Mk. 8:1-9-A great multitude of 4,000+ people had been with Jesus for 3 days and they were hungry. Jesus decided that they needed to eat. It’s an amazing thought that God is not just concerned about matters that are of an eternal nature…but He is concerned that I am hungry, and tired. And not just concerned, but desires to do something about it. This time, different from when He fed the 5,000, He didn’t tell the disciples to feed them. Instead, He asked how much food they had with them, but they assumed that He would and began to wonder where they would find that much food. They had 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish. He fed them all and afterwards collected 7 baskets full of leftovers (Ryrie-the words “large baskets” speaks of larger baskets than those used with the 5,000 in 6:43…more like the kind used to let Paul down over the wall of Damascus in Acts 9:25). How quickly they had forgotten what He had done, before. It is vital to our faith that we remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past…that we remember the works of God.
Mk. 8:10-13-Jesus and the disciples get into a boat and go to the district of Dalmanutha (an unknown location)…but obviously somewhere in the vicinity of the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The Pharisees argue with Jesus. They wanted a sign from Heaven, to test Him. He says that no sign would be given to this generation. This does not mean that Jesus did not work miracles…just that He would not do the kind that they wanted…a sign in Heaven, or some celestial miracle that would satisfy their demands. The reason none would be given is because in reality none would ever be enough, none would ever satisfy. They were not really looking for a sign. Their intention was to keep increasing the level of their demands until Jesus could not meet it…and then use that as their evidence that He was not from God. They get back into the boat and leave.
Mk. 8:14-21-The disciples had forgotten to bring bread for a meal. Jesus tells them to beware of the “leaven of the Pharisees” and they think that He is bringing attention to their failure to bring bread, food. He corrects their misunderstanding and chastises them for their “hardened heart”. Again (cf. 6:52), Jesus reminds them of the miracles He had previously worked…and of the fact that they have not yet begun to put the pieces together concerning Him. A “hardened heart” is the inability to get beyond the physical realm, and recognize those things that are of the spiritual realm.
Mk. 8:22-26-They arrive in Bethsaida (the last time they were there Jesus had healed many people, 6:53-56…yet, by and large, despite the miracles that He performed there, the people did not repent of their sins, Matt. 11:21). Jesus heals a blind man…first He spits on his eyes (perhaps cleaning them off)…then lays hands on him, but he only sees partially. So, He puts His hands on his eyes again and he could see clearly. Jesus told him to not go into the village, but to go home. Again He is trying to keep control over the response to His miracles so that He does not draw too much attention from the religious authorities.
A friend of mine asked me, “Why didn’t Jesus just heal the blind man completely the first time?” Two thoughts seem to provide the most helpful answer. The first thought is, notice that it says, “they brought a blind man to Him.” Obviously, it could simply mean that the blind man could not find his own way to Jesus, so someone had to bring him. However, many blind people are fully capable of finding their way around an area that they are familiar with. So on the other hand, it could mean that while the blind man did not have a lot of faith in Jesus and His ability to heal him, his friends did. As an act of their faith, they brought the man to Jesus. Then Jesus healed him in such a way that his faith would be involved. Jesus took the man where he was…at the level of faith that he exhibited. After all, he did at least agree to be taken to Jesus. In response, Jesus gave an initial healing to his eyes. Just enough so that he could see some, but also just enough so that he would realize that there was still more that could be done for his eyes. And, just enough, so that based on what had already happened…he would begin to exercise greater faith in Jesus. Then, based on this man’s increased faith in Him, Jesus healed his eyes completely. There are two great lessons on faith, here. One is that Jesus will take us at whatever degree of faith we have when we come to Him. Not everyone comes to Jesus with exactly the same faith. He will take us at the level of faith that we have in Him…in order to bring our faith in Him to what it must be. Second, it encourages us to not allow our faith to become stagnant…but to increase as we learn more about Him.
The second helpful thought is that Jesus was being very intentional in what He did when He healed this man. People can become so mechanical, so methodical in their religious practices. So, Jesus changed His method of healing to prevent there from becoming a standard method of operation for the healing of the blind. Here is the key: He didn’t want people to simply focus on the method of healing, but on the message of the healing. Here, at Bethsaida, Jesus healed a man brought to Him by his friends, in two stages. He led the man from having no faith in Him…to having great faith in Him. Later, Jesus would heal a blind man named Bartimaeus who would call out to Him on his own, without help from anyone. In fact, the people in the crowd tried to make him stop calling out to Jesus…but he refused. Jesus would clearly state, “your faith has made you well” and heal him without even touching him (Mark 10:46-52). Clearly, Bartimaeus already had faith in Him that would not be stopped. In the Gospel of John (9:1-40) we find a man who was blind from birth. Jesus happens across this man as He is walking through Jerusalem, “as He passed by”. Initially he exhibits no faith of his own in Jesus. This time Jesus makes mud from His own spit and dirt, places it on the man’s eyes, and tells him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam. It wasn’t until a later conversation with Jesus that the man truly placed his faith in Who He was. So, what is the point? Don’t become so enamored with the method of healing that you miss the message of healing. In each and every case the healing was intended to direct people to have faith in Jesus.
Mk. 8:27-33-Jesus goes to the area of Caesarea Philippi (cf. Matt. 16:13-16). He asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”. Peter responds, “Thou are theChrist.” Jesus then began to teach them more directly about His death and resurrection. Peter tried to stop Him…but Jesus said, “Get behind Me Satan…” because what Peter was saying was the way that men would respond and not what God wanted. Peter was among Jesus’closest friends and associates. If He listened to him, then He would not accomplish His mission. Perhaps He called him “Satan” because that is exactly what Satan had tried to do when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Peter was acting in a manner that was in keeping with that of Satan and Jesus refused to have anything to do with it. Surely, such a sharp rebuff would keep Peter from making such suggestions in the future.
Mk. 8:34-38-Jesus calls the multitude together along with His disciples and tells them that the cost of following Him would require their willingness to die to themselves. This seems to be a direct response to what Peter had said. Evidently, Peter had tried to discourage Him from talking about dying…and Jesus’ response was that not only must He be willing to die…but, if they were going to follow Him, then they must also be willing to die, as well. Jesus tells them that if they are going to be His followers they must “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”…all three are commands. Jesus speaks of two reasons why someone might not follow Him: 1.-“gain the whole world” (to have all the profits and benefits that the world has to offer); 2.-“ashamed of Me and My words” (to be accepted by men and to avoid the persecution that comes from following Him). However, Jesus responds that there is nothing in this world that’s worth gaining…that is worth losing your soul over; and, there is no one in this world whose opinion is worth gaining…who is worth losing the opinion of God over. The words “deny” and “lose” are strong, intense words. “Deny” means “to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone; to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests”. “Lose” means “to destroy, to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin”. Jesus is making it absolutely, totally clear that to follow Him means to forsake all else.
Prayer: Lord, I need Your help to see beyond the apparent, the physical matters of life. It is so easy for me to recognize these things. I need Your help to see, to remember, and to understand things from Your perspective, from the spiritual side. I am so accustomed to the flesh. Please help me to become more accustomed to the Spirit and to allow You to have greater rule over my life than anything else. If I am to ever truly crucify the flesh, to take up my cross and follow You, then I must have this understanding. Otherwise, I will forever be captivated by the things of this world.