Damariscotta Baptist Church
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

02/22/15 Sermon - It's A Process

“It’s A Process”

Mark 8:22 – 9:1

 

With today’s Scripture reading in Mark, we have officially made it to the dead center of Mark’s gospel. This is what the literary scholars would call the “climax” of the book or the “turning point”. Let’s take a bit of a review. Up until this point in the Mark’s gospel, Jesus and his disciples have been roaming Galilee, healing people, curing diseases, feeding multitudes, etc. Now, on the outskirts of a Roman town Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his disciples, two important questions.

 

Before we go on, I thought I would do the same to you. You will find on your table, a business card sized paper, with the same two questions. I would like you to take a couple of minutes and write down your answers to these two questions: Today

 

1)    Who do people say Jesus is?

2)    Who do YOU say Jesus is?

I am going to challenge you to NOT write what was read to us from Scripture today.

 

For the first question, I doubt you would answer the same as the disciples, because there are probably few people, today, who would say Jesus is, John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. So, think for a minute. If you were to ask someone on the street, who Jesus is, what do you think the most popular answer would be?

 

For question two, we have read what Peter thought, but I think even though Peter said that Jesus was “the Christ” in the very next discourse, Jesus calls Peter “Satan”, when he states this, so even though Peter may have had the “right” answer, he certainly did not “understand” what being “the Christ” meant.

 

 

What I am trying to get at, is there are no “right and wrong” answers to these questions. These questions are “opinions”. I am asking you to write down your opinion, or your thoughts to: Today, who do people say Jesus is and who do you say Jesus is?

 

[Give time for people to write their answers and set up the following to watch:

 

YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YztvjePz0uk]

 

Now, though your answers may not be “right or wrong” I do believe your answers exist on a spectrum, a spectrum of enlightenment.

Each of us has known Jesus for a different amount of time – and each of us has invested a different amount of time nurturing our relationship with Jesus.

 

In other words, being able to understand who Jesus is,

 

for anyone,

 

is a “process”. 

 

And each of us is in a different place in our process of our

 

relationship with God. If we went around the room this morning and shared what each of you wrote down, there would be as many different answers as there are individuals. What I hope you recognize is that the answer you wrote down today, would not be the answer you would have written the first time you met Jesus.

 

As we look more closely at today’s Scripture, I think you will begin to see how the disciples, the men who actually hung out with Jesus, day in and day out, for three years – didn’t understand Jesus – it took the crucifixion & resurrection, the ultimate sacrifice – before they really got it.  

 

From this point on – the Book of Mark – we are going to see the process of the disciples being more enlightened to what Jesus means by the Kingdom of God and Messiah.

Let’s begin with today’s Scripture reading of the healing of a blind man. Did you notice that this time, Jesus didn’t heal the blind man, the first time? It says, at first he put spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him and then he asked the man, if he could see anything. The man responded saying he was able to make out humans, but they looked like trees walking around.  Then we read, once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. After that, the man’s eyes were restored and he was seeing clearly. 

 

If you remember the last time we were in church talking about  the book of Mark, I commented that although the miracles Jesus performed while He was on earth, were literally accomplished, they also had figurative meaning. And the description of this healing, which comes directly before Jesus’ questions to his disciples on who the people and who they thought He was, is an excellent example of the figurative.

Could Jesus have healed this blind man with one touch? Certainly, I believe Jesus didn’t even need to touch, spit or physically come near the man, in order to heal him. Jesus could have just said the word, and it would have been done. Remember the Centurion’s servant? The servant was at home, and Jesus told the Centurion, because of his faith, the servant was healed. (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10)

 

But this time we have a blind man, and after his first personal encounter with Jesus, he begins to see, but things are still a bit fuzzy, people look like walking trees. Then the blind man has a second encounter with Jesus and he can see clearly.

 

There was a process for this man of being able to see.

 

We have the process of:

Being blind,

Having an encounter with Jesus,

going from blind, to beginning to see,

having another encounter with Jesus,

and being able to see clearly.

Right on the heals of this healing in progressive steps,we see a similar progression. We see disciples going from being spiritually blind to spiritually beginning to see. Jesus is walking down the road with his disciples and he asks them the two questions, that are going to turn this book into a different direction. The answer to the second question, which Peter has correct, by the way, begins the opening of the spiritual eyes of his disciples. The direction of Jesus’ mission takes a 90 degree turn, towards Golgotha, in fact, Jesus spits it out in unmistakable terms.

