In today's passage, we read an account of Jesus giving sight to a blind man, and are reminded that spiritual blindness is as much a danger for us today as it ever has been. The patience and persistence of Christ as our teacher and healer ought to move us farther on as we follow His example and as we call others to follow Jesus Christ.
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Father, wherever we come from, we really do make that our prayer, that right now you'd get rid of the distractions that undoubtedly still fill our hearts and cloud our minds. Allow us to hear from you as if you were here. Through your Word and us talking about you, I pray you would open the eyes of our hearts, all of us, wherever we're at, that we could take that next step toward understanding you for who you really are. Thanks for a chance to be together, to look at your Word, and to watch you, by grace, affect change in our lives. In Christ's name, amen.
Welcome again. We are thrilled that we get this chance to worship together. As I every week have the privilege of preparing for my part on Sunday mornings, there are different weeks that I just go, "This is an incredible privilege I have to study God's Word and to communicate it to you in a way that hopefully does affect more than just giving you more information but produces transformation."
I have been excited really all week about today and what God's Word has for us as we study it. It's a little passage of Scripture that, frankly, is only in the gospel of Mark. It's only here, not in the other three gospels, not in Matthew, not in Luke, not in John, that we find this little passage. We're in the process of studying about this person, Jesus, and looking at him in, specifically, the gospel that was written by Mark. If you have your Bibles, turn to Mark, chapter 8. We're going to read a little section of Scripture starting in verse 22, down through 26.
Let me reset the table for you. This comes right on the heels of the second rather grand miracle that Jesus did. We called it the feeding of the 4,000 last week. There were over 4,000 satisfied customers but 12 still very confused disciples who did not quite understand who it was they were in the presence of. Even though through the first eight chapters that Mark has told us about all of the things Christ has done, these 12 men who had been called specifically to be nearest to him, in spite of all that they had seen, still weren't quite getting it.
We have, framing this feeding of the 4,000, two little miracles. One where a guy who was deaf, Jesus takes him at the end of chapter 7 and allows his hearing to be more complete. Then here, on the backside of the feeding of the 4,000, we have a gentleman who was blind who comes to Jesus.
This is the only what would be called a two-stage miracle or a two-step healing miracle, in all of the Scriptures. When Jesus spoke into this man's life and offered him healing, the healing wasn't complete right away. As I was reading this, I said, "This is not a miracle that should be titled: 'The Day Jesus Did Not Eat His Wheaties.'" This is not where Popeye didn't consume enough spinach, or Underdog only got half a pill and so his powers were limited. That's not at all what's going on here.
There's a reason why this blind man who we're about to read about was only healed halfway at the beginning, and then completely healed as he stayed before the Savior. Let me remind you what's going on. Jesus just got through talking to his followers specifically about their inability to see him for who he really is despite all that they've seen. He asks them, "How come you are so hardhearted, so deaf though you've got ears, and so blind that you can't see even though you've got eyes? What's wrong with you?" That's really the last thing we saw last week.
Then we pick up this little story in Mark, chapter 8. It says, "They came to Bethsaida, and they brought a blind man to Jesus. They entreated him, begged him, to touch this guy. Taking the blind man by the hand, he brought him out of the village. After spitting on his eyes and laying his hands upon him, Jesus asked the gentleman, 'Do you see anything?' The man looked up and said, 'I see men, for I am seeing them like trees walking about.' He laid his hands upon his eyes, and he looked intently, and the sight was restored. The gentleman began to see everything clearly. He sent him to his home, saying, 'Don't even go into the village, just get right home and get busy.'"
Now what in the world does this passage have to do with you and me? This is why I love what I get to do. Typically when you read the Scriptures, when I read the Scriptures, the thing to do is to go, "Well that was a nice story. If someone ever asks me, 'Was there ever a time when Jesus healed a blind man?' I know that Mark 8:22-26 is one place I can go to say, 'Yeah, he did.'"
In fact, there's something curious about this. There are seven different individuals who we know Christ gave sight to their blind eyes. There are probably many more, but seven that are recorded. This one is unusual though, we might remember as we read this in our time together, because his healing happened in stages. The first time he saw men, but it was a fuzzy sight. He saw their limbs as branches with leaves on them because it was out of focus. The healing was coming but it wasn't complete yet.
Here's the thing. When you read the Bible, you're never quite done with what you were there to do until you answer this question which can be made up of these two words: So what? God gave us his Word, the Scripture tells us, not just to give us information, but that that information might produce, as we've said now several times this morning, transformation in our lives. It should affect change.
