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Mark 10 – The Blind Man Sees and Receives Sight

Mark chapter 10 is the end of a larger narrative that began in chapter 8:22. This central narrative of Mark begins and ends with blind men receiving their sight. The first blind man, as you may remember, gradually received his sight, first seeing men blurry as though they were trees. This first man received his sight gradually. The second man in 10:46-52 gains his sight immediately and as the bookend to this section he provides a contrast to the other stories found in chapter 10.

Chapters 8-10 are composed of three stories of Jesus proclaiming that he must suffer and die and then he turns to his disciples and tells them that they must do the same. They continually fail to understand who Jesus is and therefore continue to misunderstand what Jesus calls them to do. These three passion predictions by Jesus climax with James and John requesting that they have seats of honor when Jesus comes in his glory. The other apostles became indignant with them, not because they were any different than the Sons of Zebedee but because they too wanted the power that came with being close to Jesus. It is obvious that none of them understood who Jesus was.

Bartimaeus, the blind man at the end of the chapter, though he is blind, saw clearly who Jesus is. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem (10:32) when he came to Jericho (about 15 miles away). When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was near he began to call out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The people around him rebuked him but his faith led him to call out to Jesus all the more. When Jesus called him over, he threw his cloak aside. This may not seem like a major detail but his cloak was probably laid across his legs to catch any money that people might toss his way. Is throwing his cloak aside, scattering the coins he would have to live off of, demonstrating that he has a better understanding for who Jesus is that the rich young ruler?

When Jesus called him, he went with blind abandonment; casting his belongings aside, jumping to his feet, he went to Jesus. The blind man staggering towards the voice of Christ is reminiscent of the demon-possessed boy’s father who went to Jesus and said, “Lord, help me overcome my unbelief!” (9:24). When he reached Jesus he was asked the same thing Jesus asked James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man asks for something the apostles thought they already had, the ability to see. When Jesus tells him that his faith has healed him, he immediately received his sight and “followed him on the way.” Some translations (like the NIV) translate that he followed Jesus “along the road.” The New Revised Standard Version (along with the KJV) better capture the imagery that Mark is painting by translating it as “the way.” The early church was called “The Way” before they were called Christians (Acts 9:2). Bartimaeus, who was able to see Jesus for who he is and received his sight at the gates of Jericho, was the first person Jesus allowed to follow him of the people that he healed.

To follow Jesus along “The Way” you must first have sight to see who Jesus is. We often desire Jesus because of the benefits we gain from following him. We desire his salvation but we don’t want to follow him on “the Way.” He called his disciples (and us) to follow the way of service in a world that promotes claims for power. The disciples time and again were blind to who Jesus is and were left confused by Jesus’ call to become servants and slaves to one another.

When the Sons of Zebedee make their request to Jesus he responds by asking, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” One can’t help but be reminded of the cup of the Lord’s Supper and of Baptism. These are the two earliest elements tied to Christian faith. We think of the cup as a remembrance of what Jesus did on the cross for us, and our Baptism for our sins being washed away. When we only think of this we are solely focusing on what Jesus provides for us. We quickly forget what Jesus has called us to: to be self-sacrificial and servants to all. The Cup and Baptism are continual reminders for the life that Christ has called us to live.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Bible Blog, Mark

 

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1 Corinthians 6 – Prostitutes, God and the Secret Service

Wise Judges

Wise Judges? Sorry…I couldn’t help it.

Paul can’t believe that there are lawsuits among the members of the Corinthian church.  And he isn’t just heaping guilt and blame on those who are suing.  He is blaming the entire church.  “How will you ever stand in judgment over the entire creation (as early Christians understood they eventually would) if you can’t wisely discern between your own members’ conflicts?!”  And after all, if any of you actually understood the kind of forgiveness that Jesus has given to you and actually practiced offering that kind of forgiveness to one another there is no way you could ever even have conflicts that led to courtrooms.  Unbelievable.

Prostitutes, God and the Secret Service

Early this year the Secret Service made national headlines when several of their agents were discovered to have spent a considerable amount of time and money on parties and prostitutes while working in Columbia.  This was not only unethical and unprofessional, but potentially exposed the President and others to danger.  And yet not a single headline about this scandal included the names of the individuals responsible.  The headlines were always something to the affect of SECRET SERVICE AGENTS IN SCANDAL.  The actions of a few, one in particular, resulted in the entire organization he represented being shamed.  Investigations were launched throughout the Secret Service to see what other problems existed.  A single man’s actions became the actions of the entire group.

