[May 21, 2011] In this passage we have Peter’s confession of Jesus, “You are the Messiah!” preceded by a story of a blind man who received his sight in two stages. Presumably Peter recognized who Jesus is because he could “see” who Jesus is, while others could not. They were blind while he was beginning to have his sight restored. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says to Peter after he makes this confession, “Blessèd are you, because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in the heavens.” This recognition of Jesus was not something Peter came to on his own, by weighing the evidence and following it through with logic. It was revealed to him. This means that he saw something that he could not see before. A veil had been removed, and God was the one who removed it, not the outward evidence by itself. It was a miracle, in other words. Before he was blind, but God opened his eyes.
So the miracle story that Mark placed just before this incident, the healing of the blind man, is a parable of what happened, or what was happening, to Peter. He was like the blind man when Jesus first spat in his eyes and laid his hands on him. When Jesus asked the man, “Do you see anything?” it was analogous to His asking His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Do you see anything yet? The man, whom Jesus was healing, saw but everything was blurry; Jesus had to lay His hands on him again before he saw clearly. Likewise, Peter saw, but not as clearly as he thought. Two verses down, Jesus speaks to the disciples about the cross and Peter began to rebuke Jesus. It would take a while before Peter could see clearly.
In our world we are overwhelmingly distracted by our own inventions. We are surrounded by what we ourselves have created, and these creations express what is in us. And like the chatter in our own minds, they are constantly chattering and demanding our attention so that we cannot even think anymore much less see. Once upon a time people had nature to look at. It imposed itself on attention as something we did not create. It was not an expression of what was in us. How we perceived it was (an expression of what was in us); and that perception was like a mirror that could tell us a lot about ourselves. Nevertheless, it had the potential of taking us out of ourselves. It at least reminded us that we are not all there is. Perhaps that is why we are so hell-bent on conquering and destroying it—if we could only bring it into subjection to ourselves it would not bother us so much.
The point is that in the modern world we seem to think that the world of our own making is all there is. We forget that God exists, or even that there is a reality outside of what we have conquered. Earthquakes and tsunamis remind us that it is still there. The Bible asserts that there is a reality outside of what we normally perceive and it is so real that it demands that we see everything else as relative to it. What we think matters may not matter. What we think is real is not so real after all. There is a wildness out there that is beyond our control; we did not create it and our minds cannot figure it out. This frightens us, just as much as the forest used to frighten our ancestors. All they wanted to do was cut it down and cultivate it. Then they felt much safer. The wildness that I’m talking about is the reality of God. This is the reality that the Bible asserts and that feels so alien to us moderns.
Our eyes, however, can be opened to see this other world, the real world outside our own minds. It will take something reaching into our world and grabbing us by the scruff of our neck. Mark tells us that Jesus spat on the man’s eyes. How repulsive! Yet that spit is symbolic of the word mixed with the fluid of the Spirit. And Jesus laid His own hands on the man—the word and Spirit mixture was inseparable from Himself. God reaches into our self-enclosed world with the word of the Gospel, the word of Jesus contained in the Scriptures. This word has the power to shake us and wake us up to reality.
The draw of Scripture, and our revulsion towards it, is this wildness that takes us way out of our realm of comfort. How can we conquer it and bring it under our control? That is our temptation. But what if we don’t? What if instead we can really hear it? It would require more than we are capable of. It would require that the Holy Spirit works through the words of the Scriptures and does something inside of us. If this happens, and we touch reality through it, our hunger for it grows and it becomes the center of our lives. This is what it means, what it has always meant, to be a Christian.