What is the change, or what is the truth, that should bring about change in our lives, that this little section of Scripture has wrapped up for us? I'm going to tell you; I had a lot of fun with this passage this morning and the context upon which it is set. I want to share with you what I think are biblical principles that you can observe in this passage and then hopefully help you take that step from observing those biblical principles and making some application from them in your life.
This is why I love God's Word. My hope in our time together on Sunday mornings is that when you hear what we do, what we can draw from the Scriptures together, that you not only remember necessarily exactly what we talked about in that given moment, but that you'd go, "Man, God's Word has that much in there for me? There's that much to encourage my soul, challenge my heart, transform my person? From these five verses, what is there for me?"
I'm going to give you some principles. First, deafness, blindness, and hardness of heart are just as likely to threaten disciples today as they were 2,000 years ago. What I think is going to happen right here in this little passage, and what I think the writer of the gospel is trying to communicate to us, is that it is a problem if you have ears and can't hear, eyes and can't see, and you have a heart that is increasingly getting hardened.
We know why physically each of those is a problem, but the point is those become metaphorical ways to say it's just as dangerous when those things happen spiritually. Helen Keller was asked one time, "Is there anything worse than being blind?" Her famous response was, "You bet. Having eyes and not being able to see." That's exactly what Jesus is fed up with right here.
In order to get the true context of this and why this principle is going to be applicable to our lives, let me set the table again. What I think happened here is that the disciples were completely confused and missed point about why Jesus fed the 4,000, why he fed the 5,000 before that, why he healed paralytics, and why he spoke and did the things he did. It was to teach them about who he was. They weren't getting the message.
What Christ is going to do is bring them aside. It says that he took this blind man away from the village, and I'll tell you why he did that in a minute. Undoubtedly, his disciples went with him. The disciples saw that Jesus was committed to healing this blind person. Though it sometimes happens in stages, Jesus' patience with the man and commitment to the man show that he is absolutely committed to completing the good work which he began in him. That's exactly what he's committed to with his disciples, and it's exactly what he's committed to with you and me.
This man is a type, an illustration, of what is happening with those who are beginning to continue to be around Christ but not get it. He is a type of many of us who are just slowly deepening in our understanding of who he is and how we ought to respond.
We read last week about these guys who sat at the feet of Christ, and after watching him feed thousands of people once, not understanding who Jesus was, saw him feed thousands of people again, and still missed it. We saw that deafness, blindness, and hardness of heart were a problem for them. Let's read it; look back at Mark, chapter 8.
Remember, it says, "In those days," verse 1. It says, "There was a great multitude there; they had nothing to eat. He called his disciples to be with him, and he said, 'Look I have compassion on them,'" in verse 2. "I want to do something with them." They said in verse 4, "Where will anyone be able to find enough to satisfy these men with bread here in desolate places?"
What I want to show you in this little miracle right here we took a glimpse at it last week is there was no awe expressed at all in what Christ did. When it got done, all they did was pack up what was left over and take off. There was no, "Man, that was wild! Did you see that? We had several loaves of bread and a few fish, and we just fed thousands of people. Man, who is this guy?
We know him personally. This is no normal man. We're reminded again that this is God in our midst, who can provide for us in a way that is supernatural, beyond what is natural. If this guy is with us, it matters not what we lack because this guy can take care of us."
You don't find that in Mark 8. In fact, the only awe that is expressed in this entire little scenario is the awe that this Jesus thinks he can do something in the face of a tremendous number of people who have need. That's what blows the disciples away. Look at it right there in verse 4.
The only awe his disciples show here was, "What a minute. What do you mean 'take care of these people'? Where are we, or you for that matter, going to ever find enough bread to satisfy all of these folks?" That's the sense of awe that they have. Their hearts didn't quite get who it was they were dealing with. Their eyes didn't quite clearly see. The eyes of their hearts had not yet been opened.
It goes on, and it talks about what he did. In verse 9 it says, "There were about 4,000 folks that were there, and he sent them away." There were 4,000 men that were there, so with wives and children, it was many more. When they got done eating, there was an abundance of food left, and no awe was expressed. How can that be?
Jump down to verse 13. It says, "Leaving the group of people he had just been with, he again embarked and went to the other side. They forgot to take bread, did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. He was giving orders to them, saying, 'Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.'"
The idea there is when you put a little bit of what these men had into the loaf of understanding that you have, it will take over the entire lump of dough you have. "A little leaven," as it's said, "leavens the whole lump." The leaven here that's spoken of, of the Pharisees and the Herodians, is the leaven of unbelief. These men who they were just with had refused to believe that Jesus was who he said he was, despite all of the evidence.
