About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 8:1-13  ch. 8:14-21   ch. 8;22-26   ch. 8:27-30    ch. 8:31-9:1


Jesus Feeds The Four Thousand (ch. 8:1-13)


This section of Mark concerns the feeding of the “four thousand”.  We should not confuse this feeding of the four thousand with the feeding of the five thousand we saw previously.  Some liberal scholars want to suggest that both accounts speak of the same event, but if you look at the time and location, you’ll soon see these two events are two different events.


The phrase “those days” in verse 1 refers to the days Jesus spent in the Decapolis region as seen in the last chapter.


In verse 2 Jesus mentions to the disciples that He has “compassion” on all these people.  They were getting hungry and they’d been listening to Jesus teach for 3 days now.  We should note here that Jesus does have compassion for people’s stomachs.  Hungry people are a concern for Jesus.  What we don’t know is if these people had brought food with them and now they’ve run out of food, or they hadn’t eaten for 3 whole days. 


If these people hadn’t eaten for 3 days you have good reason to ask why Jesus didn’t have concern about their hunger prior to this point.


We should note that Jesus does not ask the disciples what He should do.  He only mentions to them that the crowd has come from a distance and He doesn’t want to send them home hungry or else they’d not make it home alive.  Jesus is simply making this statement, maybe to see how these men would respond.


In verse 4 the disciples do respond by telling Jesus that they were in a remote place and that there wasn’t any place around to get food for them. You might wander at this point why the disciples would have answered the way they did in light of the previous feeding of the five thousand men plus woman and children.  Did they not learn anything from that miracle? 


Yet on the other hand some scholars suggest that there is faith in the disciples response  to Jesus. By saying that there’s no food source to be found, these scholars are suggesting that the disciples understand that Jesus is the only one that can provide food.


Like in the feeding of the five thousand, in verse 6, Jesus asks them how many loaves of bread they have.  The answer was seven loaves.  


In verse 6 Jesus tells the people to sit down whereas in the last feeding He told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups of 50 and 100.  Jesus then took the 7 loaves and gave thanks, just as He did the last time and then gave the loaves to the disciples to distribute.


When Jesus hands out the loaves to the disciples, scholars say that is when the miracle took place due to the Greek verb tense and structure of the sentence.  Thus the miracle did not take place as the Twelve passed the loaves to the people.  This is how I believe the miracle took place with the last feeding as well.


This time there were 7 baskets of food left over, whereas the last time there were 12 baskets of food left over.  The last time we noted that there was one basket of leftovers for each of the Twelve.  If that really meant something, you might then ask, “were there only 7 of the Twelve here at this feeding”?  That we don’t know.  And we don’t know why they only had 7 baskets of food leftover.  One thing we do know about all of the events that the Gospel writers have written, and that is more is said and done in these events than what is recorded.  So we simply don’t have all the answers, because we don’t have all the facts.


Bible commentators have commented on the baskets that would have been used in both cases.  They were made of wicker, and it is quite possible they might have been very large, holding up to 50 loaves of bread.


Mark tells us in verse 9 that there were about 4000 men, meaning the crowd was much larger than 4000 including woman and children.


After Jesus dismissed the crowd He and His disciples  got into a boat once again and left for the region of Dalminutha.  This area is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament so it is likely that it was a small locality, located on the west side of the Sea of Galilee.


In verse 11 Jesus and His followers get out of the boat and another crowd gathers by Jesus which included some Pharisees, which was normal.  These Pharisees asked Jesus to give a “sign from Heaven” proving Him to be sent from God. Of course, these men had heard of, and most likely seen many of Jesus’ miracles.  But remember, they attributed these miracles to the devil who they claimed was working through Jesus.  They wanted some kind of dramatic sign that would come down from Heaven, like when Joshua made the sun stand still for 24 hours, or when Elijah made fire come down from the heavens.  They wanted to see something come down from Heaven.


We need to understand that this request was not made from a genuine heart of faith but was made to test, or trick Jesus as Mark says.  Jesus does not have to respond to such arrogant  and faithless requests.  


The one thing these Pharisees didn’t understand was that there was such a sign that came down from Heaven when Jesus was baptized by John.  The voice that came from Heaven saying that this was God’s beloved Son and that He was pleased with Him.   This was the sign, the Heavenly credentials that these men were looking for but did not want to accept. 


Jesus flat out says that no sign will be given to this generation who always wants a sign.  Proof enough had already been given to show Jesus’ credentials.  Jesus simply left them and got back in the boat and proceeded once again to the other side of the lake.


