Sermon: Men As Trees Walking (Mark 8:22-33)

The Local Christendom Podcast with Aaron Ventura

11-09-2023 • 26分

Men As Trees Walking Sunday, September 3rd, 2023 Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA

Mark 8:22-33

22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.

27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? 28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. 29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. 30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. 31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.

Prayer

Father, you continue to impress upon us in this gospel, our absolute inability to save ourselves. We cannot open our own eyes. We cannot see clearly unless Christ touches us. And so we ask now that you would open to us again Your fountain of salvation, and that in your light, we might see light. We ask for your Holy Spirit in Jesus name, Amen.

Introduction

Before the disciples of Jesus were ever called Christians (Acts 11:26), they were called followers of “the way.” Before Christianity became the label for the one true religion, it was simply called “the way.”

  • Acts 9:2 describes Saul’s persecution of the church saying, “And [Saul] desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”
  • Likewise in Acts 19:23 it says, “There arose no small stir about that way.”
  • And Paul says later in Acts 22:4, “I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.”
  • If the early disciples were called followers of “the way,” the next logical question to ask is: Where does this way lead to? Why is it called the way? What does it mean to follow the way? Where is this way going?
  • It is these kinds of questions that the Gospel of Mark wants to both provoke and answer for us.
  • We remember how the opening verses of Mark’s gospel began, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
  • And so according to Mark, the whole ministry of Jesus is a showing forth of the way of the Lord. And now for the very first time, Jesus begins to tell us where this way leads. It leads to Jerusalem, where the “Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
  • If you are going to follow Jesus. If you would become worthy of the name, “follower of the way,” then you must come to grips with the fact this path you are on is a path of suffering unto death. It is a path of being rejected by the world and dying to that world.
    • As Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
  • This is the way. You want to be a Christian? If you want to follow Jesus, then you must resolve in your heart that the way to destruction is very easy and very broad (Matt. 7:13-14), but the way to eternal life is hard and narrow.
  • This is the way of the Lord, and you can see why many people choose not to follow it. You can see why many people begin, but then turn back, or turn aside, and never make it all the way.
  • And so what I hope to do in this sermon is just give you some encouragement. Encouragement to keep walking in the way of the Lord, but especially to not be afraid of suffering and death, not necessarily as a martyr for the faith (though perhaps that may come), but to simply embrace and endure joyfully whatever cross God gives you to carry. Whatever pain, whatever pressure, whatever toilsome difficulty is presently afflicting you, God wants you to carry that cross joyfully. This is the way of the Lord. At times it is hard and painful and ugly, but if you know what is waiting for you at you at the end of the journey (resurrection and eternal life), then joy can be had along the way.
  • This is the moment in Mark’s gospel where everything takes a turn. This is the beginning of Christ’s revelation of where the way of the Lord leads. And if we are going to walk with Jesus all the way, we need to catch what the disciples miss. That is my hope for this sermon so let me begin by giving you the division of the text.

Division of the Test

There are two basic sections here.

  • In verses 22-26, Jesus heals a man in two stages.
  • In verses 27-33, Jesus reveals where the way of the Lord leads.
  • Together these two sections bring to a conclusion a discussion Jesus was having with the disciples about bread and leaven.By now Jesus has fed the 5,000, he has fed the 4,000, but the disciples are still confused about the meaning of these miraculous feedings.
  • We saw last week that the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod is their false doctrine and hypocrisy. And here now Jesus gives the disciples the true leaven of the kingdom of God.
    • In Matthew 13:33 Jesus gives them a parable saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”
    • Well hear Jesus gives us the contents of that leaven: That the Christ must suffer and die and rise again. That message is going to transform the whole loaf, it is going to remake and reform the whole world.

Verses 22-26

22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.

