Seeing Jesus – Part 1

Seeing Jesus – Part 1

Seeing Jesus – Part 1
Text: Mark 8:22-38

Main Idea:  Every disciple must embrace a crucified Messiah and pursue a cross-centered life.

I.   A Two-Stage Miracle (Mark 8:22-26)
II.  A Two-Stage Revelation (Mark 8:27-33)
III. One Life Changing Pursuit (Mark 8:34-38)

Mark 8:22–38

The passage before us this morning is the hinge upon which the entire Gospel of Mark turns. What I mean by this is that the first-half of the book demonstrates who Jesus isthe second-half of the book explains why Jesus came. In fact as we are going to see, at the very moment that Peter finally grasps Jesus’ Messianic identity, Jesus quickly reveals his impending rejection and execution. He didn’t come to live as a conquering military hero, a revolutionary Rabbi, or as good moral example he came to be rejected and die as a crucified criminal so that wretched, undeserving rebels might be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God through faith in him.

This is the “Messianic Secret.” Everyone is looking for a powerful leader, a conquering king, and positions of  power and influence in the coming kingdom. They may have physical eyes but, they are completely blind to the truth that Every disciple must embrace a crucified Messiah and pursue a cross-centered life.

Main Idea: Every disciple must embrace a crucified Messiah and pursue a cross-centered life.

A Two-Stage Miracle (Mark 8:22–26)
A Two-Stage Revelation (Mark 8:27–33)
One Life Changing Requirement (Mark 8:34–38)

A Two-Stage Miracle (Mark 8:22–26)

On the surface this miracle follows a predictable pattern. People bring someone to Jesus with a physical ailment to be healed. And Jesus heals the person. But, at the same time this healing breaks the normal healing patterns in that Jesus does not heal the man on his first “attempt.” He only sees people who like walking trees at first. And it is not until the second “attempt” that he saw everything clearly.

So, what’s going on? Is Jesus having an “off day?” Is the man’s blindness too great for Jesus to heal in just one touch? No. Jesus is the omnipotent creator and sustainer of reality itself! This two-stage healing is what scholars call an “enacted parable”[1] in that the two stage healing represents the partial sight and partial spiritual blindness of his own disciples.

A Two-Stage Revelation (Mark 8:27–33)

Who Jesus Is (Mark 8:27–30)

What’s the first thing that we see in this list of people? No one sees the truth about Jesus; he is nothing more than another divine messenger in a long line of messengers that God has dispatched throughout the ages. No one sees Jesus for who he really is. They are spiritually blind.

But, just Jesus asked the blind man, “Do you see anything?” he now turns to his disciples and asks the very personal question, “Who do you say I am?” And with a flash of divine insight Peter blurts out “You are the Christ” (8:29). And by this he is saying, You are God’s promised Messiah, the promised Son of David that the prophets have been anticipating for centuries! Peter isn’t blind after all, he sees!

So why, why does Jesus tell the disciples to keep it a secret? If Jesus is the promised Messiah, why is he trying to cover up the truth about himself? Well the spiritual reality is that Peter sees, but that it is the equivalent of walking trees. Peter and the disciples will need a second touch before they will be able to see clearly.

Why Jesus Came (Mark 8:31–33)

Jesus wanted to protect his Messianic identity because he was not the kind of Messiah that Israel or his disciples were looking for! Yes, he was the Messiah but God’s hidden plan made him completely unrecognizable. Just listen to this description of the Messiah in the Jewish apocryphal book called the Psalms of Solomon:

O Lord, raise up their king, the son of David, that he may reign over Israel thy servant.Gird him with strength that he might shatter unrighteous rulers, that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trample her to destruction.

Wisely, righteously he shall thrust out sinners from the inheritance; he shall destroy the pride of the sinner as a potter’s vessel. With a rod of iron he shall break in pieces all their substance, he shall destroy the godless nation with the word of his mouth; at his rebuke nations shall fall before him, and he shall reprove sinners for the thoughts of their heart.

He shall gather together a holy people, whom he shall lead in righteousness, and he shall judge the tribes of the people that have been sanctified by the Lord his God. And he shall not allow unrighteousness to lodge any more in their midst, nor shall there dwell with them any man who knows wickedness, for he shall know them, that they are all sons of their God.

This passage sounds so good and Biblical. In fact, virtually all of these petitions flow directly from Messianic texts. The problem is not that no one expected the Davidic King to be the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Jesus doesn’t establish his kingdom through military victories and political success, but through rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection. And the astounding irony is that his suffering and death will not come at the hands of godless and wicked people; but the hands of the most religious and respected leaders in the land—”the elders and the chief priests and the scribes” (8:31).

But, all of this is too much for Peter. It is so overwhelming that he momentarily stops being a disciple of Jesus and attempts to becomes his teacher in verse 32: “And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Peter may have just declared that Jesus is the Messiah but his actions reveal that he does not yet understand what being a Messiah is all about. Peter has partial vision but he cannot see the whole picture.

Jesus you must be mistaken, everyone knows the Messiah is a winner. Messiahs don’t die! This is not the way it is supposed to work. Where are you getting these crazy ideas? Who have you been listening to? Who was you Rabbi in Nazareth? Listen up, you are wrong about yourself and you are wrong about why you came!

Now, I have no idea how long Jesus allowed Peter to protest. But, it doesn’t appear to be very long before Jesus delivers a stinging rebuke of his own: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33).

So why does Jesus rebuke Peter, his most prominent disciple, and call him Satan instead of patiently teaching him more? It seems like such an unnecessary and severe escalation in rhetoric… I think it is because Peter’s rebuke reflects Satan’s original temptation in the wilderness, in that Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would take a simple short-cut. To put it another way, Peter and Satan were saying the same thing, You are the King but you don’t have to die!

