Mark 8

 

 

vs. 1-9 – The Feeding of the Five Thousand.

 

“In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to

eat, Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and saith unto them,  I have

compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three

days, and have nothing to eat:  And if I send them away fasting to their

own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.

And His disciples answered Him, From whence can a man satisfy these men

with bread here in the wilderness?  And He asked them, How many loaves have

ye? And they said, Seven.  And He commanded the people to sit down on the

ground: and He took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to

His disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the

people.   And they had a few small fishes: and He blessed, and commanded to

set them also before them.  So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of

the broken meat that was left seven baskets.  And they that had eaten were

about four thousand: and He sent them away.”

 

The opening words of these first verses seem to imply that our Lord remained for

some time on this, the north-east, side of the Sea of Galilee. “The multitude being

very great” -  The word here rendered “very great” is παμπόλλου,, a word not to

be found anywhere else in the New Testament. But according to the best authorities,

the true reading is πάλιν πόλλου; so that the words would run, when there was

 again a great multitude “and they had nothing to eat”.  Our Lord has compassion

on them. He desires not only to heal the sick, but to feed the hungry. We may here

notice the burning zeal of the multitude. They were so intent upon hearing Christ,

that they forgot to provide themselves with the necessaries of life. They continued

with Him for three days and had nothing to eat. Whatever small supplies they might

have brought with them at first were now exhausted; and still they remained,

esteeming His words to be more than their necessary food.” (Job 23:12b) Our

Lord on His part was so full of zeal for their good, that during all that time, with

little interval, He had been preaching to them, denying Himself rest, refreshment,

and sleep.  So true were those words of His, “My meat is to do the will of him that

sent me, and to finish his work.”  (John 4:34)

 

  • CHRIST’S ATTRACTIVE MINISTRY. A great multitude followed

            Him to listen to his teaching, and were so absorbed in His words as to

            neglect attention to their bodily wants. Far from home, and without a

            supply of food, they hungered. Eating of the spiritual bread, they were

            satisfied in their souls. But they had bodily wants also.

 

  • CHRIST’S CONSIDERATE COMPASSION. A man Himself, Jesus

            was touched with a feeling of human infirmities. He had known hunger.

            The people had come from far; they had remained in the neighborhood

            where He was for three days; their little stock of provisions was exhausted,

            and, should He send them away fasting, many might faint upon the road.

            All this Jesus thought of, and His sympathy was aroused. He had

            compassion, not only upon their souls, but upon their bodies.

 

  • CHRIST’S USE OF ORDINARY HUMAN RESOURCES AND

            MEANS. Jesus might doubtless have created bread of stones, as the

            tempter had once challenged Him to do. But He chose to use what

            provisions were at hand, and to make the few loaves and fishes which the

            disciples held as a reserve of food, the basis, so to speak, of His miraculous

            action. The Lord does not despise, or dispense with, human means or

            human agencies. As on this occasion He directed His disciples to

            distribute the bread they had, so ever does He use his people and their powers

            and possessions as means of good to their fellow-men.

 

  • CHRIST’S DEVOUTNESS IN THANKSGIVING. Being Himself the

            Son of the Father, He yet, in the name of the dependent children,

            acknowledged the bounty and beneficence of the Giver of all.

 

  • CHRIST’S MIRACULOUS POWER. We are not told how it came to

            pass, but it is recorded that the four thousand found the slender

            provision sufficient for all their wants. When the Saviour provides, there

            is always enough and more than enough for all.

 

  • CHRIST’S FRUGALITY AND ECONOMY. The Lord was liberal,

            but not lavish. There was no waste in His arrangements. The broken

            pieces that remained were gathered, and doubtless saved and used.

            Because He miraculously supplied what was needed, it did not follow

            that he would suffer anything to be wasted and lost.  Here as in the

            former miracle (ch. 6:34-44), far more food remained after all were

            fed than the original supply on which our Lord exercised His

            miraculous power!  remained….seven baskets” – v. 8 - The Greek

            word here rendered “basket” (σπυρίς) spoo-rece; a hamper or

            lunch-receptacle:  basket - is a different word from that used for “basket”

            in the record of the other miracle (Mark 6:43). There it is κόφινος

            kof’-ee-nos;  The ko>finov was a hand-basket of stout wicker-work.

            The (σπυρίς) was a much larger basket, made of a more flexible material,   

            perhaps “rushes,” like our “frail.” It was by means of such a basket, called

            in Acts 9:25  σπυρίς, but σαργάνη - sar-gan’-ay  (a basket as interwoven

            or wicker-work): in II Corinthians 11:33, that St. Paul was let down through

            a window at Damascus. This supplies another evidence, if it were needed,

            that these two recorded miracles took place on different occasions. Cornelius

            a Lapido mentions an opinion that the σπυρίς was double the size of the    

            κόφινος, a large basket carried by two.

