Monthly Archives: July 2010
I’m sure I’m not the first person to have thought of this. But here’s the problem with Facebook friends.
Real friendships take work. They take investment. You usually have to maintain them over time. Keeping someone as your friend is an active process; you have to, like, spend time with people and talk with them. On the other hand, to lose a friend, all you really have to do is…nothing. Just don’t keep in contact, and over time you’ll drift apart.
Facebook friendships are the opposite. They take no work. They take no investment. You don’t have to maintain them over time. Keeping someone as your friend is a passive process; you’ll stay friends forever as long as neither of you does anything. On the other hand, to lose a friend, you have to hunt for the obscure “Remove from Friends” link on their profile page, click it, confirm that you don’t want to be friends anymore, and then wait for the other person to send an angry message demanding to know why you removed him or her from your friends list.
Notice how that’s not the way real friendships work.
For this reason, it’s impossible for your “Friends” list on Facebook to accurately reflect your real friendships, even if you do your best to maintain that list (as I do). Facebook encourages a false and shallow model of friendship. And that’s why Facebook is singlehandedly responsible for the decline of Western civilization. Yeah, that’s gotta be it.
Today we’re going to reach what commentator James Edwards calls the “continental divide” in the book of Mark. For the first time, a human being identifies Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. And shortly thereafter, Jesus chews him out.
What’s interesting is that Mark introduces this story with another healing account. Jesus shows up at the town of Bethsaida, where a blind man is brought to him. He leads the blind man out of the village, spits in his eyes (!), and lays his hands on him. Then, instead of pronouncing a word of healing, Jesus asks him a question: “Do you see anything?”
Now, coming where it does in Mark’s account of Jesus’ life, this question is not just posed to the blind man. Jesus has rebuked his disciples for their spiritual dullness, asking them, “Having eyes do you not see?…Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:18, 21). This time, he’s questioning a physically blind man about his sight.
The man looks around and replies, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.” His sight has only been partially restored. Now, this is a surprise! Jesus has cast out demons, calmed a windstorm, walked on water, and raised a girl from the dead; yet here, the blind man’s sight hasn’t been fully restored. Why not? Why does Jesus choose to give the man partial, distorted eyesight before he finishes healing him?
Our answers come at once. The scene shifts to the road leading to the Roman colony of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus has begun quizzing his disciples. “Who do people say that I am?” he asks. They report the speculation that has been swirling around Galilee: “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” In the popular opinion, Jesus is a great man, perhaps even one of the great prophets. He could even be the second coming of Elijah, a forerunner to the Messiah, God’s anointed king who is to reign over Israel.
Even today, people from all religions and ethnic backgrounds seem to respect Jesus. They agree that he’s a great teacher, a righteous man, possibly even a prophet. But is Jesus satisfied with this response?
The next question Jesus asks his disciples is a lot more personal. He isn’t interested so much in what other people think of him. He wants to know what each of his disciples is thinking. Jesus demands a response from each and every person. “But who do you say that I am?” he asks them, and you and I must consider this question as well and give him our answer.
In his customary manner, Peter blurts out, “You are the Christ!” And at once, everything changes. Now the veil has been removed. Peter and the other disciples have been observing Jesus’ divine and exclusive authority, and they’ve followed the bread crumbs to the only reasonable conclusion: this man is the long-awaited Messiah, sent from God. Like the blind man from Bethsaida, they’re finally able to see the truth. Jesus is more than just a great man, and he won’t settle for that label.
What’s funny is that Jesus strictly orders his disciples to keep his identity a secret. Remember that he asked the blind man to stay out of the village as well, rather than reporting the news of his healing. This has been a consistent pattern throughout the gospel of Mark. Why doesn’t Jesus want the general public to know he is the Christ? Well, again our answers come at once.
In a shocking turn of events, Jesus finally reveals to his disciples what he, the Messiah, has come to do. He hasn’t come to overthrow the Roman government and set up an independent Jewish state. He hasn’t come to reestablish the law of Moses or to bring social justice to the beleaguered people of Israel. Instead, he has come to suffer, to be rejected by the Jewish leaders, and then to be killed. And though Jesus also predicts that he will be raised to life again, Peter is so shocked by the idea of a suffering and dying Messiah that he doesn’t seem to notice this final prophecy. He takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him. Jesus has it all wrong! The Messiah is a conquering hero, not a suffering wretch! How are they supposed to follow a man who offers only these gloomy delusions? What about the victorious life all the televangelists are promising? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.)
Jesus looks over at the rest of his disciples. They’re watching to see what he will say; no doubt Peter is speaking for all of them. So when Jesus chews out Peter, he’s speaking to them as well. “Get behind me, Satan!” he orders him. “For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” In trying to derail Jesus’ mission, Peter is sounding an awful lot like Satan. He has his own plan for how Jesus should be glorified, but it isn’t God’s plan.
