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The Olivet Prophecy is fulfilled (1st half)


“this generation” – in our future?

There is ample evidence that the Olivet Prophecy is fulfilled – the first half that is. There is ample evidence both exegetical and historical to establish Matt 24 verses 4 thru 34 are already fulfilled. In our Bible study a couple questions came up about “this generation” in Mark 13 or also in Matt 24. Here is an explanation that combines a couple of discussion questions that came up.  

How is the word “this” used in Mark 13 when referring to “this generation”? Does the use of “this” instead of “that” in the original Greek have any special meaning not apparent in English? The short answer that “this” is used in similar ways as in English (though not always exactly the same).   So when Jesus said, “this generation” in the Olivet Prophecy was he referring exclusively to the 1st century? What if he had said, “that generation” would it have indicated a future generation instead of the 1st century generation? I believe that when Jesus said “this generation” his words cannot be understood any other way than to be referring to the generation to which he was speaking, the generation in which he was living.  

An example is helpful. Here is one in Peter’s sermon that shows us “this” and “that” used side by side. Peter said in Acts 2:16, “…this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” The word “this” is referring to the events happening in front of Peter in the 1st century. The word “this” to Peter means his here and his now, the now of the 1st century.   For Peter the word “that” is referring to the pronouncement of the prophet centuries earlier. So then, the word “this” refers to what is near and the word “that” is used to refer to what is at a distance, in this case in the past.  

Back to the Olivet Prophecy.

Context helps us a great deal. Flow of context is just as important. Pastor Mazak mentioned this morning about the unfortunate placement of the chapter division between Mark 11 and 12. I agree. This is also the case between Matthew 23 and 24. Notice what Jesus said at the end of Matthew 23. He opined that “all these things will come upon this generation” (the 1st century, see v36).

Then just 5 verses later the discussion about the Temple (not a future one) and its corruption continues into Matt 24. Jesus continues to talk about “these things,” the things that will come about on “this generation” (the 1st century, see Matt 24:1 through Matt 24: 34.   Then in Matt 24:35 and following Jesus goes on to talk about his Second Coming.   Another thing that helps us is to see that in the Gospels every time the phrase “this generation” appears it refers to the 1st century, the era in which Jesus and his disciples were living. Josephus, a 1st century historian is very helpful on this.  

I am currently going through Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blindness to Better Understand the Bible. The authors do a great job in calling out the tip of the iceberg of our Western America modern lens. This WAM often clouds our interpretation of Scripture because we are immersed in WAM. We travel very little to non-Western cultures. We have imbedded in our culture a negative bias against non-Western cultures. We tend to read the Bible through popular theological lenses of the day (which tend to be mostly Futuristic).  

The authors of Misreading Scripture write that “…reading the Bible is a cross-cultural experience. To open the Word of God is to step into a strange world where things are very unlike our own” (KL, 74). Compounding the strangeness we take a modern system of interpretation such as Dispensationalism (originating around 1830) and layer it over the text of Scripture.  

By taking a Futurist view of the Olivet we remove the ancient 1st century historical context in order to make its predictive value more relevant to our own Western American modern context. In this way “this generation” in its native context ceases to be moored to its original proclamation as it was from the lips of Jesus.  

The simplest and plainest reading of “this generation” in the Gospels refers to the time in which Jesus lived and taught, the 1st century.


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Knowing God, is it practical or not?


File:Project Management (phases).png

It is still a question Christians debate – “Is knowing God really practical? Shouldn’t doing certain things be more central to the Christian life? Merely ‘knowing God’ can make you feel like you aren’t moving, right? Shouldn’t we be focusing on a list of things we must do?”

As we read and study the Bible this urge to tell (as the teacher) people what they must do or to find (as the student) what we should do still knocks at our door. I am grateful for recent input on this question. As we go through the Gospel of Mark what help can we find on this question of the practical side of the Christian life?

The question of “what to do” is a part of a larger conversation of on how Sanctification should look in the Christian life. I’m thinking of books like Five Views on Sanctification or The Hole in our Holiness or Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Those are recent, but this conversation has a long trace of ink going back to Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and so on.

However, for this short jog I’ll keep the question of “what to do” localized in our current study in Mark. Interestingly, the Gospel of Mark does not give much in the way of commands or much in the way of “you must do this to live the Christian life.” The content of the Gospel of Mark is of the sort that draws you in not so much to a pattern of things to do, but to a Person. The author is drawing us into know Jesus.

