Mark 8


‘In those days, there was another large crowd with nothing to eat. So, Jesus called his disciples and said to them, ‘I have compassion on the crowd, because they have already been here with me three days, and they have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint on the way, and some of them have come from a great distance.’ His disciples answered him, ‘Where can someone get enough bread in this desolate place to satisfy these people?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They replied, ‘Seven.’ Then he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. After he took the seven loaves and gave thanks, he broke them and began giving them to the disciples to serve. So, they served the crowd. They also had a few small fish. After giving thanks for these, he told them to serve these as well. Everyone ate and was satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. There were about four thousand who ate. Then he dismissed them. Immediately he got into a boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.’ Mark 8:1-10

Huge crowds were constantly following Jesus and notice that it was Jesus who sees the needs of the people, not the disciples. On this occasion, they had been in a wilderness area, wilderness doesn’t mean barren land it simply means the place where wild animals roam.

They hadn’t eaten for three days and Jesus didn’t want to send them home hungry for fear they would faint during the trip. So, He asked for a food inventory, there were seven loaves and a few small fish.

Jesus directed the multitude to sit down and then began serving the food. Miraculously, the supply didn’t dwindle, each loaf generated a large basketful of leftovers besides feeding 4000 men, the food just kept on coming out of nowhere. Jesus’ power couldn’t be disputed.

The word ‘basket’ here is a different word from the word used earlier in Mark 6:43 for the feeding of the 5000, in Mark 6 it’s the word ‘kophinos’ which means small basket. But here the word for basket is ‘spuris’ which means a hamper, a larger basket. This is the same word used in Acts 9:25 to describe the basket in which Paul was lowered in from the city.

‘The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.’ Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. ‘Be careful,’ Jesus warned them. ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’ They discussed this with one another and said, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’ ‘Twelve,’ they replied. ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’ They answered, ‘Seven.’ He said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’ Mark 8:11-21

Despite much evidence of Jesus’ power and authority, the Pharisees challenged Him to show a sign from heaven. He refused their request. They were simply blind to all evidence and no sign would ever be enough to convince them.

Notice Jesus ‘sighed deeply’, this means He was dismayed at the attitude of the Pharisees. Then Jesus and His disciples began to cross the sea by boat. The disciples were worried because they had forgotten to take enough bread with them for the trip. Jesus warned about the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod.

Immediately, the disciples imagined that He was criticising them for having forgotten the bread. Jesus knew what they were saying to each other and rebuked their hard-heartedness. After all, He had twice produced enough food to feed thousands with abundant leftovers. Jesus in this small section asked nine questions to help them remember.

They should have known that He could handle problems with insufficient food. His warning wasn’t about the leaven of bread, but about the false teaching and hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Herod.

Bad attitudes spread like leaven and He was worried that the disciples might be contaminated by them. Leaven breaks things up, it doesn’t unite anything.

‘They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ He looked up and said, ‘I see people; they look like trees walking around.’ Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Don’t even go into the village.’ Mark 8:22-26

Normally, Jesus’ healings were complete and immediate. This case was different, He applied saliva to the eyes of the blind man, laid His hands on him, and then asked what he saw. The man reported seeing men like trees walking around. So, Jesus touched his eyes again, and his vision was perfectly restored.

Why didn’t Christ heal this man all at once, like He normally did?

Jesus’ healings were signs, symbols of spiritual truths. In this case, the two-stage healing of the blind man symbolised how men’s understanding and insight are often healed in two steps.

The disciples, for example, weren’t totally blind, for they understood that Jesus was the Son of God, Mark 8:29. But, on the other hand, they still didn’t perceive Jesus’ complete ability and therefore had defective vision, Mark 8:17-18 / Mark 8:31-33. They needed to be touched again so they could see clearly. Jesus deliberately did this healing this way to encourage the faith of the blind man and to use him as an object lesson.

Consider the situation of the blind man, while blind, he saw absolutely nothing. When Jesus first touched him, his vision improved, he saw men, though they looked like trees. To one who had been totally blind, that was fantastic progress. But Jesus could do more, He touched the man again and he began to see perfectly.

Unfortunately, in the spiritual realm, some are satisfied with one touch, they see, but not clearly. Many don’t even realise that they need a complete cure, that they shouldn’t be content to see men like trees walking.

Consider, for example, someone whose life has been totally devastated by sin, he hears about Jesus, begins to follow many of His teachings and his life improves. Sadly, however, he is unaware that he lacks understanding of Jesus’ word in many areas and that he shouldn’t settle for a distorted vision.

Let’s check out our own lives, could it be that we still aren’t seeing clearly and that Jesus could restore our vision perfectly?

