Men as Trees 

In the eighth chapter of the book of Mark, a short narrative seems to have been inserted as an afterthought.  We know that’s not really the case, but five verses of scripture are not joined with anything that precedes or follows them.  The subject, city and setting before these verses are different, and the theme and location of the verses following don’t seem to match.  The odd placement causes us to draw closer to the account in study.  Even a casual reading of Mark 8 will show how these verses stand out. 

Preachers tell us in the rules of scripture study, we must always be careful with context.  We must know the setting and the subject.  We must know who is speaking and to whom the comments are directed.  As the saying goes, the entire Bible is not written to you, but it is written for you

Our setting is Bethsaida.  Historians believe this was where the 5000 were fed.  Phillip, Andrew and Peter were from ‘the house of the fisherman.”  Off these shores Christ walked on water, yet He pronounces:  Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Mat 11:21) 

Let’s look at these five verses in Mark. 

Mar 8:22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.   

:23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.   

:24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking

:25 After that he put [his] hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.   

:26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell [it] to any in the town. 

Jesus was no stranger to giving sight to the blind.  There is a much detailed scenario in the 9th chapter of John, where the disciples ask whether it was the blind man or his parents’ sin that caused the condition.  

The situation in Mark is different in many ways.  One is privacy.  The unnamed benefactor of Christ’s mercy is told not to tell of his sight recovery to any in the town.   In John, the blind man is brought immediately to the Pharisees to be questioned. 

The second and most notable distinction is the man detailed in John was born blind.  Our subject in Mark 8:22 is one who had previous sight and lost it.  This may well be the key to our understanding of the scripture. 

Common sense tells us that even a person born blind would be able to recognize men when first receiving his sight.  But a tree one could only know by touch.  Further, to visualize a stationary item walking would require both previous memory and some imagination.  Can you see that?  If a person at his first ever sight viewed a tree at a distance standing, he might be able to say – yes, I believe that’s probably what I’ve touched before and been told was a tree.  But to see men as trees, walking – that description tells us he had been an earlier owner of vision. 

Men have developed many rules and tests they apply to the interpretation of scriptures.  I recently heard an able man proclaim it’s important to determine what “we should first know.”  That’s good advice.  Others say we should examine every Old Testament setting closely to find Christ or the church.   

I have two tests I like to apply to consideration of scripture. One is the inescapable conclusion.  When I have reached a barricade or end in study that tells me a word, phrase, verse, etc. can mean nothing else, I work backward, testing that against the scriptures. 

The pen behind the Sherlock Holmes novels describes it thusly: 

"When you have eliminated the impossible, that which remains, however improbable, must be the truth."  ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) 

The second – and best test for an application of scripture – in my mind is this:  When you have arrived at your conclusion, Does it honor God or man?  If it honors man, there is no doubt the application is incorrect.  Now, granted, it is possible that your perception of a scripture can honor God and still be the wrong application, yet in such a case, it probably does the scripture no harm.

Mark 8:23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.   

No public display this time.  Commentaries tell us Jesus had found many doubters in this town before.  Was this just another tiresome test by the Jewish rulers to catch Him performing a miracle on the Sabbath, or an attempt to make Jesus say without equivocation He was the Messiah – that they might condemn him? 

Out of town.  But not far.  The town was certainly small, and Jesus and the blind man did not go completely out of the sight of all men.  After all, the blind man would soon be able to see men.  And the witness who would relate the details to the gospel writer would be fairly close-by. 

Why did Jesus take the man out of town?  As I prayed and studied and read and re-read, I believe the Lord opened my eyes to some of the symbolism. 

How sweet to be led out of a terrible condition leaning on the arm of Jesus!  While we were all spiritually blind at one time, we had to be led to where we could see things a little clearer, and our state dictated that none but the Lord could escort us out. 

But even more, here’s the end of the law.  Our schoolmaster has brought us to Christ.  Jesus takes one who had previously seen and leads them from their blindness, away from the town without repentance, from law into grace. (Consider the Jews, who had the oracles of God, the Ten Commandments, and the law. The Jews, who, over time perverted all that God had given them until they were themselves the blind leading the blind.)  

:24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.   

That describes the Jewish people of the day.  Men, walking about, seeking righteousness but not finding it.  They had no root!  Trees without root cannot take on water and have no life.  They have no nourishment, and they cannot bear fruit. They had forsaken the good ground in which their heavenly Father had planted them.  

