Feb 26 2013 - Mark 8:11-38 – The call to discipleship
The disciples often seem so slow to understand what Jesus is talking about. When he warned them to “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod” (Mark 8:15) they imagined that his comment was an obscure way of criticising them for having forgotten to bring bread with them on their journey across the lake. They had to be reminded of the miracles which Jesus had performed before they began to understand what he was saying to them.
Later, as he and his disciples are on their way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks them, "Who do people think I am?" The opinions are varied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Nevertheless, there seems to be general agreement that Jesus is someone special; someone sent by God. Jesus then asks the disciples what they think. Peter immediately replies "You are the Messiah" (8:29).
But Peter also is slow to understand. He is rather like the blind man whose healing we read of in the previous verses. His eyes have been opened, but he still does not see very clearly. As Jesus goes on to explain to the disciples the nature of his Messianic calling – that he must suffer and die – Peter is deeply shocked and rebukes his master. But there are even more shocking revelations to come; Jesus says that those who would be his disciples must follow him in the way of the cross (8:34). Peter’s eyes may have been opened but it will take a further work of the Spirit before he not only understands Jesus’ mission but also identifies with it and makes it his own.
It’s all too easy for us recognise the failings of these first disciples, but are we really any different? These words and incidents are recorded by Mark because he knows that we need to take them to heart. Jesus is calling us to more than a profession of faith in him; he calls us to follow him. He calls us not only to recognise who he is; he calls us to understand the nature of his mission and to join him in it. He calls us not only to rejoice in sin forgiven through his atoning death and the promise of resurrection glory to come; he calls us to lay down our own lives for the work of the kingdom. Jesus will not allow nominal discipleship.
Like those first disciples, we also are slow to learn all that Jesus wants to teach us. However much we may imagine we have learned from Christ there is always much more to understand. However much we may think we have committed ourselves to following him and serving him there is much more to be done before we are truly like him. We need the Lord Jesus to touch our eyes again and again that we might see him as he is and see more of his calling upon our lives. Can it yet be said of us, as it was said of the man of Bethsaida when Jesus had finished healing him, "He saw everything clearly"?
Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see clearly who you are as Son of God, Saviour of the world, promised Messiah and Lord of Glory. Help me to understand more of why you came into this world that I may share your passion to see your kingdom come. By your Spirit, open my ears to hear your call upon my life that I might not draw back from the work you have prepared for me but may do it with all my might and with great joy.