Lesson 8 w/AnswersMark Chapter 8
This lesson comprises our study of Mark Chapter 8, and we again travel with Jesus. You will recall that in our last lesson, Jesus was in the Decapolis area, somewhere on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Our current lesson opens with him once again confronted by large crowds, in the range of 15,000-20,000 people; and, once again, he is performing unheard-of miracles. He and his disciples will travel back across the Sea of Galilee to an area south of Capernaum, where he will once again confront the Pharisees. From there, he will travel across the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee past Capernaum to Bethsaida, and then on up further north to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. You have probably already discovered that you need to have a good map handy as we follow Jesus around the Sea of Galilee. The two photos below show you another view of crossing the Sea of Galillee, as well as a picture that I took in the area of Ceasaria Philippi where, as we will see in this lesson, Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say I am?"
Read through Mark 8 and consider the following questions.
- In Mark 8:1-10, we once again see Jesus feeding a large crowd, i.e., 4,000 men and probably 15,000-20,000 people total, with just seven loaves of bread and a few fish. After reading these verses, I think most of us would be stunned by the disciples comments. How does their situation apply in our lives? What can we learn from this experience that will help our witness and help us live better for Jesus?
- ANSWER 1: The disciples had witnessed miracle after miracle, but still did not comprehend the power of the Jesus, the Messiah, the only son of God. When faced with a seemingly impossible challenge, they were at a loss regarding what to do. How could food be available when there was none for miles and miles? And how could they possibly afford to buy enough food to feed a crowd that large—let alone actually obtain the food from the closest town and then get to the crowd?
- ANSWER 2: All of us have, or will have, experiences just like this. When the challenge seems impossible to deal with, the outcome seems hopeless. In our own mind, we think that there is no possible way out of a particular situation, and any favorable solution is literally impossible. But, just as with the disciples, this thinking is man’s thinking, not God’s. We short-change how great our Savior is when we think that there are situations, challenges, and mountains so large that he can’t handle them. It’s when we depend on our own thinking, and our own intellect and abilities, that we lose hope. Turning to Christ in our greatest time of need is always the thing to do. "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27)
- ANSWER 3: When we live a life free from worry, when we completely depend on Jesus no matter the situation, only then are we living a life that’s a great testimony to others. This approach to living is what sets followers of Christ apart from the world around them. Think about it: why are we worrying about anything if Christ can meet every need—even doing the impossible?
- After Jesus fed this large crowd, in fact now having fed two large crowds since the beginning of the book of Mark, Jesus and his disciples leave the area of the Decapolis and sail across the Sea of Galilee to the region of "Dalmanutha." Many scholars believe that this area is also known to us as "Magdala," mentioned in Matthew 15:39. While he is teaching in this area, the Pharisees once again come to question him. This time, they want him to produce a sign from heaven. In response, Jesus gives them a harsh rebuke and leaves. Why do you think he responded in such a way to the Pharisees? (see Mark 8:10-13)
- ANSWER 1: Clearly, Jesus could have easily given them a sign, but why should he? How many miracles does he need to do in order to demonstrate to them that he is the promised Messiah?
- ANSWER 2: They really weren’t looking for a sign; rather, they were looking for a way to discredit Jesus. You will recall that previously they had accused him of working with Satan and the demons, for example. They had no interest in furthering Jesus’ Gospel; they were his enemies looking for ways to attack him. Jesus would not afford them this opportunity.
- After reading Mark 8:10-13, one might wonder what would have happened with the Pharisees had Jesus actually given them a sign from heaven? Wouldn’t that have led to a great revival across the land? (see Luke 16:29-31)
- ANSWER 1: Jesus’ teaching is clear: there are many who will never believe in him, even if someone was raised from the dead—which indeed Jesus himself would be.
- ANSWER 2: Given that the Pharisees were his enemies, had Jesus given them a sign from heaven, they would have either accused him of playing a trick; or, worse, they would have accused him of using evil spirits to perform the miracle. Their hearts were stone; they would never believe, and Jesus knew this.
- ANSWER 3: We see this in our lives today. Whenever we know that Jesus performed a miracle in our lives or the lives of others, many non-believers will discredit that miracle with some seemingly logical explanation for the how the miracle occurred; or they will completely discount the situation as never really needing a miracle to begin with. E. g., "That person wasn’t really sick.", or "You really weren’t actually going to die; you just thought that you were."; etc. Had Jesus provided the Pharisees a "sign," they would have responded the same way.
- Jesus and his disciples now head northeast across the Sea of Galilee and arrive at Bethsaida. While crossing, something amazing happens: they forget to put bread on board, and they only have one loaf among all of them. Sound familiar? it seems that the disciples are always facing challenges where bread is involved. Jesus, having just admonished the Pharisees, uses the opportunity to teach the disciples an important lesson. What was it, and how did the disciples respond? (see Mark 8:14-21)
- ANSWER 1: He warned them to about the "yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." ("Yeast" meaning the corruptive influence of their teachings.) They were poisoning everyone with their corrupt teaching and leading. It was destroying any witness that the Jews could have had with the Gentiles. Jesus was aware that all of the disciples had grown up in this yeast-filled environment without knowing what was happening. Trusting in the religious leaders of the day, they had all been led astray.
