Jesus feeds the four thousand. Pharisees demand a sign. He tells the disciples to beware of the leaven of Pharisees and Herod. The disciples are confused about his meaning. He heals a blind man at Bethsaida in an unusual way. Peter confesses Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection and has to rebuke Peter. He tells the crowds about the cost of following him.
As I write in the introduction to every chapter:
This translation and commentary is offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.
The translation is mine. I add yet another translation for one purpose: to learn. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalness and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
I ask Growth Application (GrowApp) questions after each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
I add some Greek word studies, in a nontechnical way. The Greek terms with brief definitions can also be looked up at biblehub.com.
Links are provided for further study.
Jesus Feeds Four Thousand (Mark 8:1-10)
1 In those days, there was again a huge crowd, without having anything to eat. Calling for the disciples, he said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd because they have already stayed with me three days, and they do not have anything to eat. 3 And if I dismiss them hungry to their houses, they may faint on the way, and some of them have come a long distance.” 4 His disciples replied to him: “Where will anyone here be able to feed them with bread in a remote place?” 5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 He gave orders to the crowd to sit on the ground. After he took the seven loaves of bread and blessed them, he broke and gave them to his disciples, and they placed them before the crowd. 7 They also had a few fish, and when he blessed them, he said to set them out. 8 They ate and were satisfied, and there was an overflow of seven baskets. 9 There were about four thousand. He sent them away. 10 And then he got in the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
Some commentators say that the majority of the crowd was Gentile. Jesus is in Gentile territory to teaching us that the mission has to be expanded to include all peoples. For example, “long distance” in Greek may echo the language of Is. 60:4, 9, which says that foreigners shall see the light (see Matt. 8:1-3). Peter says the promise of the Spirit is for those who are far off (Acts 2:39; cf. 22:21). Paul says that Christ came to preach to those who are afar off (Eph. 2:17). This fact argues against the belief among scholars that this feeding is a “doublet” of the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:30-44), that is, the same event, but with details changed.
Commentator R. T. France cautions against seeing this pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or section or unit of Scripture merely as a doublet. The passage fits well into Mark’s plan:
Given a Gentile location, however, the second feeding miracle fits well into Mark’s plan, as the third of a set of miracles (an exorcism, a healing, and a nature miracle) which extend the mission of the Messiah of Israel for the benefit also of neighbouring peoples. The narrative thus fills out Jesus’ discussion with the Syrophoenician woman about allowing the dogs a share in the children’s bread, and in this incident the ‘bread’ is quite literally shared. That discussion accepted that the Gentiles’ share might be only ‘scraps’, and perhaps it is for this reason that Mark so carefully records a different set of statistics for this feeding: fewer people (four thousand instead of five thousand) fed with more loaves (seven instead of five) and ‘a few small fish’ but with less food left over (seven baskets instead of twelve). The numbers are meant to be noticed (see vv. 19–21).
Let me expand a bit on what I just wrote. This pericope parallels the feeding of the five thousand in Mark 6:30-44. Here the pericope is briefer, but the essence is the same. However, we should not believe the claim that they are the same story but reworked and placed here for some reason. There are differences.
The opening words of this account says “In those days.” This phrase means that an unknown number of days passed by when this true and historical and miraculous event took place. So the disciples will have forgotten the significance of the feeding of the five thousand.
“the disciples”: this means the twelve.
Let’s explore what this word means more literally. The noun is mathētēs (pronounced mah-they-tayss). and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, and it says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
“moved with compassion”: In 6:34, at the feeding of the five thousand (plus women and children), Jesus was also moved with compassion. The verb could be translated as “felt compassion,” but this attribute which God shares with us cannot remain static or unexpressed. It has to be active, or else it cannot be compassion.
Let’s explore the verb and the related noun more deeply. The verb is splanchnizomai (pronounced splan-khnee-zoh-my) and is used 12 times, exclusively in the Gospels. “It describes the compassion Jesus had for those he saw in difficulty” (Mounce, New Expository Dictionary, p. 128). BDAG defines the verb simply: “have pity, feel sympathy.”
BDAG further says the noun splanchnon (pronounced splankh-non) is related to the inward part of the body, especially the viscera, inward parts, entrails. But some update their translation with the noun as “heart.” So the verb is also related to the inward parts of a person. It could be translated as “Jesus felt compassion in the depths of his heart.”
As an important side note, in Hebrew the verb raḥam (pronounced rakh-am, and used 47 times) means “to have compassion on, show mercy, take pity on and show love.” The noun raḥamim (39 times) (pronounced rach’meem) means “compassion, mercy, pity.” Both words are related to the word for “womb,” when a woman feels close to and love for the human life growing there. It’s deep in God, too.
Three days was quite a teaching session. (I can see why some Christians get together at a “camp meeting” for several days.) Jesus didn’t want them to faint or collapse along the road home, so he had to feed them.
“disciples”: see v. 1 for more comments.
Yes, the disciples should have learned the lesson about provision from the feeding of the five thousand, but they did not. Mark 6:52 says that soon after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, their hearts were hard, so they did not understand the full significance back then. Now, after many days, their hearts were still so thick with ignorance and an inability to understand, they skeptically asked Jesus where they would get enough bread to feed the huge crowd.
His disciples were once again skeptical. Where would they get so much food to feed such a large crowd? They had forgotten their recent lesson of feeding five thousand (plus women and children). The children of Israel walking through the desert also forgot God’s mighty power of deliverance. He gave them manna and then they wondered later on, going through a tough time, whether God would provide.
Skeptics question whether the disciples would forget such a powerful lesson—never mind that skeptics don’t even believe the multiplication of loaves and fish even happened. But as far as I’m concerned, skeptics don’t have a voice in my head. I have heard too many stories of soup kitchens have food multiply to doubt it, when a surge of homeless people unexpectedly show up. Miracles of the Bible can happen again.
“remote place”: echoes the bread coming down from heaven for the ancient Israelites in the wilderness, because in Greek the term translated here as “remote place” can be translated as “wilderness.”
Jesus asked a simple question. Not everything he did was activated by the gift of the word of knowledge. He did not say, “I know already by my super-powers how many loaves and fish you have!” No. He asked. Remember his divine attribute of omniscience (all-knowing) was imported with him at his birth, but it was surrendered to his Father. His Father and himself, together, activated this attribute. Jesus did not activate this knowledge attribute by himself, but it was also operated by his Father’s will.
4. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Took the Form of a Servant (a discussion of the attributes of Jesus in his ministry)
“loaves”: the bread was flat and about eight inches in diameter.
His disciples answered his straightforward question. Seven loaves and small fishes (plural).
Jesus repeats his command when he fed the five thousand-plus. He had them sit down on the ground. This time it does not say green grass, as it did in 6:39. So the season changed. It may have been the end of the summer, when the grass burned brown.
Once again, he followed his previous way. He took the bread and fish and thanked his loving Father for the food and the multiplication of it. Doing this must have appeared outlandish to those watching. “He’s actually giving thanks for this little food? Is he going to eat it front of us? Really? This is crazy!” He divided or broke the bread and divided the fish somehow without making a mess, and he gave them to the disciples who gave them to the crowd. I would have been watching carefully at the logistics. How will this work? But the bread and fish never ran out. “Wow!” I would have said. “This truly is a miracle! God is with that man!”
“bless”: it comes from the Greek verb eulogeō (pronounced eu-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard), and it literally means to “speak well.” BDAG defines the term, depending on the context, as follows: (1) “to say something commendatory, speak well of, praise, extol”; (2) “to ask for bestowal of special favor, especially of calling down God’s gracious power, bless”; (3) “to bestow a favor, provide with benefits.” Here it is the second definition. Some translations have “he gave thanks.” Being grateful even for food shows gratitude and an acknowledgement that God is the source.
Traditional form for blessing bread: “Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the world, who bringest forth bread from the earth” (France, comment on 6:41).