 

v. 4 – “Whence shall one be able to fill these men with bread here in a desert

place? Matthew 15:33  gives the question thus: “Whence should we have so

many loaves in a desert place, as to fill so great a multitude?” The disciples,

measuring the difficulty by human reason, thought that it was impossible to find

so many loaves in the desert.  But Christ in this necessity, when human resources

fail, supplies the Divine; and meanwhile the disciples’ estimate of the impossibility

illustrates the grandeur of the miracle.  No fellow-creature can give what our

circumstances demand and our nature craves; no fellow creature can satisfy the

necessities of one suppliant, far less the multitude or those of the unnumbered

race of humanity.  “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here

in the wilderness?

 

  • This language suggests THE CRY OF THE SPIRITUALLY HUNGRY FOR

      BREAD.  “Man shall not live by bread alone.” (Matthew 4:4)   Unless he

            change his nature, or blunt its urgencies, and stifle its voice, it calls aloud

            for God.  Oftentimes do men try to misinterpret this utterance, to persuade

            themselves that it is not God they want; that they are as the brutes, to

            which due fodder and litter and shelter suffice for satisfaction and

            enjoyment. When one looks upon the vain endeavors of misguided,

            self-deluded men, one cannot help crying aloud, in the memorable language

            of the Hebrew prophet, “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is

            not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not?” (Isaiah 55:2)

            There is a deep-seated longing, a recurring appetite, which prompts all men

            to look for more than earth, than man, can give. We ask for truth, for without

            truth — and especially truth concerning God — there is no satisfaction

            possible to the created soul. Oh that I knew where I might find him!”

            (Job 23:3)— Him, my Maker, Lord, and Judge; that I might know

            why He has made me, why He has stationed me here on earth, what is the

            purpose of His wisdom concerning me! Mock me not with dust and stones,

            but give me bread indeed, even the true knowledge of God! And as

            conscience assures each child of man that, if this God whom he fain would

            know take any interest in him, he cannot but remark his disobedience and

            his errors, the heart within calls aloud for the favor and acceptance of the

            great King. “How shall a man be just with God?” “Wherewithal shall I

            come into his presence? Will he “lift the light of his countenance” upon me,

            and be gracious to me? Must my sins be a barrier between me and my God;

            or can he, will he, overturn and cast them away, and admit me to his grace

            and fellowship and peace? Turning his regard inward upon himself, and

            perceiving his own helplessness in the struggle which is not to be avoided,

            the poor and feeble child of man asks for strength. How shall I gain

            strength for duty in times of weakness and temptation? How realize the

            intention of the Creator concerning me, that I shall enter into the conflict,

            sustain its toils, brave its dangers, and come forth victorious? And when

            the day of suffering and the night of sorrow come, can the human soul find

            comfort in the lessons of human philosophy, in the balm of human

            sympathy? Alas! these cannot suffice. Nor can aught truly soothe and

            effectually succor the weak and weary, the sad and lonely, the bereaved

            and dying, save the hand which fashioned the soul and made it susceptible

            to anguish — the heart that, by a Divine sympathy and consolation, heals

            the wounds that it permits. And when “heart and flesh fail,” who but the

            Creator and Saviour can prove “the Strength of the heart, and its Portion

            for evermore” ? No human plummet can fathom the river all must cross, no

            human hand uphold the feeble, trembling feet amidst the dark, cold waters.

            Be sure of this: as long as man retains a nature higher than that of brutes

            that perish, so long as his heart is subject to grief, his life is surrounded by

            trouble, his nature prone to sin; so long he will ever and anon cry out for

            supernatural succor and comfort, and call upon his God. Spiritual hunger is

            real and Bread for his soul man will ask for, and, unless he have it, he will

            HUNGER, PINE AND PERISH!  “From whence can a man satisfy these

            men with bread here in the wilderness?

 

 

  • This language suggests THE SILENCE OF THE WILDERNESS TO

            THIS APPEAL. Out beyond the Lake of Tiberius, away from towns and

            villages, in the solitudes of the green hillsides, how was the want of the

            multitude to be supplied? Blades of grass were not ears of corn, stones

            were not bread. “Here in the wilderness” was no answer to the demand of

            the hungering — none! The wilderness could only leave those to perish

            who trusted to its tender mercies. An emblem of the world’s powerlessness

            to meet the case of our spiritually dependent and hungering race! The

            world is the scene of our trial and proving, the occasion of our manifold

            temptations. Of what use is it to look to it for sympathy, succor, strength,

            and salvation? It cannot satisfy you, search and prove it how you may.

            Is that rich and luscious fruit that hangs from yonder bough? Alas! it is the

            apple of the Dead Sea, dust and ashes between the teeth. Is that a lake of

            sweet, pellucid waters which gleams in the glowing sun in yonder hollow?

            Alas! it is the mirage of the desert, which mocks the thirsty travelers,

            offering them sand for water. So with the pretences of the world to satisfy

            the hungering soul. These pretences are vanity and delusion.  The world

            is utterly powerlessness: there is none to help, none to pity, none to deliver

            and to save.  From it there is no peace nor hope! They cry aloud in the

            wilderness; but no answer comes to them, save the mocking echoes from

            the hard, dead rock.  No truth, no law, no grace, no hope, no heaven, no

            God! Such is their interpretation of the echoes of the desert. They abandon           

            themselves to doubt, despondency, despair. From this cheerless and

            desolate prospect, let us turn to facts fitted to gladden every depressed and          

            anxious heart.  “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread

            here in the wilderness?