Jesus most likely understood that any miracle  shown to a rebellious heart of unbelief would not satisfy anyway.  It wouldn’t back then and it won’t today.  It is this heart of faithless unbelief that must first change before Jesus will respond to any of our requests.


In this situation with the Pharisees we learn that Jesus does not feel compelled to show a sign or to perform a miracle.  He also doesn’t feel compelled to stay and try to reach hearts that don’t want to be reached.   


The Yeast Of The Pharisees And Herod  (ch. 8:14-21)


In verse 14 Mark tells us that the disciples had forgotten to bring some bread with them on their trip, except for one loaf.  It is pretty clear that there was some talk about this so Jesus uses this incident as a spring board  to teach the disciples.


In verse 15 Jesus warns His disciples.  The word “warn” is a strong word.  My thinking is that Jesus is now feeling the pressure of the cross that would soon come.  This pressure in His humanity might have made Jesus somewhat irritable and easily upset at times.  Therefore this warning might well have been said is a strong way.   He warns them by saying, “be careful, watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod”. 


It is interesting that Jesus puts the Pharisees and Herod together in the same sentence.  He warns the disciples of the yeast of both the Pharisees and Herod.  Now Herod clearly is a Gentile ruler which the Jews hated.  To associate the Pharisees with this man is a pretty drastic thing on the part of Jesus. 


Yeast is that part of the bread that causes the bread to rise and fill out.  It only takes a small measure of yeast to make a good full loaf of bread.  In the case of the Pharisees a little bit of hypocrisy builds up to a lifestyle of self  righteousness.  With Herod, the yeast concerns his liberalism in moral values.  In both respects sin is the problem that shows itself in different ways.


In verse 16 we see that the disciples didn’t really understand what Jesus was talking about.  They thought because they forgot to bring some bread with them that Jesus brought up the subject about yeast.  Yet once again, Jesus and the disciples weren’t connecting in their conversation with each other.


In verse 17 Jesus sees them talking among themselves about this.  Jesus’ frustration or irritableness is seen  when He asks four questions.  The first question is, “Do you still not see or understand”?  After so many talks these men still don’t get much of what Jesus is talking about, and this is now the third year of the disciples being with Jesus.   


The second question is, “Are your hearts hardened”?  This question implies more than just not being able to understand.  When New Testament writers use the words “hardened heart”, for the most part it is in reference to unbelief.  Jesus is in fact questioning their trust in Him. Not understanding is one thing, but still not believing or trusting is another thing altogether.


The fourth question is, “do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear”?  These men do have physical eyes and ears.  They do see what Jesus does and hear what He says.  But what they see and hear doesn’t get translated into a good mental understanding, much like many people today.  We can see and hear all we want from hundreds of sermon, but if we don’t seriously sit down and think these things through with the help of the Holy Spirit, we’ll be just like these disciples. We do have to remember, they did not have the Holy Spirit in them at this point, but still, the Holy Spirit was speaking through the words of Jesus.


In verses 19 and 20 Jesus reminded these men of the miracles of the five thousand and four thousand.  He asked them how many loaves of bread were left over on each occasion.  They answered correctly.  They had 12 baskets of food left over after the feeding of the five thousand and 7 baskets of food left over after the feeding of the four thousand.


It’s quite possible that the disciples exhibited much concern when they discovered they forgot to bring bread with them. Jesus didn’t reminded these men of how He fed the crowd.  He reminded them of how much food was left over.  This might  well be to tell them that He looked after them in the past, and He’d do the same now and in the future, so why worry.


The matter comes down to trust.  These men had 2 huge events that showed them that Jesus would look after them, yet in this instance, they had a lack of trust.  Trust is the basic thing Jesus works with us on.  As trust in Him becomes stronger, we become more like Jesus.


In verse 21 Jesus repeats question number 1 by asking, “do you still not understand”?   They still don’t seem to get what Jesus is trying to tell them.


We know that Jesus loved these men but the 3 years that He spent with them were trying years in some respects.  In question number 1 Jesus asked, “do you not understand”?  He ends the conversation with “do you still not understand”?  Both questions are similar with a slight difference.  I think the last question might well have had a hint of resignation mixed with it. That is to say, “you still don’t get it.  Let’s just drop the subject for a while and give your mind and hearts a rest”.


The Healing Of A Blind Man At Bethsaida (ch. 8:22-26)


In verse 22 we see that Jesus and His disciples came to Bethsaida which is not the Bethsaida that is just outside of Capernaum.  This Bethsaida is on the east side of the Sea of Galilee .  When the people saw Jesus they brought to Him a blind man and “begged” Him to heal the man.  Once again we see the word “begged”.  On many occasions people begged Jesus to heal them. 


