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Bible Commentaries
Mark 8

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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In this chapter, Mark records one of only two accounts of the feeding of the four thousand (1-9). While all four writers of the gospels record the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, only Mark and Matthew (15:29-39) record this one. Mark further records another conflict with the Pharisees (11-13); the questions concerning the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod (14-21); the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida (22-26); a confession of faith by Peter (27-30); and Jesus’ prophecy of His suffering, death, resurrection, and second coming (31-38). In the first thirty verses of this chapter, Mark presents a sequence of events parallel in subject and arrangement to Mark 6:31 to Mark 7:37; however, these are separate events.

The striking similarities between the feeding of the five thousand in Mark 6:31-44 and the feeding of the four thousand here in Mark 8:1-9 have prompted the question of whether these are actually two different incidents. Some critics are convinced there is only one miraculous feeding of the multitudes and that Mark is relating two traditions, one varying a little from the other, of the same event. To support their theory, critics point to verse 4 of this chapter where the disciples seem at a total loss to explain how they could feed such a large multitude. It is argued that if this is a second and different occasion from the incident in chapter six, the apostles would not have forgotten so quickly the first miraculous feeding.

There are, indeed, similarities in the two feeding miracles; but there are also many significant differences. So significant are the differences, that, as Edersheim says:

only the most reckless negative criticism could insist, that one and the same event had been presented by the Evangelists as two separate occasions (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah 64).

In the first incident, the people have eagerly gone after Christ to Bethsaida-Julius from the western shore of Galilee. In their haste, they have not taken any food; thus, after they have listened to Christ all day, He feeds them. In this episode, the people have been with Jesus for three days.

In the first miracle, Jesus uses five loaves and two fishes. In this one, He uses seven loaves and a few fishes. In the former incident, there are five thousand men who are fed. In this one, there are four thousand. There are twelve baskets filled with leftovers in the first miracle, and here there are seven. The fact that there are more provisions with which to begin, fewer people to feed, and fewer baskets of leftovers argues against this second narrative being an embellishment of the first episode. As Trench puts it, "Legend grows; the new outdoes the old; but here it does not even stand on an equality with it" (Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord 387).

The kind of baskets is also different in this second narrative. The baskets mentioned in chapter six were kophinos, which refers to small wicker baskets that each of the disciples could carry in his hand. The word for baskets here is sphuris, which is a much larger basket, made of a much more flexible material. It is in such a basket that Paul is let down over the wall at Damascus (Acts 9:25).

The motive for Jesus’ compassion in the first narrative is the fact that the people "were as sheep not having a shepherd" (6:34). The primary product of Jesus’ compassion is that He teaches them while the feeding of the multitude is a secondary act. In this chapter, the motive of Jesus’ compassion is that the people have been three days without food. The primary product of Jesus’ compassion here is that He feeds them. Thus, the emphasis in the first narrative is between compassion and teaching while the emphasis in this narrative is between compassion and feeding.

After the first feeding, Christ dismisses the crowd because they would have made Him their King. But here He dismisses the crowd after He feeds them because He Himself is about to leave.

The first feeding takes place before the Passover on the "green grass" while this feeding takes place several weeks later when the grass in that part of the world would have been burnt. Both Mark and Matthew say they "sat on the ground (earth)."

Augustine, Edersheim, and Trench point out that the most noteworthy difference between these two miracles is that the first is performed for a Jewish audience while this one is performed for an audience that is principally Gentile. Barclay makes this observation:

Is it possible that we are to see in the feeding of the multitude in Mark 6 the coming of the bread of God to the Jews, and in this incident the coming of the bread of God to the Gentiles? When we put these two stories together, is there somewhere at the back of them the suggestion and the forecast and the symbol that Jesus came to satisfy the hunger of Jew and Gentile alike, that in him, in truth, was the God who opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing (184-185)?

