I’m shortsighted. I’ve worn glasses since I was a young teenager. If I take off my glasses everything at a distance is fuzzy. My children have often asked me what it’s like not to be able to see properly without my glasses and it’s always hard to describe. Sometimes I feel a little like the blind man Jesus healed in Mark 8 who saw people looking “like trees walking around” (v24).
Actually, when this man saw his ‘walking trees’, Jesus was only half way through the miracle. After touching the man’s eyes again, they were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
As far as I’m aware, this is the only healing that Jesus performed in two parts. I don’t think it’s coincidence that Mark places the story just before Jesus asks his followers who they think he is:
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:27-29)
Mark is perhaps suggesting that we don’t always see Jesus as clearly as we should. It’s very easy to project our own thinking onto Jesus, but Mark encourages us to hear Jesus’ question and recognise him for who he really is, the Messiah.
Kevin DeYoung lists some of the more popular versions of Jesus:
There’s Therapist Jesus who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.
There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals.
There’s Open-minded Jesus who loves everyone all the time no matter what, except for people who are not as open-minded as you.
There’s Martyr Jesus, a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him
There’s Hippie Jesus who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagine a world without religion, and helps us remember all you need is love.
There’s Yuppie Jesus who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.
There’s Spirituality Jesus who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine; and would rather have people out in nature, finding the god within and listening to ambiguously spiritual musical.
There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains.
There’s Revolutionary Jesus who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on the “system.”
There’s Guru Jesus, a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your centre.
There’s Boyfriend Jesus who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.
There’s Good Example Jesus who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.
None of these, however, are the Jesus revealed in Mark’s Gospel. DeYoung says:
And then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed, the one to deliver us from captivity, the goal of the Mosaic law, Yahweh in the flesh, the one to establish God’s reign and rule, the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim good news to the poor, the lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world.
This Christ is not a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is our Lord and God. He is the Father’s Son, Saviour of the world, and substitute for our sins–more loving, more holy, and more wonderfully terrifying than we ever thought possible.
Is my idea of Jesus defective? Like my uncorrected vision, am I only seeing a ‘walking tree’ version of Jesus? If so, I could do worse than use this 13th century prayer from Richard, Bishop of Chichester:
Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.
In other words, I need Jesus to open my eyes and restore my sight so that I can see who he is, and everything else, clearly.
Link to Kevin DeYoung’s original post: Who Do You Say That I Am?