Wednesday, December 08, 2021

The disciple who needed an updated spiritual lens prescription

| September 9, 2021 1:00 AM

Mark 8:27-30, from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, says, “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 answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.”

I have heard it said that the above passage is “the center” of Mark’s Gospel. I would argue that this might not be the case, unless one includes the possibility of it being seen in a particular light.

As a standalone passage, Mark 8:27-30 seems quite straightforward. Peter seems to have nailed it. He has finally put everything together. He has the right answer.

However, when we see what comes before and after Peter’s declaration, our eyes may be opened to a greater truth.

What comes directly before Peter’s statement is a rather odd healing story (Mark 8:22-26):

“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.’”

So, what happened here? Was Jesus a little bit off his game that day? Why didn’t he get it right the first time? As a standalone passage, I find it difficult to discern and quite troublesome.

However, if we allow the tenor of the passage to flow directly into Peter’s confession, we may interpret things differently.

You see, Peter wasn’t totally right in his response. He was only halfway there. Yes, he had the right words – “(Jesus) is the Messiah,” but he lacked a complete grasp of what that meant.

He was like the blind man who only received half of his sight and did not yet fully see.

After Peter’s declaration, Jesus tells his disciples quite openly about what kind of Messiah he would be. Peter is shocked (and perhaps embarrassed). Jesus’ public speech of his death and resurrection was simply too hard to swallow. As a result, Peter takes Jesus aside and tries to straighten him out. That just seemed like crazy talk to him.

Jesus responds by rejecting Peter’s action: “Get behind me, Satan.”

So, Peter only got it half right at that time. His “spiritual vision” was not yet complete.

Can we be open to having our view of Jesus and his Messiahship challenged? If so, in what ways? Perhaps we only see part of the picture of who might be included under his Messiahship?

If is the case, may God allow our eyes to fully see.

Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Moses Lake and has served as parish pastor for more than 30 years.