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Apr 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Meditations In Mark – chapter 8 04/30/2023



Prayer and Welcome: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to our RefleXion community!   May the Peace of the Lord be with you.

We’re in the season between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension, and what was Jesus doing those 40 days?  Well, for one thing, He was showing his scars to someone who needed to see them.  Remember Thomas? “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Jesus showed Thomas his wounded hands, his scars.  It had me wondering if there is a difference between wounds and scars.  Wounds are injuries.  Scars are evidence of the healing of a wound.  

Scars tell stories.  Scars from an operation tell the story of an injury or disease, a surgery, and a recovery.  Scars from a burn are different from knife wounds.   Jesus must have had horrendous scars.  After His resurrection, why do you think that He still had those scars?  Perhaps they remind us that He is one of us, that He knows our pain, and that one day we will have all the healing we need. 

A couple of weeks ago I was remembering Lazarus and how He was raised to life but still had his wrappings, as we do, metaphorical bandages and coverings.  I wanted to say a bit more, because I know from personal experience that removing bandages and allowing ourselves and others to see our wounds is not at all pleasant!  Seeing our bloody mess might cause us to choose to just cover it up again. As we remove our coverings–shame, fear, addictions, blame…, if our wounds are still quite bloody, even infected and destroying the surrounding tissue, we certainly don’t want to cover them again; we want to seek healing and not to expose them to everyone right now.  Or maybe we just need some stitches to help us heal or perhaps an infection specialist. 

Perhaps we will see that we are already healed; we might see a scar, and that’s evidence of a measure of healing.  And then if someone needs to see to believe for themselves, we can show them our scars and tell our story.  I’ll bet you already do that; and for that, we are thankful.

Will you pray with me? Lord Jesus, we thank you for your healing powers.  We pray that we will see more and more of those powers working in us and for us.  We will not reject our scars but offer them as invitations to believe in healing.  Thank you for being our Savior and our Exemplar.  Help us, heal us, bring Shalom.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

And Jesus went on with the disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” . . . “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
. . . . “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his [soul] for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:27-38

Intro: We are at the center of Mark’s gospel, heart of his message – the hub of the wheel

In chapter 8 Mark pulls everything together
– Jesus Christ appeared in the world on a mission
• he came to introduce people to the kingdom of God
• but making them aware of God’s presence and kingdom proved to be extremely difficult
◦ it is not easy for us to awaken to God’s Spirit
– this chapter reveals the tension our worldly mind and spiritual mind more clearly than any other
• I tried to describe this tension a few years ago in one of my meditations:
“A theme that Mark has emphasized, is that the human mind is geared to physical reality. As a result, our minds do not open easily to the spiritual realm, in fact, we are resistant to it. We are fixated on the material realm and how it is humanly perceived, experienced, and manipulated. The term Mark uses for our fixation is ‘hardened heart.’ This has been the disciples’ struggle for awhile. Their hardened hearts prevented them from gaining insight from Jesus’ miracles (Mk. 6:52). They keep missing the point, because their minds were stuck in material literalness.
When Peter rebuked Jesus, his mind was locked by his limited perception and consciousness. Jesus pointed this out when he told Peter he was not setting his mind ‘on the things of God, but on the things of [humans]’ (v. 33). It seems that Peter felt ashamed of a crucified Messiah. That resulted naturally from his one-dimensional perception. Given a more complete perception, he would learn that the real shame lies not in following a crucified Messiah, but being disowned by him when he comes ‘in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’
Jesus is the revelation that enlightens us to the dimension of God’s kingdom. He contrasts the realm of ‘this generation’ with the realm of ‘his Father [and his] angels,’ which is the same contrast we see between ‘the things of [humans]’ and ‘the things of God.’ The truth that has been illuminated in the previous stories, like light shining through stained glass windows, bursts through this chapter in brilliant color. I may not see the full spectrum very well, but I know the truth is here, and it is larger than my universe.”

The chapter begins with another “miracle meal”

The way Mark introduces it, is different from the previous one
– it begins with Jesus explaining to the disciples his compassion for the families gathered there
• they were in this “desolate place” because of him
◦ they followed him here because they wanted to be with him
• it’s true that they had to go home sometime, but he could not just send them away
◦ they’d have to labor across rugged terrain on empty stomachs
– how Jesus treated the crowd is a lesson for his disciples
• the concern for others that they needed to feel and act on
From my meditations: “This is Jesus Christ our Lord. ‘In the days of his flesh’ he knew hunger and weariness; he knew suffering and sorrow; he knew empathy and compassion. Jesus felt what the crowd felt. He feels what we feel.”