That is the beauty of the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Jesus is not verbose. Mark has very little in the way of Discourses (extended teachings) of Jesus. Mark’s focus is on the action, the movement, the shifts in the life of the Messiah. The key events which reflect the Person that is the Messiah are what Mark is laying out before us. This series of events highlight the Person rather than a way of doing religion. The advantage of spending time in the Gospel of Mark is that due to the sparseness of his content we are forced to focus on the Person that is Jesus. It is paced to make you long for Jesus.

Seeing who Jesus is and why his life mattered then and still matters is the truest way to handle the material Mark is giving us. Why? Because that is just about the only thing you can do with it. Mark’s content pulls you in to who Jesus is. Notice Mark’s first sentence: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Messiah, the Son of God.” That is the barrel from which Mark is shooting his charge. Everything coming out of this barrel is etched by an interest in knowing who Jesus is.

This opening statement is not a very good set-up for telling people a list of things that they should do or shouldn’t do. It is, however, a great introduction to good news, good news that Jesus Messiah has arrived. “I’d like to introduce you to him.”

Of course, each gospel writer has a unique approach to the life of Jesus. It is helpful to compare the four Gospels to each other, but we can rob Mark of his unique perspective on Jesus when we end up reading Mark through the lens of Matthew, Luke or John.

Another faux pas is to reshape our idea of Jesus thru the lens of our sub-culture. I have a couple of books on my shelf that talk about this. Even though they are outdated with regard to current trends, they’ve almost become reference books for me as I keep coming back to them. Jesus in America is Richard Fox’s survey of how we have reshaped our ideas of Jesus through the 19th and 20th centuries. He notes that “the overall national infatuation with Jesus has been deepened by an array of sub-cultural traditions of allegiance to him” (p13). Conservative Christians, even self-described Evangelicals or Fundamentalists, are not immune to this slide.

So, back to the question of whether “knowing God” is practical to the Christian life or not. I am sure all Christians would agree that “knowing God” is essential to becoming a Christian, but it might surprise you to find there are various theological views which don’t see the effort of “knowing God” as at the center or at the core of Christian living. Frankly, there are ideas of Jesus that trend in certain groups which have re-shaped him into the appearance of a schoolmarm. Maybe that’s not as deleterious as denying he rose from the grave, but it’s still not Jesus.

What Mark’s Gospel helps us to see is that there isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts at the core of Jesus’ own life. Thus, we shouldn’t be afraid when the same suggestion comes to mind about our own life with him. Knowing Jesus fills the Christian with life. Spending time in Mark’s Gospel is the deceptively simply, yet supernatural way that the Holy Spirit feeds that life. It is what he has provided for us to spend time with Jesus. A twist on a popular phrase comes to mind – ‘Know the Bible. Know Jesus. Know God. No Bible. No Jesus. No God.’

Yes, there are things to do in the Gospel of Mark, but notice that the deeds or commands in Mark ultimately lead you into a relationship. “Where is Jesus? Can you bring me to him that I may believe him, that I may know him?” In fact, that is the hub of the entire New Testament, yea, dare I say, the entire Bible: “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take time as a class or in conversation with other Christians to talk specifics on the nitty gritty of life. There are the dating questions, the courtship questions, the marriage questions, the career questions, the financial questions, the lust questions, the self-control questions and so forth. Yet, every particular question is in the end going to lead us back to the Good News of who Jesus is.

I am reading again J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. It’s is a good book. I like how his book flows out of his Scripture saturated brain. It doesn’t read like a list of “do this or don’t that” and then you will know God. Packer’s thoughts spill onto the pages as though someone who knows God is talking about God. That is the same impression I get when reading what Mark has to say about my Messiah, your Messiah.

Packer writes in his chapter entitled, ‘Knowing and Being Known’ that “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord” (p.29). This doesn’t mean that by studying the Gospel of Mark all the perplexities of my life will melt away.

Actually, the perplexity like a strong under current lies deeper. I recall my Father, Peter Olivero, saying many times as we were growing up: “The most difficult part of God’s Will is not finding it, but doing it.” It is my experience that the more I am knowing the Person of Jesus the less perplexing life is. Instead of re-shaping Jesus to our sub-culture, Jesus is more interested in re-shaping our motivations. The more I see the beauty of his Person the more attentive I will be when he calls to obey. When the time comes for him to speak directly into my situation my eyes and ears will already be turned in his direction.