 

  • The language suggests to us THE DIVINE PROVISION OF THE

            BREAD OF LIFE. When the disciples of Jesus asked Him this question,

            they must have been thinking of their own inability. For they could not

            have forgotten how, not far from this very spot and not long since, their

            Master had fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes.

            (ch. 6:34-44)  If they had been there without him, they might have been

            as helpless as they were when the father of the lunatic boy brought his son

            into their presence, and entreated their compassion and aid. But the Lord

            Jesus was Himself the answer to this inquiry. He had but to bless the bread,

            and distribute it by the hands of the disciples, and, for even so vast a multitude,

            there was “bread enough and to spare.” Thousands were fed when Jesus

            was the Master of the feast. No miracles were more evidently and decisively

            than these of feeding the thousands, parables concerning Christ Himself. John

            has recorded the discourse which our Saviour uttered in Capernaum, in which       

            Jesus asserted His own mission and office and power.  “My Father,” said He,     

            giveth you the true Bread from heaven. For the Bread of God is He

            which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.… I am

            the Bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that            

            believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:32-35)  In this language our

            Divine Lord evidently referred to that marvelous incident in the history of

            Israel when the wants of the people were supplied by daily provision of

            manna in the wilderness. More especially He brought before the minds of

            His hearers the great fact that the supply of human wants is due to the grace

            and interposition of God Himself. Bread does not come to us from the

            wilderness, but it comes to us in the wilderness; and it is the Father above

            who sends it — none but He!  God is the Father, who will not leave His

            children without bread. He cares for His spiritual family, considers their

            wants, hears their cry, and in His wisdom and love secures for them all that

            He sees to be for their good. Our Lord Jesus Christ is Himself the Divine          

            provision for the needs of men. “He that eateth the flesh, and drinketh

            the blood of Christ, has life eternal.” (John 6:51)  For it must be borne in

            mind that the heavenly Father who has given us His Son, has in Him virtually       

            given us all the resources of His boundless compassion and grace. “He who          

            spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, HOW SHALL

            HE NOT WITH HIM also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)  Do

            our hearts cry aloud for spiritual truth? God gives us this in Christ, who is

            Himself the Truth — the revelation of THE FATHER’S MIND AND WILL.    

            The heart that finds “Immanuel — God with us,” (Matthew 1:23) finds God      

            Himself — for Christ is “the brightness of the Father’s glory”           

            (Hebrews 1:3).  “He that hath seen me,” says Christ, “hath seen the Father.”

            (John 14:9)  Is our heart restless until assured of the forgiveness and the favor

            of our God? Hungry for the smile of Heaven, does it turn heavenward a

            wistful gaze? God in Christ gives us this first great necessity of the sinful

            soul. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance, but He came at the same time

            to assure the penitent of pardon — the purchase of His precious blood.

            What bread is to the hungry, that is pardon to the contrite, humbled, suppliant      

            transgressor. And this is the gift of Christ, who came with “power on earth to     

            forgive sins.” (Matthew 9:6)  Do we feet an inner craving for a strength which

            we do not find within ourselves — for a power which shall uphold us in the          

            labor and the conflict of this earthly life? Not only to know the will of God

            but to do it — this is the want of man’s soul. Power to do this is bread to his         

            hungering nature. “But as many as received Him, to them, gave He power

            to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”

            (John 1:12)  Do you not, indeed, when you best know yourselves, feel that

            truly to live you must have strength to live to God? And who but God

            Himself can impart this strength? IT IS GIVEN IN JESUS! Eat of this

            bread, and labor shall be sweet and work welcome. His meat and drink was

            to do the will of Him who sent Him, and to finish His work. (John 4:34)

            The soul oppressed by the infirmities of the flesh and the ills of life

            hungers for a consolation not to be found from the wilderness? Who

            of us has not felt this, in seasons of grief and anxiety?  Surely, God knows the      

            heart which He has fashioned; He reads its laments, He witnesses its struggles,

            He comprehends its fears. It was to allay our anxiety, to assuage our griefs,

            that Jesus dwelt on earth, wept our tears, tasted the bitterness of our death;

            and “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15)

            that He might be a “High Priest touched with the feeling of our

            infirmities.” As long as “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly

            upward (Job 5:7) so long shall the “Man of sorrows, acquainted with

            grief,” (Isaiah 53:3) be the dearest Friend the heart can know. Jesus is a

            brother born for adversity.”  (Proverbs 17:17)

 

                        “But what to those who find? Ah! this

                             Nor tongue nor pen can show;

                        The love of Jesus, what it is

                           None but his loved ones know,”

 

 

  • This language suggests THE SATISFACTION FOUND BY THOSE

            WHO PARTAKE OF THIS SPIRITUAL FOOD. We read in the Gospel

            that, when the great Lord of nature and of men miraculously supplied the

            wants of the hungering crowds, “they did all eat, and were filled.” In this

            they prefigured all who, in every land and age, should feed by faith upon

            the Son of God. Of Him it may truly be said, “He filleth the hungry soul

            with goodness.” (Psalm 107:9)  Three remarks may be made upon the

            power of the Lord Jesus to appease the spiritual hunger and to supply the

            spiritual wants of men.

