Some people brought a blind man to Jesus…
Jesus reputation had spread among the people. Common folks – fishermen, wine makers, carpenters – were bring their friends who had been born blind, sick, afflicted, to Jesus so they could be made whole. The religion of the day had told them, they were not worthy, they were sinners and God was punishing them. Jesus was revealing the kingdom of heaven everywhere he went, and people were begging him for more. These people had brought their blind friend and wanted desperately for Jesus to help him, and of course he does, but in a very strange way.
He leads the man out of the village…
Bethsaida was one of the places Jesus did many miracles; it’s also one of the places that rejected Jesus and his disciples. They had the Kingdom of Heaven presented to them and most of them still chose the world. Jesus leads the man away from the people who had brought him. They would not get to see the Kingdom in action this time. Then Jesus ups the strange; he spits in the man’s eye. Spitting in someone’s eye is a universal insult. Nowhere in any culture, ever, has that not lead to someone getting punched it mouth. Jesus lays hands on the man (probably had to hold him down). And says “can you see anything now?”
People like trees…
The man begins to get his vision restored. It seems from his statement that he wasn’t always blind, he knows what tree’s look like, and that they don’t normally walk around. Jesus hadn’t failed to heal this man. Jesus is perfect. Jesus shows us two things here, sometimes healing takes time, he doesn’t always heal everything on the spot. Jesus also doesn’t just heal physical things, sometime the spiritual and mental damage done by the brokenness of sin takes time. Sometimes it’s a process, and that’s ok. I think in this case he’d had actually given this man improved vision; spiritual vision. Jesus talked a lot about trees in his parables; he used them as illustrations for the kingdom of heaven all the time. He talked about people being like branches of the true vine and the ones who didn’t produce good fruit being cut down and thrown into the fire. He talked about faith being like a tiny mustard seed that produced a great tree that birds came to find shelter in. But here the man see’s people like trees walking around. They’re not doing what trees do. Trees stand and soak up life from the ground and soak in life from the sun. These trees are shaking all the fruit off as they move around. They’re scaring all the birds away.
… he saw everything clearly.
Jesus touches the man again and his sight is restored and he see’s everything clearly. (at a distance and clearly). He saw that the world was different than he remembered it. He saw things with a Kingdom of Heaven view. He saw things in light of grace and mercy. Spit no longer represented an insult but a expression of mercy. Jesus sent him on his way with kingdom of heaven outlook.
Who do people say I am?
Jesus heads out with the boys. While walking along, he puts this question to them. The rumor mill is turning and everyone is throwing opinions and confused. So many people don’t know what to make of Jesus. Some have mistaken him JTB or Elijah or some other prophet. Then he gets a little personal, “who do you say I am.” Huge question!
Huge Response! Peter says, you’re the messiah. Christ, Christos, the anointed one.
Peter really has no idea what he’s saying yet, He doesn’t know how things are going to go down. He doesn’t really know what “Son of God” means. But he knows enough to know that Jesus is the real deal. How could he know this? Of course he’s been with Jesus a lot, he’s seen the miracles, he’s heard the teaching, and he’s watched Jesus confound the religious leaders. But so had lots of the people in Bethsaida, so had lots of people everywhere Jesus went. Why was Simon son of Jonah so convinced?
In Matthew’s record of this little chat we get the answer. The same thing that had happened to the blind man in Bethsaida had already happened to Peter to a degree. Jesus tells Peter, you’re blessed because my Father in Heaven has revealed this to you. God had opened something up in Simon so he could perceive what was happening around him as the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth in Jesus. It wasn’t what he’d learned in school or church or even the things that he’d seen. It was that he’d encountered Jesus, the kingdom of heaven, he experienced and God revealed to him what was actually happening. He didn’t know about the cross yet, he didn’t know about the resurrection, he didn’t know about the promised Holy Spirit. He had a totally different idea of what the Messiah was supposed to do. He wasn’t an expert in the Law. He was a normal young guy, a fisherman.
Jesus says he will build his church on this rock. Not on Peter’s strength or wisdom or faith or ideas, which is what some people have come to believe, but on the revelation of God to Peter about who Jesus is. God revealed the truth about Jesus to Peter and God reveals the truth about Jesus to us, and when a bunch of us get together who have seen the reality, even if it’s only a small bit of the reality of who Jesus is, then that church, that group of called out people, are an unstoppable force against the gate of hell.
Here’s the keys…
Jesus offers his disciples the keys to heaven and puts them in charge of what comes to earth from heaven. You’re in charge. Well, in the way that you’re now able to hear what God’s plans are, be lead by the Holy Spirit and have the power to do what he wants you to. Jesus has given you the Holy Spirit, he is the key to knowing and experiencing and living out the Kingdom of Heaven in your life. And the best part is, it’s unstoppable. We can walk into the kingdom of darkness, empowered by the Holy Spirit and introduce them to Jesus so he can rescue them. All the false religion, all the worldly temptations, all the resistance the enemy can muster, will not prevail against the revelation of Jesus. He wins.
So, who do you say Jesus is, he asks the question to all of us. If he’s healed your vision so you see the world from a kingdom of heaven perspective, what are you going to do with the keys to heaven?
Do what you did the first time your parents gave you the keys to the car, go for a drive, see what it feels like, be a little bit adventurous, go tell you friends you’ve got the car, drive slightly dangerously because you don’t really know what you’re doing yet. Turn the radio up and sing as loud as you can. Stop and get some fuel, and some food, you’ll need it for the road trip. If you bump into someone and put some scratches on it, you’ve got good grace based insurance, it’ll get fixed (maybe your dad would be upset by the dent, but you’re Father in Heaven won’t mind a bit). Buckle up, it’s a crazy ride!