Thursday, February 24, 2011

Seeing is Believing After All

Reading: Mark 7—8

In yesterday's post, I noted, “In the Gospels faith is almost always connected to seeing something about Jesus, recognizing something about who He is.” This becomes even more clear in Mark 7—8. The Pharisees arrive where Jesus and His disciples are eating. And what do they see? They “saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were 'unclean,' that is, unwashed.” (Mark 7:2) What didn't they see? They evidently didn't see Jesus. At least not with eyes to see.
They looked on everything according to the flesh. They saw everything with eyes that could not see (Mark 4:12). And hence, though they were Jewish leaders and worshiping the true God, their worship was hypocritical and unclean. It proceeded from unclean hearts and therefore their very worship made them unclean (Mark 7:20-23).
Now, Jesus leaves that place and goes to the Gentile area of Tyre. A Greek woman born in Syrian Phoenicia (Gentile woman through and through), enters the scene. She has a similar problem as the Pharisees, except for one big detail. Her daughter is possessed by an unclean spirit. This would seem to trump the Pharisees uncleanness. But that's not the detail that makes the big difference. Rather, it is that she sees Jesus. She sees something about Jesus and it is evident in their exchange.
27"First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." 28"Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 29Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter." (Mark 7:27-29)
She saw that there was enough bounty of goodness at the Savior's table that there would be crumbs falling off, and even a crumb from His table was sufficient to cleans her daughter from an unclean spirit. The Pharisees had the same table before them, but all they saw were unwashed hands; they didn't see the Savior.
In chapter 8, we find that Jesus is able to able to spread a banquet of bread for 4,000 men plus women and children. There is a bounty of goodness at His table, and the disciples discover that there is a bounty of crumbs left over—they picked up 7 basketfulls of crumbs from 7 loaves that fed 4,000. There was more left over than they started with it seems. Christ's banquet is overflowing. And it is a banquet that is provided as we see who He is!
The disciples may be demonstrating this as they get in the boat, forgetting to bring bread... except for the one loaf they had with them in the boat. I wonder if that is a subtle reference to Christ... the bread of life. Of course, I can't be sure, but it is at least interesting to read the story in that light. The next story is about the healing of the blind man. At first he sees men as trees (Mark 8:24), and then he sees clearly (Mark 8:25). That sets up the next section wherein Peter at first sees Christ clearly (Mark 8:29), and then, seems to be seeing Him not so clearly (Mark 8:31-33). (In reverse order.) This whole section is about how we see Jesus! Seeing Him is the banquet. Seeing Him is the cleansing. Seeing Him is faith!
All this leads us to chapter 9 where Christ is unveiled before us on the Mount of Transfiguration. As we are preparing to study Isaiah 24-27 on Sunday, I can't help but think that all of this is revealing that Isaiah 25:6-8 is being fulfilled.
6On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.
When Christ was transfigured before the disciples, the shroud that blinds us was taken away—pulled back—for them. And on the mount where He was crucified, when we see our Lord through eyes of faith, eyes that see Him for Who He is, the shroud is taken away and the feast is spread before us. He cleanses us as we see Him. Seeing Christ is faith and cleansing from within.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

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