On the move again, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees

They came to him, not to be with him like the others, but to argue with him
– they asked for a sign to prove himself–that he came from God
• Mark describes Jesus’ initial response to their challenge this way: he sighed deeply in his spirit
◦ for years, that phrase has intrigued me
From my meditations: “My thoughts swirl around his deep sigh. What did it signify? Sorrow? Frustration over their demand that he satisfy their rational minds? Why could they not see that God was calling them to a larger reality than can be contained by this world or human minds? God’s kingdom is infinite space and eternal time. Signs may point people in the right direction –if they accept the sign–, but signs do not provide access to the kingdom of God.
How can we possibly know the depth of Jesus? From those subterranean depths there came a sigh. It is ‘in his spirit’ that Jesus sighed. What does it tell us? A sigh emerges from feelings too deep for words. Jesus does not feel the compassion for the Pharisees that he felt toward the crowd. The Pharisees do not get their sign. They get nothing from him other than a warning. God’s Spirit sighs over our stumbling around in the dark.”

I have come to believe that verse 14 is a setup

This sort of maneuver is sometimes referred to as “priming”
– a thought is placed in a person’s mind to influence their response to a question that follows
• we read “bread” then “yeast” and make an automatic association
◦ with the disciples we think “bread” — and it is important that we fall for this trick
◦ it puts us in the same position as disciples
• we need to realize that we have the same problem!
◦ our minds naturally turn to the physical and literal meaning of words
– what was the immediate danger the Pharisees presented?
• a mind-set that demanded physical or rational validation
◦ that God must let us touch the intangible, see the invisible for us to believe
◦ it is the mind-set of “human things” over “God’s things”
• if we let go of the materialist mind-set, we begin to see
◦ bread can be a sign; a fig tree can be a sign; a fishing net can be a sign

I notice in scolding the disciples, every sentence Jesus speaks is a question
– to me, the most devastating question is, “Are your hearts hardened?”
From my meditations: “A ‘yes’ answer to this question would answer his other questions. “Yes, I am blind; yes, I am deaf; no I do not perceive or understand, because my heart is hardened.”
The leaven of the Pharisees does not make bread rise, it makes hearts harden. A hardened heart is one that cannot change.”
• he also asks, Do you not yet understand?
◦ as if saying, “If you don’t get it by now, you’ll never get it”
• what were they supposed to understand by now?
◦ that with Jesus material needs are never the main concern?
◦ perhaps God meeting our material need is a secondary grace
giving us his kingdom may be his primary grace
seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Mt. 6:33)

I’m convinced Mark deliberately placed next story in this spot

It’s a story about a blind man – but it’s an odd one
– first, it follows the exact pattern of a healing before this chapter
• in both stories:
▫Jesus has just arrived in a location
▫ the people there bring a disabled man
▫ they beg Jesus to heal him
▫ specifically, to touch him
▫ Jesus takes the man aside
▫ touches him
▫ applies spit
▫ heals him (one hears clearly, the other sees plainly)
▫ Jesus instructed them not to tell
◦ besides sharing this unique pattern, these are the only healings stories in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in which Jesus uses spit in the process of healing someone
• Mark wants us to connect these two stories with disciples, who Jesus just now asked,
Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?
– the second odd thing about this story,
• the blind man is not healed instantly, but in stages

Here is how I read this story:
– Jesus has just dealt his disciples a devastating blow
• he’s demonstrated that they have not made much progress
◦ I imagine that left them feeling discouraged
• but it’s not only the disciples who take a hit,
◦ we the readers also realize we’re not getting anywhere either
◦ we feel just as blind, deaf, and uncomprehending
and, we may fear it’s a chronic condition with no fix
– eyes and ears are organs of perception
• in two stories, before and after his criticism of the disciples, Jesus worked miracles
◦ he made a deaf man hear and a blind man see
• Jesus was showing his disciples what he could do for them
◦ by working miracles, he could open their ears and eyes
◦ and he could also crack open their hardened hearts
• as frustrating as it may be for both teacher and student,
◦ receiving and owning spiritual insight comes in stages — as with the blind man’s healing

In an unusual twist, Jesus tested the blind man’s sight (v. 23)

That’s also what he did with disciples when warned them regarding the leaven of the Pharisees
– now, after his scolding them and healing the blind, Jesus he tests them again
Who do people say that I am? . . . But who do you say that I am?
• this time they pass the test – they have 20/20 vision
• but then he begins to inform them of what lies ahead
◦ Mark adds, “And he said this plainly”–unlike his analogy with the leaven
– what happens next is way too familiar – it’s definitely my MO
• Peter reverts to his rational-literal mind-set
• and we’re back to where we started at the beginning of this talk

Conclusion: Jesus sums up perfectly everything we’ve gone over

If there’s one point on which all of this is balanced, it’s your soul
What can a man give in return for his soul?
What kind of deal can you broker for your soul?
And once you’ve completed the negotiation, you’ve lost your soul

Awareness has consequences
We can no longer trust the rational, literal, material mind-set
We realize that there is no worldly road that brings us to a life worth living,
there is only the daily pursuit of following Jesus

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