It occurs to me that this soul movement toward Jesus resembles the same cognitive function of playing “Where’s Waldo?” It’s direct. It’s simple. It’s inducive. In recent years, I’ve grown to crave voices that rehearse the Christian grace in simply finding Jesus.

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The Jubilee in the Temple cleansing


Mark's Gospel headerThe Temple and the Ultimate Jubilee

Mark 11:17 “…for all nations”

 

 

After a recent lesson on the Temple cleansing someone said to me, “Sounds like you had more to say about the Jubilee. We don’t hear much about that do we?” Yes and yes.

 

How is it that we miss the Jubilee in the Gospels? (At least, in our circles the Jubilee is not much mentioned).

 

In the beginning of his book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Mike Lacona tells us about his wife’s German grandfather and his diary keeping habit. “My wife’s grandfather Albert Weible kept a daily dairy for years.” On April 8, 1917 his grandfather wrote: “The weather is very nice and warmer. The ground is very much [?]. Pa…didn’t go to church today. I went alone on Pearl [horse]. There were quite a few there in spite of the mud. In the afternoon we all went up to Fred’s” (p.33).

 

What else happened the week of April 8, 1917? The US declared war on Germany on April 6th. There is no mention of this momentous turn of events in the diary.

 

Not only are key events from WWI missing in Mr. Weible’s diary, Lacona goes on to say that “Albert Weible kept diary entries every day. Yet he never mentioned the war.”

 

Never mentioned the war? He gives notice to weather, farm, church, family, births, etc., but no notice to that large, life-altering, cross continental struggle.

 

So also the Jubilee and its accompanying imagery may go unnoticed. The Jubilee is a golden thread spun through the Gospels from gildings gathered in the OT. Here the jubilee shows up again in the Temple “cleansing.”

 

The jubilee of the OT was a time when freedom, debt release, property return, care for the destitute and cycled around every 50 years (or so it was supposed to, but probably not was consistently observed, see Lev 25-26). This jubilee Jesus announces in the Temple is the Ultimate Jubilee, the final, long lasting, world encompassing Jubilee of the Gospel of Messiah (see also Isaiah 61:1-2).

 

You see Jesus ransacked the Temple not merely because of shady business going on within its walls. In its wide courts Jesus’ voice echoed the good news that Yahweh’s time of full release and full forgiveness had arrived; not just for the Jews; for all nations and all peoples. Jesus quotes from Isaiah because Isaiah is a prophet who loves to wade in the river of jubilee theology.

 

John the Baptist was also a prophet of jubilee joy and forgiveness. As if singing the same tune, Jesus began his ministry by reading from a jubilee text in Isaiah (see Luke 4). Then, here in the Temple Jesus refers to jubilee revival again (Is 56:7). The Gospels are telling us that the ultimate day of divine release has arrived in Jesus.

 

“Let no foreigner [that’s you and me] who is bound to Yahweh say,

        ‘Yahweh will surely exclude me from his people.’

 

“For this is what Yahweh declares:

‘…I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”          (see Isaiah 56:1-8)

 

 

More about this tomorrow in our Sunday AM Bible study.


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Mark’s Gospel: the Temple “cleansing” and Jesus’ sovereignty


Mark's Gospel header

Jesus, our Gracious Sovereign

In previous comments on the “cleansing” of the Temple I mentioned the mercy of Jesus. His mercy stands in stark contrast across all religions. We know that Yahweh is indeed the One full of mercy not because he says it. He shows it. Jesus shows us perfectly what Yahweh’s mercy looks like.

No other religion is so clear and vivid in what it says as the Gospel. The Gospel tells AND shows this mercy-filled good news.

There is another narrative strand in the “cleansing” of the Temple. It’s the sovereign grace of Jesus. When Jesus ransacked the Temple he was no doubt concerned about dishonest leadership. He was no doubt concerned about showing mercy to outcasts. He was very concerned about shady business in the Temple courts.

Yet, when Jesus ransacked the Temple he was doing more than that.

He was trying to bring his people under the care of his sovereign grace.

He was declaring his divine sovereignty over the Temple system. It’s not enough to say that Jesus was (and is) God. Zeus claimed to be God. Caesar claimed to be God. Apollo claimed to be God. So, Jesus is just one more guy in a long line claiming to be God. So what.

Jesus’ claims are higher and better than that. He comes into the Temple in the full authority of the Sovereign One.

