Sunday, May 15, 2016

This week's lesson (May 14-20): Peter and the Rock

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" 
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" 
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" -- Mark 8:27-29, NIV.
Just prior to these words, Christ had performed one of his most puzzling miracles: the healing of a blind man in Bethsaida. Rather than heal him outright, however, Jesus had spit on the man's eyes, placed hands on him, and then asked, "Do you see anything?"
"I see people," the man replied, "but they look like trees walking around."
And so, like a TV repairman fiddling with the picture until it looks right, Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes once again -- and only then was the man's sight restored; only then does the Bible say "he saw everything clearly."
As I said, it's a strange story; it's often made me wonder why Jesus could not have healed both sight and understanding at one and the same time.

Then again, it's no more puzzling than what follows . . . for in the verses quoted above, Peter sees who Jesus really is. "You are the Christ," Peter says -- and as Matthew 16:16ff points out, this declaration was just as much a gift from God as any miracle Jesus ever performed.

Yet just like the blind man from Bethsaida, Peter sees but he does not understand; he knows Jesus is the Christ, but he has no idea of the cross.

[Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" -- Mark 8:31-33, NIV.
It is only with time that Peter -- like the blind man -- will both see and understand.

Likewise, this week's lesson asks, "Who is Jesus?" And just like Peter, the members of your class will be quick to answer: "He is the Christ -- the Son of the Living God."

No, they will see the right answer, sure enough.
But learning to understand this answer . . . 

That takes a lifetime.

This week's lesson first appeared April 4, 2008.

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