One question posing a problem for expositors, however, is:

If the two episodes are different, and the first miraculous feeding is still "fresh in their memories," why are the disciples so "seriously perplexed" as to how the multitude is to be fed? (Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord 223)

It is extremely difficult for us to put ourselves in the disciples’ place. When we think of the power of God, we see it as being inherent, permanent. It may have seemed to them the power possessed by Christ is only intermittent, that it "came and went." After all, since the first miraculous feeding, their food has been supplied to them in the ordinary way. In fact, the Lord compels them to gather up the leftovers, an indication the disciples should not expect to be fed continuously by way of miracles. It is not until after the resurrection that the disciples fully comprehend Jesus to be God Incarnate and that His divine help is ever present. Trench adds:

At first it excites some surprise that the disciples, with that other miracle fresh in their memories, should on this later occasion have been as seriously perplexed. It is evermore thus in times of difficulty and distress. All former deliverances are in danger of being forgotten; the mighty interpositions of God’s hand in former passages of men’s lives fall out of their remembrance. He may have divided the Red Sea for his people, yet no sooner are they on the other side than they murmur against Moses, and count that they must perish for thirst, crying, ’Is the Lord among us, or not?’ (Exodus 17:1-7). It is only the man of a full-formed faith, of a faith which Apostles themselves at this time did not possess, who argues from the past to the future, and truly derives confidence from God’s former dealings of faithfulness and love (1 Samuel17:34-37; 2 Chronicles 16:7-8). Only a strange unacquaintance with the heart of man could have led any to argue that the disciples, with their previous experience of one miracle of this kind, could not on a second similar occasion have been perplexed how the wants of the multitude should be sup­plied (Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord 223-224).

It is also possible the disciples remember well the first miraculous feeding but dare not mention it to Jesus. The first feeding is for a predominantly Jewish multitude while this crowd is principally Gentile. The disciples may doubt the same miracle would be allowed for the Gentiles. They may also wonder if this crowd possesses the same great spiritual hunger the first multitude demonstrates and if these people merit being rewarded by divine power. It is possible, therefore, they are not doubting Jesus’ power to help the multitude but their own inability to help. When they, in essence, ask, "What can we do about their hunger?" they may be subtly implying to Jesus, "We cannot do anything about this situation, but You can."

Finally, there can be no doubt that Mark and Matthew believe in two different feeding miracles because they both quote Jesus as referring to the crucial importance of the two feeding narratives (Mark 8:17-21; Matthew 16:9-10).

Verse 1

In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,

In those days: The "days" referred to here are probably the same period of time in which the healing of the deaf-mute occurs during the course of Jesus’ journey through Decapolis (7:31). No mention is made by Mark of any traveling that takes place between the preceding event (7:31-37) and this one. It is reasonable to conclude this one occurs near the same time and place.

the multitude being very great: The Greek text includes the word palin, which means "again" (Marshall 171). The phrase is more properly translated, "Again, there being a great crowd." What is meant by "again?" It could refer to the crowds on the western shore of Galilee (3:20; 4:1; 5:21). It could refer to the five thousand assembled near the shores of Bethsaida-Julius (6:34), or it could even refer to the entire series of multitudes already mentioned by Mark. Bruce exclaims, "A great crowd again. How often the crowd figures in the evangelic story! It is the one monotonous feature in narratives of thrilling interest" (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 393).

It is entirely possible the crowd is gathered, in part, because of the efforts of the healed Gerasene demoniac (5:1-20). That incident also happened in Decapolis. After Christ casts the demons out of that man and into the herd of swine, the people urge Christ to leave the area. The cured man wants to leave with Jesus and His disciples, but the Lord sends him back to his own people to tell them what "great things Jesus had done for him" (5:20). Thus, the missionary efforts of the cured demoniac could have contributed to the presence of so many people.

and having nothing to eat: The multitude has been so engrossed with the words and deeds of Christ that they find it virtually impossible to leave. After three days in this isolated location, their resources have been exhausted.

Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them: Even though Jesus’ main objective during this period is to train the Twelve, He never completely withdraws from the multitudes. His interest in the crowd becomes evident as He now calls His disciples to Himself and addresses them. He speaks to His disciples in order to awaken in them a sense of compassion and responsibility. It is not enough that Jesus is sympathetic, but He wants His disciples to share in that sympathy and to gain a clearer understanding of their responsibility to their fellow man. Jesus demonstrates His masterful teaching skills by employing this distraction of the crowd to further His training of the Twelve.

Verse 2

I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat:

I have compassion on the multitude: The word "compassion" is from splagchna and means:

the inward parts, especially the nobler entrails--the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. These came gradually to denote the seat of affection, like our word heart. This explains the frequent use of the word bowels in the A.V. in the sense of tender mercy, affection, compassion (Vincent 111).

Today, we would say, "My heart goes out to you."

because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: The stay has been longer than the people have anticipated, and their provisions have been exhausted.

Verse 3

And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.

And if I send them away fasting to their own houses: In the case of the five thousand at Bethsaida (chapter six), the disciples urge Jesus to send the hungry multitude away. Jesus anticipates the Twelve are ready to make the same proposal here. He has observed that some in the crowd have gone so long without food, they will be physically unable to make the journey home.

they will faint by the way: The word "faint" is from ekluthesontai and Thayer says it means:

"to loosen or relax." In the passive voice, this means "to have one’s strength relaxed, to be enfeebled through exhaustion, to grow weak, grow weary, be tired out" (197).

The faintness, or weariness, of body and mind is caused by a lack of food.

for divers of them came from far: Jesus explains that some of the multitude are from a great distance. The towns and villages of Decapolis are fewer and farther between than those of the populous western shore. The nearest towns are probably Gadara, Hippos, and Gamala.

Verse 4

And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?

Incredibly, the disciples have failed to learn the lesson of the miraculous feeding at Bethsaida (chapter six). All they can answer is that it will be impossible, in that barren region, to find enough bread to satisfy such a large multitude.

Verse 5

And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.

And he asked them, How many loaves have ye?: Jesus does not rebuke them. He just asks them "How many loaves do you have?" This is the same question Jesus asked before. He wants the small number of loaves to be fixed firmly in their minds.

And they said, Seven: There are seven loaves and a few small fishes. (See notes on chapter 6:38 for more information on the use of fish with bread.) The small numbers are no doubt significant. The miracle will be all the more impressive if such a large multitude is fed with such an inadequate supply of food. A little later Jesus is going to remind the disciples of the numbers involved in each of these two miracles.

Verse 6

And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.

And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: Mark makes no mention of "green grass" here as he does when the five thousand are fed. The spring is obviously past, and now the hills are "bare ground." Jesus directly addresses the crowd on this occasion while in the former feeding miracle He addresses His disciples who relay His instructions to the multitude.

and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks: Mark’s narrative seems to indicate that Jesus gives thanks twice. First, He gives thanks for the loaves and then later for the fishes. Mark’s account also suggests the bread is blessed and distributed first. Both of these details are omitted by Matthew.

and brake: The loaves are flat sheets of bread that could be easily broken into edible-size pieces.

and gave to his disciples to set before them: The word "gave" is in the imperfect tense, which describes continuous action. Jesus breaks the sheets of bread and keeps giving them out to His disciples.

and they did set them before the people: Jesus breaks the bread cakes and keeps giving them out to His disciples, and the disciples keep giving them to the people.

Verse 7

And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.

And they had a few small fishes: Mark does not give us the exact number of the fish but mentions "a few." "A few" would be more than the "two" mentioned in the former feeding miracle (6:38).

and he blessed: "Blessed" is from the word eulogesas, and among other things it means "to ask God’s blessing on a thing, to pray Him to bless it to one’s use" (Wuest 158). This word is almost identical in meaning to the word eucharistesas, which is translated "gave thanks" in verse 6. Lane offers this explanation for the second "blessing":

Assuming that the multitude was representative of the mixed population of the region, the blessing of God’s name before the distribution of the bread would have been a new action to many of them. This may explain the unusual pronouncement of thanksgiving over fish in verse 7. The pronouncement of blessing over bread is the normal Jewish practice for beginning a meal, but the blessing of God’s Name prior to the distribution of the fish seems to have been intended to teach the people to thank God for their daily food. The offering of praise and thanksgiving acknowledges that the multiplied food is the gracious provision of God (274).

and commanded to set them also before them: Jesus commands His disciples to set the little fish before the multitude.