This verse reveals the results. Everyone ate and was satisfied. And the leftovers were seven baskets full of fragments.
“overflow”: it comes from the Greek noun perisseuma (pronounced peh-rees-soo-mah), and it means “abound” or “abundance.”
In Matt. 15:38, there were also women and children who ate the loaves and fish. So the total must have been 8000-12,000 people there. This was quite a miracle!
One last theological point: Jesus indirectly shows himself to be the bread of heaven—indirectly because he does not announce it, as he did in John’s Gospel (6:35), after he fed the five thousand (6:1-14). This refers to the manna from heaven that fed the ancient Israelites going through the wilderness (Exod. 16). Jesus is our bread of heaven. He is our sustenance.
Then he leaves in a boat to another place called Dalmanutha, a vicinity which has not been pinpointed on a map. NET says that the location is mentioned nowhere else in in the NT. Matt. 15:39 says “Magadan,” which is also unknown. “A small anchorage north of Magdala and west of Capernaum investigated in 1970 during a period of law lake levels in the Sea of Galilee has been suggested as the possible location of Dalmanutha” (NET). You may google it.
My focus is on Jesus’s ministry. He keeps going and going. He loves people.
A final theological note. Jesus “imported” his omnipotence with him, when he was a baby—yes, even when he was a baby. He did not lose them or lay them aside. However, all his attributes were surrendered to the Father. As he grew, he became aware of his mission and aware of his attributes. So did he work this miracle by his omnipotence or by the power of the Spirit?
(1). He worked this multiplication miracle by his divine omnipotence and the will of the Father.
(2). He worked this miracle by the power of the Spirit and the will of the Father.
(3). He worked this miracle by his omnipotence, the power of the Spirit, and the will of the Father.
The dominant Scriptural testimony of his ministry is the second option (Acts 10:38), but I also like the third one. If it is the second option, then it opens the door for his followers today to work the same miracle by the will of the Father. Too many stories circulate about soup kitchens receiving an endless supply of food until the last homeless guy is fed.
One thing is certain: the will of the Father is the constant factor. No miracle is done without him.
And I note that he worked this miracle without the faith of the people or the disciples, but he certainly had faith. It carried all of the four thousand men plus women and men and the twelve disciples. He also had compassion on them. So his faithfulness (connected to faith) and his compassion led to the miracle.
Faith has to be present somewhere, even if it comes directly from the Father to one small child. In this story, Jesus alone had the faith.
It is further interesting that he did not pray for them to receive supernatural strength to walk home without fainting or collapsing along the road. He fed them. God works miracles, true, but he also recognizes the human conditions and limitations. They may not have had faith to sustain their journey back home. They needed to be fed. It was a fitting solution to a long and happy three days of teaching and healing. They ate and were satisfied.
GrowApp for Mark 8:1-10
A.. Jesus provided for the large crowds, with seven full baskets left over. How has he provided for you?
Pharisees Demand a Sign (Mark 8:11-13)
11 The Pharisees went out and began to dispute with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 12 He sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation look for a sign? I tell you the truth: Surely no sign will be given to this generation!” 13 Leaving them, he again embarked in the boat and went to the other side.
Let’s take these verses as a whole.
“Pharisees”: Please this post:
They were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (David E. Garland, Luke: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Zondervan, 2011], p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Overdoing righteousness, believe it or not, can damage one’s relationship with God and others.
“tempting him”: it is the verb peirazō (pronounced pay-rah-zoh), and it means, depending on the context, “to try” or “to tempt.” I struggled with either of those two words. They were tempting him to run out ahead of his calling. I settled on “tempting” because Satan tempted Jesus to perform a sign, by jumping off the pinnacle of the temple (Matt. 4:5-7). I can almost hear Satan’s voice behind the voices of these religious leaders. He refused.
“sign from heaven”:
He denied their request because he did not want to broadcast his Messiahship with a magical super-sign (see v. 20, below). To put it in modern terms, he was not a trained seal at a waterpark. He does not respond to dares: “We double dare you!”
But what’s the context of the sign? Here are some possibilities.
Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal and called down fire from heaven, which consumed the drenched sacrifices (1 Kings 18:20-40). He ordered the false prophets to be put to the sword. Would he call down fire on the Romans?
Then Elijah also called down fire to consume the soldiers from king Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:1-16), exactly in the passage where the god of Ekron, Baal-Zebub, is mentioned. Jesus’s critics must have taunted him to call down fire on the pagan Romans. Would he do it? Recall his response to James and John, when they asked permission to call down fire on the Samaritans who rejected them (Luke 9:51-55). He wheeled on them and told them no. He rebuked them. Or maybe they tested him to do some other sign, like God making the shadow go backwards, as a sign to king Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:9-11; Is. 17:14-20).
Moses commanded the sky to go dark (Exod. 10:21-29) and other nine plagues. Could Jesus do that to deliver Israel from Rome or prove he was the Messiah?
Whatever the demanded signs were, he rejected their games. He would not produce a sign in the heavens or skies to dazzle the crowds. He was going to be a different kind of sign (see vv. 29-32).
Miracles of God, particularly the ones Jesus performed to usher in the kingdom of God, are purposed to help people, to set them free from natural deformities and diseases and spiritual, demonic afflictions and falsehoods with the truth—all the abnormalities of a world gone haywire, a fallen world. In Elijah’s case, the fire from heaven flashing down on the sacrifices helped the small nation of Israel to come out from under the false gods. But Jesus could foresee that the kingdom of God would not be restricted to Israel. The kingdom would go far outside its borders to all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). So there is no need to call down fire to protect an old Sinai covenant, for such terrifying displays of instant judgment is not how God works to proclaim the good news of the kingdom in the New Covenant to the entire globe.
Jesus could read their thoughts or motives and perceive what they were seeking: a contest of honor and shame. His critics were setting up the rules. “Perform this wonder in the sky, Jesus, like Moses did, and do it now, because we said so!” Uh. No.
However, Wessel and Strauss observe that the sign the Pharisees seek is not a sign like Moses or Elijah performed, but some sort of sign that confirms Jesus’ authority and actions come from God. Unfortunately, the two commentators don’t tell us which sign it could be. Next, Wessel and Strauss quote another scholar who sees similarities between this Jewish challenge to Jesus and the Jewish challenge to Paul. In the latter’s case, Jews also sought for a sign (p. 817). For Paul, the only sign is Jesus and him crucified. For Jesus, it was going to be the sign of Jonah or the resurrection (Matt. 16:1-4). Lane agrees with Wessel and Strauss—or they agree with him. The Pharisees were not seeking a sign from heaven, like a wonder in the sky, but for confirmation of his authority (p. 277).
However, neither does Lane offer what kind of sign would have satisfied the Pharisees. What could a sign be? Belonging to a school of an elder or rabbi? To me, a “sign” smacks of a miracle. So I return to my thesis that they were really saying, “We believe Moses, and he worked wonders in Egypt, which visibly proves his authority was from God. Can you, Jesus, do the same? If not, we don’t believe you. We’ll continue to stand by Moses.” But I am open to another interpretation of what a sign they were demanding could be. (BTSB agrees with me, however–or I agree with its editors.)
“I tell you the truth”: “Truth” comes from the word amēn (pronounced ah-main and comes into English as amen). Used thirteen times in Mark, it expresses the authority of the one who utters it. The Hebrew root ’mn means faithfulness, reliability and certainty. It could be translated as “truly I tell you” or I tell you with certainty.” Jesus’s faith in his own words is remarkable and points to his unique calling. In the OT and later Jewish writings is indicates a solemn pronouncement. It means we must pay attention to it, for it is authoritative. He is about to declare an important and solemn message or statement. The clause appears only on the lips of Jesus.