This chapter says a similar thing about Christians being sexually immoral.  “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!”  Paul has explained extensively elsewhere that those who are baptized into Christ have God’s Holy Spirit come live in them and they are clothed in Christ.  We are alive in Christ.  There are so many ways to say it, but here Paul points out that if you are in Christ and Christ is in you and you start sleeping around, you take the body of Christ into those beds with you.  Just like a single agent can shame the Secret Service, the shame of the individual is cast on the entire body of Christ.  How dare you do that to Jesus, Paul asks.

Christian Freedom

This also falls within a larger question about Christian freedom.  Did Jesus Christ die to save everybody from all of their sins?  Yes.  Are we saved by God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness?  Yes.  Are we set free from sin and death?  Of course.  So if Jesus died to take our sins away and he can wash them all clean and he loves me enough to save me from anything, then can I do whatever I want?  Well, no.  And we all kind of get that.  And yet, people do say, “I just can’t imagine that God won’t forgive that person for doing that thing.”  Isn’t this very question a different way of saying the same thing?

1 Peter 2 talks about the same idea and insists that we are set free, but not in order to use our freedom as a cover-up for evil, but so that we might make ourselves slaves to God.  And while this makes us uncomfortable, largely because of the villainous images of slavery that we have because of the oppressive slave-owners that are part of our country’s history, I think it’s more natural than we often realize.  If you have seen Schindler’s List, or are familiar with the story, can you imagine the kind of loyalty those Jews felt towards Schindler for saving their families?  They would have done anything for him because of what he saved them from.  How much more then should we be willing to serve a God who sacrificed his own son on the cross to save us from far worse?  I am glad to spend my life as a slave to God.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in 1 Corinthians, Pauline Epistles

 

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Romans 8 – Why Are You Acting Like a Slave? You Are Free!

There was an Israelite, who after establishing himself in the Promise Land, started getting up at 5 in the morning. He would make bricks out of straw and mud for the next 7 hours. For lunch, he would eat a stew that had no substance to it. His house servants ate better than he did. After finishing lunch he would go back to brick making till he had to come in to finish his nightly chores. This confused his neighbors greatly. Why was he making bricks? Why is he acting as though he is lower than a house servant? Does he not realize that we’ve entered the Promise Land and we’re not slaves to Egypt anymore?

Just as odd as it would be to continue to act like a slave when you’ve been set free, it is equally odd to continue to be a slave to sin. The Spirit you have been given makes you a Child of God so stop living as though you are His enemy. You are in the Promise Land now!

As Children of God, our present sufferings fail to compare to the glory that will be revealed in us. What are these present sufferings? This is the question I often ask non-Christians…What would you change in the world to make it perfect? Those things that need to be changed, those are our present sufferings, death being the main one. Paul reminds us that this brokenness that we have within us is also apparent in the world around us. There is a reason there are tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. The earth longs to be fixed and be made new again. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

We have the seed of this New Creation within us, the firstfrruits of the Spirit groaning within us for our adoption to sonship (inheritance), the redemption of our bodies (physical). This is the hope that we have, that death has been conquired and our bodies will be made new again! I do want to point out that Paul doesn’t say that our hope is that our spirits or souls will be taken up into a heavenly realy where we’ll sit on clouds playing harps (that’s a discussion for another time).

Do you still hope to receive the Spirit? Why? This is like looking for something and after finding it you keep looking for it! You have it! The full redemption of our bodies has not yet happened, but we wait for it patiently. We have the Spirit within us and the Spirit intercedes for us.

I think 31-39 is the most powerful passage in the New Testament, especially if you read it as the climax of chapters 5-8. If there was only one chapter in the Bible you could memorize, chapter 8 is it! I think it encompasses the power of the Gospel. When I read the end of chapter 8, I just want to stand tall and take on the world. Go back and read that last section with passion in your voice. Doesn’t that just get you excited!?

We’ve finished this section of Romans that begin in chapter 5. On the whole, Paul has argued that the true Exodus has come about in the Messiah and by the Spirit, which were messianic expectations before Christ came. Paul appropriately moves to the problem of Israel in Romans 9-11.

 
 

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