JESUS HEALS A BLIND MAN
PETER TO RECEIVE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM
JESUS FORETELLS HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION
Jesus and his disciples arrive at Bethsaida. The people then bring a blind man to him and beg Jesus to touch the man to heal him.
Taking the man by the hand, Jesus leads him outside the village. After spitting on the man’s eyes, Jesus asks him: “Do you see anything?” The man replies: “I see people, but they look like trees walking about.” (Mark 8:23, 24) Laying his hands on the man’s eyes, Jesus restores his sight. He then sends home the man who can now see clearly, instructing him not to enter into the village.
Next, Jesus and his disciples travel northward to the region of Caesarea Philippi. It is a long ascent, covering about 25 miles (40 km). The village is at an elevation of 1,150 feet (350 m) above sea level, with snowcapped Mount Hermon rising to the northeast. The trip probably takes a couple of days.
At one point along the way, Jesus goes off to pray alone. Only about nine or ten months remain before his death, and Jesus is concerned about his disciples. Many have recently left off following him, and others apparently are confused or disappointed. They may be wondering why he rejected the people’s efforts to make him king or why he would not provide a sign to show unquestionably who he really is.
When the disciples come to where he is praying, Jesus asks: “Who are men saying the Son of man is?” They reply: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Yes, people think that Jesus may actually be one of those men raised from the dead. To draw out their thinking, Jesus asks his disciples: “You, though, who do you say I am?” Peter quickly replies: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus says that Peter can be happy that God revealed this to him, adding: “I say to you: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my congregation, and the gates of the Grave will not overpower it.” Jesus means that he himself will build a congregation and that even the Grave will not hold captive its members if they maintain a faithful course on earth. He promises Peter: “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens.”
Jesus does not give Peter first place among the apostles, nor does Jesus make him the foundation of the congregation. Jesus himself is the Rock upon which his congregation will be built. (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20) Peter, though, is to receive three keys. He will have the privilege of opening, as it were, the opportunity for groups of people to enter the Kingdom of the heavens.
Peter would use the first key at Pentecost 33 C.E., showing repentant Jews and proselytes what they must do to be saved. He would use the second to open to believing Samaritans the opportunity to enter God’s Kingdom. Then, in 36 C.E., Peter would use the third to extend that opportunity to uncircumcised Gentiles, Cornelius and others.
In this discussion, Jesus’ apostles are troubled when he foretells the sufferings and death that he will soon face in Jerusalem. Not grasping that Jesus is to be resurrected to heavenly life, Peter takes him aside and rebukes him, saying: “Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this happen to you at all.” But Jesus turns his back and answers: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.”
Jesus now calls others besides the apostles and explains that it will not be easy to be his follower. He says: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and keep following me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the good news will save it.”
Yes, to prove worthy of Jesus’ favor, his followers must be courageous and self-sacrificing. Jesus states: “Whoever becomes ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) Yes, when Jesus thus comes, “he will repay each one according to his behavior.”