Verse 8

So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.

So they did eat, and were filled: Mark stresses the fact there is an abundance of the provisions and the multitude is completely satisfied.

and they took up of the broken meat that was left: As in the previous feeding miracle, the disciples pick up the broken pieces that are not eaten. The leftovers referred to here are not scraps or crumbs but larger fragments.

seven baskets: There are twelve baskets of broken pieces picked up after the first feeding. That number corresponds with the twelve disciples, each disciple having one. In this case there are seven baskets filled with leftovers. It is probably coincidental that the number of baskets corresponds to the number of loaves with which Jesus begins the miracle.

The word "baskets" here is from the word spuris and refers to large wickerbaskets or hampers. This is the type of basket Paul is placed in to be lowered over the wall in Damascus (Acts 9:25). These baskets are larger than the twelve baskets (kophinos) mentioned in the feeding of the five thousand. The New Testament consistently makes this distinction in the baskets. The word kophinos is always used when referring to the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:20; Matthew 16:9; Mark 6:43; Mark 8:19; Luke 9:17; John 6:13), and the word spuris is always used in connection with the feeding of the four thousand (Matthew 15:37; Matthew 16:10; Mark 8:8; Mark 8:20). This marked difference in the words for "baskets" is one of the strongest arguments that these are, in fact, two different feeding miracles.

Verse 9

And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.

And they that had eaten were about four thousand: Matthew 15:38 points out there are women and children in addition to the four thousand men.

and he sent them away: Jesus has provided for the spiritual and physical needs of these people; and now, as He is ready to depart from Decapolis, He dismisses the crowd.

The recent direction of Jesus’ ministry (7:1-8:9) has important implications for the Gentiles. In chapter seven, Jesus abolishes the distinctions between clean and unclean meats and extends mercy to a Gentile woman of Syrophoenicia by casting an evil spirit out of her little daughter. Now, in this miraculous feeding event, Jesus shows compassion and mercy to a multitude made up primarily of Gentiles. All of this interaction with the Gentiles prefigures Jesus’ intention for the church. In the Christian age, Gentiles as well as Jews, will be fit subjects for the kingdom. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

Verse 10

And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.

And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples: The "ship" (ploion) is the boat constantly used by Jesus (3:9; 4:36; 6:32).

and came into the parts of Dalmanutha: After dismissing the crowd, Jesus leaves Decapolis and returns to the western side of the lake. The exact location of Dalmanutha is unknown. Matthew 15:39 says, "came into the region of Magadan" (NASV). Many think Magadan is another form of the name Magdala and Dalmanutha is a village close by or another name for Magdala.

Verse 11

And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.

And the Pharisees came forth: Matthew adds "the Sadducees" in his parallel account and does so four times (Matthew 16:1-12). This is the first mention of the Sadducees as being present with the Pharisees in any dispute with Jesus during His Galilean ministry. The Herodians have already joined forces with the Pharisees against Jesus in the sabbath controversy (3:6).

The Sadducees are the priestly party, the wealthy aristocrats; and they reside mainly in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Some are possibly connected with the court of Herod at Tiberias. Hester gives this description of the Sadducees:

The Sadducees, while much fewer in number, were of the aristocratic class and were very influential. They differed from the Pharisees at almost every point. They protested the emphasis placed on tradition by the Pharisees and demanded a return to the Bible. They were in reality skeptical and cold-hearted, wanted to live a life of self-indulgence and luxury, and did not concern themselves with annoying details of religious duties. Insofar as they had religious views they were liberals. They denied the concern of God for human affairs. They denied the doctrine of immortality, the resurrection and the existence of angels. To them the written Old Testament only was authoritative. They accepted Graeco-Roman culture and considered themselves a sort of religious aristocracy (65).