Jesus turns to his disciples, and he says, "Guys, be careful that you don't even get a little bit of what those guys have, which is a heart committed to not believing that I'm who I claim to be, despite all of the evidence I have given them." If you start to mess with a natural man's understanding, and if you rule out the possibility that God could be up to something here that's so wonderful that your mind could never quite absorb it, it will infiltrate your hearts and your minds, and it will poison the entire loaf. "Beware," he says.
Now they didn't quite get it, as we noticed last week. It says that they started to argue about the fact that they had no bread. Jesus then comes to them, and he says, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not see or understand? Have you got a hardened heart? Nope, you have problem eyes, problem ears."
Listen to what he says in verse 19: "'When I broke the five loaves for the 5,000, how many baskets full of pieces did you pick up?' They said, 'Twelve.' 'When I broke the seven loaves for the 4,000, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up then?' They said, 'Seven.'" What is implied there in verse 20 is, "What is your point?" Then he infiltrates right there. "Do you not yet understand?"
We look at this little story, and what Jesus does is pull them aside in the midst of another miracle, and he shows that, "Look, you guys still see fairly fuzzily about what I am, and who I am, and what I'm here to do. But if you stay near with me, as this blind man stays near me, I can deal with your deafness, blindness, and hardness of heart. I'm amazed at deafness. I'm amazed at all that I've done, and you still don't see."
As I started to think about this blind man and his slowly seeing who Christ was, I thought not about them, but I thought about me; I thought about us. I thought about how deafness, blindness, and hardness of heart is not just a problem the disciples had 2,000 years ago, but it's something we all struggle with. We sit here, and we sing, "You alone are God. You alone are Father. You alone are all that I need. When I'm with you, I'm alive, I've alive, I'm alive."
Yet how many of us get in situations where we get filled with despair, get confronted with something that creates doubt, and we start to wonder if God, in fact, can care for us in this circumstance despite the fact that he clearly has been faithful time and time and time again as we've gone to him. We always want some other sign, some other affirmation, that he can do what he's said that he's going to do, which is to care for us and to provide for us.
I started to think about the challenges that are ahead for this body. I reflected back on the fact that it was just two years ago, this week, that there were about 30 people who were in a house, praying, trying to figure out how we could serve God together in this city. We didn't have a children's ministry. We didn't have a children's minister. We didn't have anything for students.
We didn't have anything for married couples, for singles. We didn't have a worship team in place. We didn't have anything. We didn't have a bank account. We certainly didn't have any leadership that was ultimately in place. We just had a group of us who were getting together to start to pray.
We said, "God, we are trusting that you see the need in this city that we see, and that you have compassion on those who have been detached from you because the faith communities they've been in and around have not been connecting with them in the way we think you want to connect with people. They see church as irrelevant, out of touch. They see your Scriptures as powerless. They see take people who take your name as folks who just do it out of convenience on Sunday morning as a social gathering but doesn't affect real enduring change in their lives."
We went with nothing other than our confidence in God and his concern for others and the fact that he wanted to use his people to meet and minister to their needs. We look at two years later, and we can right now go look at the things God has done. This is why we regularly recount the life change that's happened in our midst.
When there are folks who are unchurched, far away from God, would have nothing to do with conversations about spiritual things, especially the biblical Jesus, and when we see him work in us and through us to provide the bread of life for them, the truth that transforms, we need to celebrate that, to remember that he does do what he said he wants to do.
When we see those who have been in church for a while but left because it no longer impacted their life or spoke powerfully and relevantly into their world, and we see them, all of a sudden, get excited about engaging with God's community again, we need to celebrate that and have a sense of awe about what God is doing in our lives and the lives of those who sit next to us.
When we see folks who have been in other churches where leadership has compromised the integrity of God's Word in order to not offend some people who still don't quite clearly understand the authority of God's Word, who back off truth in a way they shouldn't, who come here and are, at first, maybe offended that we have convictions that are contrary to their desires, and that we stand firmly on God's Word in a way they're not used to, all of a sudden, see the power of God's Word and become committed to it again and move out of a dead church environment into a church environment where there's a biblically-functioning community, we ought to celebrate that and have a sense of awe.
When we see those who are in our midst here for a while, who are enjoying the environment here, but, all of a sudden, dive in themselves, we ought to celebrate that the unmoved become moved to serve him. That's why we worship regularly the way we do. That's why we celebrate the Lord's Supper, Communion, once a month: to remember what he's done.
This is what the writer of the Scripture says: "He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things?" We are told again and again to remember all that he has done for us. Psalm 103 says it this way: "Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of his benefits [none of what he has done] ."