That is, in Paul’s epistles, for example, he never says, “I truly say to you.” That phrasing had too much authority, which only Jesus had. The clause only appears on the lips of Jesus in the NT. The word appears in a Jewish culture and means “let it be so.” So Jesus speaks it out with special, divine emphasis. “Let this happen!” “Let what I’m about to say happen!” We better take it seriously and not just walk by it or read over it with a casual air.
Now let’s look more closely at the verbal sparring match between Jesus and these religious leaders in their cultural context.
As I noted in other chapters, first-century Israel was an honor-and-shame society. Verbal and active confrontations happened often. By active is meant actions. Here the confrontation is both verbal and acted out. Jesus shamed the leaders to silence. He won. It may seem strange to us that Jesus would confront human opponents, because we are not used to doing this in our own lives, and we have heard that Jesus was meek and silent.
More relevantly, for many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back physically. But here he replied to the religious leaders and defeated them and their inadequate theology. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them. In short, fight like Jesus! With anointed words!
Of course, caution is needed. The original context is a life-and-death struggle between the kingdom of God and religious traditions. Get the original context, first, before you fight someone in a verbal sparring match. This was a clash of worldviews. Don’t pick fights or be rude to your spouse or baristas or clerks in the service industry. Discuss things with him or her. But here Jesus was justified in replying sharply to these oppressive religious leaders.
Here are the signs of the Messiah, which Jesus told to John the Baptist’s disciples, while John was in prison, doubting:
2 When John heard in prison of the works of Christ and sent word through his disciples, 3 he said to Jesus: “Are you the Coming One, or should we expect someone else?” 4 In reply, Jesus said to them: Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind see again and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised and the poor have the good news preached to them. (Matt. 11:2-5)
The Pharisees and Sadducees were not attuned to these Messianic signs because they were stuck in their old Judaism and temple worship.
In Matthew’s version (16:1-4), the sign that the evil generation will get is the resurrection. Plenty of people were eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:3-8). To the Athenians, Paul preached the resurrection (Acts 17:31).
Some cessationists (those who believe the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor. 12:7-11 and other miracles have ceased after the apostolic generation) quote these verses to support their belief that only an evil generation seeks for “signs and wonders.” Of course, they are taking the verses out of context. In this context they asked Jesus to perform a sign in the sky, just to put him on trial and tempt him to use his divine nature on his own without the will of the Father. “Prove it, Jesus! We demand a sign in the sky right now!” He said no. He is not a performing seal at a water park. Signs and wonders like the kind Jesus listed for John the Baptist are designed to help people. Yes, they confirm that the kingdom is here, but not to show off and to put on a display and performed exactly when misguided people demand to be entertained and awed. The people who were actually healed were desperate, without the malevolent motive to tempt him to clap his hands once and gesture magically and work a miracle in the sky, like a magician.
GrowApp for Mark 8:11-13
A.. Temptation comes in all forms. This one tempted Jesus to perform a sign in the sky. He refused. How have you refused temptation in your own life?
Disciples Are to Watch Out for Yeast of Pharisees and Herod (Mark 8:14-21)
14 They forgot to take bread. They did not have bread with them in the boat except one loaf. 15 He gave orders to them, saying, “Look, and watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16 They discussed with each other that they did not have bread. 17 Knowing this, he said to them, “Why are you discussing whether you have no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Do you have a hard heart? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? Do you not remember? 19 When I broke seven loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you pick up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And for the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you pick up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
NET points out that of all the Gospels, Mark has the most passages that portray the disciples as dull and incapable of understanding the point of Jesus’s miracles and teaching: 6:51-52; 7:17-19; 8:1-10, 14-21, 27-30, 33; 9:5, 10, 33; 10:28, 35-45; 14:19, 29-31, 32-37, 50, 66-72. I wonder whether we would have done any better, before Pentecost (or even afterwards).
France says that vv. 11-21 are a “bridge passage” that moves us away from Galilee. Then Jesus and the disciples will be on their way to Jerusalem.
This verse sets up the scene. No doubt Jesus saw what they forgot to do, and now he was about to find out if they could look beyond the natural world and perceive the spiritual meaning of yeast and bread.
Also noted that the disciples did the practical things for Jesus. The twelve (including Judas’s replacement Matthias) will apply this lesson when it is their turn to lead. They will appoint seven deacons, while the twelve will devote themselves to teaching the word alone (Acts 6). Nowadays, pastors do it all: they are corporate managers and oversee many departments. But they are not following Scripture, which says to devote themselves only to Scripture and prayer. Now the teaching behind the pulpit is shallow because the pastors don’t have the time study the Bible. No, one day is not enough.
“yeast”: it may be better translated as “leaven” instead of yeast, for at this time, new bread was leavened with a small lump of the previous week’s dough, which raised the lump of new bread. In most instances, leaven or yeast is considered evil or a bad influence (Matt. 16:6-8; 1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:6). In Exod. 12:39, leaven was to be removed from the house in connection with not waiting for the bread to rise; they had to leave in haste. However, in some instances it symbolizes a positive or neutral influence (see Matt. 13:33 // Luke 13:21).
“Pharisees”: please see v. 11 for more comments. Their teaching was too stringent and strident, and most people could not keep up. They also misunderstood who the Messiah will be: not a conquering hero (their belief), but a dying savior (the right belief).
“Herod”: His leaven represents political opposition. Mark already recorded Herod’s concern about Jesus (6:14-16), and in 3:6, the Pharisees and Herodians conspired against him (Wessel and Strauss’s comments on v. 15). Both the Pharisees and Herod saw Jesus as a threat to their authority.
Jesus speaks of the literal word yeast or leaven, but he adds to the physical object (tiny yeast) a spiritual or metaphorical meaning. Can the disciples catch on?
No, they did not catch on to the nonliteral meaning. I feel for them. I wonder whether I would have caught on to deeper truths at that time.
“discussing”: “reasoning” is also a valid translation. They were using their intellects that were tied down to the literal meaning of yeast. They could not transition from the physical (yeast) to the metaphorical or spiritual (doctrine or teaching).
Jesus perceived what they were discussing. Did he perceive this by a supernatural knowledge? The Greek word is a very common verb to know, so the answer cannot be settled by that. My hunch: he overheard them.
“perceive”: it is the verb noeō (pronounced no-eh-oh), and it is the verb form of the noun noēma pronounced no-ay-mah) or thought, mind. It more formally means (1) “perceive, understand, gain an insight into”; (2) consider, take note of, think over”; (3) “think, imagine” (Eph. 3:20) (the Shorter Lexicon). They were not mindful of who their Lord was and his miracle working power and with whom he just finished dialoging in a verbal sparring match. He is now exposing their teaching.
Jesus often says that those who have ears—let them hear (4:9, 23; Matt. 11:13; 13:9, 15-16, 43; Luke 8:8; 14:35)! He again uses the physical ears and eyes to explain metaphorical or spiritual hearing and seeing. He is doing the same with the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Herod.
This idea of having eyes and ears but not spiritual ears and eyes is reflected in Jer. 5:21 and Ezek. 12:2 and conceptually in Is. 6:9-10.
Jesus gives them a review of the recent miracles. The yeast has nothing to do with bread, because Jesus could multiply the bread. So what does “yeast” mean?
In Matthew’s version (16:5-12), the disciples caught on. He was talking about the teaching or doctrine of the Pharisees (and Sadducees).
In Jesus’s day it was the doctrine of the Pharisees, who represented Judaism, and Herod, who represented politics. In our day, some Christ’s followers are pushing old Judaism too hard and too far into the church. Other strange doctrines are circulating around the church. The best antidote is sound teaching.
GrowApp for Mark 8:14-21
A.. How hard is your heart about the things of the kingdom? What don’t you perceive or understand? How do you grow deeper in kingdom truths?
Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida in Two Stages (Mark 8:22-26)
22 They came to Bethsaida, and they brought to him a blind man and pleaded with him that he would touch him. 23 Taking the blind man’s hand, he brought him outside the village. And spitting on his eyes and laying hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 He looked up and said, “I see people; I see them as trees walking.” 25 Then he laid hands on his eyes again, and the man looked intently and was restored and saw everything clearly. 26 He sent him to his home and said, “Do not even go into your village.”
France says Mark 8:22-10:52 reveal Jesus’ movement towards Jerusalem.
This is a remarkable pericope, for it shows that Jesus had to pray again for the compete answer for a healing. This two-stage process should encourage everyone with a healing ministry. Sometimes you have to stay with a person and pray again. Or you can tell him to come back next time and get prayer again. If so, instruct him to read the Scriptures about healing and faith. The Scriptures build up one’s faith.
Bethsaida was a town on the northern side of the Lake of Galilee. John 1:44 says that Philip, Peter and Andrew were originally from the town. Apparently, they later moved farther south, on the west side of the lake, to the town of Capernaum.
Jesus was about to do more than touch him.
This must be the most encouraging verse for us today who believe in healing and who have prayed for healing, either for ourselves or others.
Jesus spit in Mark 7:33 and John 9:4-5. This was unusual for his ministry. No one can box God in. Also, there was a belief in the ancient world that saliva had a spiritual component to it, so Jesus was momentarily and occasionally fitting in to his culture. But please don’t build an entire healing system on spitting! Remember, the Bible was not written to us, but for us and for people of all generations, past and future, after proper interpretation and exegesis is done.
Jesus did not command the man to be healed, or at least it is not recorded. But he did interview the man. We too should not be afraid to interview the person we are praying for.
Strauss says that this two-stage healing may illustrate Peter’s partial recognition that Jesus is the Messiah. Like this blind man, he needs to be helped along, moving from one stage of understanding to the next. However, I take it as written. Jesus needed to persist in prayer. Very encouraging for me.
Commentator Lane writes that Jesus’s use of saliva is cultural, just to relate to the blind man’s “thought-world.”
The application of spittle to the eye and the laying on of hands in healing have significant parallels in Jewish practice and on the Gospels (see on Chapters 6:5; 7:33). By these actions Jesus entered the thought-world of the man and established significant contact with him. The report of the healing, however, contains three elements which are parallel in the evangelical tradition: (1) Jesus’ question if his action has been effective (“Do you see anything?”); (2) the explicit reference to only partial healing (“I can actually see people, but they look to me like trees—only their walking!”); (3) the laying on of hands a second time, resulting in complete restoration of sight (“I see everything clearly—even at a distance”). These features distinguish this incident of healing from all of the others and suggest that the man’s sight was restored only gradually and with difficulty. It is impossible to recover the larger context of the situation which would shed light on many questions prompted by these unique features (p. 285)
So Lane says, above, that Jesus entered the “thought-world” of the man, so Jesus could relate to him. And we don’t have enough information to know why the healing was gradual.
“looking up”: it can be translated as “seeing again” or more literally as “re-seeing.”
The man answered honestly. If you’re in a healing ministry, don’t be afraid to ask the person you’re praying for to answer your question honestly.
“Trees walking” indicates that his eyes were seeing them blurrily. He did not see them distinctly. The fact that he used the word “trees” indicates that he had seen before. Otherwise, he would not have had the vocabulary or words to know what a tree was.
So Jesus repeated the process again. He must have smeared the saliva again.
“restored”: it comes from the verb apokathistēmi (pronounced apoh-kathis-tay-mee). BDAG defines the verb: (1) “To change to an earlier good state or condition, restore, reestablish” (Mark 8:25; Matt. 12:13; Mark 3:5: Luke 6:10; 22:51; Acts 1:6); (2) “to return to a former place or relationship, bring back, give back, restore” (Heb. 13:9). The first definition fits. His vision was returned to normality. He lost his vision somehow to the point of total blindness and now it was restored back to normal.
In any case, after further prayer, he saw everything clearly. He had 20-20 vision.
Once again, Jesus did not want him to broadcast the healing to everyone. And it looks like the blind man obeyed and went him. Why did Jesus command him not to tell?
Why? First, Jesus simply wanted to spread the message his way without the false expectations from noninformed people. Second, the exuberant expectation from the masses may spark an insurrection, which would hinder his message and his mission: to proclaim the kingdom of God, backed up by signs and wonders. People had to learn about his Messiahship through their thirst and hunger for the knowledge of God. They had to connect the dots. This is one of the purposes of teaching in parables. Only the hungry seekers could understand.
Let’s talk about the signs of the Messiah or the Messianic Age, to find out which dots they had to connect without a loudspeaker blasting it.
As I note in various places throughout the commentary on the Gospels, one sign of the Messianic Age was the healing of diseases and broken bodies. Is. 35 describes this age. After God comes with a vengeance to rescue his people, these things will happen:
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Is. 35:5-6).
Is. 26:19 says of the Messianic Age: “But your dead will live, LORD, their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout with joy” (Is. 26:19, NIV).
The phrase “in that day” refers to the age that the Messiah ushers in: “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll and out of gloom and darkness the eyes will see” (Is. 29:18, NIV).
The Lord’s Chosen Servant will do many things. Here are some: “I am the LORD: I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for my people, a light for the nations, to open they eyes that are blind, to bring the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Is. 42:6-7, ESV). Is. 42:18 connects hearing and seeing with walking in God’s ways, and deafness and blindness with national judgment. As for leprosy, Jesus referred to the time when Elijah the prophet healed Namaan the Syrian of his skin disease, and the return of Elijah was a sign that the Messiah was here (Mal. 4:5-6; Luke 9:28-36).
So couldn’t Jesus heal him instantly the first time, as he did so many others? The bottom-line answer is that we don’t know because the text is silent.
But for our part, we need to have faith. For your healing, press in to God’s power and love with faith. For a sovereign miracle, press in to God’s power and love with faith. From our limited point of view, we need faith. From God’s unlimited point of view, he acts as he wills. So we have a person’s faith and God’s sovereignty interacting in this one verse. It is difficult to sort out (for me at least).
But down here on earth, God requires us to have faith in him, and we get faith by hearing the word about Christ (Rom. 10:17). Get Scripture in you, and it will build your faith. Ask the Lord for faith. “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). That’s our part in the human-God interaction. Leave the results up to your loving and powerful Father.
In any case, as noted, this pericope encourages us to keep seeking the Lord for our healing. And if you exercise a healing ministry, please pray for some people more than once. Ask questions. And if they are not healed, pray again. If they are not healed, ask them to come back next time.
GrowApp for Mark 8:22-26
A.. How have you had to pray several times to get your answer to prayer? Tell your story.
Peter Declares that Jesus Is the Christ (Mark 8:27-30)
27 Then Jesus and his disciples went to the village of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, saying: “Whom do people say that I am?” 28 They told him, saying, “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah. And others say one of the prophets.” 29 Then he asked them, “You—whom do you say that I am?” In reply, Peter said, “You are the Christ.” 30 He sternly warned them that they must not tell anyone about him.
The Father affirmed his Son’s sonship and Messiahship (1:11), which was also acknowledged by demons (1:24: 3:11). Now what about those closest to him? This pericope answers that question.
Caesarea Philippi is way up north, near Mt. Hermon. It was earlier named Paneas, after the god Pan, but was renamed after Caesar and Herod Philip early in the first century. In ancient times, Baal worship was practiced there. When Peter confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of the living God, he was declaring that the gods of the past and present (and future) are defeated through Christ (BTSB, comment on Matt. 16:13).
France writes of the city:
The former city of Paneas or Panion, in a well-watered area in the foothills of Mount Hermon within the tetrarchy of Trachonitis, had recently been enlarged by the local ruler Herod Philip and renamed Caesarea in honour of Augustus, by whose gift it had passed into the control of his father, Herod the Great. Its original name derived from the local worship of Pan (which succeeded an earlier Canaanite Baal cult), and the little we know of its history suggests that, despite the ‘Jewish’ identity of its ruler, it was essentially a Hellenistic and pagan city.
