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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Mark 8

Verses 1-10

71. Ministry in the Decapolis (Matthew 15:29-40.15.39; Mark 7:31-41.8.10)

From the Mediterranean towns of Phoenicia, Jesus returned to the region around the Sea of Galilee, then continued on into the Decapolis, where the population was largely Gentile. It seems that for a period his ministry was mainly among Gentiles, and many became believers in the God of Israel (Matthew 15:29-40.15.31; Mark 7:31). One of the people he healed was a deaf and dumb man. Because of the man’s deafness, Jesus used actions rather than words to ensure that the man’s faith was active and that he understood Jesus’ actions (Mark 7:32-41.7.37).

Again Jesus had compassion when he saw a multitude of hungry people around him and he decided to feed them. On the previous occasion the crowd consisted largely of Jews (see John 6:14-43.6.15), but on this occasion it probably consisted largely of Gentiles. That may have been why the disciples doubted whether Jesus would use his power to feed them (Matthew 15:32-40.15.33; Mark 8:1-41.8.4). But he fed them as miraculously as he had the Jews (Matthew 15:34-40.15.39; Mark 8:5-41.8.10).

Verses 11-21

72. Beware of Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:1-40.16.12; Mark 8:11-41.8.21; Luke 12:1-42.12.3,Luke 12:54-42.12.56)

In spite of all that Jesus had done, the Pharisees and Sadducees still demanded he produce a special sign to satisfy them. Jesus refused. They could look at the sky and work out what the weather would be like, but when they looked at Jesus’ miracles they refused to believe what the miracles told them, namely, that Jesus was the Son of God. The only sign Jesus would give them would be his resurrection. Jonah came back to life after three days of apparent death, but Jesus would come back to life after three days of actual death. By this unmistakable sign the Father would prove to all that Jesus is his Son (Matthew 16:1-40.16.4; Luke 12:54-42.12.56).

Sin is compared to yeast, or leaven, in that it affects everything it touches. The Pharisees, the Sadducees and Herod were evil influences that spread through Israel as yeast spreads through a lump of dough. Jesus warned his disciples to beware of the yeast-like effect of these people. His probable meaning was that they were not to be influenced by the wrong teaching and hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees or the ungodly ways of people like Herod (Matthew 16:5-40.16.6; Mark 8:14-41.8.15; Luke 12:1).

The apostles missed the meaning of Jesus’ illustration. They thought he wanted some bread (but not bread baked with certain types of yeast) and were worried that they did not have any. This showed that although they had twice seen him miraculously feed a large crowd, they still lacked the faith to believe he could provide for them. In addition they lacked spiritual understanding, and saw the meaning of Jesus’ illustration only after he explained it to them (Matthew 16:7-40.16.12; Mark 8:16-41.8.21; Luke 12:2-42.12.3).

Verses 22-26

60. Jesus heals the blind and the dumb (Matthew 9:27-40.9.34; Mark 8:22-41.8.26)

Two blind men, in begging Jesus to heal them, used his messianic title Son of David, but Jesus did not heal them till he was certain that they had genuine faith. No doubt there were many in Israel who had no feeling of spiritual need but who were willing to call Jesus by messianic titles simply for the purpose of receiving benefits from him. Again, to avoid attracting the wrong sort of following, Jesus warned the men not to tell anyone what had happened (Matthew 9:27-40.9.31). Although some people misinterpreted Jesus’ miracles because they were impressed with his power, others misinterpreted them because they hated him (Matthew 9:32-40.9.34).

Another blind man who came to Jesus for healing apparently had some lack in his faith. Jesus saw this, and so after an initial act of healing asked the man whether he could see properly. Lack of complete faith had hindered the healing. Nevertheless, Jesus did not leave the man with his sight only partly restored. He completed the healing, thereby giving the man normal eyesight and at the same time strengthening his faith (Mark 8:22-41.8.26).

Verses 27-33

73. Peter’s confession of the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-40.16.23; Mark 8:27-41.8.33; Luke 9:18-42.9.22)

Jesus and the apostles travelled up to Caesarea Philippi, in the far north of Palestine. While there, Jesus asked the apostles who they believed him to be. Peter, probably speaking for the group, replied that he was the promised Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 16:13-40.16.16).

Delighted at this insight, Jesus told the group (through words addressed to their spokesman Peter) that they would be the foundation on which he would build his church, and no power would be able to conquer it (Matthew 16:17-40.16.18; cf. Ephesians 2:20). By preaching the gospel they would open the kingdom to all who wished to enter. They would carry Jesus’ authority with them, so that the things they did on earth in his name would be confirmed in heaven (Matthew 16:19; cf. Acts 2:32; Acts 3:6,Acts 3:16,Acts 3:19). But that was still in the future. For the present they were to support him in his ministry, but they were not to proclaim his messiahship openly till the appointed time had come (Matthew 16:20).

Jesus then made it clear that in order to fulfil his messianic ministry, he had to suffer, die and rise again. Peter’s objection to this showed that the apostles still did not understand the true nature of the Messiah’s work. The suggestion that Jesus should turn back from the cross was yet another temptation by Satan. It was an attempt to persuade him to gain his kingdom by some way other than death, and so cause him to fail in the very thing he came to do (Matthew 16:21-40.16.23; cf. 4:8-10).

Verses 34-38

74. Test of true discipleship (Matthew 16:24-40.16.28; Mark 8:34-41.9.1; Luke 9:23-42.9.27)

Immediately after telling his disciples of his coming suffering and death, Jesus told them they had to be prepared for similar treatment. The disciples of Jesus are those who have given their lives to Jesus, and they will be obedient to their master even if it leads to hardship, persecution and death. They will no longer rule their own lives, but will deny themselves personal desires in order to please Jesus. In sacrificing the life that puts self first, they will find the only true life. On the other hand those who live for themselves may gain what they want in the present world, but they will lose the only life of lasting value, eternal life (Matthew 16:24-40.16.27).

Jesus promised his disciples that those who accompanied him in his ministry would, in their present lifetime, see something of the triumph of the Son of man’s glorious kingdom. This was possibly a reference to the victorious expansion of the church after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1). (For the significance of the name ‘Son of man’, see earlier section, ‘Jesus and the Kingdom’.)

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Mark 8". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/mark-8.html. 2005.