from Jeff Banks
“Do you still not see or understand?” Jesus asks the disciples after telling them about the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod (Mark 8:17). He repeats this question again a few verses later and then heals a blind man. Lots of language about sight and perception—why?
Voltaire once quipped that “in the beginning God created man in his own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.” It’s easy to make Jesus in our own image, rather than seeing him as he is. Wise sage, miracle worker, prophet, do-gooder, revolutionary: there are so many ways to see Jesus (and perhaps they all say something true about him). But how does Jesus himself want us to see him?
In this chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus wants his disciples to see him as the Son of Man who must suffer, be rejected by the religious authorities, die, and rise again (Mark 8:31). He “speaks plainly” about these things so that they might get it. They don’t.
Perhaps we can empathize. It’s more than counter-intuitive to see Jesus as this suffering servant; it’s offensive.
But as heirs of a church that has used him to justify crusades and pogroms—a church that has painted him with blonde hair and blue eyes and justified slavery—we need to see him as the suffering servant who went the way of the cross.
In a couple of days, we are going to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We’ll wave our palm fronds and exclaim, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” All this is right and good. Jesus is the rightful king who is coming to take his place above the authorities of this world.
Yet let us keep Good Friday in the back of our minds even as we celebrate his coming into Jerusalem and remember that he is the king who comes to suffer, be rejected, die, and rise again. Yes, it will mean that our joy is pierced by an awareness of the world’s brokenness, but it will also lead us to behold the Messiah as he wants to be seen.
I’m married to Anna and proud dog-parent to Ginger, who has more friends than I do. We live in east Cambridge and love being part of the Cambridge/Somerville neighborhood group.