Men as trees

I love Johnny Cash. Well, when I say I love Johnny Cash, I can’t say that I often think Ooh – I’ll just put a bit of Johnny Cash on the old compact disc player. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever thought that. I just really like who Johnny Cash was. FOW2 genuinely loves his music and has done for years. It can be a little disconcerting to hear your little girl cheerfully singing that she 

“Shot a man in Reno – just to watch him die.”

But there are worse role models, I should think. Johnny Cash always seemed to me to be someone who was completely aware of all his faults and failings and was yet was still grateful to God for every last minute that he lived. Many years ago, when I was in our church youth group, we were all taken to a church hall  to watch Cash’s film, The Gospel Road. If I am entirely honest, the film was a bit of a blur. Mixing with other youth groups was a rare opportunity to do a bit of “opposite sex sizing up” so I probably wasn’t giving it my full attention.
As I remember, there were a lot of shots of Johnny Cash, in black, on beaches and on the top of cliffs looking mean and windswept but there are two images from the film that have stayed with me to this day.
The first was of Jesus laughing with some children as they played on the beach. This was a revelatory moment for me. Jesus having a sense of humour was not a facet of his character that I had been brought up with. As one of our elders once famously said “It says in the Bible that Jesus Wept. Not that he laughed. ” Think on. Years later, when someone remarked, “So do you think that children, flocked to him because they loved his knowledge of Jewish Law?” it was a welcome revelation that people who lived at the time of Jesus would have heard him laugh. Jesus shows his back teeth. Love it.
The other bit I remember was  song called “I see Men as Trees walking” about Jesus’  gradual healing of a blind man. 
It’s here – have a look.

I have often wondered about this.Why didn’t Jesus just heal him the first time? Don’t look at me –  I have no idea. Who do you think I am? However, I did find this, in Exodus, this week and wondered if it was a pointer. God is exhorting (good word – exhorting no?) the Children of Israel to press on and not be afraid of their enemies.

 I won’t get rid of them all at once lest the land grow up in weeds and the wild animals take over. Little by little I’ll get them out of there while you have a chance to get your crops going and make the land your own. I will make your borders stretch from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and from the Wilderness to the Euphrates River

There was to be no lottery moment, no having it all at once. It wouldn’t have worked. They had to get going – push forward, little by little, doing the right thing, making plans and seeing them come to pass. God would be working for them, giving them a chance to learn and to grow and giving them space as they pushed forward.

We are on a journey, a mission (like Star Trek) we are working together with a God who works miracles but our life is our story and I think that God wants it to be so. Blessings are delayed, sometimes for a very long time, life rarely seems to fall into our laps, (well mine doesn’t anyway) and we need to learn to faithfully wait and push on. Dream and get going. God is still at work. 



  1. March 24, 2013 / 4:15 pm

    Can I humbly exhort you to continue posting great bits like this! You brighten my Sunday afternoons

    re Mr Cash. I was so upset when our local shop changed its name to "Sainsburys Local". we still call it "Jackson" just so we can sing the song

    and when he sings 'are all the children in?' I weep

  2. Gill
    March 24, 2013 / 8:51 pm

    Just what I needed to hear ~ thank you!
    Sometimes we forget that a God who can do ANYTHING sometimes chooses to do nothing, or do it little by little, for reasons we don't understand ~ but yet HE knows the reason & it is part of His bigger picture.

  3. March 25, 2013 / 5:39 pm

    Child at the back of the class has her hand up. I can tell you why (Jesus had two goes at healing him).

    It's to do with the teaching structure of Mark's Gospel. If you want the full version it's on pages 158-164 of my book The Road of Blessing. The short version is that chapters 8-10 of Mark form a central section of teaching radically altering the perception of what it meant to be Messiah, from a concept of unassailable power to a concept of change effected by suffering servanthood.

    This is a conceptual sea change.

    This central, essential block of teaching has at its apex, and the apex of the gospel of Mark as a whole, the Transfiguration ("This is my beloved Son – listen to him."), and is bookended by two healing stories.

    The sequence of events goes like this. Jesus heals the blind man, but has to take two goes at it. Next, Peter declares faith in Jesus as Messiah, but then impetuously declares Jesus must never suffer and die – which shows he has seen but not seen (like the blind man), understood but not understood. Then comes the block of teaching expounding the central importance of suffering and service, ending with Jesus saying in Ch 10 "For the Son of man came to to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many".

    On the heals of that comes the healing of Blind Bartimaeus, who is healed instantly and (curious phrase) "follows Jesus in the Way". Mark uses the Way as a term for faith, so we are here to equate seeing – healed sight – with attaining insight, and thus faith. After that the passion narrative begins.

    The two stories are about the healing of how we see Jesus, opening our blind eyes to recognise him in the way the transfiguration reveals him – as glorious, yet also with the cross as central to his mission.

    I hope this is not too garbled and I apologise for length.

    • March 25, 2013 / 10:27 pm

      No don't apologise. I think I am getting it. I love the thought that the accounts support and run into each other to build the picture that God wanted us to see. Thank you.

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