‘Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’ Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’ Mark 8:27-33

Caesarea Philippi

Situated 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and at the base of Mount Hermon, Caesarea Philippi is the location of one of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River. This abundant water supply has made the area very fertile and attractive for religious worship. Numerous temples were built in this city in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Apparently known as Baal Hermon and Baal Gad in the Old Testament period, this site later was named Panias after the Greek god Pan who was worshipped here. There is no record of Jesus entering the city, but the great confession and the transfiguration both occurred in the vicinity of the city, Matthew 16:13, then known as Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus asked what the public thought about Him, and the disciples reported varying opinions, including John the Baptist, Elijah, etc. One disciple pointed out that many believed Jesus was John the Baptist reincarnated. They believed that John had come back from the grave to continue his ministry of announcing the Messiah while criticising the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees.

Another disciple shared the fact that many people believed Jesus was Elijah, considered by some Jews to be the supreme Old Testament prophet. If you remember the Book of Malachi, Malachi 4:5 says, ‘See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.’

And so, some thought this Jesus was Elijah, fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi. And even today, in modern Jewish Passover celebrations, there is an empty chair reserved at the table for Elijah, in the hope of his one day coming to announce the Messiah’s arrival.

Another disciple shared that some people said Jesus was Jeremiah but why would they think He was Jeremiah?

Well, they held this opinion because according to 2 Maccabees legend, Jeremiah had taken the Ark of the covenant and the altar of incense out of the temple and hidden them both somewhere on Mount Nebo in order to preserve them from desecration and destruction by the Babylonians. Some Jews thought that before the Messiah returned to establish His kingdom, Jeremiah would return to earth and restore the Ark and the altar to their proper places in the temple.

So, the people who said these things were paying Jesus wonderful compliments by comparing Him to some of the greatest prophets and teachers God had ever sent. They were giving Jesus high praise, but not enough high praise because, in their minds, none of these three prophets were the Messiah. They were just one of the Messiah’s forerunners who had come back to life with God-given miraculous powers.

When Jesus asked their own opinion, Peter boldly responded, ‘You are the Messiah’. It was a brilliant insight. Notice that Jesus teaching to His disciples up to this point was mainly about His identity but here in Mark 8:31 Jesus’ teaching ministry changes. He focuses on His upcoming death, burial and resurrection.

Jesus went on to warn about how He was going to be rejected and crucified, Peter was horrified. He couldn’t imagine the Lord being killed, he began to correct Jesus telling Him that this would never happen!

‘Peter took him aside’ means Peter literally grabbed Jesus, trying to protect Him and then Jesus sternly rebuked Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

Peter was tempting Him not to suffer, temptations are often strongest when they come through people we are close to. So, Jesus flatly rejected Peter’s advice.

Isn’t it strange that one-minute Peter proclaimed Jesus to be Christ, the next he was calling Him aside to inform Him that He was mistaken! If Jesus was truly the Christ, Peter had no business arguing with Him. Nor do we.

‘Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’ Mark 8:34-9:1

Jesus plainly explained what was required to become His disciple. He said that ‘you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him’.

These requirements are demanding, a person doesn’t naturally deny himself, rather, he usually does what he wants. Death to self is painful, but that is exactly the meaning of taking up one’s cross.

The cross was an instrument of death, to take it up would be to die to oneself and to one’s own desires in order to serve Christ. There is no profit in gaining the entire world, only to lose one’s soul in the transaction. It’s worth everything to submit to God’s stringent requirements for discipleship.

Jesus highlighted the requirements for being a disciple because it’s so easy to imagine that you are a follower of Jesus when, in fact, you aren’t. Discipleship isn’t mere church membership or moral living, it’s total devotion to Jesus Christ. It’s to die to self and live 100% for the Lord.

Am I really Jesus’ disciple?

The confession that Jesus demands isn’t a simple statement with our mouths that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. It’s a confession that we make with our whole life that is totally committed to Him, Galatians 2:20.

Everyone who would seek to be a disciple of Jesus must commit himself to follow Jesus above all things of this world, Matthew 6:24 / Matthew 10:32-33 / Romans 1:16.

Some of Jesus’ immediate disciples would be alive when the kingdom reign of Jesus would be manifested from heaven. After His resurrection, Jesus would ascend to the throne of David in heaven, Luke 1:31-33 / Daniel 2:44 / Daniel 7:13-14.

He would sit down at the right hand of the Father and rule over all things, Ephesians 1:20-22 / Philippians 2:8-11 / 1 Peter 3:22.

It was a spiritual kingdom in the sense that men responded on earth in their hearts to the fact that He was Lord and Christ Acts 2:36-37. The manifestation of Jesus’ reign in heaven was made known by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-4 / Luke 24:49 / Acts 1:8.

The presence of the kingdom’s reign in heaven would be manifested on earth by the obedience of men and women who submitted to His reign.

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