  • This is the second time Jesus has healed a man using his own saliva. In Mark 7 he healed a deaf/mute man by spitting and touching the man’s tongue. And here he heals a man by spitting on his eyes and touching him.
  • It is not obvious why Jesus spits on this man’s eyes, and anytime someone spits on someone else in the Old Testament, it is a sign of shame and uncleanness.
    • Leviticus 15:8 says, “If he who has the discharge spits on him who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.”
    • In Numbers 12:14, God says to Moses about Miriam after she rebelled, “And the Lord said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.”
    • So spitting on someone in the Old Testament makes that person unclean, and yet here we see Jesus spitting on someone and making them clean, healthy.
    • We’ve seen this theme already with him healing the leper and the woman with the flow of blood. Wherever Jesus goes he spreads holiness and cleanliness, and here the very thing that we would expect to defile a person (spit) is the thing God uses to heal and cleanse.
  • So Jesus spits on this man’s eyes, and he touches him, and then he asks the man what he sees. Why does Jesus do this?
    • Well, you should already know that Jesus’ miracles are living parables and Mark has chosen specific miracles and includes certain details to give us a hint in the right interpretive direction.
    • This entire middle section of Mark’s gospel that runs from here to the end of Mark 10 is bookended by two healings of a blind man. And in between these two healings of blindness, Jesus teaches his disciples that he must suffer and die and rise again. He does this three times, and each time the disciples see but don’t see. So our text is the first of these three cycles where Jesus plainly and openly tells them the future. He’s going to suffer and die and rise again. But they don’t understand what that means. So who does this blind man represent? He is an analogy for the disciples, and the disciples are an analogy for the twelve tribes of Israel.
    • So what does this man see? In verse 24 he says, “I see men as trees, walking.”
  • What is the significance of seeing men as trees walking?
    • At the very least it means things are blurry. He only has partial vision, and therefore he needs Jesus to touch him again.
    • That is exactly what Jesus does, verse 25 says, “After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.”
    • That is the miracle, that is the living parable, and now in verses 27-33 we see what that parable signifies.

Verses 27-29a

27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? 28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. 29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

  • This is the million-dollar question. It is the question by which every man who hears the gospel will be judged. And it is a question to which Mark has already given us the answer in the opening line of this book, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).
  • Who is Jesus? Who do you say that he is? How you answer that by your confession and belief and manner of life will determine everything.
  • As C.S. Lewis famously put it in Mere Christianity, the gospels present us with a trilemma. If you read the gospels honestly, you are forced to one of three conclusions:
    • Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord.
    • He is either lying when he says He is God, or insane for thinking He is God. Or He is God.
    • To quote Lewis directly, “You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
    • So who do you say Jesus is?
  • Jesus asks his disciples this question and Peter, speaking on behalf of the disciples confesses, “Thou art the Christ.”
    • Is this the right answer? Yes. The disciples can see that Jesus is the Christ. But although that is the correct answer (the right words), what they do not understand is what it means to be the Christ. What is prophesied in the Old Testament about the Christ. If Jesus is the Christ, there are certain things that He must do. And that is what Peter and the disciples do not yet see, their vision is still blurry.
    • This is demonstrated by what happens in the next few verses.

Verses 29b-33

And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. 30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. 31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.