 

ü      He is sufficient for each

ü      He is sufficient for all,

ü      He is sufficient for evermore.

 

            Each soul, however drawn or driven to Christ — driven by the

            desperation of want, or drawn by the excellence and abundance of the

            Divine supply — finds in Him all that He Himself has promised. To believe,

            to trust, to love, to follow Christ, — this is to appropriate Him, to prove and

            learn His Divine sufficiency. “He that cometh to me shall never hunger;

            and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)  The same

            faith which first reveals Christ to the soul, and stays its hunger, is the means

            of attaching the soul to Christ and the means by which the soul finds in Him

            all the fullness of God. For He of God is made unto His people “wisdom and

            righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” (I Corinthians 1:30)  The            

            bounty of the Lord Jesus is unrestricted. As the vast multitude of His

            auditors were fed by His beneficence — as men, women, and children all ate

            and had enough, so that basketsful of fragments were taken up — so

            throughout this wide world its teeming and varied populations are all destined

            to find in Him the SAVIOR OF MANKIND.   “I,” said He, “if I be lifted up    

            from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Untold myriads have feasted at

            the table of Christ, and NONE HAVE RISEN HUNGRY AND  

            DISSATISFIED! Still have the ministers of His grace the privilege of       

            announcing to the starving children of men, “ Yet there is room.  Come ye

            in, that the guests may be many and the tables filled. ‘Eat ye that which

            is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” (Luke 14:15-24,

            Isaiah 55:2)  Still further to enhance the conception of the preciousness of the       

            great salvation, let it be remembered that it is an unfailing, an everlasting, an

            imperishable satisfaction which is to be found in Jesus Christ. He that eats

            of earthly bread and drinks of earthly streams hungers and thirsts again; but

            he who, by Divine mercy, feeds on heavenly food and drinks of the living

            water hungers and thirsts no more. For him is provided a perpetual feast,

            an immortal satisfaction and content. Generation succeeds generation, and

            age follows age. The experience of humanity is prolonged from century to

            century. Opportunity is given to every system, to every creed, to every

            philosophy, to deal with the deep and spiritual necessities of mankind.

            As one attempt of human wisdom succeeds another, and as each fails in its

            turn, we hear in our soul within us the cry arise, suggested by human effort

            and by human powerlessness, “From whence can a man satisfy these men

            with bread here in the wilderness?” There is no answer. None has been

            given; none can be given. Happy are we who hear a voice, Divine alike in

            sweetness and authority, rising above the plaint of the hungry, or breaking

            the silence of the baffled and the helpless, and uttering forth the welcome

            declaration of pity and of love, “I am the Bread of life”! (John 6:48)  And           

            happier still if, convinced of the sincerity and the power of this Divine and

            compassionate Benefactor, prompted by our human need, and guided by

            the Spirit of God, we respond, in faith and gratitude and hope, “Lord,

            evermore give us this Bread!”  (John 6:34)

 

 

vs. 10-12 – The Pharisees Want to See Signs, Tempting Him

 

And straightway He entered into a ship with His disciples, and came

into the parts of Dalmanutha.  And the Pharisees came forth, and began to

question with Him, seeking of Him a sign from heaven, tempting Him.

And He sighed deeply in His spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek

after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this

generation.”

 

This was not an isolated case of the demands on the part of the Jewish leaders that

Jesus should work some miracle which they might receive as a sign from heaven.

And it was not only during our Saviour’s ministry that they preferred such a request.

For Paul had occasion long afterwards to complain of the Jews that they “required

a sign,” (I Corinthians 1:22) and were dissatisfied with the doctrines and with the

evidences of Christianity.

 

  • THE REQUEST OF THE PHARISEES. These men made a point of

            seeing Jesus, and seem, on this as on other occasions, to have come as a

            deputation from His adversaries.  (No doubt, the Sadducees, who were

            practically atheists [compare the modern secularists] thought that no

            sign could be given from heaven by God, seeing that in their opinion

            it was doubtful whether there was any God to give it?)

 

ü      What was it they asked? Not an ordinary miracle, for such Jesus

      had already repeatedly and publicly performed. It was a sign, not

      from Himself, but from heaven. Any wonder He might work they

      would attribute to magic or to Beelzebub. But, such was their

      profession, if He would furnish them with some splendid celestial

      portent — if He would give bread from heaven or stay the sun in its

      course — then they would be convinced of His Messiahship.

 

ü      Why did they ask such a sign? They were tempting, testing Him —

                        putting Him to the proof. Had He complied with their wish, they

                        would have seen in Him the Messiah they wanted — one prepared                                     

                        probably to wield supernatural power for personal aggrandizement

                        and for political dominion. (Contrast this with worldly political

                        leadership and aspirations – CY – 2009) Should He refuse, they

                        would be confirmed in their rejection of His claims.

 

  • THE REFUSAL OF CHRIST.   v. 12 – “He sighed deeply in His spirit”

      (ἀναστενάξας) Another graphic touch of this evangelist; such as he had

      learnt in all probability from Peter. The word occurs nowhere but here. It is

      the outcome of grief and indignation, in which, however, grief predominates.        