And all of this flows from the reality that Peter does not have his “mind set on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 6:33). Peter cannot embrace a crucified Messiah because for all of his religious activities his heart is still captivated by things of this world. To use C.S. Lewis’s illustration, Peter is like a child who is content to make mud pies in his back yard because he cannot imagine a day by the sea. Peter is operating under false assumptions that are blinding him to the truth but Jesus is too great a Messiah to abandon his arrogant disciple. He leans back in to remove Peter’s remaining blindness because a wrong view of Messiahship leads to a wrong view of Christian discipleship.

One Life Changing Pursuit (Mark 8:34–38)

The Cross-Centered Call (Mark 8:34)

Notice here that Jesus isn’t just teaching the crowd about discipleship he is completely destroying Peter’s Messianic world-view! See Peter and the disciples believe that they deserve kingdom privileges because they are faithfully serving on the Messiah’s kingdom crew. Whereas, Jesus wants Peter, the disciples, and the crowd to see that the invitation to discipleship is call to Messiah-like self-denial.

Let me be clear, denying yourself is not a call to abject asceticism, self-inflicted poverty, and intentional martyrdom. No. Denying yourself is, first and foremost, a warning that that discipleship is not a part-time, half-hearted, extra-curricular endeavor, it’s a new identity that defines your very existence on this planet. Discipleship does not free us to roll in the cesspool of sin during the week because we attended church on Sunday. Nor is discipleship something we can simply dabble in, and this is because discipleship is a life consuming call to subordinate every self-serving ambition, selfish desire, or pursuit of self-actualization to the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ.

But, Jesus doesn’t end here he demands that his disciples must take up their cross and follow him. And please do not think that Jesus is using a dramatic figure of speech. The call to take up our cross is NOT a call to “put up with” personal inconveniences, hardships, and debilitating diseases—your cross is not your spouse, child, parent, job, illness, or your physical disability. Paul suffered from a significant physical disability but he never called it his cross.

The cross was an instrument of cruelty, pain, dehumanization, and shame. The cross was a symbol of Roman oppression and a sentence that was reserved for the lowest social classes and vilest offenders. It was the most visible and omnipresent symbol of terror for anyone who would defy their Roman overlords. In other words, they must be ready to deny themselves even to the point of a shameful and tortuous death.

In Mark’s day that was not merely a theoretical truth, because the Gospel of Mark was probably written in Rome near the time that Nero was crucifying Christians. Jesus’ call to self-denial and suffering by the use of this image would remind Mark’s community that their persecution under Nero was not a sign that God had abandoned them. Rather, it was the very stamp of authenticity that revealed faithfulness to Jesus himself.[2]

Jesus does not want a convoy of followers who marvel at his deeds BUT fail to follow his example. The procession he envisions is a rare sight: disciples following after their Master, each carrying a cross.

The Conflict

Why would anyone even think about following a Messiah like this? His call to discipleship is in direct conflict with my “inalienable rights” of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Regardless of which political party you support, let that sink in for a minute. The call to discipleship is in direct conflict with the highest values of our American culture that tells us:

Follow your heart.

Have it your own way.

Be true to yourself and nothing else.

Have your best life now.

If we have been reading the Gospel of Mark carefully, the answer begins with an important truth that Jesus has already revealed. We already have a reason to deny ourselves.

Mark 7:21–23 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

To put it another way, “following your heart” will never lead to lasting joy and satisfaction. Rather, it will lead you into sin and death. A truth that Kings Solomon and the prophet Jeremiah saw hundreds of years before.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Now, Jesus could have gone here but he didn’t. He could have pointed out our faithlessness but instead he revealed the glorious future that every true disciple will enjoy BECAUSE they abandoned everything to follow him. (Mark 8:35–38)

The Counterintuitive Pursuit (Mark 8:35–38)

What does Jesus want his disciples to see? He wants them to see that they will be “rewarded” for denying themselves, taking up their cross and following him. And that is because “losing” in this life is visible evidence that we find everlasting acceptance, joy, and satisfaction in the next. The world is obsessed with enjoying, maximizing, and saving their life but it’s the kind of saving that ultimately leads to losing; not merely because people are not denying themselves but because they do not believe in and follow Jesus himself!

Self-denial is not the means to eternal life. Sacrificial death is not the means to eternal life. Faith in Jesus Christ is the means to eternal life because all of this self-denial hinges on the underlying motivation—“for my sake and the sake of the gospel” (Mark 8:35) Paul puts it this way:

Phil 1:21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Self-denial flows from a heart that truly delights in Jesus Christ because where your treasure is there your heart will be also. If your heart is captivated by Jesus, his commands will not a burden (1 Jn 5:3). If your heart is captivated by Jesus, death is gain because you are wholly convinced with David in Psalm 16:11, “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

See, cross-bearing self-denial is not something we conjure up in our own willpower. No. Rather it is the external overflow of a heart that truly sees Jesus and believes that he is the source of our greatest joy and only hope of salvation.

So to anyone listening today that is still learning what the gospel is about I want you to know that eternal life is not a matter of doing and earning but faith in Jesus Christ—God himself came to pay the penalty for our sin through his death so that we might be restored to God through faith in him.

Ephesians 2:8–10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Salvation is a gift of God that must be received by faith.

Self-denying cross-centered discipleship is the good works that proceed from our new life in Christ.

[1]Mark L. Strauss, Mark, vol. 2 of Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 351.

[2]James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 256.