STUDY ELEVEN: MARK 8:1-9:1

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013

 

A. FEEDING THE FOUR THOUSAND – Mark 8:1-10

This second feeding miracle occurred in the Decapolis area, where Jesus had cured the man with a legion of demons, healed many sick people, and restored hearing and speech to the deaf and dumb man.  It is also reported in Matthew 15:32-39.

 

Task #1: Answer these questions:

[1] Identify Jesus’ feeling towards the large crowd.

 

[2] What made him feel this way?

 

[3] Suggest why such a large crowd was with Jesus in this remote place for so long.

 

[4] Given that the disciples had witnessed the feeding of the five thousand, what does their response in verse 4 reveal about the impact on them of that previous miracle?

 

We are not told whether this crowd was comprised of Jews or Gentiles, but given that the Decapolis was predominantly a Gentile region it is likely that quite a number of Gentiles were in the crowd. Nor are we told whether or not this crowd believed in Jesus or believed his teaching. But we do know that they stayed with him in a remote area for three days. It is unlikely that this crowd was comprised of sick people seeking healing, for it is a remote area, away from any significant source of food. So we can fairly confidently assume that this large crowd of four thousand men, along with unnumbered women and children [Matthew 15:38] had followed him and stayed with him to hear his teaching.

Jesus’ compassion on these people is directed at their physical needs. He mentions several aspects of his concern:

They have been with him three days;
They have had nothing to eat;
They are hungry;
Some of them have a long journey home;
He is concerned they might collapse on the way.

 

Task #2: Discussion questions

[1] The Old Testament repeatedly expresses God’s concern for those in physical need. Discuss how Jesus’ compassion on this large crowd reflects the character of God. Include Old Testament references in your discussion.

 


[2] Discuss how this action of Jesus validates Christian mission involvement in programs that meet people’s physical needs in addition to meeting their spiritual needs.

 


B. THE PHARISEES AT DALMANUTHA – Mark 8:10-13

Mark reports that Jesus and his disciples went to ‘the region of Dalmanutha’.  This is the only reference to Dalmanutha in the Bible. Nobody seems to know where it is. Matthew’s report of the same incident says that they went to Magadan [Matthew 15:39], but this also is a puzzle. Some equate this with Magdala [the home town of Mary Magdalene]; if this is accurate then the district in question is on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee.  In any case, it is ‘the other side’ of the lake, that is, somewhere on the western side.

There Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees, who ask him for ‘a sign from heaven’.

 
Task #3: Answer these questions:

[1] What was the Pharisees’ purpose in asking Jesus for a sign?

 

[2] Suggest what it is about their request that demonstrates their spiritual blindness?

 

[3] Describe Jesus’ response to their request.

 

[4] Suggest why he says ‘no sign will be given’, when he actually had been giving signs of his true identity every time he performed a miracle.

 


For further study on ‘signs’:

http://www.godswordforyou.com/bible-studies/the-miraculous/318-the-synoptic-gospels

http://www.godswordforyou.com/bible-studies/the-miraculous/317-johns-gospel

http://www.godswordforyou.com/bible-studies/matthew/679-study-11-miracles-and-the-miraculous-in-matthew


C. THE DISCIPLES’ FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND – Mark 8:14-21

Having again experienced confrontation with the Pharisees on the Galilean side of the lake, Jesus again returned to the eastern side [8:13].

The focus of the disciples is on the fact that they had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf that was in the boat. The focus of Jesus is on the confrontation with the Pharisees that has just occurred. He, thinking of the Pharisees and their opposition and lack of faith, says ‘Be careful. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’ Obviously he wants to warn them about this.

But all they can think about is their lack of bread, and conclude that what Jesus says must have some connection with that.

This causes Jesus to challenge them about their own failure to really understand him, and the hardness of their hearts.

They have seen him still the storm.
They have seen him feed the five thousand.
They have seen him walk on water.
They have seen him feed the four thousand.

