If we look at the events recorded in these verses, we can discern an attempt by Mark to show how faith is built up in a person. Here we see how faith was built in Peter and the other disciples. His statement in verse 29 is not an isolated or sudden event, but the end of a process. We may fail to see this if we take Peter’s statement out of context.
The first event in this chain occurred when Jesus healed a deaf man and restored his ability to speak. The second event was the feeding of the crowd. The third was the restoration of sight to a blind man. Here Jesus performed a healing in stages. This should not be taken as a prescription for how we should heal people. It is a symbol of growth in faith. The man did not see clearly at first, but eventually received full sight. When individuals come to faith in Christ the Holy Spirit enlightens them understand the basic truth of salvation but they must still grow as disciples and thus see clearly all that the Lord had revealed.
The 3 events described here were all prophesied of the Messiah. Although Peter and the disciples had been with Jesus for some time, they had heard Him speak but were deaf to His message. They had seen the signs He performed, but were blind to their significance. Now when they saw them in such quick succession they realized who He was. Now they could hear and see. Now they could speak and proclaim that He was the Messiah. They had grown through the process and knew who Jesus was, but they still misunderstood what the work of the Messiah was to be. They thought it was to be all immediate splendor and glory. Yet the path to that glory, as Jesus pointed out, was through suffering and shame.
Jesus amazed people. He went about touching unclean people, healing sick men and women and casting demons out of the possessed, things which no one had ever seen. And so His popularity grew. Everyone could see He was more than just an ordinary teacher or prophet. Yet in his home town, the people refused to acknowledge that He was anything special or had any authority. They saw Him as a mere carpenter who had no religious training.
Jesus’ fame grew even more as He sent forth His disciples to preach, heal and cast out demons. This attack on the kingdom of darkness attracted the attention of King Herod who thought John the Baptist has arisen from the dead and was coming back to judge him. He had imprisoned John because he dared to speak boldly against Herod’s adultery. Herod was a weak-willed bully who was afraid of God but one day, inflamed by drink and the seductive dance of his stepdaughter, he made a rash vow and had John the Baptist beheaded. Apparently his fear of God was far outweighed by the opinions of his friends.
God often uses fear to turn sinners to Him. Unfortunately, Herod, like most people today, was too proud to allow his fear to lead him to humility and repentance. His behavior is imitated by many politicians and other people today who ignore the voice of the church of Jesus Christ which is calling out for godliness in government and personal life. Yet so many political leaders prefer to maintain the favorable opinion (and money) of their supporters rather than heed the voice of the Lord. Whether or not they realize this, they have put their eternal souls in jeopardy and have led many astray. We must pray for them that they would humble themselves before the Lord.
Jesus here is confronted by His family who seem to be embarrassed by His ministry. I have felt such feelings in my family especially when I first became a Christian. My family thought I was crazy. After all, I was baptized, confirmed and raised a Christian in the Roman Catholic Church. What else did I need? At that time they believed that only Catholics were guaranteed a spot in heaven, although it was not a sure thing. Even Catholics still had to earn their way to get there although they at least had a chance that no one else had.
It was not easy for me to turn from the family and its traditional religious values because it brought me a lot of criticism. But I had met Jesus, the same Jesus I heard of when I was growing up but now I found that He loved me. And because of His love I was guaranteed a place in heaven in spite of my sinful nature, not because of how good I was, but because of how good He is, that is, perfect. I was convinced by faith in the assurance of salvation in Him alone. There was no way I could go back in spite of the pressure. I was and still am sure!
Jesus handled the criticism of His family with wisdom. He was convinced of His mission and purpose in life because He knew who He was and His relationship with the Father. Nothing any of His relatives or friends said or did would change that. While we should love and respect our parents and relatives and seek to present them the gospel in word and in deed, family authority or loyalty should never take precedence over obeying the will of God the Father.
We must obey God rather than man.
When Jesus was confronted with the paralyzed man, He felt compassion for Him. That is why He forgave the man His sins. Forgiveness was the main reason why Jesus had come to earth, the main aspect of His ministry. In addition, He came to provide us freedom from the bondage of the Law. This is why He proclaimed that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. He came to do away with man-made religious rules and enable people to follow Him in spirit and truth with love not fear.