      There shall no sign be given unto this generation (εἰ δοθήσεται σημεῖον).

      This is a Hebrew idiom, based upon a form of taking an oath

      which prevailed amongst the Jews. The full form would be, “God do so and

      so to me, if so and so.” Hence the hypothetical part of the clause came to be

      used alone, expressing a very strong form of denial or refusal.  Observe:

 

ü      The feeling with which He refused. “He sighed deeply in his spirit.”

      Had they come asking for healing, relief, assistance, He would have           

      joyfully complied; but it grieved Him to the heart that they should

      come thus. And He read in their conduct the sign of a widespread           

      carnality, unspirituality, and unbelief.

 

ü      He disapproved of the spirit in which the request had been made.

      He was not only pained by it, He censured and condemned it. They

      who came, came to carp and criticize, and confirm themselves in

      their unbelief.

 

ü      He had already given evidence enough to justify the faith of such as

                        were candid and open to conviction. He had wrought miracles so

                        many and of such a kind as might assure the thoughtful and

                        spiritually susceptible that He was from God.

 

ü      He knew that what they asked for, if granted, would not convince

       them.  The deficiency was not in Him; it was in themselves. The

      principle was applicable, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets,

      neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead

      (Luke 16:31)

 

ü      There was one great sign yet to be given, in God’s time — a sign that

                        should surpass all granted in the olden days; a sign that should leave

                        all unbelievers WITHOUT EXCUSE His resurrection from the                               

                        dead.  In another place He told them “An evil and adulterous

                        generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given

                        to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas (Jonah):  For as Jonas was

                        three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son

                        of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”.

                        Jesus added:  “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with

                        this generation, and shall condemn it:  because they repented

                        at the preaching of Jonas; and BEHOLD, A GREATER THAN

                        JONAS IS HERE!”  [Matthew 12:39-41]  (Reader, it has never

                        dawned on who we will be brought before God with, at the

                        resurrection.  I wonder how one would feel, to see Abraham,

                        Isaac, and Jacob and who knows what other familiar individuals

                        will be there and then to see yourself “thrust out”!   Everybody

                        gets in except me???? – (Luke 13:28-29)

 

 

v. 13 – “And He left them, and again embarking ἐμβὰς for ἐμβὰς εἰς τὸ

πλοῖονdeparted to the other side” - Again and again our Lord crossed

this sea, that He might instruct the Galileans dwelling on either side;

in fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1, “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,...

by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people

that walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

 

vs. 14-21 – The Disciples Misunderstanding

 

“And He left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side. 

Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with

them more than one loaf.  And He charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of

the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.  And they reasoned

among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.  And when Jesus

knew it, He saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread?

perceive ye not yet, neither understand?  have ye your heart yet hardened?

Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not

remember?  When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many

baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto Him, Twelve.  And when

the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye

up? And they said, Seven.  And He said unto them, How is it that ye do not

understand?”

 

The evangelists have left untold much which we would fain know, and they

have recorded some things which our lack of wisdom would have dispensed

with. The incident here recorded seems trivial, and the conversation arising

upon it commonplace. Yet it was not without a purpose that two

evangelists were directed to preserve this passage in our Lord’s ordinary

life.

 

  • THE WARNING WHICH THE DISCIPLES MISUNDERSTOOD.

            Christ’s ministry of teaching seems to have been one long protest

            against the current doctrines and practices of the religious leaders of the

            time. The Pharisees were very generally formalists, and the Herodians

            secularists, and against both tendencies our Divine Lord’s opposition was  

            unceasing and uncompromising. Using figurative language, Jesus cautioned

            His disciples against the leaven, i.e. the influence, of such errors as were    

            characteristic of these religious schools. Although they were so much in

            His society and so attached to His ministry, they were not deemed by the

            Master beyond the need of this wise and faithful admonition.  v. 14 – “And

            they had forgotten (ejpela>qonto) — literally, they forgot — to take bread          

            (a]rtouv); loaves. The conversation which follows took place on the boat

            while they were crossing. The passage would take perhaps six hours. And it

            was during that time that they would want food; for when they reached the

            port, they would find it in abundance.  v. 15 – “Beware of the leaven of the                    

            Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” -  Matthew 15:6says, “Beware of the

            leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees;” thus Mark identifies the leaven

            of the Sadducees with that of Herod. “Leaven” here means “doctrine.” They      

            were not to beware of this, so far as the Pharisees rightly taught and explained

            the Law of Moses; but only so far as they corrupted that Law by their own

            vain traditions, contrary to the Law of God, Luke (Luke 12:11) calls this

            leaven “hypocrisy;” because the Pharisees only regarded outward

            ceremonies, and neglected the inward sanctification of the Spirit. St.

            Jerome says, “This is the leaven of which the Apostle speaks where he

            says, ‘A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.’ All heretics have had

            this kind of leaven, which is on every account to be avoided. Leaven has

            this property, that, however small it may be in quantity, it spreads its

            influence rapidly through the mass. And so if only a little spark of

            heretical doctrine be admitted into the soul, speedily a great

            flame arises, and envelopes the whole man.”  (Oh, reader, and

            should not we in this day and time, living in a nation where that

            the Doctrines of Jesus Christ, have been so undermined and

            discarded, be especially on our guard concerning the teachings

            and leanings of godless humanism and secularism?this

            passage is very instructive for our age – take it from the

            MASTER HIMSELFBEWARE - CY – 2009)

 

  • THE CONSTRUCTION WHICH THEY PUT UPON HIS WORDS.