In verse 23 we see that Jesus led this blind man by the hand outside of the city.  Jesus could have healed this man immediately but for some reason He didn’t.  Maybe He wanted to talk with the man as they walked together and as they most likely tried to avoid the large crowd. 


When Jesus and the man reached the spot where Jesus intended to go, He spit on the man’s eyes.  We always wonder why Jesus did this because it seemed so unusual.  No one really knows why Jesus spit as He did.  While spitting, Jesus touched the man and then asked him to look up to see what he saw.


In verse 24 we note that the man told Jesus that He saw men as if they were trees walking.  The man clearly could not see properly.  Once again, we always ask, “why no immediate healing”.  Some might suggest that it might be possible that Jesus’ saliva  made things appear blurry.  This might well be.  Yet on the other hand, if this was the case, you’d then ask, “why did Jesus touch the man again to apparently complete the healing”? 


We can only guess why it took 2 touches for this man to be healed.  My guess is that this was a special occasion.  Jesus obviously wanted to be with this man, somewhat alone and talk things over with Him, or else He wouldn’t have walked with him outside of the village.  My guess is that Jesus was building trust in this man.  Step by step Jesus presented this man with another occasion to trust.  First He’d have to trust Jesus to lead Him out of the city safely.  The man then would have to trust Jesus in the things He told him on the way.  Then trust was being built with this two part healing.  In the end, the man could see perfectly.


In verse 26 Jesus told the man to go home without going into the village that they just came from.  It is thus clear that the man did not live in that village, yet we ask, “why did Jesus say this”?  On a number of occasions Jesus told people not to say anything about their healing, and many times it was simply because Jesus didn’t want everyone to know.  The crowds were already large enough.


Maybe this man needed time to think and ponder on what had happened.  Maybe he didn’t need the crowd to take away the importance of this moment by their business.  We can’t say for sure.  We only note that this is what Jesus wanted this man to do and hopefully trust had been built sufficiently for this man to obey Jesus.


Peter’s Confession Of Christ (ch. 8:27-30)


Scholars point out that from this point on in Jesus’ life He speaks about His suffering that will take place.  So far in Mark there’s been next to little talk about His suffering but from here on out it is definitely on Jesus’ mind. 


In verse 27 we see Jesus and His disciples walking towards Caeserea Philipi.  While on the road walking Jesus asks them, “who do people say that I am”?  I believe that Jesus knew exactly who people thought He was.  What He was doing here was beginning an important discussion with His main followers.  He could have asked, “who do you say I am”, but He reserves that question for later.  Right now He wanted the disciples to think about others and what they thought.  He wanted to show the contrast between what people thought about who He was and what He wanted the disciples to understand. 


Some thought Jesus was a great prophet. Others thought He was  Elijah returning to announce the Messiah’s soon coming to Israel because they understood that Elijah would return to life to make his announcement.    What they failed to understand is that Elijah wasn’t to return to earth in person.  The spirit of Elijah, (not literal spirit) was seen in John the Baptist, as he was the one announcing  the Messiah’s appearance to the Jews.   Still others thought Jesus was actually John the Baptist who rose from the dead. 


It seems clear to me that if some people thought that John or Elijah could come back from the dead, it should not have been too hard for these people to believe that Jesus could in fact come back from the dead, although many didn’t believe when it happened.


Jesus asks the important question in verse 29 when He asks, “who do you say I am”.  Now that they’ve answered what the general consensus  was,  Jesus wanted them to seriously consider who they thought He was.  Did they agree with the general public, or did they believe Jesus to be someone else? 


This same question is the important question for every human being to come to grips with.  It is evident that Jesus has had a profound  impact on human history.  We’ve idolized, venerated, and greatly esteemed many lesser men in history.  How we view Jesus,  is the most important thing for us to come to a conclusion about, but sad to say, many ignore giving any serious thought to who He is.  Because of Jesus’ importance in human history it would seem to me that we all should think about this question that Jesus asks His disciple while walking along a country road.  


Peter was the first one to answer.  Was this impetuous Peter, or was he the one appointed by God to actually answer this question?  I believe Peter was impetuous, but I also believe that Peter was the one who was to answer this question, because he would take the lead in the early church and Jesus’ response to Peter was partly teaching in nature and also partly prophetic.


