eternal but from earthly to earthly. But the implication shows the consequences directly affect the spirit.
Jesus explains a paradox: when we give everything over to Him we actually gain everything! When Jesus matters more than the things that are king of our life (like a boyfriend or girlfriend, your kids, a car, videogames or whatever) we usually still get those things but they don’t rule us anymore.
Conclusion. The importance of acknowledging that Jesus must be Lord of all, or not Lord at all cannot be understated. Repenting from our sin and confessing Jesus (Romans 10:9-10) is the first step. The remaining steps are taking up our cross daily and following Him! If this sounds crazy it is because spiritual things don’t make sense to the flesh (1 Corinthians 2:14). Again, if you don’t understand what this means please ask me. Or ask a Christian friend or read the Bible. If you really have questions God will show you the answers!
Source 1: Adam Clarke (quoted by David Guzik), http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm?AuthorID=2&contentID=7901&commInfo=31&topic=Mark&ar=Mar_8_24
Source 3: John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible.
Source 4: Blue Letter Bible: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5590&t=NKJV