No Way, José!
In 2008, the British talk-show host and model, Katie Piper, was attacked with acid by her ex-boyfriend. The attack damaged her face and left her blind in her left eye. She was treated like a burn victim, and also received stem-cell treatment to restore her sight. As her vision was returned she did an interview in which she was asked: “What can you see now?” She responded, “It’s a bit like when you open your eyes under water. You can see stuff, but it’s all a bit murky.”
We’ve been talk’n bout Jesus for a few weeks. How people see him; how the disciples were starting to see him. Well, today we’re in the 8th chapter of Mark where the vision of Jesus is still murky.
Seeing Jesus clearly requires understanding why he died. To get at this I’m going to start in an unexpected place: Jesus’ healing of a blind man. Why start here? It will be clear later on.
Jesus Healed the Blind Man
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:22–25).
Like some of the fireworks we’ll see on the 4th of July, this is a two-stage miracle. Jesus spit on the man, touches him, then asked, “Do you see anything?” Remember what the man said? “I see people, but they look like trees, walking” (Mark 8:24). He saw something, but it was all murky. So, Jesus touches the man again, and “he saw everything clearly” (Mark 8:25).
What’s really interesting isn’t the miracle. What’s interesting is it’s placement. Mark has set it up as a metaphor about what’s going on in the disciples. They’re having their sight restored, not physical sight, but spiritual sight … and it’s taking multiple touches by Jesus.
The disciples were getting the contours of Jesus, but he was still murky to them. He was like a tree walking around. So, Jesus touches them with a question in the next episode.
Jesus Went to the Village
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:27–29).
Jesus is getting to his point slowly. First, “What do they say… What’s the word on the street?” he asks. The report is that everyone thinks he’s a dead man—I don’t think they were trying to be prophetic. But certainly the scuttlebutt is that Jesus is both unusual and spiritual.
Then, Jesus moves the point closer to home: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Peter breaks the silence: “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). Was he shocked by what flew from his mouth? Maybe.
Yet he saw clearly: “You’re the Christ; the anointed king of heaven; the one who is gonna change everything; the one who is gonna change us; the one who is gonna change me.”
Peter got it! Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus’ response: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 16:17).
Jesus Brings the Blessing
Why, blessed? Because contrary to popular opinion “blessing” isn’t primarily what you put in your pocket. Peter is blessed because of what his soul possesses, what he sees. He’s blessed because he realizes that his soul is thirsty, and he’s moving towards God with hope.
When I was in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago. I’d was feeling numb, lost, reliving the pain and shame of my trauma induced disorders. I had breakfast on the last morning with the seminar speaker and I told him that I feel much purpose. He said many things, then asked if the group could pray for me. I said, “No. I didn’t want to be the center of attention.” I felt better hiding.
When breakfast ended we went off to our last class session. The teaching moved on to articulate that “The Impossible Is Possible,” reading from Paul’s prayer for spiritual growth in Ephesians 3:
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Eph 3:14–19).
As the prayer was read I felt drawn towards a hope: “Could this power touch me; could it hold me?” I noticed myself being thirsty. My thirsty soul fought against me. With my face buried in my hand, I wanted to hide, but my arm went up in the air. I spoke simply, “Now, Larry.”
He responded, “What would you like us to do for you, Dan?”
“You may pray as you asked,” I said.
As the class gathered around me I was over taken with a release of sorrow, which caused me to heave uncontrollably. They prayed for several minutes before the course continued. But I was blessed. Why? Because thought I wanted to hide, I let them see me, and they helped me to experience the love of Christ more fully. Someone placed their cheek against mine, I didn’t see who, and I felt as though Jesus was holding me in the moment.
I was blessed. Peter was blessed. I don’t think Peter had a clue how Jesus would change him, how the kingdom would come. But Jesus did …
Jesus Pays the Ransom
“And [Jesus] 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” (Mark 8:31-32).
But then, Peter, declared: “No way, José! Death ain’t the way to build a kingdom today!”
“And Peter took [Jesus] 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” (Mark 8:33).
Why did Jesus have to die?
Well, in chapter 10 Mark records Jesus explaining that the world builds kingdoms by one person lording over another, then he says that’s not my way … “Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
How is he going to change us?