So apparently Jesus went up there to do battle with the forces of darkness, but the battleground is in the hearts of people. He did not speak out to demonic forces in the atmosphere.
See my posts about the title Messiah and the Son of God:
No, Jesus is not asking this question because he is insecure and wants to find out how popular he is. He’s asking this question to draw out of his disciples their knowledge of him.
“people”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only “men.” However, throughout the Greek written before and during the NT, in the plural it means people in general, including womankind (except rare cases). In the singular it can mean person, depending on the context (Matt. 4:4; 10:36; 12:11, 12; 12:43, 45; 15:11, 18). So a “person” or “people” or “men and women” (and so on) is almost always the most accurate translation, despite what more conservative translations say. So I chose “people.”
“disciples”: see v. 1 for more comments.
John the Baptist and Elijah. Jesus quotes this verse from Malachi in Matt. 11:10: “This is the one of whom it has been written: ‘Look! I send my messenger before you, who prepares your road before you’ (Mal. 3:1). The common rumors speak of Messianic expectation, and the people believed in the resurrection from the dead and were expecting Elijah to return, as Malachi predicted (Mal. 4:5-6). Judaism at this time commonly believed that a former prophet would reappear, like Moses, Jeremiah, or Isaiah.
“You”: In Greek this is fronted for emphasis. Jesus wants to know what their opinion was.
“Christ”: it could be translated as Messiah.
Here is the real test, and Peter’s answer surpasses those of the crowds. Jesus was identified correctly. Matthew’s version shows Jesus proclaiming that Peter received this knowledge from the Father in heaven (Matt. 16:13-20), so the Father was breaking though in the disciples’ minds, or at least Peter’s mind. I get the impression that Peter spoke for all of them. I can easily imagine that the others verbally expressed or nodded their agreement. Matthew’s version says that Peter added, “the Son of the living God” (16:16). This is the fullest statement in their cultural context at this time. Later revelation, after Pentecost (Acts 2), will show the church that he was equal with God, as Phil. 2:5-11 reveals. “Although he was in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (v. 6). In other words, progressive revelation is a fact of the Bible. He reveals who he is by their historical context and what their mind can grasp, little by little. John’s Gospel shows Jesus slamming home his true identity as God in the flesh, and only the few and the insightful could grasp it. His fullest revelation was for a later time, after the birth of the church at Pentecost, and John’s Gospel reflects the later times—or was written for them long after the birth.
Once again, why would Jesus not want it bandied around that he was the Messiah? People have to discover things little by little. Also, he did not intend for them to impose their version of the Messiah on himself. He was in charge of his identity; they were not. They expected a conquering Messiah who would wipe out the Romans and ride into Jerusalem and keep it by God’s mighty power. Instead, by coming into Jerusalem riding on a colt-donkey (Mark 11:7-8), he would perplex the high and mighty, like Herod and the Jerusalem establishment, but the little people, like Peter the fisherman, would understand the Messiah’s mission more clearly, though not perfectly clearly, yet. So in this pericope or section of Scripture, we see the Great Reversal. Herod was perplexed (vv. 7-9), while Peter figured it out (vv. 18-19). But it takes more than just educated, popular guesses, so the crowds were the little people, but they could not figure it out. So what was important was to spend time with Jesus.
GrowApp for Mark 8:27-30
A.. How and when did you come to know Jesus as he really is: Savior and Lord?
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection and Rebukes Peter (Mark 8:31-33)
31 He began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer many things and to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the law and to be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke this message plainly. Peter, taking him aside, began to rebuke him. 33 But Jesus wheeled around, and seeing his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan, because you don’t set your mind on the things of God, but on the things of people!”
Here we round a corner in the mission of Jesus. He is headed toward Jerusalem to die without saying the name of the Holy City. We know that he is referring to it, however, by the three classes of rulers.
“it is necessary”: it comes from the word dei (pronounced day). It is an impersonal verb (think of the French verb il faut, pronounced eel foh). The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). He knew his mission, and it included his death, which was destined by God, to be the substitution for us. He died in our place. This requirement was unavoidable and necessary.
Jesus was called by the Father to die for the sins of the world, and the Father reinforced this calling during his prayer time. But the good news is that Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day. It makes me wonder how God would call us to die. That’s the topic of the next verses.
“teachers of the law” (also called scribes):
To learn more about them, please click on this post:
See vv. 11-13 for how these groups were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior.
This verse will be literally fulfilled in Mark 14:53, when the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law bring him into the council room and interrogate him and conclude that he committed blasphemy (Matt. 26:65-66 // Mark 14:62-64 // Luke 22:66), which deserves death (Lev. 24:10-16, 23).
“third day”: Some people take this to mean literally seventy-two hours, because Jonah spent three days and three nights in the big fish (Jnh. 1:17; Matt. 12:40), so Jesus must also spend seventy-two hours in the grave. But we over-read the intent here. The sign of Jonah was his coming out of the depths of the belly and the sea, which was a type of the resurrection. Let’s not over-analyze it. Jesus was crucified and died on Friday; he spent Saturday in the grave—or his body did—and body was raised from the dead early on Sunday morning: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—three days. They don’t have to be seventy-two hours. Go to biblegateway.com, and look up “third day.” It is remarkable how many times it means something significant and redemptive. So of course the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus would be accomplished on the third day.
Strauss: “‘after three days’ reflects the Jewish custom of treating any part of a day as a full day, so that ‘after three days’ is the same as saying ‘on the third day.’”
Commentator Lane sees these themes in Jesus’s title of the Son of Man in Mark (slightly modified format):
2:10 The authority to forgive sins
2:28 The Lord of the Sabbath
8:31 Prophecy of the Passion (Suffering)
9:31 Prophecy of the Passion
10:45 His life a ransom for many
14:21 Goes to death
8:38 Will come in glory
13:26 Will come in clouds
14:62 Will come in clouds
Lane explains: “A” represents the sole use of the Son of Man in the first half of the Gospel and indicates the theological significance of an incident for his Christian readers. The six texts of “C” are allusions to the three prophetic announcements of the passion in “B.” The remaining Groups, “B” and “D,” consist in three cardinal texts announcing Jesus’ suffering balanced by three promising his parousia (arrive or coming) in glory. Each group represents the phase of Jesus’ ministry.
Lane concludes: “The tension between the concealment and openness in the self-revelation of God’s Son is thus exhibited in the texts of Groups B and D. Only the eye of faith can perceive the identity between the broken figure upon the cross and the transcendent majesty of the enthroned Son of Man whose coming consummates history and initiates universal judgment” (pp. 298-99).
You can make of his insightful idea what you will.
Yes, Peter really did approach Jesus—or another translation could be that he took the Messiah aside—as if to give him private instruction. Yes, the Greek really does say “rebuke.” Peter actually rebuked Jesus. The lead apostle may have had enough insight from the Father to declare Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God, but Peter did not have enough insight to calculate the plan of God that the Messiah must suffer and die, as Is. 53 says.
“wheeled around”: it could be translated more gently as “turned,” but I like the drama because Satan was behind the human-centered plan of Peter.
“get behind me”: it can be loosely translated as “Fall back in line!” (Strauss). Jesus used the same wording against Satan during the Great Temptation (Matt. 4:10), which can also be translated as “away from me!”
“set your mind”: it comes from one Greek verb phroneō (pronounced froh-neh-oh). It means, depending on the context: (1) “think, hold or form an opinion, judge”; (2) “set one’s mind on, be intent on”; (3) “have thoughts or attitudes, be minded or disposed” (the Shorter Lexicon). The editor recommends the second definition. Peter had a good idea, but he did not have a God idea.