Rom 10:3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 

Mat 3:9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [our] father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 

:10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.   

Only a tree that has been cut down or up-rooted can be away from its earthly moorings. 

 Mark 8 :25 After that he put [his] hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.   

He was restored.  I submit the word restored as final proof the man once had sight.  And made him look up.  For so long the Jews had looked unto themselves or to the law for salvation.  

Look up.  Before we are aware of our new birth, sometime after the Spirit of God has made us a new creature, we discover in ourselves a condemnation.  We dare not even look unto a Just and Holy God.  The knowledge and weight of our sin holds us down to the very earth, where we are mere worms in His sight.  But when the grace of God has touched our heart and soul and we are made to look up, the weighty chains of sin’s bondage is cast off our neck and we can thereafter look up and continue to do so.  At some point, every one of God’s children will look up to the Father. 

And saw every man clearly.  When you can see every man clearly, you can see yourself as well.  You can see your condition of total depravity, your sinful nature, your need of a redeemer.  You can see the law clearly as well.  For the nation of Israel, the law was often cloudy and unclear.  We have the benefit of looking back and seeing the intent and purpose of God in the law.  Those closest to it, if you’ll pardon the expression, couldn’t always see the forest for the trees. 

8:26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell [it] to any in the town.   

You can’t go back the way you came.  The old law service holds nothing for you now.  It has served its purpose and has been fulfilled in Christ.  Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.  Will they be persuaded by recovery of sight to a blind man?  Neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.  And for us today, the same advice.   Psa 40:2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, [and] established my goings. 

I’ll leave you with one final thought before you research the five verses for yourself – and even if you don’t care for the analysis, it falls safely within our established standards. 

I am not a master of English, but in this final verse, I know the pronoun ‘he’ is referring to Christ.  While I may be wrong grammatically, it does no harm to the scripture to suggest “his house” is also referring to the Church.  And he sent him away to his house. That fits

Royce Ellis

Tempting Christ

As Jesus began to trouble the Jews more and more by His teaching, pointing out their failings, their frustration with him grew.  At first, they brought the simple challenges to try to discredit him publicly.  They ask questions of him designed to fault his position: 

 Mar 12:14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?   15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see [it].   16 And they brought [it]. And he saith unto them, Whose [is] this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's.   17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.   

A tougher question brought out when the first one failed. 

 Mar 12:18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,   19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave [his] wife [behind him], and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.   20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.   21 And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.   22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.   23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.   

Mar 12:24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? 

25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.   

We can be sure the leaders of Jerusalem were non-stop in their efforts to trap the Lord in a slip of the tongue, a mistake, any error in the law.  

Let me quickly set the background we’ll need to understand their most devious experiment. 

In the Old Testament law, there is a test given to a woman whose husband believes she has been unfaithful.   It’s referred to by some as the Trial of Bitter Waters.  You can read the details in the 5th Chapter of Numbers.   

Summarizing the events, a jealous or suspicious man brings an offering with his wife before the priest in the temple; the priest places his hand in a vessel of holy water while he writes curses on a book.  Gathering dust from the temple floor, he mixes it with the water and uses the blend to blot the curses.  The water, ink and dust are now all mixed together and given to the woman to drink.  When she drinks the mixture, it will cause her belly to swell and her thigh to rot if she has been unfaithful.  If innocent of the accusations, the bitter water causes no harm. 

Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil  18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.   

Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.   

Here comes the strongest test the rulers of the day can create. 

Jhn 8:1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.   2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.   

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,   4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.   5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?   

6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with [his] finger wrote on the ground, [as though he heard them not].   

 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.  8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.   

9 And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.   

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?   

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. 

How hard do you imagine it might be to catch a random person in the act of adultery?  Was it the custom of the scribes to bust down every door and inquire what was going on inside?  This capture had to be timed so they could find Jesus during his morning teaching in the temple. Something more sinister than a happenstance observance of adultery had to take place.  Either the woman was tricked, forced against her will, or was such a creature of habit she was followed. 

Most people reading John 8 will invariably ask, “Where was the man?”  Indeed, if the woman was “taken in the very act,” the man had to be in collusion with the scribes and Pharisees.  The absence of the man helps clarify our options about what probably took place in order to “catch” the woman. 