When Jesus says: “I’ve come to give my life as a ransom,” he laid claim to the greatest ransom ever. Although… it wasn’t paid to a kidnapper. It was the price required to deliver us what enslave, entraps and ensnares us—sin.
A lot of folks look on sin as something done or something left undone. And there’s some truth to that. But all of that is motivated by something.
At our core we say: “I want to be happy!”, which is a valid human desire. Nothing wrong with it …
… except when it get’s raised over everything else;
… except when it drives us to demand that we get to decide the difference between good and evil;
… except when it causes us think: “I can’t abandoning myself to God; I’ll lose out on joy.”
“Knowing and loving God will not bring me joy, so I’ll find another way, my experience of this life will be my guide! My feelings of pain and pleasure will guide me, defining for me what is life and death for my soul.”
What this means is there’s a wall that fills the relational space between us and God—we’re separated, no fellowship, no trust, no reliance. That’s sin, friends. It’s a soul disease that enslaves.
Jesus Frees from the Managed Life
And so we live a self-centered, managed life. We’re not a free. I wasn’t free when I hiding in my pain, refusing to allow the class to see me in need, to pray for me.
Did you hear about the man who lived in India and was required to take a rather long train trip to another city? He had his most valuable belongings packed in a suitcase which he placed in the rack above his seat. He told himself that it was important he stay awake to keep track of that suitcase. But during the night, for only a couple of minutes, he closed his eyes and dozed off. When he opened his eyes and looked up, someone had stolen his suitcase. To his amazement, he was relieved. “Thank God,” he exclaimed out loud, “now I can go to sleep!” (Steve Brown)
If we belong to Jesus, we don’t have anything to protect or hide anymore. It’s been forgiven by the Father.
When I think about this story I’m reminded of my little son, Kellen. The other days he was rubbing his eye fiercely, so I concluded that he needed a nap. I changed him, fed him, and took him to a dark place and rocked him. When I put him in the crib he wouldn’t sleep, he just cried and cried. I went back in, picked him up, and held him until he fell asleep on my chest. It was as though he said: “I don’t need to worry anymore, I’m being held. I can sleep.”
If we belong to Jesus, we don’t have to struggle anymore. We’re held by the Father.
I say this because long, long ago, way back in Genesis 22 (vv. 1–19), God asked Abraham to take his son Issac up Mt. Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice. I would have said: “No way, José!” but Abraham went up the mountain, built an altar, and put Issac on it.
The very thing that Abraham was grounding his joy in, something other than God, was the thing God asked him to sacrifice. “Abraham, something has to die if you’re going to have a relationship with me—something is a wall between us. You’ve got second things first. You want joy on your own terms.”
When Abraham was ready to give everything to God and slay Issac, an angel stopped him. A substitute ram was provided, atoning for the rupture of Abraham’s relationship with God. And that ram also foreshadowed the price God would pay, his own Son, to atone for our ruptured relationship with God.
Jesus Removes the Relational Wall
There’s no reason to fear the Father. He’s forgiven, making atonement to remove the wall between us, so that we’d be held close.
There were many different reactions to Jesus’s death…
Peter said, “No way, Jose!” Because he thought that God’s kingdom would be like the kingdoms of the world, just more powerful. He didn’t realize that the problem wasn’t political or economic or militaristic, the problem was deep within with our desires and demanding spirits—too entrenched in his thinking to understand.
When Jesus was crucified the soldiers carried on doing what they were doing, they were too busy to see that Jesus was right then building the foundation for a kingdom that could carry even them—too busy to understand.
The priests thought they knew the way to God. Perfect rituals, feasts, birth right… none of it aimed at the way they related. It was just a managed life. They would allow for the idea that the more they lost their self-centeredness, the more that God would be glorified and take care of what they needed— too proud to understand.
The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, was in hiding. Having given into the crowd, literally washed his hand of the whole ordeal—too weak to understand.
There was, however, one Roman centurion who drew near. He faced Jesus as Jesus died; he saw that the cost for “kingdom relating” was great, and said: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)—too right in his understanding.
Joy isn’t having things go well. “True joy is found only in the presence of the Father … nowhere else” (Steve Brown).
Jesus died to tear down the wall between the Father and us, so we could dance in his presence. He died because the Father didn’t say, “No way, José!”