We need to regularly remember and set up stones of memorial through stories, testimonies, and written notes of encouragement for what God has done and is doing in our midst, because there are some challenges ahead for our body. We're going to pay double rent for three months, potentially, because we believe the facility we were at is ultimately going to serve our opportunity in this community better than this one will, and specifically our children because of the stresses and strains it's putting on them and our volunteers.
There's going to be a day when there's an opportunity to move forward in land, and we're going to go, "How in the world are we ever going to pull together the resources to buy land?" But we need that land if we think we're going to make the kind of impact we're going to make. I want us to remember right now that God's work done God's way will never lack God's provision.
What we have to discern is not if we can pull together to accomplish something. We have to ask ourselves, "Is this what God wants for us to do right now?" Together, we will discern that. Though it looks insurmountable, and though there's a multitude of challenges before us, if that's what God wants, the provision for it will be there. We have to remember right now that our inability to believe God and to see God working in our midst and to trust he can do things mightily in us and through us and to doubt that in spite of all of the evidence we have seen is just as tragic today as it was then. This is why we share our faith.
A little book called Philemon, verse 6, simply says this: "I pray that you might be active in sharing your faith." This is one of the best reasons for sharing the gospel on a regular basis. Why? So that you would have a full understanding of every good thing that you have in Christ. If we're regularly sharing with other people that there's a God who is, who loves you and can deal with your deepest need and bring you into life, capital L-I-F-E, we can remember he's done that for us. It strengthens us in our conviction that he is who he said he was.
If you have a hardened heart, an ear that's not really sure that God cares for you, and an eye that can't see the grandeur and splendor of God's love poured out on you, I want to challenge you to more often tell others about that work in your life. I will assure you that you will begin to see that your heart will be softened, your eyes will see with more clarity the great things he has done on your account, and you will forget none of his benefits.
You will be willing to trust him more the next time you face a challenge, and you will be willing to surrender to him more fully in that moment, as you need to, as you abide for him. Deafness, blindness, and hardness of heart are not just problems the disciples faced 2,000 years ago; they're a challenge in my life. They have to be a challenge in yours, individually, at times, and they're certainly a challenge we're going to have corporately.
Let me give you another little point of application that we have right here. Patience and persistence are necessary attributes of any good teacher. I would even expand that as I thought about it and say that patience and persistence are necessary attributes of any good friend, of any good parent, of any good pastor.
Look at 2 Timothy right here with me. Chapter 4, verses 1 and 2: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, preach the word…" We're like, "All right, man. I'm going to go out there." It says, "…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort…" We're like, "All right, we're all about that. We're going to go out, and we're going to lay it out on the line. We're going to tell people the truth."
Then this next little section, I think, is even more difficult to do than the prior one. It's the way you're supposed to do it. Preach the word, speak truth and grace and love into people's lives, and do it "…with great patience and instruction." What's implied there is persistent, repetitive instruction. Great teachers are always patient and persistent. As a parent, Lord, if this application is not before you, you're going to fail miserably.
This morning as I got up early and was with my kids before I took off… There's a little segue we've got in our family's life where we're feeding our kids and the younger ones are buckled in, so they don't go very many places. About the time they hit their late 2's, or certainly 3, we start to trust them in their own chair.
I am amazed at how difficult it is to keep a 2- to 3-year-old, and often a 4- to 5-year-old, actually in their chair during a meal. Repeatedly, at the Wagner household, while I'm walking from the table to go get the next bowl of whatever it is to bring back to them… If I went shopping, it's Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries. If my wife went shopping, it's something healthy.
As I'm going back to get and to bring it to them, repeatedly, in some amazing fashion, the individual sitting in that chair is, all of a sudden, on the floor and crying. I go, "How in the world did you fall off the chair on to the floor? You just sit in the middle of the chair, and you don't fall! The chair doesn't move; the room doesn't tilt. But you're on the floor."
This morning we had something happen that had never happened before. While we were moving from Cinnamon Life with Crunch Berries mixed in, over to get the milk and back, there was a spontaneous combustion where this time Cooper didn't just fall off the chair, but the chair, literally, itself flew over, fell back with his bowl underneath it, shattering the bowl, landing on Cooper, and scraping my wife's leg.
Out of nowhere, there was an explosion right there where Cooper sat. I wanted to kill him! I have milk here, I have a wife who's crying, I have a kid who's screaming in a small kitchen with tile floors, and it's echoing, and I'm going, "You don't even know how to sit without killing yourself!" This is a broad chair.
I was thinking about what I was going to do today, and in the midst of wanting to strangle him, in the midst of wanting to lecture him about the dynamics and physics of sitting still, I thought about how this is a moment that I can really show patience and persistence, and I did okay. Just okay.