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?   Jesus did not need to be told what the law said, but now we see the seriousness of the situation.  Whether the woman was tricked, set-up or followed, the rulers were so determined to trap Jesus in his own words they were willing to commit murder.  They will gladly sacrifice her to cause Jesus to stumble. Think about it.  This woman is going to be stoned to death if Christ follows the law.  

Lev 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with [another] man's wife, [even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 

We’ve always looked at this scenario as an example of the love and forgiving nature of Christ.  And certainly that shows here, but there’s more.  Much more. 

But Jesus stooped down, and with [his] finger wrote on the ground, [as though he heard them not].  Writing in the dust of the temple floor, He who wrote the original law now writes the curses and begins the trail of bitter waters.   

All the elements are present.  We have the woman, the temple, the dust – Christ as the Offering for Sin, the Living Word, the Living Water, and the High Priest. 

Only one thing is missing.  The man.  The husband.  He is the only one who has the option of accusation.  The spirit of jealousy must come upon him.  Unless the husband catches her, no other accuser will be heard. 

Num 5:13 And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and [there be] no witness against her, neither she be taken [with the manner];   

 Num 5:14 And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled:   

He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.   

One by one the scribes and Pharisees left.  Unfortunately, we get our mental images from Hollywood and TV.  (Christ and the woman alone between the buildings.)  Not so.  The temple is still full of people, but up front, near Moses’ seat, only Jesus and the woman.

In the midst.  

Woman, where are those thine accusers?   

Rev 12:10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.   

Satan never appeared before God and made up idle things about us. In the presence of the Creator he could not lie.  He detailed our sins and transgressions of the law.  The law is the standard to which we were held.  Satan pointed out every time we broke God’s law. 

This picture of the scribes and Pharisees departing in frustration is like Satan’s final visit.  He appears to accuse us before God, only to see us covered in the blood of Christ, and then he is cast down, never to appear before the throne again. 

In this elaborate and devious scheme by the rulers, Christ not only frustrates them, but fulfills the law to a jot and a tittle.  He conducts the trial of bitter waters on the woman and by doing so saves her from being murdered.  There stands no accuser before the Lord against the woman.  How wonderful for her the Holy water used to conduct the trail on this day could never be bitter. Sweeter waters never existed.  The offering of memorial required by the law in Christ himself.

It is only with hindsight and revelation we can see all the elements that were present that day.   Psa 85:10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed [each other]. 

Jhn 8:16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.   

Fulfil,   or   fulfill

  1. To bring into actuality; effect: fulfilled their promises.

  2. To carry out (an order, for example).

  3. To measure up to; satisfy.

  4. To bring to an end; complete.

Christ manifested the law, fulfilling, completing, carrying out, measuring up, satisfying, bringing into actuality and completing it.  Rom 10:4 For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Where is the man?  Child of God, where is thy accuser?   Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. 

Royce Ellis

Born This Way  

As Old Baptists we have long known and fought the doctrine of fatalism, or absolute pre-destination, (can’t help it-ism), which says that God has pre-determined all things that come to pass, whether good or evil.  The consequences of such a belief damage not only scripture, but the holiness of God.  The scriptures strongly declare such a position to be incorrect; God is not the author of sin and has not and does not pre-choose the events of mankind.

The world has taken an evil liking to the fatalistic approach to problems.  If you can’t help it, you can’t be condemned or judged if it is wrong; therefore, it’s, ‘Not my fault!’  How quickly the public relations team of the Sodomite community has applied this method to their efforts to win the hearts and minds of society.  The can't help it sympathy.

Homosexuality confronts us as our society at every turn.  Our children are taught it acceptable at school; bi-sexuality is the latest craze among teens.  It doesn’t matter what someone’s sexual proclivity is, you should respect their struggle and love them for who they are.  After all, they claim, “they had no choice in the matter.  They were born this way.”

Special so-called churches have made homosexual love their cornerstone.  The latest Pope says he won't judge homosexual priests.  (Vows of chastity no longer apply?) Statehouses are forever debating whether homosexuals deserve the same rights as handicapped individuals and whether they should receive protection against discrimination (read: special rights) because of their choice in sexual partners.  (You’ll notice they use choice when taking the high-brow debate, yet when attacking someone who disagrees with them, the choice becomes one nature made.) 

