Monday, May 22, 2017

Walking in Darkness

"So He (Jesus) took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town."
Mark 8:23a

Have you ever been in darkness so thick that you weren't able to see your hand in front of your face? If so, you know that's not a fun place to be. When I first started traveling, I had one of those experiences. I was in revival at a church that had formerly been a masonic lodge. I'm not exactly sure how it worked out that way . . . But, the church had converted the lodge into a place of worship. There were few windows and I was roomed in a quarters in the basement of the old lodge, new church. 

If you've ever stayed overnight or been alone in a church, you know how freaky it can be. (Don't get me wrong. I want the Holy Ghost. I just don't want to meet Him in the dark!) After service one night a storm blew in. It was fierce! So fierce that the whole area lost power. And, you can guess how that went for me. I was in the basement of an old masonic lodge, new church with no windows, no electricity, and no flashlight. It was dark. Let me reiterate: IT. WAS. DARK. This is the stuff of which horror movies are made. You can imagine all the noises that invaded my space as the hours dragged on. 

Life can be like this.

Let's be completely honest:
Life isn't easy.
It isn't even always fun.

We can find ourselves in dark places. Many times, if we're honest, it happens because of our own choices. But, then there are other times that a storm seems to blow in and we end up powerless. 

I'd like to use this week's post to encourage those who are currently in a dark place.

You'll remember the scene from Mark 8 that we looked at last week. (If not, scroll down and read/reread "Don't Go Back to that Place!". A blind man was being brought out of a blind city. He was being led by men who were concerned about his physical eyesight. This is obvious. There is the temptation to spiritualize this moment, but these men weren't concerned about his heart. They simply wanted Jesus to meet his physical need. The news of this Miracle Worker had been spreading. Jesus had been revealing Himself to the people of Bethsaida (out of which these men were coming) and they had rejected the message of the Kingdom. So, really you could say this is an illustration of the blind leading the blind.

We looked last week at an overlooked aspect of the story: Jesus led him out of the environment of darkness that he had been dwelling in so that He could do a deeper work in his life. The exclamation point was added when Jesus commanded him, after fully sighted, to not go back to the city.

Think about this:
Jesus took the man by the hand.
Jesus led him out of the town.

If you know me, you know that I am analytical. There are many times that vague statements can drive me nuts. This is one of those statements which I wish I had a little more detail: 

          How far did they walk?
                    Was it a few blocks?
                              Or, maybe a mile?
                                        What was the conversation?
                                                  Or, did they even talk at all?

I really would love to know the answers to those questions.

There was no physical healing that occurred up to this point in his life.
He was still completely blind. 
He was being led through the darkness.
Jesus had him by the hand.
And, he simply went where Jesus was leading.

Can you see the beauty in this?
Jesus had him by the hand.
The blind man simply went to where Jesus was leading, trusting His leadership.
Jesus was taking him to a place where He would do a deeper work.

Perhaps, I'm making too much of this. But, I can't get away from that image today.

You're on my mind. 

I've come to realize over the last few years that I really don't know the people to which I'm blessed to preach. I may know some on a surface level. Maybe a few on a deeper level. But, I really don't know you. 

Maybe you find yourself in a dark place. Perhaps, you don't understand what's going on or even how it's gonna work out. Can I encourage you in this . . . Don't let go of Jesus' hand. He's leading you to a place where He is about to do a deeper work in your life. Oh, it may not turn out exactly how you think, but He will move/is moving. 

Trust Him. 
Hold on to His hand.
He will never let go of you. 
He's leading you into the full light of His Kingdom!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Don't Go Back To That Place

Mark 8:22-26

The Nature of the Kingdom (8:22-10:52) section of Mark's Gospel begins with the strangest miracle that Jesus ever performed. It is, at least, the only miracle where we see Jesus touching an individual more than once to accomplish the intended outcome. And, it is filled with great truth that should impact on our lives tremendously.

In my last post (quite some time ago), I offered a broad outline of Mark's story of Jesus. The first section, The Kingdom Revealed, comes to a close with Jesus confronting His inner circle with a series of questions (8:17-21):

                         Do you not yet understand?
                                   Is your heart still hardened?
                                             Having eyes, do you not see?
                                                        Having ears, do you not hear?

In other words: They simply weren't getting it.

Suddenly, we're in Bethsaida. You'll remember Bethsaida . . . This is one of the cities that Jesus pronounced woes upon in Matthew 11 and Luke 10. Your subheading may call it an impenitent city. In other words, they were unwilling to be sorrowful over the Godless lives they had been living. Jesus had been amongst them revealing His Father's kingdom. His message was very clear: "The Kingdom of God has come! Repent and believe." (Mark 1:15). Yet, they refused. Bethsaida was a blind city. They had refused to receive the light that Jesus came to offer.

Isn't it interesting that this is the backdrop of our narrative? 

We may be tempted to believe that this is simply a story about a man's physical blindness. But, the whole Nature of the Kingdom section is backdropped with blindness. It begins with Jesus' question, moves to this physically blind man, and ends in chapter 10 with a blind man named Bartimaeus. 

I'm convinced that it reveals the desire of this Kingdom:
  • The King comes to us in our state of total blindness
  • He refuses to leave us there
  • He desires to lead us into the full light of the Kingdom here and now: The Kingdom has come!

Think about this:

                              The King has come so we can see fully.
                                         We don't have to remain in our blindness.
                                                   Here's the question: Do we really want to see?

I want us to notice something about the story we might read over. 

The first thing Jesus does, when they bring the blind man to him, is to take him by the hand to lead him "out of the town" (23). Before there is any physical sight restored, Jesus takes him by the hand and leads him out of Bethsaida to a place where He will do a great work in his life.

Don't miss it . . .

He (Jesus) leads him out of the town (Bethsaida, the blind city) in order to do a deep work in this man's life. This was the environment of darkness he had been living in and now, Jesus wants to lead him out. Before He does anything else--even before physical sight is restored--He wants to lead him out of the darkness he'd been living in for so long.

May I speak plainly? 

I'm captured by this scene. 
In it's simplicity, I really am. 

I have come to realize that many will never experience the deeper work of Jesus in our lives. Why? Because we'd rather remain in the environment of darkness that we've lived in for so long. He comes and longs to lead us out and we just keep going back to those dark places.

What is that He is leading you away from in order to do a deeper work?
Are you willing to leave that environment of darkness that only serves to keep you blind?
Would you trust Him enough to lead you out?
Do you really want to see?

Our story begins with Jesus leading a blind man away from a blind city. 
It ends with Jesus speaking a command to this fully sighted man:
"Don't go back to that place!"

Will you allow Jesus to lead you from your environment of blindness?

Then, heed His command: Don't go back to that place!