 

In verse 31 we read that Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

 

The next verse, verse 32 reads, “He spoke plainly about this”

 

This is not a parable, it is not a statement Jesus wants the disciples to ponder and figure out. This time Jesus is speaking as plainly as can be. And notice, the disciples don’t get it. In fact, they are so far away from understanding that Jesus calls Peter “Satan”. Now you can’t get any further from God, than Satan.

 

How could Peter have been so far off?

 

 

Because the Jews, including the Jesus’ Jewish disciples were looking for a powerful leader, someone like King David, so when they hear Jesus talking about being killed, they don’t hear anything else.

 

Now let’s not be too harsh on the disciples. We still listen this way at times, when we hear bad news, we stop listening to the details and our minds freeze on the bad news.

For example, you are in the doctor’s office and she begins her sentence with, “I have some bad news, I’m afraid we have cancer.” From that point on, you don’t hear another word. You may be listening, but your brain has frozen on the “C” word.

 

I think that’s what happened with Peter. The disciples, the Jews for that matter, had a preconceived view of what the Christ, the Messiah was going to be like, based on what they had experienced before. Based on their perception of what it meant to rule a kingdom, any talk about the Messiah being killed did not fit, at all.

 

I don’t think we are much different today. I far as I can see,  Christians today are very much like the blind man in this story directly after Jesus puts the spit on his eyes and touches him. We are looking around at our Christianity, and at our view of who God is and who Jesus is, like the blind man looked and we see people who looked like walking trees.

We have an idea, and we have most of it right, but in reality we are not seeing clearly. And until Christ returns I don’t think we will ever get 20/20 vision. But I do believe, our vision gets clearer and clearer the more time we spend seeking our LORD.

If we keep reading in this passage, Jesus explains, in more detail, exactly what we still need to be learning today. We read in verse 34, Jesus calls the crowd along with his disciples and tells them that if anyone would come after Jesus, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Jesus.

 

That statement was just as upside-down when the disciples heard it as it is for us today.

 

Think about it, in order to follow the King of Kings, I am supposed to deny myself, and take up my cross, then follow Jesus?

 

In order to save my life, I have to lose it?

 

Okay, that is not what I see in the movies, or read in books, in fact, it is the exact opposite.

 

And that is exactly what the Kingdom of God is –

Exactly the opposite of what we are taught, what we see, what we experience on Earth.

 

When I think about it, that statement makes sense. According to the Bible, right now, on Earth, and when the disciples were alive, the Earth is inhabited by Satan, the King of selfishness,

In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, it reads:

 

"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God."

 

If I want to be a part of God’s Kingdom, doing the opposite of what Satan does, what the world does, makes sense to me.

But if you are anything like me your next question would be,

 

What does it mean exactly:

 

To deny myself?

 

To take up my cross?

 

To follow Jesus?

 

To Lose my life?

 

Halford Edward Luccock (1885–1961) a prominent American Methodist minister and professor of Homiletics at Yale's Divinity School described the denial of “self” this way….

 

  "The denial of self…is making ourselves not an end, but a means, in the kingdom of God.  It is subordinating the clamoring ego….for Christ's sake, for the sake of putting the self into his cause." 

 

In other words, we are not to be making ourselves the ultimate. We are to remember the ultimate is the Kingdom of God, and everything about us, should be a reflection of Christ in us, not a reflection of us, in Christ.

 

And the reflection of Christ has the vision of a cross imbedded in it. Christ’s life on earth was not easy. And neither will our lives be easy. In fact, Christ said, in John 16:33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Keeping the Kingdom of God, in mind, is difficult. We often get so caught up in the daily existence, we forget the big picture. And so far, we have learned that the Kingdom of God is quite opposite to what we experience on earth.

 

You can bet, that was exactly how the disciples saw it too.

Knowing this about the disciples gives me hope. It allows me to admit, I don’t quite have all of the answers. I have more answers now than I did when I started my walk with Jesus. My walking trees are looking more like people every day. And I would like to encourage you to recognize your progression and walk with me.

And while we are walking, let us put the Kingdom of God, first, at least the parts of it that we understand, and take heart, Jesus has overcome the world!

 

 

Let’s Pray.