Jesus’ pronouncements brought Him into conflict with the religious rulers of the Jews. They resented the fact that He presumed to have this authority, for only God could forgive sins. Who was He anyway? He was not a Pharisee or priest or rabbi. Yet Jesus proved His authority and His divinity by miraculously healing the paralyzed man among others. This ought to have been a rather spectacular and convincing proof of His authority, but it was lost on the Jewish leaders. Instead of seeing Jesus for who He was, they only complained about Him. That was why Jesus told them that the old religious system was being replaced. The old system only served to remind people of their sin and guilt but never did anything to resolve or abolish them.
The new system, the new covenant would do away with guilt and sin not by law but by grace. The new covenant is rooted in the love and obedience of Jesus who took the guilt and punishment for sin on Himself and abolished it forever.
John the Baptist preached that people should repent of their sins in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus began preaching the gospel once John was imprisoned. He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God and arrived in Him, that he was the promised Messiah. In this way, His ministry is linked with the Old Testament. His message was that God is acting now to fulfill the promises He had made to Abraham and his descendants. Jesus proclaimed that He is the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Jesus, like John, called people to repent, to turn away from sin and to turn to God. He also called them to believe the gospel, the good news. The good news was that God had come to earth in Jesus. This is indeed good news because Jesus came manifesting God’s power, righteousness, mercy and love. Jesus preached with authority and performed signs, wonders, miracles to add further power to His teaching. So the people believed in Him.
The best part of the Good News was Jesus Himself. He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God had arrived and that the Lord was reconciling the world unto Himself in His own person. This was great news to those who were wandering in the darkness of fear, legalism, guilt and man-made religion. Today it still is the greatest news we can hear for it fills us with the Holy Spirit who sustains us with strength and perseverance that enables us to keep on going in the midst of a world filled with pain and strife.
The events surrounding the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead form the basis of our own testimony for they are based on the testimony of several eyewitnesses. These men and women had no reason to lie nor could they fabricate such a story. The followers of Jesus had never heard of anyone rising from the dead. The miracle of Jesus’ resurrection was so totally beyond their understanding that the women who were the first to hear it from the mouth of the angels did not know what to make of it. Neither could the disciples when they heard. They had no idea that Jesus was going to do what He did. So we can understand why the two disciples who encountered the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Him. Yet their hearts so burned with the hope that Jesus brought to them in His words, that they finally understood who He was and what He had done. Then they recognized Him!
We would all like to know the message that Jesus brought to those disciples, but we are not given the exact words and phrases. All we are told is that Jesus used the Old Testament scriptures to prove that He is the Messiah, and that He fulfilled those scriptures in His life, suffering, death and resurrection. The great thing is that we do have access to those scriptures but have to study hard to glean them, or, like Cleopas and his companion, listen to godly teachers who can make them clearer to us. Our faithful response to those words forms the testimony that we are to present to others that they too might believe, repent and receive the mercy and forgiveness of a loving God.
The Sanhedrin had no authority to condemn Jesus to death so they decided to place the case before the Roman governor, Pilate. They accused Jesus of provoking a rebellion against the Roman Empire as He had claimed to be the King of the Jews. Although Jesus did admit to this, Pilate could see that He was a humble and peaceful man and figured this was just a petty squabble among the Jews. He packed Jesus off to Herod to delay making a decision, but Herod was consumed only by self-interest and perhaps by guilt over the execution of John the Baptist. He did not want to make any decision. Eventually Pilate made a choice to placate the Sanhedrin. He did not really care about justice, compassion, or civil rights only politics and self-interest. Yet he wrote this charge over His head as if he were an insurrectionist: King of the Jews.
We should learn from Jesus’ humble and humiliating suffering. When we suffer we often complain, cry and become filled with self-pity especially when we are falsely accused. As Jesus was suffering, His concern was not His own pain but the feelings and needs of others. He comforted the grieving women. He forgave His executioners, both the Romans and the Jews. He granted mercy and salvation to the repentant thief. And, no doubt, His thoughts were for us as well, for He bore the weight of our sins. He experienced the wrath of God because of us, so we too are to be counted among those who nailed Him to the cross. When we suffer then, we should seek the help of Jesus so we may offer our pain for His glory.