“Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like walking trees.”
No, this isn’t a scene from Tolkien’s The Two Towers where Merry and Pippin encounter Tree Beard. This scene is from the book of Mark.
Jesus had taken his disciples to Bethsaida, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and the people had brought a blind man and begged Jesus to heal him. Jesus took him by the hand and led him out of town. There he proceeded to spit in his eyes and put his hands on him. (Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.) Then Jesus asked him if he could see. After the man reported seeing people who look like walking trees, Jesus put his hands on the blind man again, looked at him intently and his eyesight was restored. That man could see everything clearly – it was better than laser surgery. Jesus gave him instructions not to go into town, and then quickly left town to take the boys to Caesarea Philippi.
I told you that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. This is one of the most random stories in Scripture. Jesus lands on shore, partially heals a blind guy, finally heals him all the way and leaves town. It begs a few questions. Why the pit stop in Bethsaida? What’s up with Jesus messing up the healing? Was he just practicing, still learning how this whole miracle thing worked? It’s all just kind of weird. Unless you look at the context. Continue reading
I have a confession to make. I love Fiddler on the Roof. I love the characters, I love the look into the Jewish culture, and for the most part, I love the music. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is where Tevye talks, or rather sings, about the importance of tradition to the Jewish people.
Tradition, like anything else, can be good or bad. It can help us understand God and who he wants us to be, or it can separate us from God and keep us from understanding grace. As you read through the Gospels you see Jesus both embrace and renounce the traditions of his day. Continue reading
As you read through Mark chapter 6 there is just a lot happening.
- Jesus returns to Nazareth and the people are astounded and offended by his words.
- Jesus takes the disciple to the surrounding villages and continues his teaching
- Jesus sends the twelve out in pairs, giving them authority over unclean spirits and instructing them to preach a message of repentance
- Herod has heard about Jesus and thinks he might be John the Baptizer raised from the dead and begins to keep an eye on Jesus
- Jesus feeds the crowd of 5,000
- The disciples set out in the boat for Bethsaida and a storm blows in. Soon we find Jesus walking across the sea to them.
- And as soon as they landed, people began bringing the sick to be healed.
Quite a chapter.
But in the middle of it all there is a paragraph that is often lost in the busyness of the ministry that is happening. One that we would do well to read and re-read. Continue reading
The disciples grew up wondering what was on the other side. Of course they had never been there. No good Jewish boy willingly crossed over to the Decapolis, to the area of the pagans. And the land of the Geresanes — it was to be avoided at all costs. This was the area where the pigs were raised for sacrifices to the pagan gods and it was a Roman army outpost . No self-respecting Jew would set foot in that village.
So when Jesus set out in the boat with the boys you can imagine the look on their faces as they headed south-east. Peter asks, “Jesus, where are we going?” Jesus responds, “You’ll know soon enough.” Peter follows up, “But Jesus, it looks like we’re headed to the Decapolis, are you sure this is a good idea. What will people say?” Jesus smiled.
As they pulled up to shore they saw a man, or what looked like a man, come running down the hill from an area filled with burial caves. Some of the younger disciples started backing up into the boat. Jesus walked toward the man. Continue reading
Jesus was about to introduce a new teaching and he wanted to make sure he had everyone’s attention. He didn’t want them to just hear his words, he wanted them to listen.
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” NIV
As the crowd scattered after Jesus finished teaching, those who stayed around afterwards and the twelve disciples asked him about the parables.
Jesus explained. Continue reading
News of Jesus’ teaching in Capernaum and the surrounding villages had spread. Large crowds were gathering to hear his words and to see his miracles, many coming hoping to be healed. On more than one occasion the crowds would fill a home to the point that there wasn’t even enough room to eat.
Back in Nazareth, Jesus family had begun to hear the stories about him. And even though Mary knew the stories were true, his brothers thought Jesus was out of his mind. They wondered if he was trying to start an uprising against the Romans, and they knew those never ended well. So they set off for Capernaum, a two day journey. Continue reading
There he was, sitting in his booth by the lake. No one talked to him as they passed, no one even acknowledged he was there as they went to hear this Rabbi speak. He had lost his place in the community. He had sold out. Levi came from a priestly line,his family had served in the Temple and before that the Tabernacle. But not him or his father. Their family had turned their backs on their Jewish brothers and sisters and had sided with those who occupied their land. He was out collecting taxes for the Romans, learning the new family business. And because of this, they were hated by their neighbors.
A few hours later as the crowd dispersed, the Rabbi walked by the booth with his disciples. Levi, seeing them coming dropped something and leaned over to pick it up so as not to make eye contact with Jesus. But Jesus stopped, and with just a couple of words changed Levi’s life forever. He said, “Follow me!” And Levi did. Continue reading