But that same lack of understanding and that same hardness of heart that prevented them from realizing who he was when he walked on water [Mark 6:51,52] still blinds them to the truth.

 

Task #4: Answer these questions:

[1] Make a list of all the questions Jesus asks his disciples in 8:17-21.

 

 

 

 

[2] What was his purpose in asking these questions?

 

[3] What should the disciples have understood by now?

 

Jesus is the Sovereign Lord and Creator of all things. With him in the boat why should they worry about not having enough bread? He made the entire universe out of nothing. He fed five thousand men from five loaves and to fishes. He fed four thousand men with seven loaves and a few small fish. Can he not also feed these twelve friends with one loaf? Do they still not realize who he really is?


D. HEALING THE BLIND MAN – Mark 8:22-26

Mark takes us abruptly from focus on the spiritual blindness of the disciples to a man who is physically blind. Jesus took this man out of the village before he healed him, and, after he had healed him, instructed him not to go back into the village. This is in keeping with his practice of not wanting the news of his healing miracles spread around.

What is different about this healing is that Jesus does it in two stages rather than the instantaneous healing that occurred in all of his other miracles. We must not conclude here that there is any element of failure involved when Jesus’ first action brought only partial sight. What is much more likely is that Jesus is using this deliberately gradual restoration of physical sight as a physical example of the gradual removal of spiritual blindness and the gradual restoration of spiritual sight when those who are spiritually blind are exposed to his teaching and his ministry.


E. PETER’S CONFESSION – Mark 8:27-30

Mark gives a very brief report of Peter’s confession of Christ. But it is enough to inform us that Peter and the other disciples he spoke for, had at last come to the understanding that Jesus is ‘the Christ’, that is, the Messiah. [The Greek Christos translates the Hebrew ‘Messiah’ – ‘the Anointed One’.]

We do not have to read many more verses to realize that this understanding, though correct, and God-given, does not mean that the disciples now knew and understood everything they needed to about Jesus. It would take the resurrection of Christ to really open their eyes.

Task #5: Answer these questions:

[1] Suggest why Jesus told them not to tell anyone he was the Messiah.

 

[2] Read Matthew 16:13-20. What additional information is given by Matthew?

 

 

 

[3] Read Luke 9:18-21. What additional information is given by Luke?

 


F. JESUS PREDICTS HIS DEATH – Mark 8:31-38

F.1 Jesus and his disciples – Mark 8:31-33
Having finally brought the disciples to the place where they recognize that he is the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus now begins the task of preparing them for his death.  This is no easy task. Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come one day, but no one was expecting that the Messiah would come to die.

The Messiah was expected to lead them to victory against their national and political oppressors.
The Messiah was expected to sit as King on the throne of David.
The Messiah was expected to restore Israel to economic prominence and to her historic borders and glory.

But this is not the only difficulty that confronts the disciples in Jesus’ teaching about his death. Jesus makes it even more difficult for them to understand the necessity, or even the possibility, of his death by referring to himself as ‘the Son of Man’ [8:31].

The ‘Son of Man’ is the glorious, divine figure of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13,14. This glorious figure parallels Ezekiel’s vision of ‘the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD’ in Ezekiel 1:28, and of John’s later description of the resurrected, ascended Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16.

Task #6: Study Daniel 7:13,14 and answer these questions:

[1] Describe the ‘son of man’ seen by Daniel.

 

 

[2] Which part of this description makes his death appear impossible?

 

[3] Which parts of this description appear to support the common Jewish expectations of the Messiah?

 

 


But there are other prophecies of the Messiah, the Anointed One, which speak not of his political or military victory, but of the victory over sin and death that he achieves through his death. Most significant of these are ‘the Servant Songs’ of Isaiah.

