There's this weird story in the book of Mark about Jesus healing a blind man. No not the one where he spits in his eyes, and not the one where he makes mud and tells him to wash it off, and not even the one where he just says he's healed. No Im talking about the one where the guy gets "healed" but everybody looks like trees walking around, a la Treebeard from the second Lord of the Rings movie. And then Jesus has to heal him again. Then everybody looks like people. The second time he gets healed. No joke. Treepeople. Not the weirdest story in the bible, but its up there on the list.
'They arrived at Bethsaida. Some people brought a sightless man and begged Jesus to give him a healing touch. Taking him by the hand, he led him out of the village. He put spit in the man's eyes, laid hands on him, and asked, "Do you see anything?" He looked up. "I see men. They look like walking trees." So Jesus laid hands on his eyes again. The man looked hard and realized that he had recovered perfect sight, saw everything in bright, twenty-twenty focus. Jesus sent him straight home, telling him, "Don't enter the village." (Mark 8:22-26 MSG)'
Why do I bring this story up? Its goofy, its not in the other synoptics, and the story seems like Jesus didn't heal him right the first time and he's not as all-powerful as we might like.
But keep reading.
As we keep going in Mark 8 we see a conversation take place between Jesus and Peter.
"Who do the people say that I am?" Jesus asks, and they tell him, but then he says,
"Who do YOU say that I am?"
No one answers at first, then Peter speaks up. "You are the Christ, the Messiah"
In Matthew's Gospel Jesus then says this of Peter - "God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn't get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I'm going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out. (Matthew 16:17, 18 MSG)
Peter, 1 - Other disciples, 0
But wait. Then he goes on to start teaching them about what is still to come
"Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: "It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive." He said this simply and clearly so they couldn't miss it." (Mark 8:30-32 MSG)
And then Peter opens his mouth. His big fat mouth.
But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. "Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works." (Mark 8:33 MSG)
Peter sees something clearly (that Jesus is the Messiah) but doesn't see other things (like that the Messiah is going to die) - this is much like our blind man who sees partially at first, and only later sees the whole truth.
I wonder how many trees I see walking around.
My pastor was preaching on an entirely different passage in Mark tonight where he asks- "What do you want me to do for you" first of James and John and later of a blind man. He straight-up heals the bind man, but it's a little more complicated for James and John - he doesn't give them their heavenly assigned seats they wanted but when they pressed him and he asked if they could "drink from the same cup" he was going to and then said they would suffer for it (and history tells us they did). I'm just going to say... Im not sure that's exactly what they meant when they came to Jesus with their question.
"What do you want me to do for you" Asks Jesus.
I don't know.
I mean at one point I thought I knew, and I thought this would be an easy question to answer.
But it's not, not really. I have these vague sort of internal things I'd like him to do. Struggle less with anger and lust and perfectionism and shame and depression and feeling like I have to have all the answers all the time. Be a better friend. Be a better dad. Be a better husband.
I also have all these self-centric external things too. I want to have time to write a book, I want to have a fulfilling job, I want to be able to take care of my family. I want to be in ministry. I want to be a part of healthy community
But then after all of that these other things come in. I just want to help people. I want them to know Jesus like I know Him. I want their trust in Him not to be fleeting and based on emotions, but comes from being built up in knowledge and truth. I want my life to count for something.
I dont feel like any of these things are "bad" things. Im not asking God to give me the winning lotto tickets or put brimstone on my neighbor. But neither does it seem bad for Peter to stand up and say "No!" when Jesus says he has to die.
Which of the things I might ask Jesus for are my "trees" - things I see that I want, that seem good, and yet are not the clear seeing that Jesus has. No body asks for suffering, not even James and John, but that is where good things and growth come out of.
And I have some ideas of what these trees are - my mental extrapolations of how I think I should use my natural gifts and talents as well as the spiritual gifts I have been growing up into. And I know that God will use them! But I also know from the biblical example that he uses those things I try so hard to keep hidden: weakness, imperfection, unknowing, insecurity.
So what's my answer to the question? I want to see clearly and be of some use to Him.
But in my insecurity I'd just like some glimpse of that future and present use so that I can stop chasing after the trees.