Here are a few things that signal his sovereignty:

 

In Mark 11:11 immediately after the Triumphal Entry of Jesus goes directly to the Temple. It’s like a sovereign coming home to his palace. He is the head of a new administration. How will he be received? Will the Temple receive him as enthusiastically as the common people did? The Temple leadership should have received him with the same enthusiasm and affirmation that the common people did just a few moments before. They did not.

After ransacking the Temple Jesus hangs around all week teaching (see Mark 11:22-13:1) openly in the Temple courts. It’s like he’s taken over. He has “moved in” so to speak. What would you think if a friend of yours showed up at your door and moved in without asking permission or negotiating a rental agreement? He is making the Temple a short-term seat of his governing word.

Later Jesus tells a parable within a parable about a keystone rejected and a vineyard owner’s son murdered. Both of these intertwined parables are a commentary on the Temple leadership of the day usurping Messiah’s divine authority over them.(see Mark 12:1-12)

Then most shocking of all Jesus declares that this Temple must come down. He is not interested in renovating the Temple system, but in its removal and replacement. This is his way of saying that he is the new temple. (see Mark 13:1 and following)

 tip: it helped me to understand the significance of the Temple Cleansing when I started to see it as an event connected to what happens before it and after it. In the BEFORE (the triumphal entry) Jesus is received as King Messiah as he makes his was to the Temple, the climax of this procession, (note: after Jesus ‘cleansed’ the Temple the children were chanting “Hosana, Son of David” – thus the kingly procession continues with the children what was begun with their parents the day before)

AND

in the AFTER (the parable of the vineyard’s son murdered) Jesus assumes all authority over the Temple, its operations, its doctrine and its final destruction. Jesus isn’t claiming only to be God. He is claiming full sovereignty as he moves in and about his Father’s House.

These are sign posts to the sovereignty of Jesus. He is not assistant manager, not vice president, not even prince of the realm with a life time appointment. Jesus is fully and completely sovereign.

The fact of Jesus’ sovereignty is often missed when we conservative Christians talk about the Temple cleansing event. For a long time I saw this Temple “cleansing” event as basically about the dishonest dealings of the Temple leadership or having concern for the poor.

That is true, but there is more. Jesus is “the messenger of the covenant” (see Mal 3:1), an arresting officer, prosecuting attorney and supreme judge all in one. This is Yahweh “suddenly coming to the Temple” to see if covenant stipulations are being obeyed.

They are not.

So with the full authority of the covenant behind him he acts as the covenant’s lord (because he is) and prosecutes covenant sanctions (see Dt. 28) on the corrupt leadership. Jesus has at his disposal full authority to foreclose on the Temple.

And he does.

Jesus is sovereign.

How did I miss this for so long? The Temple leadership saw this. They approached Jesus the next day to confront him on this very point.

 

[with restrained sarcastic tone]

“Where do you think you get the authority (sovereign right) to do

these things (in our temple)?”

[intense stares while waiting for his answer]

 

 * * *

 

This, then, is a brief explanation of Jesus’ sovereignty in ransacking and occupying the Temple. He did more than clean the Temple. This is a kind of take over. It’s not a hostile take over, but it is a bold theological take over.

So now you ask, “How does the grace half of this Gracious Sovereign show up in the Temple ransacking?”

Ah, good question. His grace is in his declaration about the Jubilee while he is “cleansing” the Temple.

More about this Ultimate Jubilee next time.

 

“We stop trying so hard to be

good Christians when

we see how good it is to

be in Christ.”


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Mark’s Gospel: Temple ‘cleansing’ points to Jesus’ mercy


Jesus, the Merciful

{thots from the ‘cleansing’ of the Temple by Jesus} Mark 11:11-22

Mark's Gospel header

{entered the Monday after Easter 2013}

Yesterday, at the end of a very blessed Sunday, I sat down to read my copy of the Quran. I turned to Surah (chapter) number two and read a few verses. I flipped through several other chapters. My eyes settled on this line:

 ‘In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful.’

 This line is deeply ingrained in Islamic culture. It’s repeated over and over throughout the Quran. This is the opening line to nearly every chapter of the Quran, a reminder to its adherents that Allah is beneficent, that Allah is merciful. In my translation it’s in caps – Beneficient…Merciful – a reminder that Allah is the embodiment of goodness and mercy.

 

Yesterday was not any Sunday, but a high day of worship. It was Easter. Seems like an odd thing to do at the close of a day for Christian worship – to read the central text of another religion.

 But there is beauty in contrast. There’s capacity of thought in seeing the starkness of a thing.