Mark does not tell us the whole story as Matthew does.  Mark only says that Peter responds to Jesus by saying, “you are the Christ”.  Jesus’ controversial reply to Peter is omitted by Mark.  The controversy  is between Protestants and Catholics concerning Jesus’ words  “upon this rock I will build my church”.  Catholics say the word “rock” refers to Peter, while Protestants believe the word “rock” refers to Peter’s confession.


I believe Peter’s confession is the rock.  The rock is the foundation rock to all that is called Christian.  The truth that Jesus is the Christ is the cornerstone to our faith.  Yet before Jesus can be the Christ, He has to be Lord, because only the Lord of all there is can do the things Jesus did that would bring about salvation by His roll of Christ.


Mark doesn’t say it, but Peter went on to say, “the Son of the Living God”. (Matt. 16:16)  In order for Jesus to be Lord, He first needs to be the “Son of God”.  He needs to be God in human flesh.  One who is not God cannot be Lord of all things, and in turn cannot be the Christ, our Saviour.  There is a progression to whom Jesus really is.  He is first Jesus, meaning the Son Of God.  Then He is Lord and Christ which are descriptive titles.


The title Christ simply means “the anointed one”, which means that God the Father has anointed Jesus His Son to be what the Jews called the Messiah.  Yet by the time Jesus the Messiah came to earth the Jewish concept of Messiah was that of a political leader, and Jesus certainly was not a political leader, although many wanted to make Him one.   Jesus was the suffering servant who came to be sacrificed as a sacrificial lamb for not only Israel ’s sins, but for the sins of the world. 


This could possibly be part of the reason why Jesus told the Twelve not to tell anyone that He was the Christ.  The general public would have thought in wrong terms.  Jesus was not a political Christ that would save the Jews from the Romans.  Besides, such talk would have brought on new controversy that might well have sped up the arrest of Jesus that in my opinion had a specific date to be accomplished. 


There’s one other possible reason why the Twelve were told not to broadcast this truth.  They as yet had not received the Holy Spirit and His power to enable them to proclaim this truth as they should.  Only after Pentecost were they capable of preaching the gospel as it was to be preached.


Concerning Peter’s answer to Jesus, we note from Matthew that Jesus said his answer came by revelation, and that would be revelation by the Holy Spirit.  Peter didn’t think this up on his own.  He had help.  Thus I believe this whole experience with Jesus, Peter and the other disciples was a spiritual experience.  I believe the Holy Spirit could be felt in this time of teaching in a special way.  


Jesus Predicts His Death (ch. 8:31-9:2)


At this point in Mark’s narrative, we’re well into the third years of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Things that  Jesus now says and does point to the end of this ministry, and He clearly has these things on His mind.


In verse 31 Mark says that Jesus “began to teach” concerning the things He would suffer at the hands of the Jewish leadership.  The word “began” suggests a new phase in Jesus’ teaching.  Prior to this Jesus had eluded to the suffering yet to come, but now He “began” to tell His disciples plainly what would soon come to pass.


Jesus tells them exactly what will happen.  He will suffer and actually be killed at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the Law.  Yet things wouldn’t end there. He would rise from the dead. 


The last part of verse 31 says that Jesus did indeed “speak plainly” about these things.  He spoke plainly enough that I’m sure the disciples understood what He was saying.  At least Peter did, for in verse 32 Mark tells us that Peter took Jesus aside and “rebuked” Him.  Peter, a mere man, taking God in human flesh aside, to correct Him shows you a little bit of the personality of Peter.   


Peter and the others, may have understood the words that Jesus was telling them but they didn’t understand the meaning behind the words.  They got the idea that Jesus would die. They didn’t understand that this was God’s plan for Jesus. 


I can just see Peter as if he were Jesus’ big brother, trying to clue Jesus in on how things should be and that he and the others would not allow the Jewish leadership to do as Jesus said. 


In verse 33 we see that after Peter took Jesus aside, Jesus turned and looked at the disciples and rebuked Peter in return.  I’m guessing that Jesus’ rebuke was a little more stern than Peter’s.


Jesus looks at Peter and says, “get behind me satan”. Or in more modern terms, “get out of my way satan”.   Jesus was looking at Peter, yet speaking to satan.  To me, it is clear that satan was using Peter’s words as a test for Jesus. Jesus could turn back.  It wasn’t too late. Peter could help Jesus out of his time of sufferings, but Jesus would have nothing to do with this.  He was steadfast.  He had a job to do  within certain time frame, and He would not be swayed by Peter or by satan. 


This incident shows us how Jesus could discern  the spiritual world around Him.   It also shows us how satan can use words that people say, even though the words may be well intended by the person.  There is a demonic world around us influencing people and using them for satanic purposes.     


