Welcome back as we continue working through the Gospel According to Mark. Last week we covered Mark 7, where we saw Jesus directly rebuked the Pharisees for their false teaching and their misunderstanding of sin and what defiles a man. Jesus declared all foods clean and identified the heart of man as the root of our defilement. We are sinners who sin, not good people who are defiled by what we eat or what touches us.
Today, we’ll resume reading, beginning in Chapter 8 of the Gospel According to Mark.
Mark 8:1-10 (ESV) | Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand
In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them,“How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
Once again, Jesus feeds the crowd miraculously in the wilderness. When we were working through Mark 6 we looked at how the feeding of the multitude served as a testimony of Him as the Messiah, the Son of God. On this occasion, I’d like to focus more on how this points ahead to the New Covenant, particularly communion. We see here Jesus begins by declaring His compassion on the crowd, and that they have been with Him now 3 days. Immediately what comes to mind is John 3:16-17 (ESV), “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” It was because of God’s compassion on us that He gave His Son to die on the cross, bearing the full wrath of our sin, and resurrecting on the third day that we might be saved through Him.
I love how Jesus then says that if He sends them away without feeding them, they’ll faint on the way. In our modern-day churches, so often the gathering of the saints closes without the congregation being fed the Gospel so that they might not faint on their way home. My Lutheran readers will assume I’m speaking of not taking communion at the end of the service, but that is not all I’m speaking about. Not every Lutheran church partakes of the bread and the cup weekly. For my non-Lutheran readers, I understand that many do not immediately think of communion when I mentioned “being fed the Gospel”… but you might be wondering if I’m suggesting every service should end in an altar-call. I assure, I am not. I’m talking about preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin. Our sermons have become quite law-heavy (and not always biblical Law) where our focus in preaching has somehow become fixated on the need to preach the law and give principles or advice in how to better keep the Law. Brothers, we are sinners who are incapable of keeping the Law… therefore, we need to be fed the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the answer to our sin, that we might live and not faint on our way home. The letter of the Law kills, and our sinful flesh needs to be killed by the Law… but that’s not what sustains you on your way home, throughout the week until the next opportunity to hear the Word Preached… it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that gives life, that grants faith, that sustains us in a fallen world. Matthew 4:4 (ESV) …“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Mark 8:11-13 (ESV) | The Pharisees Demand a Sign
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
Mark 8:14-21 (ESV) | The Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod
Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?”They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
The Pharisees demanded a sign, but it was to test Him, not to Believe in Him. They had already ignored every sign performed testifying of Him. No one seeks after God, no not one. There are no seekers of Truth among the unbelievers, they only lay traps. The disciples are confused at this point, distracted by their own works. They misunderstood Jesus’ teaching regarding the leaven of the Pharisees because they were looking for ways they could have served Christ better, maybe they should have planned ahead for more food. Entirely missing the point Jesus made in the miracle and in the warning of the Pharisees. This was all about Faith in Christ Jesus, not in the works of men. It is Christ who paid the price, Christ who defeated sin, death and the grave, and it is Christ who forgives, regenerates, and sustains the believer. Christ does the work. He does all of the work. His righteousness is imputed to us. He is the bread of Life that sustains us in the wilderness.
Mark 8:22-26 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
Mark gives us a narrative account of this particular healing. The only indicative here is the instruction gives to the man, “Do not even enter the village”. I think command was given in similar fashion to His instructions to others “tell no one of this”… only in this case Jesus is telling the man not to even enter the village.
That this account of a gradual healing is related to us between the account of Jesus feeding the crowd and the confession of Jesus as the Christ leads me (personal opinion here) to think on the human condition and our slowness to understand the things of God. Christ regenerates us, opens our ears, grants us Faith, saves us from the death of sin… but we are so slow and hard of heart to understand. We join in Christ’s death in water baptism, but we struggle to leave the flesh behind… we are tempted to feed the desires of the flesh and so sin and are in need of repentance and forgiveness, again. We gather with the saints week after week, to hear the Law of God preached as it exposes our sin and crushes us unto repentance, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ may once again heal us, soothe us, restore us, and grant us Peace. Christ is ever merciful to us, granting us healing and forgiveness… He is Faithful and Just to do so. Lord, in your Mercy, hear our prayer.
Mark 8:27-30 (ESV) | Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
Mark 8:31-38 (ESV) | Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Peter had been granted Faith to believe in Jesus as the Christ. Like the man who had been granted sight, Peter didn’t not yet see clearly that the Christ must suffer and die at the hands of evil men, bearing the weight of our sin, becoming sin in our place on the cross, that we might be Saved through Him. Peter’s eyes were opened, but his vision still clouded by his sinful nature. Jesus rebukes his sin, his unbelief, his lack of faith. A tough rebuke, but a necessary one. I thank God for Peter, and the account we have of his growth in the Faith.
Until next week, spend time in the Written Word of God and do not forsake the gathering of the saints, hearing of the Preached Word… both Law and Gospel.
Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,