“people”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss, and we get our word anthropology from it). Conservative translations have “man,” but that is not exactly right. It encompasses all persons, much like our archaic word mankind includes women. The best translation, in most instances, is person, not man (in the singular). I chose “people,” but it could also be translated, freely, as “human centered things”!
GrowApp for Mark 8:31-33
A.. Have you ever misinterpreted and misunderstood God’s plan, as Peter did? How did you get back on the right track?
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus (Mark 8:34-38)
34 Then he called for the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For anyone who wants to preserve his life will lose it. Whoever will lose his life for my sake and the gospel will preserve it. 36 What does it benefit a person to gain the whole world and suffer damage to his soul? 37 What will a person give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever will be 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 the glory of his Father and with the holy angels.
A large crowd was in the vicinity, following far enough away that he calls for them or summons them to come closely enough to hear an important announcement. Are they following him for the healing benefits? For the free bread? Have they counted the cost? If they really want to be his follow him to the very end, in full commitment, then they need to do two things: (1) take up their cross—an instrument of death and execution—and (2) follow him. He will explain that they must follow him and die for him, as they live for him.
“disciples: see v. 1 for more comments.
Lane writes insightfully of v. 34:
By calling the crowd Jesus indicates that the conditions for following him are relevant for all believers, and not for the disciples alone. This had important implication for the Christians in Rome and elsewhere. It indicated that the stringent demand for self-renunciation and cross-bearing extends not only to Church leaders but to all who confess that Jesus is the Messiah. It was the Lord’s intention that those who follow him should not be detached observers of his passion, but men who grow in faith and understanding through participation in his sufferings. Only in following on the way to the cross is it possible to understand either the necessity of Jesus’ humiliation or Jesus himself. The common address of these sober words to the crowd and the disciples recognized that there is no essential difference between them when confronted with the sufferings of Christ: both alike have very human thoughts uninformed by the will of God (8:33), and it was imperative for them to know what it means to follow Jesus.
In other word, everyone must be willing to pick up their cross and follow Jesus, not just leaders.
Here we have the Great Paradox. A paradox takes place when you join two seeming contradictory statements, yet they can be resolved, in a startling way.
Which statement is the paradox? (See also v. 48.)
1.. You gain your life by your own power, drive, and ambition.
2.. You gain your life by surrendering and giving it to God through Christ Jesus.
The world chooses the first one every day. It is not the paradox.
Jesus calls us to the second one. You win by giving up; you win by losing. That’s the paradox.
Now let’s allow Jesus to unpack what he means.
This verse may be the most important down-to-earth verse in the Gospel of Mark for followers of Jesus. Theological truths are good and necessary, but it is difficult to follow a theology, and easier to follow a person. Many follow a theology and will even die for it. But are they willing to follow Jesus, even to the point of dying to themselves? It is better to follow a person than a theology. However, a word of warning: false doctrines about Jesus have arisen, and false Messiahs will come and deceive many, so be sure to stick close to the biblical Jesus (Matt. 24:23-24). But once you have the biblical Jesus, be ready to give up everything for him.
The key word is “if.” Do they really want to follow Jesus? If they do, then they must die. Die to what? Die to their old sin nature, their shortsighted desires and blinded will. And people better not think that their desires and will can lead them to a full life. Their own untamed, unsurrendered desires and wills can lead them only so far, but at the end of their lives, they will come up empty. They will discover that after they were climbing the ladder of success and got to the top, the ladder was leaning against the wrong building.
One has to say something like this every day: “Lord, I cling to the cross. I surrender my life to you. Not my will, but yours be done.” Do you trust him that his will is best? If you do, then you are on your way—his way! It’s an adventure. If you do not, then you will stumble around and get easily angry and frustrated.
If you save your life—do as you please—you shall lose it. If you run and manage your life, then eventually you will lose it, despite your best effort to preserve it. When you climb up your self-built ladder, you will have to climb down again or you might come crashing down, depending on how fast and furiously and carelessly you climb. But when you give your soul or life to him, he will give it back to you repaired and even brand new by his miracle. You can be born again.
“preserve”: it is the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh). It could be translated as “preserve” or “protect” or “rescue” your life. If you keep or preserve the status quo or your present condition, then you shall lose it. You were made for God. When you try to preserve your soul or life without him, you will ruin it. When you follow him and surrender to him, he will help you gain, save, and preserve it.
Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times)
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in the passive it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.
“life”: in this verse and vv. 36-37, it is the noun psuchē (pronounced ps-oo-khay, be sure to pronounce the ps-, and our word psychology comes from it). It can mean, depending on the context: “soul, life” and it is hard to draw a firm line between the two. “Breath, life principle, soul”; “earthly life”; “the soul as seat and center of the inner life of man in its many and varied aspects, desires, feelings, emotions”; “self’; or “that which possesses life, a soul, creature, person.” I sometimes translate as “soul” in these three verses, but it is the same Greek noun.
A little systematic theology:
Most Renewalists believe in the three parts of humanity: body, soul and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 4:12 and other verses). Other Renewalists believe that we are two parts: body and soul / spirit (2 Cor. 4:16). Spirit and soul are just synonyms, like heart and spirit are synonyms. Surely there are not now four parts, are there (body, soul, spirit, heart)?
Here in this verse it means life, and not just physical life, but your whole existence and health in your soul.
“lose”: it comes from the verb apollumi (pronounced ah-poh-loo-mee), and it means, depending on the context: (1) “to cause or experience destruction (active voice) ruin, destroy”; (middle voice) “perish, be ruined”; (2) “to fail to obtain what one expects or anticipates, lose out on, lose”; (3) “to lose something that one already has or be separated from a normal connection, lose, be lost” (BDAG). The Shorter Lexicon adds “die.”
We surrender our lives to God, our loving Father. We don’t surrender ourselves to the fates or the world or certainly not to the devil. If you surrender your life to God and feel despair, then Satan is attacking you. You say, “I surrendered my life to my loving God, not to despair!”
People are also fearful that God may call them to the foreign mission field. However, Matt. 25:14-30, in the Parable of the Talents, the king (God) gives different amounts of talents (money) to invest for the kingdom, according to the different capacities of the servants. To the servant who could handle it, the king gave ten talents. To another servant, the king gave two. And to the third servant the king gave one. God can size you up and see whether you have the capacity or ability to go on the mission field. If you do not, there is no shame in receiving a lesser responsibility. Just multiply your two talents or one talent and then you’ll hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Another comment on this: It is frustrating when your expectations are unfulfilled. Prov. 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (NIV). What you anticipate may not be fulfilled. You get angry. Solution? Surrender your expectation to God, and let him put into you his hopes and dreams.
“for my sake”: So you must lose your life by his grace and for his benefit or sake. Your surrender cannot be self-denial that is self-directed or misdirected or even nondirected. It is not austerity for the sake of austerity. Dying daily is for him, to him and by him (by his grace).
“for the gospel”: clearly Jesus intends his followers to proclaim the gospel, even when it is difficult and they suffer persecution. His followers must be wise enough to discern eternal things. It is better to lose one’s life and gain eternity than it is to shy away and abandon Jesus and lose out on eternal life in the new kingdom. In our jobs, don’t deny Jesus. No, you don’t have to proclaim him “out of tune” at every turn, and you should earn the right to be heard on your job and gain a good reputation by hard work. Then you can talk about the gospel.
“benefit”: it comes from the verb ōpheleō (pronounced oh-feh-leh-oh), and it means, depending on the context: “help, aid, benefit, be of use (to), accomplish, be of value.”
“whole world”: recall that Satan showed Jesus the whole world and offered it to him, but Jesus rejected the offer (Matt. 4:8-10 // Luke 4:1-13). Don’t strive to gain or win the whole world. Let God through Christ give you the part of his world that belongs to you as his gift to you. In other words, do your job or ministry faithfully. Walk in the lane or mission he has given you. It starts with him and ends with him, and he will show you where you fit.
