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Mark 8b

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Mark 8:22-26… Then they came to Bethsaida. They brought Jesus a blind man and asked him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and brought him outside of the village. Then he spit on his eyes, placed his hands on his eyes and asked, “Do you see anything?” 24 Regaining his sight he said, “I see people, but they look like trees walking.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again; then he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”

Commentary

            After rebuking the disciples for their inability to understand who he really was through the miraculous feedings, Jesus led the disciples to the town of Bethsaida (literally “fisherman’s house”) in Galilee. Keeping in mind that nothing Jesus did was random, the reader must see a methodical point to what Jesus does next as he heals a blind man in two stages. He needed to illustrate his point to the disciples about their inability to understand his ministry, and the blind man that was brought to him for healing would provide such an opportunity.

            In v. 23 Jesus took the blind man and led him outside of the town to get away from the ones who simply sought a performance from Jesus. He then spit on the man’s eyes (as disgusting then as it would be now!) and placed his hands over them. The miracle, however, came in two parts. The man was then able to see, for he saw people who looked like walking trees. But clearly he wasn’t fully healed. Therefore, Jesus placed his hands over the man’s eyes once again, and his sight was fully restored. The fact that it was “restored” points to the fact that the man was not born blind. And as usual, Jesus wanted the miracle to be kept secret. In the past when his miracles became known people would follow in hoards seeking a show from the “miracle man.”

            From a medical standpoint, after ten or so years of blindness the brain’s cerebral cortex has to be completely reprogrammed in order to allow the eyes to see clearly again. Without it, restored eyesight sees a cubist landscape – one that is often frightful and unintelligible. Objects cannot be synthesized, and as a result a person would be seen as a head, a leg, and an arm – but not all together! This is the problem the blind man of Bethsaida encountered after receiving his sight initially. The trees and the men he saw were jumbled together where it looked like the trees were walking around. Even though the man could see motions and colors, his brain needed to be recalibrated – another medically proven phenomena. But because the man had no depth perception or ability to synthesize shapes, due to the long time period he was blind, Jesus had to perform another miracle. This actually proves that a miracle did in fact occur that day. Though some could have faked their blindness and proclaimed Jesus a healer upon receiving their sight, only a real blind man would claim to see men “walking around as trees” upon receiving his sight.

Food for Thought

Man’s salvation is illustrated in this story. When God saves us through Christ we receive our spiritual sight and come out of our blindness – blindness that the “god of this world” (Satan) put on us since birth. Now Christ removes those blinders at salvation. But just because those blinders are off doesn’t then mean that we can see everything clearly. This story illustrates both justification and sanctification. We are justified by God in that he simply “declares” us righteous (like the blind man was made to see). Then God sanctifies us ( “makes us holy”) by giving us the ability to learn and grow in our knowledge of Him through a study of his Word – just like Jesus did with the man when he clarified his vision. This was the lesson for the disciples. They could see Jesus in front of them, but they couldn’t quite put him all together. After the resurrection, however, it would all fall into place, and they would change the world with the good news.  

Mark 8:27-30… Then Jesus and his disciples went to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 They said, “John the Baptist;  Elijah, and others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Commentary

            After healing the blind man in Bethsaida Jesus led his disciples 25 miles north into the villages of Caesarea Philippi. While traveling Jesus asked his disciples who the people they spoke to believed he was. This is the time Jesus had been trying to get to ever since the disciples returned from their first missionary journey (cf. 6:7-13). In asking who people thought he was, he was inquiring about what the disciples had heard while they were on their preaching tour.

            It is interesting to note that Jesus had not once told the disciples that he was the Son of God. And though Mark states that Jesus is the Son of God in 1:1 it is never stated by Jesus up to this point to anyone. His miracles and his words demanded a decision on the part of all who met him that he was in fact God in the flesh, but he made no such proclamations to be God.

            Upon asking the disciples who the people thought he was the answer was, “John the Baptist… Elijah… or some other prophet from the past.” Elijah was the prophet who lived in the 9th century BC who, according to 2 Kings 2:11, never actually died but was taken up to heaven by God. The prophet Malachi even claimed that Elijah would precede the coming Christ (4:5). So for Elijah to appear on the scene would mean that the Messiah’s coming would be near.

