Sermon: Walking Trees - Mark 8

While we must concede that this miracle raises some questions that we might never know the full answers until we get to glory, we can learn some significant lessons from walking trees that enable us to follow Christ more effectively.

Scriptures: Mark 8:22-26

Introduction

The healing of the blind man near Bethsadia is the only recorded miracle performed by Jesus where the healing was initially incomplete. This man needed a second touch to experience a full restoration of sight. We find some additional information about the setting of the miracle in Matthew 11: 20-22 where Bethsadia and Chorazin are rebuked for their unwillingness to embrace the ministry of Christ. The wickedness that dominated the area appears to be a contributing factor for the miracle taking place outside the city.

While we must concede that this miracle raises some questions that we might never know the full answers until we get to glory, we can learn some significant lessons from walking trees that enable us to follow Christ more effectively.

I. Friends can move us closer to or further from God

The Bible says the blind man's friends brought him to Jesus. In a similar healing of a crippled man who also had friends who tore open a roof and lowered their friend to Jesus, this story describes a small group that was concerned for their friend. Friendship is important to God. The Bible says, "Two are better than one for they have a good return for their labor. When one falls down the other can pick him up, but pity the man who when he falls has no one to pick him up" (Ecc. 4:9-10). Jesus described His followers as friends. Proverbs declares the positive benefit of friends even if we don't like what they say because, "The wounds of a friend are sweeter than the kisses an enemy."

Friends can also have a negative influence on our life. Proverbs is full of warnings not to hang out with fools who mock God because they will lead you down a path of destruction. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, "Bad company corrupts good morals." Examples of negative influence in Scripture include

  • Israel listened to the bad report of 10 spies instead of Joshua and Caleb.
  • Israel asked for a king because they "wanted to be like other nations" instead of the redemptive uniqueness that God desired for them.
  • Herod executed John the Baptist because he was afraid of being considered weak in front of his pagan friends.
  • An angry mob demanded Christ to be crucified instead of the convicted murderer Barabbas.
  • Demas and Alexander did harm to the apostle Paul because they "loved the world."

Other examples could be cited, and many of you know of personal stories of people who made bad decisions due in part to the negative influence of friends. Fortunately, the blind man from Bethsadia had friends who led their friend closer to Jesus. Do you have friends who push you closer to Christ? Are you a friend who inspires others to follow Christ more closely, or do you lead others away from Christ?

II. Faith is shared, not borrowed

Friends can and should inspire us, but their faith can never be a substitute for a personal faith in Christ. In this story Jesus leads the blind man away from the city and from his friends to experience a personal encounter with the Savior. In every church, there are people who are "cultural Christians," which means Christianity is more a heritage of habit than a defining devotion to Christ. Many church members lack a conviction to follow Christ because they have never been saved. Church is just a place where they hang out for an hour on Sunday because that is what they have done all their life.

III. The Master's touch trumps tradition

I am convinced one of the reasons why Jesus performed this miracle differently was just to remind us that God cannot be put in a box. Maybe you have heard the joke, "How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?" The answer: No one knows for sure because the chairman of the deacons protested at business conference saying, "We ain't voting to change anything!"

Several years ago, I heard professor and author Leonard Sweet share about being rebuked when he took his laptop into the pulpit instead of a leather-bound Bible. The professor explained that he actually had several translations including Hebrew and Greek downloaded on his computer, but the church stood strong. "No computers, only Bibles in the pulpit!"

It is ironic and sad that we worship the Creator, yet one of the least creative places on the planet is a Baptist church. What is the best way to experience the power and love of God? Is it through preaching, singing, praying, or observing the beauty of nature? Maybe you experienced God on a mission trip, visiting a hospital, practicing for a choir special, or teaching Vacation Bible School. There are multiple ways to experience Christ. Jesus healed by spitting on one man. I will confess  I am glad the church did not adopt this method as the best way to confer blessing. Jesus placed mud on the eyes of another. Some He touched in a ceremonial fashion. For some blessings Jesus just spoke, and demons fled and the dead were raised.

Don't put God in a box. You may have yet to experience the best way that God desires to communicate and demonstrate His power in your life.

IV. Some nails need more than one hit

Why did Jesus have to touch the man twice? Perhaps it was because the affliction was so severe. As already mentioned, Matthew identifies this region as unresponsive to Christ and His ministry. Living in that environment would have made the man susceptible to demonic strongholds.

We have other biblical examples of where repeated efforts were necessary to accomplish the desired result. Joshua marched around Jericho thirteen times before the walls came down. Elijah prayed seven times before the rain came down. Jesus prayed thee times, "let this cup pass from me." The King of Glory faced some enemies that refused to go away after the first punch, so Jesus hit them again.

Like driving a nail into a piece of wood, you will face some challenges that require more than one strike of the hammer, so hit it again!

V. Seek additional blessings

A final lesson from this story can be observed in the question Jesus asked, "What do you see?" Keep in mind that Jesus never asks questions for information. He is God in the flesh. He knows all things even the thoughts of a man, so Jesus already knew what the man could see when He asked the question. Jesus is seeking to impart revelation to the blind man not get information from him.

Other examples in Scripture where God used questions teach include

  • Cain, where is your brother?
  • Moses, what is that in your hand?
  • God asked Elijah, "What are you doing hiding up here on Mount Horeb?"

Jesus asked several significant questions.

  • Who do the people say that I am?
  • Who is your neighbor?
  • What should we feed the multitudes?
  • Bartimaeus, what do you want the Son of Man to do for you?

Jesus knew what the man could see, but He asked the question desiring for the man to seek one more touch. Most people are content with just a little blessing. Most never pray as Jabez prayed, "Lord, bless me indeed." Most are content with one touch of salvation knowing it will get them heaven, but they continue to live without the fullness that Jesus promised. Most people would have answered the question, "What do you see?" like this: "Things are a little blurry, but I'll be alright. When I get a little more time, I will come back, but I have some other things to do first."

Conclusion

So Jesus asks the question, "What do you see?" He is still asking the same question today? Are things a little blurry in your life? Do you need a fresh touch from the Master? Are you tired of trying to live off of someone else's testimony? Are you ready to seek a personal encounter with Christ? What do you see, and what are you going to do about it?

Dr. Steve Andrews is senior pastor Alabaster Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. He and his wife Karen have four children. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Georgia.