            The word “leaven” reminded them of bread, and the thought of bread

            reminded them of their negligence in not having made proper provision for

            their journey. But their misunderstanding was scarcely due to their

            oversight; it was rather the consequence of their own slowness of mind to

            take in their Master’s manner of speech. We do not trace impatience, but

            we do trace a certain dissatisfaction and reproachfulness, in the Lord’s

            language: “Do yo not yet perceive, neither understand?”  (v. 21) How

            often has Christ occasion thus to expostulate with His too unspiritual and

            inappreciative disciples! We often take Christ’s words too literally, without

            that discernment and sympathy which a wise and gracious Master expects

            from His scholars.  This whole incident shows the transparent simplicity

            of the character of the disciples and exhibits their dullness of apprehension.

            It is as though our Lord said, “You ought to have perceived, both from my

            words and from my actions, that I was not speaking concerning earthly

            leaven or earthly bread, but concerning spiritual doctrine.” Matthew 16:12 is         

            careful to tell us that this reproof of Christ quickened their intellects, and

            forced them to understand – “Then understood they how He bade them

            not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees

            and of the Sadducees”.

 

  • THE CONSIDERATIONS BY WHICH CHRIST REPROVED

            THEIR MISUNDERSTANDING.

 

ü      They should have known Him better than so to misapprehend Him.

                        Where were their eyes, their ears, their heart? Had they been

                        susceptible and active, surely a truer, a loftier judgment would have

                        been formed of the Christ, the Son of God. In this case they would

                        not have supposed that He was troubling Himself or them with such

                        a trifle as now excited their concern.

 

ü      They should have better remembered the past, especially the

      occasions upon which the Lord had supplied the wants of multitudes

      in the exercise of His omnipotence. Such a recollection would have

      saved them from the misapprehension into which they had fallen.

                        To understand what Christ says we must think of Him aright, and we

                        must study His teaching in the light of the wonderful deeds which He

                        has performed for the RELIEF and the SALVATION of mankind.

                        It is want of sympathy and of remembrance which often leads to

                        misunderstanding. He that will do the Divine will shall know of the

                        doctrine.  (John 7:17)

 

vs. 22-26 – Sight for the Blind.

 

“And He cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto Him, and

besought Him to touch him.  And He took the blind man by the hand, and led

him out of the town; and when He had spit on his eyes, and put His hands

upon him, He asked him if he saw ought.  And he looked up, and said, I see men

as trees, walking.  After that He put His hands again upon his eyes, and made

him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.  And He sent him

away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.”

 

Every form of human privation, suffering, and infirmity which came under the notice

of Christ elicited His compassion and His healing mercy, and every such disorder

was treated by Him as a symptom of the moral malady which afflicts mankind. The

diversity of Christ’s miracles of healing may serve to represent His power and

willingness to restore our sinful humanity, afflicted with many and various ills, to

spiritual soundness and health. In this miracle we observe:

 

  • A SYMBOL OF THE SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS OF HUMANITY.

            The blind man of Bethsaida may not have been born blind; but his

            sightless state was well known, and excited the commiseration of his

            neighbors and acquaintances, who led him to the great Healer and

            Enlightener of men, that He might touch and cure him. He is an emblem

            of this humanity, darkened in understanding, incapable of discerning truth,

            blind to moral beauty, to heavenly glory.

 

  • A SYMBOL OF SALVATION BY DIVINE CONTACT. Jesus

            treated this man in a way appropriate to his condition and infirmity. He

            appealed to the sense of touch, for there was no sense of sight to which to

            appeal. He led the blind man by the hand, took him apart, spat on his eyes,

            laid His hands upon him. All this was to make the patient feel that the

            Divine Physician was there, was interested in him, was working for his

            cure. It was to reveal His own presence and to call forth the sufferer’s faith.

            And there is no salvation for any by merely hearing or reading about Jesus

            Christ. The spiritually blind cannot experience His illuminating power

            except by coming to Him in faith. If He enter the heart, reveal His truth

            and love and power, come into immediate contact with the springs of the

            spiritual nature and life, then the mind, before insensible to the light of

            Heaven, begins to appreciate the great realities of being — the nature, the

            character, the will, of a holy God and Father.

