Sermon Study Guides

Spiritual Blindness

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Read Mark 8:22-30

We find ourselves in a significant season within the life of the church called Lent. Lent is traditionally considered a sober season of reflection upon our spiritual condition, our sin, and the grand provision for it all in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. As we journey toward Good Friday and Easter over the next few weeks, we’ll be doing so through the eye-witness account of the Apostle Peter. Peter was one the 12 disciples, one of Jesus’ closest friends, and was, in general, a passionate and compelling human being. Like the rest of us, though, Peter’s spiritual journey was truly one “from confusion to clarity.” It wasn’t until the events of the cross and the empty tomb that Peter was able to understand the nature and impact of his best friend Jesus.

In this section of Mark 8, we are skillfully exposed to the juxtaposition of two seemingly unrelated stories. In the first, a blind man from Bethsaida is brought to Jesus for healing. The townspeople take this man outside of their village and beg Jesus for help – for the restoration of this man’s sight. In this particular case, Jesus responds somewhat uniquely. He spits on the man’s eyes and lays his hands on him. Jesus then proceeds to ask the man if he can see – to which the man responds, “I see men, but they look like trees walking.” At first glance, you might wonder what happened! Did Jesus make a mistake or underestimate what it would take to heal this man’s blindness? The short answer is no; Jesus did not make a mistake. He was revealing something very important about the journey from confusion to clarity, namely that spiritual insight is often a multi-step process. It frequently takes time, patience, and a desire to truly see for spiritual blindness to be remedied.

This part of the story prepares us to better understand part two and Jesus’ conversation with Peter and the disciples. As they leave Bethsaida, Jesus asks his disciples a question: “Who do people say that I am?” They update Jesus on the latest gossip and local conjectures. But then Jesus ups the ante by making the question more personal: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter immediately responds, “You are the Christ.” And Peter was right. But his understanding of what sort of Messiah Jesus came to be was grossly misaligned. He couldn’t see clearly yet. He was confused by his own presuppositions and assumptions about what type of king the Messiah would be. And like the blind man before him, it would be a multi-step process toward clarity and true spiritual insight for Peter.

Reflection: Take personal inventory of your life, heart, and spiritual journey. Use these prompts as a way to prepare for group discussions, or for personal times of prayer.

1. Reflect on your spiritual journey to this point. What are the major benchmarks in your personal story of faith?

2. Spiritual blindness is part of the human condition, universally shared. The frightening part of blindness, in this case, is that we’re often unaware of our condition--we can’t see. In what ways do you / could you check your personal blind spots?

1. What about the sermon stood out or impacted you the most? Do you have any follow-up questions about the sermon?

2. Re-read Mark 8:22-26. What are your observations? Pay close attention to the multi-step healing that ultimately results in restored vision. Jesus always links a physical lesson to a spiritual one. What are the implications for your own story and / or your understanding of spiritual blindness?

3. Re-read Mark 8:27-30. What are your observations? Notice how Jesus asks open-ended questions, looking to dialogue with his disciples. And notice how he doesn’t leave the conversation generic but personalizes it, asking each man (and each of us) to give an answer to his question, “Who do you say that I am?” Discuss the importance of this question within our journey from confusion to clarity.

4. Missional Living: Everyone is on a spiritual journey. From the hardened skeptic to the seasoned Christian, we’re all in progress, each of us searching for greater understanding. What could it look like to strike up a spiritual conversation with someone who believes differently than you do? You can play a part in someone’s journey toward clarity!

Spiritual blindness can be difficult to diagnose – but in the hands of capable and caring friends, the journey from confusion to clarity can become a personal reality. Consider sitting with a member of your community group and discussing the areas of spiritual growth you hope to tackle this year. Invite this person to give their own insight and to ask tough questions. Everyone must begin from a position of humility and trust. Start with prayer and invite the Holy Spirit to work through this friend to empower the “next steps” of following Jesus.