Recent in my thots,  almost alive, is Jesus cleansing the Temple. I could see Jesus rushing through the Temple the week before he was crucified. I see him slinging a whip. I see him upturning tables. I see him welcoming the blind and lame, unclean horde, into the Temple courts (see Matt 21). The vividness this “cleansing” the Temple washed the quranic text into the background.

 How do I know, I mean really know, that Jesus is merciful, that he is beneficent? 

Firstly, I know this temple cleansing, so called, is not really about cleaning the Temple. Jesus did not come into the Temple courts with a bucket and mop…or a shovel and broom as if to clean up after the animals. This event doesn’t look like a house call from Merry Maids (or Messiah Maids).

This is among other things a show of mercy. Yes, there’s bit of grand standing by Jesus, but it’s not surprising. Why not? The offenders had it long time in coming.

We know Jesus is mercy filled because he shows it. From the depths of his sincerity he doesn’t clean the Temple. He ransacks it. He intervenes. He brings its operations to halt even if only for a short while (“he forbid the vessels from passing through”). He displays the interruptive power of mercy. The greed and abuses by the Temple leadership were a stench on this holy place, but who would confront this? One man. Often mercy walks and runs and stoops alone. 

 Secondly, when Jesus ransacked the Temple he came into that space as a Defender. Yes, he was defending his Father’s expectations for covenant faithfulness in the one place on earth where it should not have faltered. And he was defending the weak, the outcast, the Gentile, the widow, the poor who wanted access to God. Jesus, an army of one whose weapon is mercy.

 I found it helpful to compare accounts from one gospel to another. When reading Mark’s account I also went over to Matthew’s.

So cool was it to notice that Matthew adds into his telling of that event that just after Jesus ransacked the Temple “the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them” (Mt 21:14).

“No way Jesus! You can’t do that!! Those…those people have to go through the process just like the rest of us. What in the world are you doing? Haven’t you read our laws?”

I conclude that Jesus was not only upset about the bilking of the money changers. He was upset that those hordes of people considered to be “unclean” were being excluded from worship except for their having to go through an intense – even expensive – process to be made ceremonially clean.

Jesus by his actions effectively says forget all the “red tape” ya’ll. Come on in! Just as you are. I’m going to heal you right here and now so you can immediately dispense with the frivolous gangway of man-made rules.

 Instead of being a place that breathed grace it had become a place tarnished by financial oppression and graft, a place where the outcasts felt very much like outcasts, where Gentiles seekers were threatened with capital punishment if they went past a certain point.

 You see, I know that Jesus is merciful, even if he were to say it over and over (but he didn’t), because he showed mercy. He lived it right in front of our eyes. I know for sure that Yahweh is merciful because I see Yahweh in the flesh being merciful, defending mercy.

 The one whose name means “Yahweh saves” comes defending and initiating his long storied intentions to make access to God free, open, without strings attached and priceless in its simplicity.

 I know Jesus is indeed the embodiment of mercy because he shows it. He charges solo into a Den of Thieves (see Jer 7:11 with Mark 11:17) for the sake of mercy. Then about a week later he hangs on a common cross for the sake of mercy, for the sake of bringing it to the world.

 


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a seeing that’s better than seeing


at the corner of St. Mark and 8:22-26

It happened gradually. I started to see two of everything. I was developing double vision. At first it wasn’t too bad. I could, if I concentrated on it, force the muscles of the bad eyes to move in sync with the other eye. But most of the time I walked around as the weeks progressed with this growing problem and also growing, hidden feelings of helplessness, embarrassment, fear, lots of fear…

I say growing because over the period of a few months the two images in my double vision were getting farther apart. The “double” – the repeated image – in my vision was moving farther apart from the true image. At the beginning the two images overlapped. I would sit in church and see two pulpits, two song leaders, two choirs, two Gregs – overlapping. Or I would sit before the TV and see another one floating in front of it and to the right. Or I would see two overlapping wives, two overlapping sons, two overlapping daughters. The whole world in front of me was gradually sliding into twos.

I didn’t tell my wife about this for several weeks. I didn’t want to panic her (like I was…filled with panic I was). What if I wouldn’t be able to do what I do for work? What if the doctor said I couldn’t drive any more? What if I went blind? What if I went partially blind? What if…? What if…? What if…?