- ANSWER 2: The disciples were more concerned about food and the needs of the body, rather than the spiritual lesson that Jesus was trying to teach them. Jesus tried again to show them who he was by reminding them of the two large crowds that he had already fed from very little food. Why were they worried about eating, when Jesus was with them? Could they not see the bigger picture, that Jesus was there as the Messiah preparing for, and teaching everyone about, the Kingdom of God? Food didn’t matter; and when it did, he would provide it for them.
- ANSWER 3: How often does this happen to us, i.e., when we are so concerned about our daily needs that we forget the spiritual? In fact, it should be the other way around: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)
- In Mark 8:22-26, we observe Jesus performing what we might call a two-stage, or two-step, miracle. Rather than healing a blind man instantaneously in front of the large crowd, he pulls the blind man aside and out of the village, so that only he and the man are together. He applies his saliva to the man’s eyes; and then, oddly enough, he asks the man what he sees. (Surely, Jesus already knew what the man was seeing!) When the man explains that he can only see images of people, and that he sees nothing clearly; Jesus than places his hands on the blind man, and his sight is fully restored. He can see clearly. Given the uniqueness of this miracle, what do you suppose that Jesus was actually teaching? Do you think that perhaps he was teaching something to his disciples? What would that have been, and what does it teach to us as well? (Why was this miracle placed here by Mark?)
- ANSWER 1: Jesus is showing the disciples that he is trying to give them sight—spiritual sight, so that they may see who he is and why he is with them. In Mark’s recording of the previous miracles and confrontations with the Pharisees, the disciples have failed to grasp the significance and relationship of everything that Jesus is teaching. So too, with this two-stage miracle; Jesus is teaching them that they were spiritually blind. Jesus metaphorically pulls them out of the crowd, takes them outside the village, and is in the process of giving them spiritual eyesight. They can only see out-of-focus images now, but soon they will see clearly, just as the blind man did in this miracle.
- ANSWER 2: This miracle demonstrates that true sight comes from Jesus, from placing our faith in him and having the Holy Spirit live in us. When that occurs, he will give us our spiritual sight as well, and we will see clearly—just as the blind man did.
- Jesus and his disciples now begin to travel approximately twenty-five miles north of Bethsaida to Caesarea Philippi. Mark 8:27-30 tells us that, as they traveled, Jesus asked them the question, "Who do people say I am?" To this, Peter answered, "You are the Messiah." Note that Peter calls Jesus the Messiah, but doesn’t fully comprehend what being the Messiah entails. We know this because of Peter’s actions in Mark 8:31-33. Knowing that Jesus was the Messiah, what did Peter do when Jesus tells them he must be killed and in three days rise again? Also read Isaiah 52:13-15 and Isaiah 53:1-12. Wouldn’t Peter have been familiar with these verses, since he was raised from birth as a Jew looking forward to the coming of the Messiah?
- ANSWER 1: Jesus’ rebuke of Peter highlights one of the great shortcomings in the thinking of the Jews during this time. Even though they had all of the prophetic texts about the Messiah, they didn’t understand them. In fact, just as Jesus tells Peter, they were all thinking from man’s viewpoint. He tells Peter, "You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." Peter’s motives might seem ok on the surface, i.e., that he did not want Jesus killed, but clearly he had personal reasons for why he did not want to see this happen. Peter did not understand all that was entailed in being the Messiah, the Savior, the Anointed One. Neither did the Pharisees—they only viewed the coming Messiah as they viewed their world. They wanted someone who would come and defeat the Romans, and put the Jewish leaders back in power.
- ANSWER 2: We need to be careful today that we do not do the same thing with Jesus. We must be careful not to define our savior along human lines of thinking and desires. We must, as Jesus did, view God’s Kingdom in a broader sense. God’s Kingdom does not revolve around our wants and our intellect. If we begin to think that way, then He will say to us as he did to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!"
- Mark concludes chapter 8 with Jesus teaching about the way of the cross. What specifically is Jesus teaching the crowd, and us, about following him as a disciple? He tells them, and us, to do two things. What are they, and how do they apply to us today? (see Mark 8:34-38)
- ANSWER 1: He tells us to do two things: (1) to deny ourselves, and (2) to take up our cross and follow him.
- ANSWER 2: Since nowadays we no longer have public crucifixions, it is fair to say that Jesus is speaking spiritually and metaphorically, not physically. To deny our self is not to deny who we are, but rather to deny what we want. It is up to us to decide to lay aside our own selfish ambitions, wants, desires, and sinful behavior and make a conscious effort to follow the teachings and leading of Jesus. The "cross" we are to pick up symbolizes our intent to follow God’s will and his ways, walking the path that He lays out for us. Denial and the cross go hand-in-hand. We put aside our carnal, human, selves and choose to follow the way He leads us—and to do it in such a way that all those around us see us as followers of Jesus. That is a true disciple of Christ.
Our biggest lesson this week is seeing what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus. By learning from the mistakes of both the Disciples and the Pharisees, we can grow in our daily walk with him. Denying ourselves and taking up our cross so that we can become true disciples, true followers of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah.
In His Name,