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Read Numbers 6:22-27

Introduction: At the end of our worship service each week, we are blessed and sent out into the world…There is no competition between the work we do as a people in gathered worship – liturgy means ‘the work of the people’ – and our vocations in the world. For believers, the two are intrinsically part of one another…But many of us still struggle with the temptation to divide our ‘secular’ work from our ‘spiritual’ lives and wonder whether we can fully participate in Jesus’ mission with our particular training, gifts, and vocations…We wonder, what does worship have to do with my work?” As we close out our series on liturgy, Tish Harrison Warren’s comments are a helpful guide in our consideration of the benediction, the final part of our worship experience where we are blessed and sent out into the everyday rhythms, the common routines, the emails, the spreadsheets, and the dirty diapers.

One of the significant themes we have hoped to communicate throughout this series is that worship is intricately linked to the theme of formation. What we worship shapes and forms us into particular types of people. Worship money and you’ll become cold and hard. Worship your relationships and you’ll become fickle and insecure. But worship the Lord, and you’ll become someone who exhibits a strange combination of both courage and humility, confidence and deference, leadership alongside self-deprecation. Only the gospel can create this in us. And only the gospel can expose you to the reality of true spiritual blessing to be used for the good of others. Said another way, only in the gospel are we provided a sense of security, blessing, and acceptance so grand and so sweeping that it transforms our everyday. Only because of the gospel are our emails, spreadsheets, and dirty diapers transformed into holy moments of serving someone else, but also and maybe more significantly, into a key part of God’s grand plan of redeeming and rescuing this world and everything in it.

As Christians, because of Jesus and his perfect life of obedience, his death on the cross, and his triumph over death, all transferred to us by grace, we now get to receive the benediction that only Jesus deserves. By grace, I am now a recipient of the “well done” that only Jesus earned. By grace, we are all children of God, loved and accepted into the presence of the Father. This unique gospel reality is the blessing of the benediction. It is the good word spoken over us because of Christ. And it is this good word that drives us out of the pew and into the world so that we can continue to worship. The liturgy – the work of the people – continues as we’re sent out to display and share the love of Christ.

Reflection: Take personal inventory of your life, heart, and spiritual journey. Use these prompts as a way to prepare for group discussions, or for personal times of prayer.

1. Reflect on your words and how you speak to others.

2. Consider the words spoken to you and about you in your lifetime.  Then consider the benediction of Numbers 6. Which words or ideas speak louder than those God speaks over you?


1. What about the sermon stood out or impacted you the most? Do you have any follow-up questions about the sermon?

2. Re-read Numbers 6:22-27. God’s blessing through Aaron is a preview of the ultimate blessing made available to us in Christ. What was once an impossibility, God’s face shining on sinful people, is made a reality in the gospel. Which words and “identities” in your life need to be demoted in order for this benediction and identity to be embraced?

3. Steve Garber writes, “We live our lives in the marketplace of this world: in homes and neighborhoods, in schools and on farms, in hospitals and businesses, and our vocations are bound up with the ordinary work that ordinary people do. We are not great shots across the bow of history; rather, by simple grace, we are hints of hope.” As we are sent out into the world with the affirming words of the benediction, what might it look like for us to display those “hints of hope”?

4. Missional Living: Do you live with a 100% sent mentality, the idea that all of us are sent into the world to use every opportunity we’re afforded in order to be a blessing because we’ve been given the blessing of being called children of God? What would need to change for you to live out of the blessing / benediction God offers you? What would it look like, practically, for you to be a blessing to others?

ApplyWhat are the most prominent voices, ideas, and opinions that shape the way you live? List them out. Ask yourself, “Why do I listen to these voices? Why am I swayed by these opinions?” Get to the heart of things. Be willing to dive deep.

Invite the Holy Spirit into this journey. Pray, “O Lord, you know my heart. You know the voices I value most and why I value them. Show me what I cannot see without your help. And enable me to listen to your words of benediction over me. Amen.”

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