Other folks apparently believed that Jesus was John the Baptist. This notion reveals how popular and respected John was and how well-known his death at the hands of Herod Antipas had become. He was so well-known that his supposed resurrection would not have surprised anyone who thought Jesus was John back from the dead. Even Herod Antipas, previously, had thought that John was resurrected in the person of Jesus (cf. 6:14-16). And for Jesus to be a prophet of old (none of whom predicted their own resurrections) would have also been wrong. All three choices were wrong, and they reveal that Jesus’ mission and identity were hidden despite his miraculous works and immense popularity in and around Galilee.

Peter, however, knew who Jesus was. He spoke up in v. 29 when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ” (lit. “the anointed one”). Of course Peter was correct, but it’s interesting to note that this truth was not known to him only a short time before, for Mark 6:52 says that all of the disciples had hardened hearts. Matthew’s 16:17 says that “flesh and blood did not reveal this” to Peter and that it was revealed to him by God.

Then Jesus, in v. 30, warned the disciples not to tell anyone about him. He knew what the implications would be if his identity as the “Messiah” became public. The people were looking for a military leader, and Jesus was not that kind of Messiah – a truth that even Peter had yet to discover as evidenced by his words in the context immediately following (cf. 8:31-33).

Food for Thought

            There are many ideas floating around today about who Jesus was. But any answer short of “God” is of course incorrect. This is what makes Christianity so exclusive, for without a proper understanding of who Jesus is there can be no salvation. That means that all religions that relegate Jesus to some sort of “good prophet” or “fine teacher” without recognizing him as God Almighty and the Savior of all mankind are wrong and ultimately satanic. Jesus’ question then is the most important question we’ll ever have to answer. It will determine not only our final fate but our present life on earth. So, in light of all Jesus has taught you, who do you say that he is?

Mark 8:31-33… Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke openly about this. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But after turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.”

Commentary

            Right after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the anointed one, there must have been a somber yet joyous moment among the disciples. They were standing in the midst of the promised Messiah! But then Jesus did something that took them all by surprise. Instead of telling them about how glorious his reign as the King of Israel would be, he began to reveal to them that he was going to suffer many things, be rejected by the leaders in Israel, and then be killed.

Following Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, it was necessary for Jesus to teach them what that entailed. So he speaks words of prophecy in telling them how he will be rejected and eventually killed. This, of course, was the not the image the disciples had of the Messiah, for they had other ideas as to what that meant. They, like the rest of the Jews, believed the Messiah would go up to Jerusalem and reign in King David’s stead as King over Israel.

            In v. 31 Jesus said that he would “suffer many things.” This points to Isaiah 53:3-11 where the sufferings of the Messiah were prophesied over 700 years prior. In saying that he would suffer “many things” Jesus was predicting the fullness of the sins that he would endure to bring about the salvation of mankind. He would suffer God’s wrath on behalf of sinful mankind.

            Jesus’ prophetic utterances about his upcoming death were given to provide certainty that when these events had transpired the disciples would look back and know that this was God’s plan all along. And v. 32 says, “He spoke openly about this.” This is a noteworthy phrase because Jesus had never spoken so clearly to the disciples – not even in private. Mark’s language denotes an outspokenness by Jesus that conceals nothing, for Jesus’ comments show a decisiveness that cannot (and would not) be thwarted. This was God’s divine plan all along.

            But Peter, having a false idea of what being the Messiah entailed, rebuked Jesus for speaking such. This in itself proves that though Peter understood Jesus was the Christ, he did not have knowledge unto salvation. Lane says, “Jesus had to lead the disciples beyond messianic confession to an awareness of the dimensions of messiahship as defined by the will of God.” And because Peter’s rebuke was contrary to God’s will Jesus responded with his own rebuke by telling Peter, “Get behind me Satan…” This rebuke was the same kind Jesus used to cast out demons, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Peter was Satan. Jesus was telling Peter “Return to your position of being my disciple, and stop with your satanic ideas!” After all, a refusal to accept the suffering Savior is a refusal to accept the good and perfect will of God. And notice also that Jesus felt no compulsion to justify God’s plan to his disciples by giving them follow-up information. God had decreed that the Messiah would suffer and die on a cross in order to achieve victory over evil. Any suggestion that Jesus do otherwise was satanic.