“person”: see vv. 32-33 for more comments, under “people.”
“damage”: it is the verb zēmioō (pronounced zay-mee-ah-oh). In the active voice it means “to inflict injury or punishment.” In the passive voice, it means “to suffer damage or loss or forfeit.” Here it is in the passive. You will suffer loss or lose out if you seek hard after worldly things. Matt. 6:33 says that we must seek him first and righteous living—living in him—and he will add all those things to you.
These two verses great rhetorical questions. What would a person exchange for his life or soul? Money? Power? Bad exchanges. You must surrender your life to God and let him fulfill your desires. Luke 12:31 says that we must seek his kingdom, and then the things of life will be added to us. Then the next verse says that we should not fear because it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.
Here we must commit to Jesus because he is destined to come in judgment.
Lane insightfully observes that the language is drawn from commercial life: profit, gain, loss, give in exchange. If you want the whole world, you must forfeit your (selfish) life.
The one who trades the temporary to get the eternal is a wise person. The one who keeps the temporary instead of trading up for the eternal is foolish.
“ashamed”: Jesus lived in an honor and shame society. To be ashamed of him means that you slink away when the topic changes and is about Jesus. You deny him. Don’t be ashamed of him and his message or words. Here’s why you should stand strong and his gospel. It’s adulterous and sinful generation. Why should people like that intimidate you? They are dazed and confused and unredeemed and lost. They are not your guides, nor do they set the standards. You do. You must stand strong in the face of their adultery or mixture of bad things, so you can show them the way.
This warning has to mean something to true followers of Jesus. It must not remain hypothetical or potential, without becoming actual under the right conditions. A true believer in Jesus can indeed deny or walk away from his walk with Christ. It may take a while, and the Spirit will woo him to remain in union with Christ, but apostasy can happen. It is unconvincing to say that when a person walks away from his union in Christ, “He was not a true believer!” This looks desperate, as if the speaker of that sentence is trying to protect the hypothesis at all costs. No, in these warnings the potential can become actual.
The good news is that if someone does walk away, the Spirit can still woo him back. He can return, like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:17-24). He can be restored, as Peter was. He first denied Jesus (Matt. 26:69-75), but Jesus reinstated him (John 21:15-19). Today, Jesus can restore anyone, when the denier repents.
God can redeem you too.
“sinful”: here it means anyone who breaks the law—the moral law of the Torah. It is the adjective hamartōlos (pronounced hah-mahr-toh-loss and used 47 times), and it means as I translated it. It is someone who does not observe the law, in this context: “unobservant or irreligious person … of one who is especially sinful.” Let’s look more deeply at the term.
BDAG defines the adjective hamartōlos as follows: “pertaining to behavior or activity that does not measure up to standard moral or [religious] expectations (being considered an outsider because of failure to conform to certain standards is a frequent semantic component. Persons engaged in certain occupations, e.g. herding and tanning [and tax collecting] that jeopardized [religious] purity, would be considered by some as ‘sinners,’ a term tantamount to ‘outsider.’” Non-Israelites were especially considered out of bounds [see Acts 10:28].)” “Sinner, with a general focus on wrongdoing as such.” “Irreligious, unobservant people.” “Unobservant” means that he did not care about law keeping or observing the law.
Do you fail to conform to certain standards? Maybe you did break the demands of moral and religious law. Pray and repent, and God will accept you.
“adulterous”: this term recalls the prophets’ description of Israel being an unfaithful wife to God, her husband (Is. 1:4, 21; Ezek. 16:32; Hos. 2:3) (Strauss).
“Son of Man”: it both means the powerful, divine Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14) and the human son of man—Ezekiel himself—in the book of Ezekiel (numerous references). Jesus was and still is in heaven both divine and human.
Here Jesus is referring to his parousia or arrival or Second Coming. This verse does not teach a secret rapture before his coming a second time. Instead, it exhibits streamlined simplicity, like this:
We can depict things in this flow chart:
___________← This Age –——⸻→| End of
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom → Second Coming → Judgment → Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / Age to Come
The Second Coming (Parousia) stops This Age. Then there is one big judgment, in which the righteous and wicked are judged together. One can even say that the final judgment happens during the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come. All three terms mean the same thing. Finally, the Kingdom which Jesus inaugurated at his first coming will have been fully realized and accomplished at his Second Coming (Parousia). And so after God sweeps aside the wicked and Satan and demons, the New Messianic or Kingdom Age can begin in true and pure and undisrupted rulership.
Bottom line: All of the New Testament (outside of a few contested verses in the Revelation 20) fully and clearly and consistently teach this flow chart:
___________← This Age ———⸻→| End of
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom —→ Second Coming → Judgment → Fully Realized Kingdom Age
Before the kingdom is fully realized at his Second Coming (Parousia), the kingdom is announced and ushered in by Jesus at the launch of his ministry. So there is overlap between This Age and the Kingdom Age.
A little more expansion, discussing the final judgment.
The Second Coming (Parousia) stops This Age. Then there is one big judgment, in which the righteous and wicked are judged together. One can even say that the final judgment happens during the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come. All three terms mean the same thing. Finally, the Kingdom which Jesus inaugurated at his first coming will have been fully realized and accomplished at his Second Coming, after judgment. And so after God sweeps aside the wicked and Satan and demons, the New Messianic or Kingdom Age can begin in true and pure and undisrupted rulership.
Let’s look more deeply at the overlapping This Age and the Kingdom of God. Until and before the Second Coming, we now live in the conflict and battle between This Age and the Inaugurated Kingdom, proclaimed by Jesus during his ministry. (They are not the same things but are at war with each other!) We are in the process of binding Satan and his demonic hordes, by expelling demons from people’s lives but mainly by preaching the gospel, so people surrender to the Son’s Lordship, and then Satan is pushed back and people experience victory in their lives. The gospel and life in the Spirit, coming after Jesus’s ascension in This Age, though happening during the inaugurated Kingdom, are so powerful that saved and redeemed kingdom citizens can experience victory over the power of sin in their lives in This Age. The presence of sin in their lives is not removed until they get their new resurrected and transformed bodies and minds in The Age to Come. The Second Coming stops This Age, which is replaced and displaced with the fully realized Messianic or Kingdom Age or The Age to Come.
So the Son, in the authority of the Father, and holy angels will appear gloriously, with a bright light and with splendor, radiance, and greatness. His coming will catch our eye, to say the least. But it will not be as if the Father comes literally, but his glory will surround his Son and angels. They will come back physically and literally.
Let’s wander just a little way from Mark’s Gospel and discuss other eschatological teachings circulating around the Church today, the American Church in particular.
In Jesus’s teaching throughout the Gospel of Mark, there is no word on a literal thousand-year reign with two comings and “several first” resurrections. And there is no separate rapture that makes the church disappear, before the Second Coming. If Jesus believed in a separate rapture, he would have taught it here; he missed his chance. However, he did not miss his chance and he did not teach it. Therefore, he did not believe in a separate rapture. All of it is too convoluted. Instead, the Gospel and the other three Gospels (and Epistles) present a streamlined picture of salvation history and God’s dealing with his human creation and the return of Christ.
An amillennialist believes that the millennium begins with the Inaugurated Kingdom, but apparently it is quiet and behind the scenes (note, for example, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and its slow growth in Matt. 13:31-32); Satan is not literally bound with chains (as if a spirit being could be), even though Jesus did teach that he bound the strongman (Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21-22). So what this binding means is that Satan cannot now fully stop the advance of the kingdom (as Satan did to the ancient Israelites, except a remnant). Before Jesus came, every nation was bound by satanic deception. However, after Jesus inaugurated the kingdom, even under Islamic and communist regimes, the gospel has a way of infiltrating societies, even if underground. Satan can no longer deceive the nations as he did before Jesus came. Instead, kingdom citizens, surrendered to the Kingship of the King and following him, are plundering Satan’s domain of This Age and rescuing people out of it and transferring them to the inaugurated kingdom of God. The final victory over Satan will be fully manifested at his Second Coming.