I thought about how any good parent realizes… I looked, because here was this 3- to 5-year-old window. I looked at my 6- to 7-year-old; they've got a different set of challenges. They don't fall spontaneously out of chairs anymore; they don't sit in them very well. But I saw my 1-year-old buckled in; he was fine.
My 3- and 5-year-old fall out, blow up. My 6‑ and 7-year-old have not fallen out of their chairs in months, but they now are at a different stage. There's going to be a day when everybody sits, and we have an entire meal where nobody gets up. Unless I'm not patient, and then they'll all run away about the time they're 8, and then we'll never have that chance. I mean that.
I think about how I want to be a dad who realizes there are stages they go through. As I exhort them about Emily Post's dinner dynamics, I want to do it with patience so that they love me and know that I have their best interests in mind. Look what it says in Titus, chapter 2. This is verse 15.
"These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men." Remember this.
"For we were all once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."
We all once fell off our chairs on a regular basis and consistently fell off the throne of obedience. In fact, some of us didn't even know there was a chair to sit in. Due to the great patience and persistence of our great Teacher, many of us have been transformed and now sit at the table of life in a way that gives glory to our Father as we mature in him. But it takes time.
I was just in California about three weeks ago, speaking, and I was with my cousin, who is 15 years older than me. She and I talked about a lot of stuff that we had never really talked about. One of the things she shared is that when she was a teenager, she used to come and stay at our house every summer in St. Louis.
She said that she regularly asked my mother how in the world she kept from killing me specifically of all the children. She said, "Todd, I do mean it. I don't know how she kept from killing you. You were just a terror." I said, "Well, tell me some stories." She told me some stories. My mom has told me similar things without getting into such detail. I have a new gratefulness for the patience and persistence of my mother.
I started to think about some of you, and I'm certainly not going to mention names. There are individuals who sit right here today who for the last 5-10 years that I've had the privilege of being around you, many of you who for the last two years that we've been existing as a body, you have some real struggles in your lives. You're offensive at times, and you're defeated, and there's a blowup in your life. Out of nowhere, you're back off that chair, on the floor, crying in despair at the decision you just made.
I'm grateful that you continue to trust us to be patient and persistent with you. Let me just really encourage you this morning. I can think of a number of you who have the courage to stay a part of this family and not to run away in shame. There are a number of you who are believing that there are patient and persistent followers of Christ here who love you and who are proud of you as you labor for him, even in your blowing up and falling over.
I want you to know that one of the things I pray regularly is that I would have the eyes and mind of Christ. As I was thinking about this little point this week, I was reminded that Jesus saw men not as they were but as they someday would be. In the very beginning of the gospel of John, he looked at Peter. He said, "Your name is Simon." Which means in a kind of metaphorical way, rock, but he then takes that out and says, "But I'm going to make you a literal rock, someone who is strong."
If you know anything about the Scriptures and you've read much about Peter, he was a very volatile guy. He swayed a lot with emotions, whether that emotion be fear or anger or just the energy to say something when he shouldn't have. What Jesus said is, "Peter, I'm going to work in you to produce a steadfast, rock-solid man of conviction who will not be controlled by emotions, but a source of strength to other individuals."
I started to think about how Jesus saw men not for who they were but for who they could be, and I started to think about this. I started to think about the fact that here, and especially many times within communities of faith, just the opposite is true. We typically don't see men as they are, but we limit them by what they have been. Let me say that again. Jesus saw men not for who they were but for who they would be. I think, many times, we really hurt what God's doing in people's lives not because we saw them as they are, but we limit them by what they have been.
One of the great challenges we have as a body is as folks assimilate into our world and really humble themselves to get known and show that they fall off chairs sometimes, is that as they stay near the Savior who is patient and persistent with them, they are going to grow into mighty men and women of God who can be greatly used of him. Just because they fell off the bench of faithfulness at some point doesn't mean the rest of their life they're going to be a 3- and 4-year-old at the table.
If we don't let them grow up to be parents, teachers, leaders, and elders at this church, we are in the way of what God is producing in your life. Our challenge is to be patient and persistent men and women who have a vision for what individuals can be. Remember that we ourselves used to be a miserable wreck. You don't know how many chairs I fall off of in my life, even to this day. The patience and persistence of God is a model for me in being patient and persistent with those he has in my life. Change doesn't happen quickly.
There's a great story of a hillbilly family who was leaving the backwoods of Tennessee and went to New York. They got there are parked in front of one these big buildings they had never seen before. The mom and the daughter stay in the car, and Dad and Junior get out, and they walk in the lobby of this hotel. They walk in there, and they are amazed. There are trees inside this building; they've never seen that. There's actually a waterfall inside this building; they have never, ever seen that.