The Sadducees and Pharisees have been long-time enemies and rivals, but now their hostility toward each other refocuses on a more threatening foe, Jesus Christ. They have apparently been watching for the return of Jesus, and upon His arrival they come forth "as if from an ambush" (Plummer 196).

and began to question with him: The word "began" is erzanto and may be just a pleonastic expression, which is common in Mark. It would be comparable to our modern expression, "He started to argue with me." The word also shows it is the Pharisees and Sadducees who take the initiative, not Jesus.

The word "question" is from sunzetein and means not just an inquiry, but a dispute or debate (Wuest 159). They begin at once to argue with Jesus and keep it up. Lane believes this is a resumption of the debate with the Pharisees mentioned in chapter 3:22-30, which resulted in their accusing Jesus of being in league with Satan (276).

seeking of him a sign from heaven: The word "sign" is from semeion, and it denotes "miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him, or by which men prove that the cause they are pleading is God’s" (Thayer 573). It is possible the Pharisees and Sadducees have heard of the miracles Jesus has performed on the other side of the lake, including the feeding of the four thousand. They attempt to convince themselves the miracles in Decapolis are not true signs of Jesus’ authenticity.

The Jews believe demons and false gods could give signs on earth [they have already attributed His casting out of demons to the power of Beelzebub (3:22-30)], but they believe only the true God can give a sign from Heaven. After all, Jesus has provided only earthly bread. If He is truly from God, He should provide bread from heaven as Moses has done (Exodus 16; John 6:32), cause the sun and moon to stand still like Joshua (Joshua 10:12-14), call down the hail and rain as Samuel did (1 Samuel 7:10), make manifest the fire and rain of Elijah (1 Kings 18:30-40; James 5:17-18), or make the sundial go backwards as in the case of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:10). None of the miracles Jesus performs would fit into the category just listed. He has created earthly food, walked on water, and healed human diseases, all of which could be confined to the realm of this world. "What they wanted was a voice from Heaven, or anything coming from above" (Gould 144).

tempting him: The word "tempting" is from peirazomai and originally meant to "put to the test to see what good or evil is in a thing or person" (Wuest 159). This phrase refers to the biblical provision for testing if a prophet has been sent by God (Deuteronomy 13:2-6; Deuteronomy 18:18-22). The demand for a sign is the equivalent to the question of the Jerusalem authorities in Mark 11:30: "What is the source of your authority?" (Lane 276). Their motive, however, seems to be the same as Satan’s when he tempts Jesus in the wilderness--one of malice (Matthew 4:1-11). They hope Jesus will try and fail so that He will be publicly discredited.

Verse 12

And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

And he sighed deeply: The words "sighed deeply" are translated from the word anastenazo, which means "to draw sighs up from the bottom of the breast, to sigh deeply" (Thayer 42). The word is found only here in the New Testament. In modern vernacular it would be like saying "He groaned from the bottom of His heart."

Behind the demand for a sign was the prior, firm conviction that Jesus’ authority was demonic in origin, his works an expression of black magic (see on Ch. 3:22). Jesus was thoroughly aware of the hostility and unbelief of the Pharisees. The emotion displayed in his deep sigh was an expression of indignation and grief (cf. Ch. 3:5) (Lane 277).

in his spirit: The word "spirit" (pneumati) is used here "in a sense not much different from ’heart’ or ’inner being’" (Hendriksen 315). Jesus’ heart is stirred to its depths. The hostility and obstinacy of the Pharisees and Sadducees are more heart breaking to Jesus than even the sight of suffering (7:34). The mixture of deep sorrow and anger that Jesus experiences is another evidence of the reality of His human nature.

and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign: Jesus is not asking this question for information, but He is expressing exasperation and regret. His own generation is resisting Him just as the generation that came out of Egypt resisted Moses (Hebrews 4:7 ff).

verily I say unto you: This solemn formula, which introduces a statement of special importance, occurs thirteen times in Mark, thirty in Matthew, and six in Luke. It is used to introduce a statement that deserves very careful consideration.