Like the blind man at Bethsaida, Peter and his fellow disciples aren’t seeing clearly. They do at least recognize that Jesus is the Christ, but they are confused about what that means. They don’t understand that he is to be a suffering Messiah, who will give his life “as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). As Edwards puts it, they’ve moved from non-understanding to misunderstanding. That’s why Jesus wants them to keep quiet about who he is. Lies circulating about him are bad enough; half-truths are even worse.
The story of the blind man helps us understand what the Holy Spirit is teaching us through this passage. Jesus doesn’t want us to misunderstand who he is. Yes, he is the Christ, and you and I can’t really know him unless we believe that. But neither can we know Jesus unless we understand what his mission is. And that’s what Mark will be explaining as he continues his story.
Here’s a quick tip if you’re interested in really digging into God’s Word and drawing as much out as you can: read through a commentary on a book of the Bible!
I know, commentaries are really huge and look like they would take forever to get through. It’s something of a long-term project, I agree. But commentaries aren’t just for scholars! A high-quality, accessible commentary will help you explore the depths of God’s Word and gain insights that would never be possible otherwise. Think of it as though you got to sit down in a room with scholar who has been studying the book for years, and he offered to let you pick his brains about the book. I find that my love for the Lord grows far more from this kind of reading than it does from the bite-sized “daily devotional” fare that’s usually recommended to Christians.
Let me give you a sample from James Edwards’ commentary on Mark, which I have been reading as I work my way through this gospel account. It doesn’t take too long to read Edwards’ commentary on one or two of Mark’s stories. Here is an excerpt from his comments on Mark 8:29–30, which I’ll be arriving at next week.
At some point the colleagues of Jesus—and everyone who has heard his name—must look deep within Jesus and deep within themselves and risk a decision that will entail either a commitment to or a severance from the identity and mission of this Jesus.…
If they are to continue “on the way” with him, they cannot remain spectators and bystanders but must themselves become participators. The way to Jerusalem involves the way of suffering, and for the disciples to participate in that way requires a fellowship based on faith. “‘Who do you say I am?’” This is the central question of Mark’s Gospel—and of every presentation of the gospel. The essential meaning of faith is contained in the answer given. (pp. 248–249)
Have you ever had a dream that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?
“Aha!” you laugh. “I see what you did there!” you say. “Dave, you are quoting a line from The Matrix,” you scold.
To which I reply, “That’s impossible! This is a review of Inception, not The Matrix! Silly you!”
Yes, for the first time in eleven years, we have a good movie about traveling around inside of sleeping people’s heads. (Don’t worry, I won’t be spoiling anything in this review that the movie doesn’t tell you almost at once.) Leonardo DiCaprio used to earn his living by starring in Titanic, making women’s eyes weep and men’s eyes roll. Now, however, he earns his living by breaking into people’s dreams and stealing or planting secret information there. And it turns out that dreams are pretty crazy places to break into. Alas, I rarely remember my dreams, so I’ll just have to take director Christopher Nolan’s word for it.
Now, I could go on and on about how this is a very fast-paced, tense, spectacular, controversial, and confusing movie. I could say it’s one of the most impressive movies released so far this year. But the best part of this movie is that it has now spawned a new catchphrase, invented by me:
That’s right: “You got Incept’d!” It’s just like “you got punk’d!” but more ironic, and therefore more appealing to hipsters. Now, I know you can’t wait to bust out this catchphrase on your friends, so let me offer you five possible situations in which you can use it:
- Your friend tells you that you were in her dream last night.
- Your friend experienced a dream within a dream last night.
- Your friend tells you about his great new idea that sounds like something you would’ve come up with.
- Your friend just finished watching Inception.
- Your friend has a major crush on Leonardo DiCaprio.
And that’s when you announce to your friend in triumph, “You got Incept’d!” There’s a certain thrill to it.
So let’s find out how that thrill affects my foolproof rating system:
- I would pay money to see it again ($$$$).
- I would see it again if someone gave me a free ticket ($$$).
- I wouldn’t see it again even if someone gave me a free ticket ($$).
- I wouldn’t see it again even if someone paid me to go ($).
The answer is: not at all, because you don’t even have to see Inception to enjoy using the catchphrase! The good (or bad) news is that Inception is the kind of movie you’ll want to see at least twice, since you’ll want to watch most of it again to figure out what the heck is going on. Thus, I give it $$$¢ (three dollars and change). I might pay money to see it again, depending on my mood and who’s going with me. And especially depending on whether or not my fellow viewers are willing to tolerate my sensational new refrain, “You got Incept’d!”