  • Notice how quickly this scene shifts. We go from Peter making this glorious confession that Jesus is the Christ, to rebuking Jesus for saying the Son of Man is going to die, to Jesus rebuking Peter for being inspired by Satan.
  • What is going on here?
  • Well, this is what that two-stage healing of the blind man is intended to illustrate.
  • The disciples recognize that Jesus is the Christ, and they see that Jesus is going to die. But their vision is blurry, they see men as trees walking. They see men like Jesus, they see men like themselves carrying a cross on their back (a tree), walking on the way to Jerusalem. And it is as if they cannot accept that that is where the way of the Lord leads. “How can we following the Christ be men as trees walking to Jerusalem to die?” That is their conundrum.
    • Perhaps they are confused because doesn’t Psalm 1 say that the blessed man is the one who is“like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That bringeth forth his fruit in his season; His leaf also shall not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so…” (Ps. 1:3-4).
    • So how then can the Christ, the most blessed one, how can the Son of Man be someone who suffers and dies? Isn’t suffering and death the destination of the ungodly?
    • You can see why this is a hard teaching for the disciples to accept based on their expectations. They had high hopes for what being called to follow Jesus meant. They left everything behind, they went all in on this venture, because they believed it would somehow be better than what they had before. No one voluntarily leaves a good job and situation behind unless he believes he can find something better. And so the disciples are confused.
    • If Jesus is the Christ (the anointed one, the promised Davidic king), then he should just ride to Jerusalem (or fly!), clean house, and use his omnipotent power to bring in the kingdom of God. We’ll see later the disciples jockey for position in this kingdom, to sit at Jesus right hand or his left. Their idea of the Messiah, the Christ, is one who simply conquers and takes what is rightfully his.
    • This is what the disciples expect and want, and it is also what Satan tempts Jesus to do. This is why Jesus rebukes Peter and says, “Get behind me Satan!”
  • How did Satan tempt Jesus in the wilderness? He offered him all the kingdoms of this world if he would only bow down and worship him. He thinks he knows what Jesus wants, and he offers him a shortcut to getting it. He offers Jesus a pain-free, death-free way to becoming king of the world.
    • As we said earlier in the exhortation, Satan always offers us a shortcut that is actually a long cut (or more accurately: a dead end). It does not belong to Satan to give Jesus anything. Jesus is the one, according to His Divine Nature, who gives Satan his very being and existence! For who can give to the Creator anything other than what God has first given him?
    • And so what the disciples are still blind to, what is still blurry to them, is that Jesus must die and rise again to make satisfaction for their sins.
    • How else can atonement be made for the sins of the world? If perfect justice is eye for eye, tooth for tooth, then how can the life of an animal, the blood of bulls and goats and Passover lambs, make satisfaction for a man’s sin?
      • God himself says in Genesis 9:6, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”
    • Everyone knows (even if they deny it) that an animal is no substitute for a human being. If someone kills your child, and then offers you a dog in their place as restitution, that would be highly offensive, to say the least.
    • And the situation that the human race has been in, ever since our fall from grace, is that of committing sins worthy of death. As Paul says in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.”
    • So death is what we all deserve for sin. And what the Christ, the Son of Man came to do, is conquer sin, death, and the devil. He came to triumph over the evil that reigns and dwells in our hearts. And if what Jesus says is true about the source of evil in the world, that it is inside of us, from the heart of man evil proceeds, then what we need and what Christ gives us, is a way to die and come back different.
    • This is why, “the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
  • At present the disciples are shortsighted. They don’t see the divine purpose in Jesus’ death. And it will only be after the resurrection, and more fully after Pentecost, that they are able to see clearly.
  • So what is the way of the Lord? It is the way of the cross. And it is only by dying on the cross that a man can be crowned with eternal life.

Closing Application

When Jesus rebukes Peter he says, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”

  • What makes Peter’s thinking satanic is that it only thinks about himself and this life here and now, he only savors “the things that be of men.”
  • And so despite his true confession that Jesus is the Christ, Peter’s meaning and understanding of that confession is rather false.
  • If by Christ, Peter means, “a king who does not die for his people, but only treads upon his enemies,” well that is a half-truth at best. That is not the kind of Christ Jesus is.
  • And so I ask you, what kind of Christ do you take Jesus to be? Do you, like the disciples, have false assumptions (false expectations) about where the way of the Lord leads? Has Satan tricked you into thinking that being a Christian is actually the broad and easy way (it’s popular and everyone’s going to like you), and not the hard and narrow path fraught with difficulty?
  • Have you forgotten that when Jesus called you to follow him, he called you to pick up a tree that you will eventually be crucified on?
  • In what ways have you been deceived by the serpent? In what ways do you only see men as trees walking?
  • Sin is always shortsighted. The devil always tries to make obedience to God seem impossible and unsavory, and the reward of obedience hardly worth it. But what Jesus comes to reveal in the gospel is that there is no other way to salvation, no other way to happiness, no other way to the Father’s House, except through Him. Jesus is the way of the Lord, and the pain and suffering and cross of this life, is in the Apostle’s words, “not worth comparing to the glory that is to come…the glory that is to be revealed in us” (2 Cor. 4:17, Romans 8:18). That is the eternal glory we must fix our eyes upon.
  • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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