I wasn’t going blind. The doctor finally set me at ease about that, but things did get worse. Now the images were getting farther apart so I could see 2 distinct images, side by side, with space between them. Eventually I would see two of the same car and space between them to put another car. Now the added perplexity was to look into a crowd of people, see a tool on the workbench, reach for a door knob, anything and not be sure which was the true and real image and which was the repeated, but illusory image.

seeing , but not seeing

I wasn’t going blind, thankfully, but I was seeing while not really seeing. I need help I couldn’t give to myself.

They accosted Him. A blind man and his friends who brought him made a straight line to Jesus. “Move aside folks. We are comin’ for Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, we gotta talk to you. Please, Jesus – stop! We need you.”

Jesus had healed many people before but this time He did something odd. He healed this blind man in 2 stages. Why? Maybe, because like so much of what Jesus did, there was another simple truth to be had.

Initially Jesus spit on the blind man’s eyes. He asked the man if he could see anything now. He said he could see, but it wasn’t clear. He was probably seeing with fuzzy, blurred vision. Then, Jesus touched the man’s eyes. This time he could see everything clearly.

What’s Jesus telling us with this miracle?

There is a way of seeing that isn’t really seeing. There is also another way of seeing that is better than seeing.

Consider this:

“For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book, however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written, are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly.”

(Institutes, John Calvin, Book 1, chapter 6)

Our vision, our ability to see life clearly, to see the world around us clearly, is impaired because our ability to see God is impaired. We need help with this and if we deny it or put off getting help, like I did, our denials merely prolong the obvious. Our denials are a symptom of the disease – fuzziness about who the Messiah is and what He really came to do.

This two-stage miracle may seem out of place or even of low significance. But is it? This little miracle is right at the turning point of the Gospel of Mark. This little miracle is a big symbol for the Pharisee’s big problem, a big symbol for the disciple’s problem of not seeing Jesus in light of His grand purpose (more on that purpose next time).

Notice in the verses just before this how not only do the hardened religious people not see Jesus for who He is. Still worse, the up close, next to Jesus people, the walking with Him everyday people – the disciples – don’t see Jesus for who He really is either…and what follows after this little miracle confirms it all the more. Both the Pharisees and the disciples didn’t see the mission of God in Jesus.

 my cardboard Jesus

Do we ever get tired of standing next to our cardboard Jesuses? – you, know…like the difference between looking at the picture of a pizza on the top of the box and tasting the perfect one inside the box.

Do we really SEE, I mean see with the eyes of the heart, the mission of God in Jesus? Do we really SEE Jesus or are we looking at a double-image, a illusory image of the real Jesus? “He [Jesus] is so pervasive culturally that some representations of him have no apparent religious reference at all” – so wrote Richard Fox in his eye opening book Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession (p16). Fox notes that some segments of Christianity come together as a group mainly because they are “fully committed to ‘family values'” (p.19). Is it Jesus we are after or is it traditional values we must have?

Thank you nameless blind man for helping us, yes us, blind Christians…well, ok, not blind, but visually impaired Christians…helping us see that our heart eyes are fixed on a cultural Jesus, a double image Jesus, a fuzzy image of Jesus. Thank you for letting your short time with Jesus be to us a very simple, easy to grasp, mime of seeing the things of God.

In the interest of seeing Jesus better, can we answer this?

What is the mission of God in Jesus?

Our answer may show how far our fuzzy image or double image is from the real Jesus is…Fundamentalists not excluded (btw – Jesus didn’t die for the traditional family or a version of the Bible or a Bartonian worship of a Colonial American Jesus and these too can become idols.).

To me the blind man’s 15 minutes with Jesus shows us 3 things about ourselves:

a – “I once was blind…” – before we come to Christ our spiritual eyes are in darkness (see 2 Cor 4:4esv, “…blinded the minds of the unbelievers…”)

b- “…but now I see” – I can be in Christ and STILL “savoring the things of mankind more than the things of God” (see Mark 8:33). In this case, I will have a cloudy vision of Jesus and the mission of God through Him.

c – “I can see clearly now…” – I can let the words of Jesus so fill my mind and heart such that He gives me a fresh, positive, hope filled, clear way of looking at this life (with its politics, culture, churches, my sub-culture, sports, music, etc. alongside the Gospel) because I am beginning to understand the mission of God in Jesus.

I’ve finally decided that if I’m going to see more of Him I mind as well push my way through. I’ll accost Him if I have to.

*

In the next scene (Mark 8:27-33) we will look at what we need to see about Jesus and the mission of God in Him. Knowing this makes life clear again.