 

  • A SYMBOL OF THE PROGRESSIVE CHARACTER OF SPIRITUAL

      ENLIGHTENMENT. The most noticeable feature of this miracle is the

      way in which the cure was wrought — gradually and progressively. Why

      Jesus did not effect the result at once does not appear.  It may have been to

      teach us how difficult and slow is the process of human illumination, even

      by the gospel and the Spirit of God. As at first the man saw human figures,

      which appeared like trees, but moved, so that even his half-recovered vision          

      judged them men; so those to whom the light of the gospel first comes often         

      discern but dimly those spiritual facts and relations which time and       

      experience and Divine teaching will render more vivid and distinct. It is

      not to be expected that young Christians or recent converts shall understand

      all such truth as is comparatively clear to the mature and instructed. God’s

      ways herein are like his ways in other departments of His government; order

            and progression are characteristics of His reign.  Our Lord was a wise and        

            skillful Physician. At first He healed him in part, as one who imperfectly    believed;

            that he who as yet saw little with a little sight, might believe more  

            perfectly, and so be healed at last more perfectly; and thus by this miracle

            Christ teaches us that for the most part the unbeliever and the sinner is by

            degrees illuminated by God, so as to advance step by step in the knowledge

            and worship of God. “By this miracle,” says Bede, “Christ teaches us how

            great is the spiritual blindness of man, which only by degrees, and by

            successive stages, can come to the light of Divine knowledge.” The

            experiences of this blind man in gradually recovering his eyesight show as

            in a parable the stages of the spiritual change from absolute darkness to    

            glimmering light, and thence to bright and clear vision. Cornelius a Lapide

            says, “We see an example of this in children and scholars, who must be taught      

            and instructed by degrees.  Otherwise, if the master, impatient of delay and          

            labor, seeks to deliver all things to them at once, he will overwhelm their

            mind and their memory, so that they will take in nothing; as wine, when it is         

            poured into a narrow-necked vessel, if you attempt to pour in the whole at

            once, scarcely any will enter, but almost all is wasted.”

 

  • A SYMBOL OF THE POWER OF CHRIST TO EFFECT COMPLETE

      ILLUMINATION. After the further application of the wonder-working hands

      of Jesus, it is recorded that the blind man “was restored, and saw all things        

      clearly.” So in God’s light we shall see light. He hath “shined into our

      hearts.” (II Corinthians 4:6) We shall “see God.” (Revelation 22:4)  The

      vision shall brighten here; and it shall be more than bright, it shall be

      glorious hereafter.

 

“And He sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell

it to any in the town.”  The healed man would naturally like to go into town and

show what Christ had done for him but  Jesus had no desire to excite more than could

be helped the idle curiosity of the multitude. His miracles were for the sake of His

doctrine, and not His doctrine for the sake of his miracles. The whole character

of His administration was retiring and gentle. “My doctrine shall drop as the

rain, my speech shll  distil as the dew.” (Deuteronomy 32:2) “He shall not strive,

nor cry; neither shall any hear His voice in the streets.” (See Isaiah 42:1-8)

Therefore let us give unto the Lord God the “glory that is due His name”

(Psalms 29:2, 96:8)

 

vs. 27-38 – “And Jesus went out, and His disciples, into the towns of Caesarea

Philippi: and by the way He asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do

men say that I am?  And they answered, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias;

and others, One of the prophets.  And He saith unto them, But whom say ye

that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto Him, Thou art the Christ.

And He charged them that they should tell no man of Him.  And He began to

teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of

the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three

days rise again.  And He spake that saying openly. And Peter took Him, and

began to rebuke Him.  But when He had turned about and looked on His

disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou

savorest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.  And

when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto

them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his

cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but

whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 

Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  Whosoever therefore

shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation;

of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of his

Father with the holy angels.”

 

v. 29 - “Thou art the Christ-  Peter here spoke as the mouthpiece of the rest.

The suddenness and terseness of the answer is eminently characteristic of Peter. In

Matthew’s narrative it is given a little more in full, “Thou art the Christ, the Son

of the living God.” But the strength of the answer really lies in Mark’s words,

“Thou art the Christ,” that is, THE PROMISED MESSIAH!   What, however, 

Mark does omit here — a circumstance not to be passed without notice — is the

great blessing pronounced by our Lord upon Peter (Matthew 16:17-19) as the

reward of his confession. The explanation of this omission is to be found in the

fact that this Gospel is really for the most part Peter’s Gospel, recorded by

Mark. It has already been observed, that, as far as it is possible to do so,

considering Peter’s prominent position amongst the other apostles, he retires into

the background. It was necessary that it should be recorded that he made the good

confession of our Lord as the Messiah; but beyond this the evangelist suppresses all

 mention of the distinction subsequently conferred upon him, although the rebuke

which he afterwards received is recorded in full.

 

v. 31 - And He began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many

things” - In  Matthew’s narrative He says  “From that time began Jesus to show

unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many

things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised

the third day” (Matthew 16:21) - from the time, that is, of this great confession;

from the time when He had openly acknowledged to His disciples the truth of His

essential Divinity; from that time He began to instruct them as to His passion and

His death.  There are two great principles of faith, namely:

 

  • the Divinity and the humanity of Christ, and
  • His cross and passion, whereby He has redeemed the world.

 

And it was necessary that the disciples should be thus instructed in His amazing

dignity as the Son of God, lest, when they saw Him put to death, they might doubt as

to His Godhead. “and after three days rise again” - Matthew and Luke say, “on

the third day” — the day of His death counting for one, and the day of His

resurrection for another, with one clear day intervening.

