Archive for December, 2019

Mark 8:22-26

December 3, 2019

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.” Mark 8:22-26

There is an old joke (that I can never remember) about how all the people who had been healed by Jesus showed up at a convention. Then began arguing about the correct way to be healed by Jesus since their experiences were each slightly different. The punchline is that this was the beginning of modern denominationalism. Today’s reading features a man who would argue that healing is a two-stage process.

It is a strange reading, isn’t it? The surprise comes when Jesus doesn’t get it right the first time. This is the only time this happens. The rest of the story has all of the elements that we have come to expect – people bringing a friend for healing, Jesus taking time to respond, restoring his sight, sending him home with instructions not to say anything to anyone. But what’s with the two tries before he sees clearly?

I honestly don’t know. But I think the surprise is worth pondering.

The last thing we should do with this story is to get all literal about it. I can well imagine someone in a Bible study asking, “But if the guy was blind, how could he recognize that people look like walking trees, if he had never seen trees or people before?” Then it is off to the speculation races on how the guy might have lost his vision in a childhood accident with an Official Daisy Red Ryder Range Model 1938 Shepherd’s Staff.

Maybe today we should just live with the question. We can ponder ideas like these:

  • There is a difference between looking and seeing, just like the difference between hearing and listening.
  • We don’t always see as clearly as we think we do.
  • No one is as blind as the one who refuses to see.
  • There is always more to learn, more to discover. More meanings emerge over time as we make our way through life.
  • We simply don’t look at things the way we used to…which is a good thing.

Let us pray: Open our eyes, Lord, that we might truly see. Heal the blindness we can’t see. Restore your vision to our eyes. Give us the patience that healing sometimes requires. And thank you for friends who aren’t content to leave us to our struggles but encourage us to get the help we need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 8:14-21

December 2, 2019

Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.”

And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.”

“And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:14-21

Sometimes, in reading the gospels, the disciples come off looking pretty clueless. Especially in Mark. Matthew goes out of his way to clean that up. For example, in Mark 10, James and John come forward with an inappropriate request to be given seats of honor in Jesus’ kingdom. Matthew softens that in Matthew 20 where he says it was the mother of the boys who made the request.

But in this passage I think we need to give the disciples a break. Forgetting to pack enough lunch is one thing, understanding what Jesus means in talking about “yeast” is another. What is Jesus saying?

We know something about the Pharisees and Herod and their unholy alliance. The only thing they have in common is mistrust about Jesus and his followers. Herod has already dispatched with John the Baptizer. The Pharisees are countering Jesus at every turn. But what is the deal with “yeast”?

I like the old line, “The shortest distance between two points begins with the first step, hopefully in the right direction.” The right direction is the key. If you head off in the wrong direction, you can walk forever and never get there. Maybe the world of ideas works the same way.

What fuels the Pharisees and Herod are fear, mistrust, self-centeredness, and pride. No doubt they think they are doing the right thing in opposing Jesus but they are blind to their own motivations. And if they aren’t blind, then they are just making a brazenly self-serving political calculation that they can just get rid of him and they’ll be just fine.

Jesus reminds his disciples of his ability to meet the needs of those who follow him. The crowds were fed. Jesus didn’t need the cooperation of the Pharisees or the authority of Herod to do what he had come among them to do. What Jesus wants from his disciples is their trust.

Maybe, when it comes to trusting Jesus, the problem might be more than misunderstanding. Maybe the problem is hedging our bets. We want to follow Jesus but we are fearful of riling up the “Herods and the Pharisees” in our own lives. We want to dip our toe into the water instead of diving in headfirst. In this light, Jesus is doing more than cautioning his disciples. He is inviting them to dive in.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, help us, especially now as we move into this new week and this busy season, to trust the “enoughness” of our lives. To trust that we are enough. To trust that you are enough. Save us from veering off to the many enticing dead-end paths that would take our eyes off of following you in all things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 8:14-21

December 2, 2019

Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.”

And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.”

“And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:14-21

Sometimes, in reading the gospels, the disciples come off looking pretty clueless. Especially in Mark. Matthew goes out of his way to clean that up. For example, in Mark 10, James and John come forward with an inappropriate request to be given seats of honor in Jesus’ kingdom. Matthew softens that in Matthew 20 where he says it was the mother of the boys who made the request.

But in this passage I think we need to give the disciples a break. Forgetting to pack enough lunch is one thing, understanding what Jesus means in talking about “yeast” is another. What is Jesus saying?

We know something about the Pharisees and Herod and their unholy alliance. The only thing they have in common is mistrust about Jesus and his followers. Herod has already dispatched with John the Baptizer. The Pharisees are countering Jesus at every turn. But what is the deal with “yeast”?

I like the old line, “The shortest distance between two points begins with the first step, hopefully in the right direction.” The right direction is the key. If you head off in the wrong direction, you can walk forever and never get there. Maybe the world of ideas works the same way.

What fuels the Pharisees and Herod are fear, mistrust, self-centeredness, and pride. No doubt they think they are doing the right thing in opposing Jesus but they are blind to their own motivations. And if they aren’t blind, then they are just making a brazenly self-serving political calculation that they can just get rid of him and they’ll be just fine.

Jesus reminds his disciples of his ability to meet the needs of those who follow him. The crowds were fed. Jesus didn’t need the cooperation of the Pharisees or the authority of Herod to do what he had come among them to do. What Jesus wants from his disciples is their trust.

Maybe, when it comes to trusting Jesus, the problem might be more than misunderstanding. Maybe the problem is hedging our bets. We want to follow Jesus but we are fearful of riling up the “Herods and the Pharisees” in our own lives. We want to dip our toe into the water instead of diving in headfirst. In this light, Jesus is doing more than cautioning his disciples. He is inviting them to dive in.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, help us, especially now as we move into this new week and this busy season, to trust the “enoughness” of our lives. To trust that we are enough. To trust that you are enough. Save us from veering off to the many enticing dead-end paths that would take our eyes off of following you in all things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.