Since I believe that the confession of Peter was a spiritual experience for all those present, it does not surprise me that satan would be around to mess up this revelation.  His attempt to use Peter’s words could be an attempt to nullify the revelation that Peter received.


In verse 34 and following Jesus speaks to the disciples and others that are around with strong words.  He says that if anyone is interested in following Him, he must deny himself.  What Jesus was saying here is that you can’t serve yourself and Him at the same time. 


Jesus goes on to say that if you really want to save your life you have to lose it for my sake and the gospel’s sake.   Simply put, Jesus is saying that the good life will eventually come to you, but before that happens, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and die as I will.  You must lose what is precious to you and replace it with the things of God’s Kingdom.  We as Christians should major on being representatives of the Kingdom of God on earth more than finding temporal enjoyment from things of the world.  These are truly strong words that are coming from the lips of Jesus, words that apply to us today but are seldom taken seriously.


In my thinking, these words of Jesus as spoken here tell us how we should live in this age.  This age is about self denial for the purpose of following Jesus.  This age is not about accumulating wealth, prestige, or any other worldly things.  This is a different mentality than most North American Christians have today.  We think of getting blessings instead of  giving blessings.  


Verse 36 is well known. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his own soul”.  Truly the things of Jesus, the things of the Spirit are much more important than any worldly possession, even if that includes every thing in the world, and that’s an awful lot of things.  One’s soul is the most precious possession that he has.


In verse 37 Jesus asks, “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul:”?   What Jesus is really saying here is, “can you actually place a monetary or material value on one’s soul”?  The answer is clearly “no”. One’s soul is too valuable to have a value.  The reason for this is because one’s soul is eternal and no material possession can equal or out-value one’s soul. 


Just what the  soul of man is to me is somewhat debatable.  There’s been different ways of thinking about the soul over the centuries.  Is the soul different from the spirit, or are they the same.  Those who believe in the triune nature of man say they are different.  One things we know is that whatever the soul is, it is that part of man that is eternal. 


The things that Jesus is saying here tell us that things pertaining to Jesus are more important than anything else and therefore we should spend our time and energy on these things.


In verse 38 we see how Jesus viewed the generation in which He lived.  He called it an “adulterous and sinful” generation.  The followers of Jesus picked up on this and they continued in such thinking.  Things really haven’t changed in our day and age and therefore we should think the same of the generation in which we live.  The problem often occurs in that we love our generation more than we aught to, and we don’t see it as sinful.  And even if you do brand this generation in such a way, to the secular world we’d be out of step.  The average opinion of people is that they are relatively good.  This really isn’t New Testament thinking.


Also in verse 38 we see that we should not be ashamed about Jesus.  We should boldly stand up for what we believe in. If we can’t, and if we are afraid and ashamed, Jesus says that He will be ashamed of us when He returns.  Christians should not shrink back and take a back seat to the world.  With a gracious spirit, we should stand firm for our convictions.  Sometimes we may stand firm, but not so graciously.


When one is ashamed, they feel shame for that which they are ashamed of. They feel embarrassed.  This embarrassment causes them to act in fear and not to associate one’s self with that which he is ashamed of.  Therefore if we are embarrassed about Jesus, we have fear, and that fear prevents us from  representing Jesus to the world as we should.  Fear is the opposite of faith.  This fear and embarrassment then is a direct result of us having little or no trust in Jesus.  


Some take this verse to mean that Jesus will disown those who are ashamed of Him when He returns.  I’m not  convinced that Jesus is saying He will disown us.  There may be those who do trust Jesus, but their trust is week, and therefore they do feel shame. If Jesus disowns them, that suggests that there needs to be a certain level of faith to be saved.  I believe that even the smallest level of trust in Jesus leads to salvation.  I’m not saying that we should stay at such a place of weak faith.  We do need to progress.  I’m saying that when Jesus returns for His people, He will reward His people  according to their trust in Him and the things they’ve done based on that trust.  If we have little trust and we are ashamed, Jesus will be ashamed of us as we stand before Him, but we still stand before Him as His child, weak as we may be.  I’m not saying all will be saved.  I’m saying that not everyone has the same measure of trust in Jesus, and some are afraid to express that trust today.  I believe that shame that Jesus is speaking about here is based on no faith, not a little faith. 


Most translations consider chapter 9 verse 1 as part of this section.  Jesus says that some people standing with Him at that moment would be around when the Kingdom of God came in power.  That day came on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.


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