In contrast, based on his interpretation of a few verses in Rev. 20, one chapter in the most symbolic book of the Bible, a premillennialist believes that a literal thousand years of Christ (not shown in flow charts) is ushered in at the Second Coming, where there will be peace and harmony. And Satan is literally bound in chains until the end of the thousand years. During the literal millennium, people will still die, so the last enemy (death) is not defeated after all, at the Second Coming (even though Paul said death would be defeated, in 1 Cor. 15:23-26, 51-56). However, the theory of a literal thousand years says that death and Satan are defeated at the end of the millennium, when another resurrection and another judgment will take place.
Never mind, however, that in John 5:28-29 and Matt. 13:41-43 and 25:31-46, Jesus teaches that the wicked and righteous are judged together at the end of This Age, as indicated in the above flow charts. Interpreting literally a deliberately and intentionally symbolic book (Revelation) runs aground quickly. Things soon become convoluted and complicated, in comparison with the nonsymbolic, streamlined Gospel and Epistles.
So then where does the rapture fit in? When all peoples are called out of their tombs and those who are alive also respond to Christ descending from heaven at the Second Coming, they will be “caught up” (the rapture) and meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-17). Then they will descend with Jesus to a new heaven and new earth, which will have been recreated, renewed, renovated or reconstituted. They will be judged, and the wicked will be sent away to punishment, and the righteous will be welcomed into the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come (as distinct from This Age). In other words, the rapture and the Second Coming happen at the same time and are the same event.
Please see my post:
There is no reason, biblically, to overthink and complicate these verses and insert a separate rapture that happens before the Second Coming. Just because a teaching is popular does not make it right.
Personally, I have now accepted amillennialism because it is streamlined, and I don’t believe the NT teaches convoluted theories. The entire NT fits together if we adopt amillennialism, from Matt. 1 to Rev. 22. I cannot allow, in my own Bible interpretation, a few contested verses in Rev. 20 to confuse the clear teaching of Jesus in the Gospels and the apostolic teaching in the Epistles. That is, I don’t believe we should allow Rev. 20 (the only few verses where one thousand years are mentioned) or the entire book of the Revelation, the most symbolic book of the Bible (after Chapter 3), to guide our interpretation of these clear teachings in the Gospels and the Epistles. Instead, we should allow the clear, straightforward, nonsymbolic teachings in the Gospels and Epistles to guide our interpretations of the most symbolic book in the Bible, in which even the numbers may be symbolic and probably are. To see everything fit together, all we have to do is turn the kaleidoscope one notch or click and adopt amillennialism. I am willing to do that.
Clarity guides the unclear portions. My main point: keep the plain thing the main thing in hermeneutics (science of interpretation), and let the clear verses guide the unclear ones.
This interpretation enjoys the beauty of simplicity by eliminating all the complications that popular end-time Bible prophecy teachers have been imposing on the Gospels and Epistles for decades—over a century. Since this tradition has deep roots—not to say entrenched—in the conservative sectors of American Evangelicalism (broadly defined to incorporate the Renewal Movements), these teachers won’t give up their interpretation easily. So I hope to reach and teach the younger generations and all other openminded people of all generations. They need to prepare for tough times ahead. I’m not a pastor, but I can still have a teacher’s pastoral heart.
But in these eschatological (end-time) discussions:
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”
We should not break fellowship with those with whom we differ in eschatological matters.
Now let’s move on.
“glory”: it is the noun doxa (pronounced dox-ah), and it means, depending on the context: (1) “the condition of being bright or shining, brightness, splendor, radiance”: (2) “a state of being magnificent, greatness, splendor, anything that catches the eye”; (3) “honor as enhancement or recognition of status or performance, fame, recognition, renown, honor, prestige”; (4) “a transcendent being deserving of honor, majestic being” (BDAG). In this verse the first and second meaning fits here, even the fourth one would fit, too.
“angels”: An angel, both in Hebrew and Greek, is really a messenger. Angels are created beings, while Jesus was the one who created all things, including angels (John 1:1-4). Renewalists believe that angels appear to people in their dreams or in person. It is God’s ongoing ministry through them to us. But here it means that they are coming in person.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) They can show the emotion of joy.
GrowApp for Mark 8:34-38
A.. How willing are you to pray for yourself to stand strong for Jesus and not slink away when the going gets tough?
B.. Are you willing to lose your (old) life by denying yourself and picking up your cross and following him to gain your new life in him? How deep is your commitment to him?
Summary and Conclusion
This is a full chapter. Jesus is reaching out beyond his home base in Capernaum and Galilee to Gentiles—or at least he is transitioning towards them, just before he is heading towards Jerusalem. The basic message that Mark communicates to his original audience, probably Romans, is that Jesus reaches them too. Such is one of the larger purposes of the feeding of the four thousand mostly Gentiles in the Decapolis.
He refused to give the Pharisees a sign. The commentators tell us that they were not seeking a miraculous sign, but proof of his authority. Yet the commentators don’t tell us what sign would satisfy them. Maybe it was Jesus absence of authority and they wanted to know the source of his authority when he was not following their established way. But how can this source be a sign, which, to me, smacks of a miracle? So until I hear differently, I believe they were seeking a sign from heaven, much like Moses or Elijah had done. The Pharisees knew of the healings in the desert wandering through Moses and Elijah’s raising a widow’s son from the dead. Jesus was duplicating them and then some, like deliverance. So what sign did they want? I say they wanted a sign like the ones Moses produced over Egypt. How about making the sky go dark (Exod. 10:21-28)? Then the Pharisees would follow Jesus. Otherwise, they’ll keep following Moses. But I am open to another interpretation.
It is mostly a sad yet sometimes humorous fact that the disciples frequently misunderstand the meaning of Jesus in various situations. He warned them of the leaven or yeast of the Pharisees and Herod, and they thought they were going to need more bread and would have to borrow leaven and bread from their opponents! They did not understand his metaphor. Jesus must have felt alone sometimes. He was five steps ahead of everyone else. It can be lonely out in front.
Jesus heals a blind man in two-stages. Some commentators interpret this literally, yes, but also as a metaphor or parable or illustration of the blindness or partial blindness of the disciples. Maybe, but I prefer to draw comfort from the fact that healing is a process. Even Jesus had to work with the man. A book has been well titled Miracle Work. One has to stick to praying for the sick.
And now back to the partial blindness and sight of the disciples. Peter spoke up for everyone else when he professed that Jesus was the Messiah. So far so good. But what kind of Messiah? When Jesus predicted his death and suffering, Peter actually rebuked Jesus because Peter could not understand that this Messiah was going to suffer and die. So he was partially blind and partially sighted.
Then Jesus reaches out to the entire crowd and told them that they cannot be part-time followers, just in it for the food and healing, though that may be sufficient as an initial call to enter the kingdom. Now they must go deeper. One cannot forfeit one’s soul or life to gain the whole world. Instead, one must gain one’s life or soul by surrendering it to Jesus and the gospel. It is all about outreach for his kingdom. The crowds should be learning this by now. Are they willing to go to the very end, possibly even to die? Then Jesus reminds them that he is going to return in the glory of his Father and the holy angels. That fact or truth puts everything in perspective. If we lose our lives for him and his gospel, we will reap eternity with him. Be willing to give it all.
Decker, Rodney J. Mark 1-8: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor UP, 2014).
France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Eerdmans, 2002).
Garland, David E. Mark: The NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 1996).
Lane, William L. Mark: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Eerdmans, 1974).
Strauss, Mark L. Mark: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2014).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 1993).
Wessel, Walter W. and Mark L. Strauss. Mark: The Bible’s Expositor’s Commentary, Vol. 9, Rev. ed. (Zondervan 2010).