Junior and Dad are walking around looking at all of these things. Dad says, "Junior, I've never seen anything like that before. They don't have that back in Tennessee." Then they look over in the corner, and there's this door that shuts and opens, and people get in and go out, and they're kind of watching, and it's amazing.
All of a sudden, this old woman walks over to this one door, and she gets in, and it shuts, and it disappears, and they're watching it. About three minutes later, that same door opens, and this beautiful 24-year-old blonde woman comes walking out. That dad is amazed; he's never seen anything like that before. He turns to his son, and he says, "Junior, go get Mama."
In his infantile understanding, it wasn't an elevator that sent somebody up and somebody different came down. He thought it was something that produced immediate and effective in somebody's life. I think sometimes we do that to each other. In our hillbilly ignorance, we think folks ought to walk into this church, show up at our Community Group, get in one Equipping class, make a profession for Christ, the door is shut and then comes open, and they never struggle again. They never fall off a chair again. We lose our patience and persistence with one another.
Folks, when we do that, we're so unlike Christ. That doesn't mean… We help folks learn how to sit in a chair and tell them the value of sitting in chairs, but I want to tell you: I am committed for this to be a place that you can grow, and we believe that you're going to move through that stage. At first, we're going to buckle you in. Then we're going to the let you fall a few times as you grow.
We're going to expect that there's a day where you don't fall off chairs. Maybe just in your stubbornness and rebellion and lack of self-control, you're going to get up and walk away a lot. We expect that there's going to be a day when you actually shepherd others at that table. God can use you to parent others.
I am so proud of some of you all who have not run away from the table in embarrassment that you're on the floor again. I want you to know that I don't want you to be limited here by my worldly view of what you have been. This is a place where you can grow to be what God envisions for you to be. It's a job of the mature in this body to spur you in that direction.
Let me give you another principle that's here. The key to improving your ability to see as God intended is to improve your attentiveness to the one that God sent. If you go back and look at Mark, chapter 8, and you look at verses 24 and 25, you'll see that this guy, at first, didn't see as God intended for him to see. I would say that the application for us right there is no one sees all of God's truth at one time.
I have known Christ coming up now for 20 some-odd years, over two decades. I am learning more about my Savior every single day. I have insights and understandings as I obey his Word and do the things he says I need to do to grow in that way. As I steadfastly improve my attentiveness to the one that God sent, I consistently improve my ability to see as God intended for me to see.
What this gentleman didn't do when he first got near Jesus, he didn't feel like a failure because he couldn't see perfectly. Christ was showing his disciples, "Look, if you'll be as this guy was and just stay with me, tell me where you're at, ask me questions, concern yourselves with seeing clearly… I'm committed to you."
Look what it says in James, chapter 4. "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil…" Which would be the one says Jesus is not to be listened to, not to be concerned with. It's the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. Resist that; he'll flee from you. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." Stay there with him.
Look at John 14, verse 21. "He who has My commandments and keeps them…" I want to explain that word to you in a minute. "…he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him." What that's saying right here is if you want to grow and improve in your ability to see as God intended then improve in your attentiveness to the one that God sent.
That word keep right there might just totally discourage a lot of you because you're like, "Well, sure, if I just do everything he tells me to do…" But that word keep comes from the root word which means basically to watch, to observe intently, to stay near and around. To be an active spectator would be a fair translation of that word.
"He who has my commandments, who has my Word, and who regularly and attentively stays before my Word," the thing God has sent to you and I to reveal to us truth and where life is… As you do that, it says, you're going to know more of the Father, and the Father is going to reveal more of himself to you, and the Son's going to reveal more of himself to you.
You will be understanding things like you never have before. Truths will be cemented into your mind and into your heart as you stay before if you meditate on this book day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. "Blessed is the man," it says, "who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand or sit around disobedient people, but he delights himself in the law of the Lord" because he's going to see more clearly.
For this blind man in that day and age… What's the application? He stayed with Jesus; he didn't run away at the first glimpse of light and say, "That's enough. I'm gone. I don't really care if I stub my toe or bang my knee and don't get my full understanding." If you stay near the Savior, he will continue to reveal himself to you. The way we do that is not just by showing up for an hour a week but by regularly being before his Word, by discipling ourselves for the purpose of godliness.
The habits and the priorities of a disciple are ever the same. You put yourself on the path of Christ. This man did it literally; we do it figuratively through his Word, his people, and individual time with him. One of the things I pray as I read my Bible with this little section, Mark 8:22-26, in mind is I just say, "Lord, spit in my eyes again today. Spit in my eyes again. Let me see more clearly who you are." That's a safe thing to pray if you're blind.