 

v. 32 – “And He spake the saying openly” -  (παῥῤησία); literally,

without reserve. This sudden announcement excited St. Peter. It was a new

and startling communication. “Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him” -

The word προσλαβόμενος indicates that he “took hold of him,” to lead

Him apart, as though to have the opportunity of warning Him with the

greater familiarity and secrecy. Peter would not have his own confession of

Christ thus evacuated, as it were; nor does he think it possible that the Son

of God could be slain. So he takes Him apart, lest he should seem to reprove

Him in the presence of the other disciples; and then he says (Matthew 16:22),

“Mercy on thee, Lord (ἵλεώς σοι Κύριε): this shall never be unto thee.”

 

v. 33 – “But He turning about, and seeing His disciples, rebuked Peter”.

The words indicate a sudden movement (δὲ ἐπιστραφεὶς), accompanied

by a keen searching look at His disciples. Then He singles out Peter, and addresses

to him, in their presence, the severe rebuke, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou

savourest not (οὐ φρονεῖς) — literally, thou mindest not — the things of God,

but the things of men”.  The form of words is the same as that used by our Lord to

Satan himself, when He was tempted by him in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:10)

It reminded Him of that great conflict. The visions of worldly glory again floated

before Him. The crown without the cross was again held out to Him. This explains

His language.  Peter was indeed rebuked; but the rebuke was aimed through him at

the arch adversary who was addressing him through Peter. Here is the striking

significance of his “turning about.” Peter was for the moment doing the tempter’s

work, and in “turning about” our Lord was again putting Satan behind Him.

 

v. 34  - “He called unto Him the multitude with His disciples. This

shows that there was an interval between what had just taken place and

what is now recorded. Our Lord now, without any further special reference

to Peter, delivers a lesson of universal application; although, no doubt,

He had Peter in His mind. “If any man would (εἴ τις θέλει) come after

me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”. This

self-denial ought to extend to everything, even to life itself, which we

ought to be willing to resign, if need be, for the sake of Christ. Take up his

cross. It is as though He said, “Let him take up his cross, as I have borne

my cross, that I might be the standard-bearer and Leader of all cross-bearers

I, who carried the cross on which I was to be crucified to the mount of

Calvary.”  Luke 9:23 adds the words (καθ ἡμέραν), “daily:” “let him take

up his cross daily;” thus showing that “every day,” and often “at every hour,”

something occurs which it becomes us to bear patiently and bravely, and so on continually

through our whole life. He takes up his cross who is crucified to

the world. But he to whom the world is crucified follows his crucified Lord.

This cross assumes various forms; such as persecution and martyrdom, affliction

and sorrow of whatever kind, appointed by God; temptations of Satan, permitted

by God for our trial, to increase our humility and virtue, and to make brighter our

crown.

 

v. 35 - Because the cross is sharp and afflicting, our Lord animates His

followers to bear it by the thought of its great and everlasting rewards. The

meaning of the verse is this: he who by trying to shun the cross and to

escape self-denial would save his life here, will lose it hereafter. But he

who loses his life here for the sake of Christ, either by dying in his cause or

by denying and mortifying his lusts out of love for him, he in the life to

come shall find his life in the bosom of Christ and in eternal joy.

 

v. 36  - “What doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and lose his

own soul? (ζημιωθῆναι); literally, forfeit his life (ψυχή). The word ψυχή in

the Greek, [psyche – CY – 2009] originally meaning simply “breath,” as the sign

of life, is of very comprehensive import, embracing not merely “the breath of

life,” but also the “soul,” or immortal part of man, as distinguished from his

mortal body, also the mind or understanding, as the organ of thought.

“Life” seems here to be the best English synonym, as being, like the Greek

ψυχή, the more comprehensive term.

 

v. 37 – “In exchange (ἀντάλλαγμα) for his life” – (Reader, what would you

exchange for your life?  What a sobering thought! – CY – 2009)  The Greek term

here means an equivalent,” “a compensation. The life,” in its largest sense

and meaning, defies all comparison, surpasses all value. It has been bought

and redeemed with the precious blood of Christ; therefore the whole world

would be a poor price for the SOUL OF ONE MAN!

 

v. 38 - Our Lord here looks onward to the DAY OF JUDGMENT.  “Whosoever

shall be ashamed of me” -  Whosoever:” the word includes all, whatever their

position or circumstances may be. “Shall be ashamed of me;” that is, shall deny

my faith, or blush to confess me here. “Of him shall the Son of man be ashamed” - 

that is, Christ will despise him, when He shall appear with power and great glory, in

that sublime majesty which he gained by his death upon the cross. (Matthew 24:30***)

“In this adulterous and sinful generation” – (How aptly this describes our

culture CY – 2009)   It adds to the disgrace of being ashamed of Christ that the

shame is manifested in the presence of the base and the worthless; and therefore our

Lord exhibits the contrast between the mean and contemptible people in the

presence of whom men are ashamed of Him here, with  the magnificent

assemblage in whose presence He will be ashamed of them hereafter. The cross

of Christ appeared to the great body of mankind to be shameful and contemptible.

To the Jews it was a stumbling-block, and to the Greek’s foolishness. (I Corinthians

1:23)  Hence vast numbers, whether through shame or fear, did not dare to

confess it, and still less to preach it. And therefore it is that Paul says “I am not

ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to

every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”.  (Romans 1:l6),

 

 

 

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