Food for Thought

We all have ideas of how we think God should act. But His ways are not always our ways. We must beware of our view of how God “should” act and how God has determined to act. Our views are oftentimes satanic, but this is painfully remedied through a reading of and a submission to the revealed Word of God found in the Bible. Let IT mold you and your theology rather than forging your ideas about God onto the text of Scripture. It’s right; we’re wrong!

Mark 8:34-38… Then Jesus called the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel will save it. 36 For what benefit is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his life? 37 What can a person give in exchange for his life? 38 For if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Commentary

            Right after Jesus rebuked Peter and the disciples for their false understanding of him being the Messiah, he began to explain, in a very straightforward manner, what it truly meant for Jesus to be the Messiah, the Christ. The disciples had their own ideas, and going to death on a cross did not fit their interpretation. Now it was one thing to believe Jesus was sent from God and was God in the flesh, but the next objective was to understand Christ’s objective on earth.

            If Mark 8:34-38 teaches one thing it is this: there is a price to pay for discipleship (i.e., following Christ). Now Jesus gives three commands for such. First, a person must deny himself. Now this must not be confused with abstaining from certain luxuries, foods, or praise. Rather, to deny oneself is to recognize that there is absolutely nothing commendable about us before God. It is to understand human depravity – that there is nothing good enough about us for God to grant us eternal salvation (cf. Matt. 5:3). Arthur Pink wrote, “Growth in grace is growth downward; it is the forming of a lower estimate of ourselves; it is a deepening of realization of our nothingness; it is a heartfelt recognition that we are not worthy of the least of God’s mercies.”

            Second, we are to take up our cross. To bear the cross means to accept the rejection of the world for turning to Jesus after denying oneself, for discipleship involves death – the death of self nailed to a cross. It’s not about enduring difficult trials or people unless enduring those things has to do with glorifying Christ. Given that the cross represented shame and rejection in Israel, the true disciple of Jesus is willing to endure any persecution being a Christian entails.

            The third and final requirement of true discipleship is faithful obedience to Christ. This obedience is simple when one realizes their own depravity in light of God’s perfection. And when Jesus says, in v. 35, that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it” he means that rejection is soon to follow. Those willing to endure rejection for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the good news he brought to the world (the gospel) gain true life. Now those who merely wish to gain “things” in this world may do so, but Jesus asked, “What good is it to gain the whole world and yet forfeit one’s soul?” Those who shun Christ for worldly gain don’t deny self, they deny Christ, and in the same way they deny him on earth he will deny them in heaven.

Food for Thought

How can we call ourselves Christians if we are in any way ashamed to be called such? That’s the greatest title a human being can possess, but it comes with a price – the price of sacrificing our own reputations, pleasures, and goals for the sake of God’s plan. Keep in mind that a preoccupation with worldly matters (money, luxury, retirement, raising good kids, having a good marriage, etc.) is to deny Christ and to allow your cross to carry you! But putting those things in your peripheral vision, as it were, and focusing completely on Christ is to follow him and carry your cross – the very thing it takes to be a true follower of Christ. Note that Peter knew Christ as Messiah, but he didn’t fully understand him. He was still caught up in his own plans. He then had to learn more from the Master to be complete. And those teachings are in the Bible!

Progressive Salvation and Sanctification

I)           Great Commission: Teaching and Evangelism (8:22-26)

A)  God’s elect can’t escape

B)   God teaches them until the grow

II)        Regeneration/Justification/Repentance (8:27-30)

A)  A new baby Christian (with baby ideas)

B)   A converted soul in need of nourishment

C)   Sharing and Caring

III)     Painful growth (8:31-33)

A)  Ignorance leading to wrong ideas

B)   Rebuked by God for ignorance

IV)    Straightforward Theology (8:34-37)

A)  Deny (total depravity)

B)   Take cross (willingness to endure anything for Christ)

C)   Follow Christ (know and grow)

V)       Jesus’ Coming in Glory (8:38)

A)  With holy angels (also in 2 Thes. 1:7)

B)   With saints (1 Thes. 3:13)

C)   Will he be ashamed to call YOU his child?

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