If you're here today and you've stubbed your toe again and again against obstacles in life, and you are throbbing with pain in your heart, why not turn to one who, word is, gives sight to the blind? Just say, "Look, I'll walk away with you for a while. I'll give you a chance in my life because my life is a wreck." The way you get before him is near his people intentionally, to be near his Word. As you open up his Word, just say, "God, use this to spit into my eyes again today." Make that your prayer.
Let me give you another little principle right here that comes from this section. This just encourages me so much; I think all of this stuff is right there. As you sit, and as you meditate on it… You cannot dictate to God the terms of your belief. There is a great danger in rejecting the evidence he's already given you.
I want to give you the larger context because I think what Jesus doing with this blind man here is showing his disciples, "Look, you're in process. I'm committed to the process, but stay in the process with me. Don't give in to the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod." Who were Pharisees and Herod? They were men who, in spite of tremendous evidence, demanded that God do more for them to believe. They said, "All right, you do this. You send down a sign from heaven, and we will believe."
Look at Mark 8, verses 11 and 12. Here come the verses. It says, "And the Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him. And sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, 'Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.'" One of the interesting things about this is that little statement, "No sign will be given to this generation."
If you look in the margin, there's probably a different way that it's said. In my Bible, the margin says, "There will be…" Or, "If a sign shall be given to this generation…" What he does is start a very familiar oath of that day, where if you finished it, it would go like this. "If a sign's given to you again, may I be accursed." Or, "If a sign's given to you again, may God strike me dead."
Jesus doesn't finish it, but in a very familiar saying of the day, he's not saying there will be no more sign. What he starts to do is look at them, and he's basically saying, "If a sign be given to you again, may God strike me dead." Why would Jesus, in a sense, take an oath that he would reveal no more in terms of miraculous signs to this group of individuals in Mark, chapter 8?
Let me give you a little context because it's been a while since we've worked our way through those first eight chapters. This is just some of the evidence that has come already in this book. In chapter 1, he sent a healed leper as a witness to them that he can cleanse them from the disease that was seen in that day as a judgment of God.
In Mark, chapter 2, he validated his authority to forgive sins by healing a paralytic. In Mark, chapter 2, he explained why he ate with sinners. He explained why his disciples did not fast. He took them to the Old Testament to justify his so-called "breaking of the Sabbath." On and on and on… In chapter 3, verse 6 they then, in spite of all of the evidence, conspired to kill him.
Jesus said, "Listen, your problem is not one of signs. Your problem is you have a heart that is committed to rejecting who I am. So there will be no more signs." Jesus says, "I will give you no more because your problem is not a problem of the intellect," as he develops in the book of John, "but a problem of the will."
Here is an application for us. You cannot dictate to God the terms of your belief. You cannot do what I did when I was 15 and I stared up at the sky after I heard the gospel presentation. I said, "Okay, God, I'm looking at that star. If it goes out in the next five minutes, you got me. I'll believe if you do that."
You know what God said to me at that point? "I don't have to put that star out. I've already given you more revelation. I've already shown you enough. I've burned into you a conscience. I've shown you the beauty and order of creation. Through the overwhelming evidence of an empty tomb… Through my outpouring of love toward you on a cross, that no reasonable historian doubts actually happened, that I'm here and that I care for you and that I love you. There will be no more sign, Todd, except the power of transformation in your life as you stay with me."
Some of you all are here today, and you're telling God something has to happen for you to believe. I would offer to you to look at what he's already done. He says, in effect, there'll be no more sign except the sign that I'm willing to die for my sheep and that the Father is not willing to leave me in a grave. The sign of wind whistling through an empty tomb, that's your sign.
There's danger in rejecting the evidence that he's already given. When he came to Bethsaida and they said to him, "Hey, show us by healing this blind man that we believe…" What did Jesus do? He took that blind man out of the city, out of the village it says in Mark, chapter 8. Why did he do that?
Well, because earlier in his ministry (it's not recorded in this book), but look at Matthew, chapter 11. Rather than turn there, just look behind me. In Matthew, chapter 11, this is what it says. It says, "Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 'Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!'" That's where we are right here in Mark 8. "For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon…" Which are two of the most notoriously wicked cities in all of your Bible.
" [If those miracles which you have seen had been done in them] they would have repented long ago in sackcloth in ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you." This is a very real principle. There appears to be in the Scriptures judgment that is proportionate to the revelation and light that you have been given.
In this day and age, in this city, there has been much light given to all of us. The question is…_What are we going to do with it? _We cannot dictate to God the terms upon which we would believe, and there is great peril in rejecting the evidence he has already given. Let me give you some encouragement, though.