 

Task #7: Read these sections of Isaiah and identify what they teach about the suffering and death of the Lord’s Servant:

Isaiah 42:1-9:

 

 

 

Isaiah 49:1-7:

 

 


Isaiah 50:4-9:

 

 


Isaiah 52:13-53:12:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus is pulling together three Old Testament prophetic figures: the Messiah, the Son of Man, and the Suffering Servant. He makes them all one. And he identifies himself as that One. At one level these three figures are mutually contradictory and exclusive:

The ‘Messiah’ is obviously a man, a descendant of David, awaited with joyous expectation.
The ‘Son of Man’ contrary to the words in the title, is obviously God.
The ‘Suffering Servant’ is obviously humiliated, rejected, despised, killed.

Jesus has just accepted the disciples’ acknowledgement of him as ‘the Christ’ – the Messiah. But now he calls himself ‘the Son of Man’ and tells them plainly that the Son of Man –

Must suffer many things,
Must be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and
Must be killed …

So contrary is this to the accepted expectations of the Messiah that Peter took Jesus aside and ‘began to rebuke him’ [verse 32]. What Jesus has said is impossible and offensive. So impossible and so offensive that Peter has not even noticed that other thing that Jesus said must happen:

… and after three days rise again.

That they did not really hear this is evident in their total dismay at this death and their incredulous surprise at his resurrection. Had they listened to it they would have understood that it is in this death/resurrection the Messianic victory is achieved.

But they hear only what he says about his rejection, suffering and death, and, through Peter, try to turn him away from it. Jesus expresses two insights into Peter’s intervention:

[1] That in attempting to divert Jesus away from the divine necessity of his death Peter is acting as an agent of Satan; and
[2] Peter’s mind is not focused on God’s eternal purpose and plan, but on human priorities.

 

F.2 Jesus, the disciples and the larger crowd – Mark 8:34-9:1
It seems that Peter’s man-centred attempt to turn Jesus aside from God’s eternal plan moved Jesus to give teaching about values and priorities to the larger crowd. Because their expectations of the Messiah are incorrect, so also their expectations of being followers of the Messiah are incorrect.

Following the real Messiah does not mean earthly glory.
Following the real Messiah does not mean earthly recognition.
Following the real Messiah does not mean earthly power.
Following the real Messiah does not mean earthly gain.
Following the real Messiah does not mean earthly victory.

Rather,

Following Jesus means denying oneself.
Following Jesus means taking up one’s ‘cross’.
Following Jesus means losing one’s life for his sake.

And,

Not following Jesus means forfeiting one’s soul.


Peter has just been ‘ashamed’ of or embarrassed by the things Jesus has said about the divine necessity of his rejection, suffering and death. Such a defeated Messiah is no Messiah at all. But now Jesus says:

‘If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels’ [verse 38].

This statement looks beyond his death, beyond his resurrection, beyond his ascension, to his return. Just as it is ‘the Son of Man’ who must die and rise again, so it is ‘the Son of Man’ – that glorious divine figure from Daniel 7, whom Jesus speaks of as coming ‘in his Father’s glory’ and ‘with the holy angels’. There, if the disciples and the crowd can see it, is the evidence of the power and the glory of his death and resurrection; there is the evidence of the eternal kingdom that will not pass away, established by his death and resurrection.

He came as the Messiah – not to re-establish the kingdom of Israel, but to establish ‘the kingdom of God … with power’. Some of those listening to him actually saw him do it [9:1]: they saw him die.

By that death he destroyed the enemy: Hebrews 2:14,15.
By that death he took the enemy captive: Colossians 2:15.
By that death God rescued us from the enemy and placed us in his Kingdom: Colossians 1:13.

 
Task #8: Further study

[1] Read Romans 1:16,17. Here Paul states that he is ‘not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’. In these words he takes up two key concepts of Jesus’ teaching in Mark 8:34-9:1. If you study further in Romans you will understand why the power of God is the only thing that can procure human salvation. When Jesus in Mark speaks of the divine necessity of his rejection and death he is not speaking of something weak, or something embarrassing, but of something immensely powerful. Think deeply on this.


[2] Read Ephesians 1:15 to 2:10. Here Paul prays that his readers, which includes us, will understand the surpassing greatness of the power of God that was working for our salvation in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Make a list of everything Paul says about this amazing power.