Same sex marriage battles cross the nation as States struggle to become politically correct.

 “You can’t legislate morality!” they cry.  But in reality, morality is the only thing that can be legislated.

That’s why we have laws against murder, littering and everything in between.  If man’s morality or lack thereof were not held in check by laws and substantial penalties, they would do as they please.  When we see laws deteriorate and prisons overflow and the system back up from the stench, we employ early release programs, lighter sentences, extensions on permissiveness (“It’s only his third offense, your honor, and with the jails so over-crowded, we recommend probation.) The end game becomes NO CONSEQUENCE.  Ecclesiastes 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 

Watch the public campaign to win the hearts and minds of society the homosexuals are conducting, you’ll see conditions around us fall like so many dominoes as if the homosexual barrier were the final stalwart against rational thinking. 

The scripture clearly calls sodomy an abomination.  Leviticus 18:22.  “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”  All this manner of sin described in Leviticus is the reason God casts people out of nations.  Can you see the comparison between our nation’s condition and the public sin of sodomy?   Leviticus 20:13 gives God’s judgment on the matter.  The first chapter of Romans is also insightful regarding this sin. 

Science -”falsely so called” - is hard at work attempting to prove homosexuality is caused in the womb.  Pre-determined.  While science works overtime trying to overthrown the truth of Scripture, our position must remain fast and declare God sovereign and true, and homosexuality the abomination He says it is. 

Sodomy is not created in the womb, but is an active choice on the part of the sinner in this lifetime.  By lobbying to have it declared a genetic trait, homosexuals beg not only our understanding, but pity, for like the color of one’s skin, they surely had no say in the matter.  “Did the black man choose to be born black?  Well, neither would a homosexual make the choice.”

Here is wisdom.  God will never give you a command and then put you in a situation where you must disobey Him.  Get that?  God won’t say DON’T on page 3 then put you in a contrary situation where you couldn’t help it on Page 10.  Having said that, let us now clarify who creates life in the womb.  It is the same God that abhors homosexuality.  “All souls are mine,” saith the Lord.  God and only God creates life in the womb. 

We do not create.  We are only vessels for creation.  Ask anyone who ever had any difficulty conceiving.  Confirmed science has established the probability of pregnancy or conception at approximately one in every 288 attempts.  If we were creators, every occurrence would result in conception.  Those odds are high enough for nature to not fool around (if you’ll pardon the pun) with anything except a being pre-disposed to further reproduction.  That doesn’t happen in homosexuals.  Sodomites, left to their own kind would die out completely in one generation as they cannot reproduce with one another. 

Once the egg is fertilized, that is, once a married husband and wife have become one for the purpose of multiplying, nothing is added until birth except nutrition.  (I make the distinction of husband and wife because even if someone can beat down your argument about sodomy being wrong - “It’s just love, Jesus would have approved of people loving each other.” - they still have to contend with pre-marital fornication, also condemned by scripture.).  All the inheritable traits are in place:  hair color, eye color, skin color, probable height when grown, propensity for diseases, and the big one, original sin, which is passed on by the male.  If homosexuality were pre-determined or inherited, which heterosexual parent would pass the homosexual gene? 

Common sense tells us it is not in nature to pass anything that would realistically eliminate the species. Modern science accuses God of sin when they say this abomination is unavoidable or pre-determined.  When you hear this lie in your community, remember God is not the author of sin or of confusion and this creates both

If homosexuality is pre-determined, and a person is how a person is born, then explain two things:  First, why do homosexuals try to convert others to their lifestyle?  You either are or you aren’t.  Second, why are they not the most vocal group on the planet against ungodly abortion?  Surely they would not desire a child’s pre-disposition to be known so a homosexual child would be terminated?  The Chinese have been known to abort children simply because it was the wrong sex.  What chance would a homosexual child have in such a society?

Update:  In 2013, homosexuals are insisting the United States and the International Olympic Committee withdraw from the 2014 Winter Games in Russia.  Russia has laws that are very strict against homosexuality.  The Gay and Lesbian community equates the treatment of homosexuals in Russia to that of Hitler and the Jews.  The Jews only crime was the "accident of their birth"  and gays,  being "born that way" now will be the subject of a new holocaust.    One open letter states it this way:  "An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential... He (Putin) is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews." The New Jerusalem