Take courage in knowing of God's patience and persistence with men. But then here's the warning that goes with it: take care to not take advantage of it. Philippians 1:6 says, "For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began this good work in you will bring it about to completion on the day of Christ Jesus." Take courage in God's patience and persistence with men.
You see it modeled right here in Mark 8:22-26. "I am committed to helping you see. If you can't see, stay near me. Ask me to spit again into your eyes, and I will get you to the place where you can see clearly." Look at Hebrews 12:1-3. As I was thinking about this, this little section of Scripture came to me again. I'm going to tell you how many people usually interpret this passage, but as I read it again this week for the purpose of our time together, I want to tell you an insight that I believe is applicable to us.
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race this is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…" What did I say earlier? If you want to improve your ability to live for him, improve your attentiveness to the one that God sent.
"…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…"The idea there is not that he hated the cross, but he counted the cross as meaningless, as nothing to endure, so that he would say, "Hey, you want to save your sheep? You have to die on a cross."
He goes, "Well, then to heck with the cross! Bring on the cross because I love those sheep." Despising the shame is saying, "That's no big deal to me. I think little of it. It's despicable, or worthless, or I count it as nothing in order to produce what I want to produce." "…despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Now watch. This is verse 3. "For consider him who has endured such hostility at the hands of sinners against himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart." Typically, this passage is taken to mean that you should follow the example of Christ and endure against hardship in the way he endured against hardship so that you might receive the reward he received. That is an appropriate application from this passage.
But take courage this morning. Take courage in this. I want you to look at the shame that he has endured at the hand of sinners for centuries. I want you to be reminded that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.I want you to be reminded of the horrors that people have taken his name to commit, the irrelevance and deadness in churches all around this land, and yet Christ still is committed to working in and through people and in and through the church.
If you're here this morning, and you go, "God can never use me. I told him last week I was going to serve him faithfully, but I just blew it again. He has to be done with me," I want you to go to Hebrews 12:3, and I want you to remember that's all he's ever done is endure faithless men and women. He has endured much hostility from sinners.
Don't lose heart. Don't give up. Don't say you must now forever be useless, but realize there's a God who loves you, who is saying to you again, "Would you get up off the floor? Would you sit closer to somebody who doesn't fall off their chair? If you have to buckle in for a while, buckle in.
If you still see things fuzzy, you see men walking about as trees, branches as limbs, hair as leaves, then ask me to spit into your eyes again. My whole existence as it relates to man is to give you what I destined you to be, which is a life that's full of relationship with me. You haven't disgusted me to the point that I never want to use you again. I have always endured hostility at the hands of sinners." Take courage, but don't take advantage.
If you're here and you've never come to this Jesus who cares about your blindness, come now. It's been well said for centuries that God has always offered forgiveness to our repentance, but he does not promise tomorrow to our procrastination. If you're here today and you've been procrastinating diving in, dive in.
Walk aside with God's people and say, "Let me just see his Word. Let me have it deal with my marriage. Let me have it deal with my addictive behaviors. Let me have it deal with my pride. Let me have it deal with my self-dependence." What do you have to lose, you with swollen toe and broken heart?
For those of us who have known him a little bit and are falling off some chairs, redouble your efforts. Be wise. If you have to buckle in, buckle in. If you have to get near a table where there's a parent to help you grow, get near that parent, and grow to where God can use you the way he wants to use you.
The Scriptures are really clear that there will be a day, if we consistently neglect his patience and persistence, that it will be too late. If you're here today, the good news is it's not too late for you. You just have to make a decision if you want to dive in. Let's pray.
Father, I thank you that there are so many truths wrapped up in this little section of Scripture. I pray that we can take courage in the fact that you want to drive us further on, that you want to take us places we have never been. Some of us think we can't go, but as you look out on this room today, as you look at me, God, you don't see me for who I am. You see me for what you have envisioned I can be.
That is a fully abiding, devoted follower of Christ who glorifies you with his life, who yields to your Spirit consistently, who serves his wife, who reconciles with those who he's hurt, who pays his debts, who loves his enemies, who cares for his neighbor, who says "no" to sin and says "yes" to your Word.
God, I thank you that that is your vision for every one of us. For those you have justified, you have purposed, Father, to bring into the image of your Son. I pray today that those who are far from you would come and would deal with their sin, and that you would spit grace into their life, and they would find forgiveness at the cross.
For those of us who have found forgiveness, that we would come, and you would spit into our eyes again, and that we would see more clearly, live more passionately, know life the way you've intended it, and live life the way you've intended it. For your glory and our good, we thank you that you want to take us further on.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 6:6 through Mark 8:38.