There shall no sign be given unto this generation: Translated literally from ei dothesetai semeion, this phrase is "If a sign shall be given" (Wuest 160). This is a Hebrew idiom and is really a form of an oath or self-curse (imprecation). Technically, such statements begin with a conditional clause ("If I do not thus and so,") but omit the conclusion, or apodosis ("may I die or may God punish me,"), which is automatically understood. 1 Samuel 3:17 shows how such a form arose. In 2 Kings 6:31, the full form is used: "Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day." Here in Mark is the only place in the New Testament where this form is used except where Psalms 95:11 is quoted from the Septuagint (Hebrews 3:11; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 4:5). Jesus is saying, "If I give you the sign you want, may God punish me."

Matthew’s parallel account (16:4) makes an exception in that "the sign of the prophet Jonah" would indeed be given to that generation. There is no contradiction here, however. The meaning is "No sign such as you are demanding shall ever be given." The resurrection of Jesus from the dead, typified in the experience of Jonah (Jonah 1:17; Jonah 2:10), would be the supreme proof to that generation of the divine mission of Jesus. This sign is not the kind they are looking for, but Jesus says it is all they would receive. Robertson points out, "When Jesus did rise from the dead on the third day, the Sanhedrin refused to be convinced (see Acts 3-5)" (Word Pictures in the New Testament 331).

Verse 13

And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.

And he left them: Jesus’ abrupt departure is significant; thus, further discussions with these Pharisees would be futile, so Jesus abandons them. They would no longer be in the scope of His ministry.

and entering into the ship again departed to the other side: Jesus and His disciples are headed toward Bethsaida now, located on the northeast shore of the lake. If "the parts of Dalmanutha," their point of departure, are located near the place where the Jordan River exits the lake at the southern end, the boat must cross the whole length of the lake.

Verse 14

Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.

Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread: As a result of their abrupt departure, the disciples have forgotten to take bread with them. Ordinarily, when they are traveling in sparsely populated regions, the Twelve carry loaves of the thin, flat bread-cakes in their baskets. Forgetting to check their baskets to see if they have sufficient provisions is a major error by the disciples. Bread is much more difficult to obtain on the less populated eastern side of the lake.

neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf: One loaf, or bread-cake, would not even begin to suffice for thirteen hungry men.

Verse 15

And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.

And he charged them: The word "charged" (diestelleto) is in the imperfect tense, meaning "He repeatedly charged them."

saying, Take heed: Jesus is telling the disciples to "think and use their heads."

beware: This verb is from the word blepo and means "to perceive by the use of the eyes." In the metaphorical sense, it means to "see with the mind’s eye, to discern mentally, understand, to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing, to consider, to take heed" (Wuest 162). It is also in the present imperative, which means "Be constantly keeping a watchful eye open."

of the leaven: The word "leaven" is zume and means:

A substance used to make baked goods rise by the formation of gas, especially carbon dioxide, in the batter or dough, as baking powder, yeast, etc.; also, any influence spreading through something and working on it to bring about a gradual change (Webster 769).

The latter definition is the one that fits Jesus’ uses of the word. Leaven works invisibly and may represent good influence (Matthew 13:33) or evil influence (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9). But it is generally used of bad influence. Fermentation is regarded as corruption because it disturbs, inflates, and sours. Consequently, leaven is rigidly banished during the Passover and in certain other sacrificial rites (Leviticus 2:11).

of the Pharisees: The "leaven" or evil influence of the Pharisees as interpreted by Matthew 16:12 is their "teaching." Luke 12:1 makes it their hypocrisy which their teaching encourages.

and of the leaven of Herod: Plummer says "The repetition of ’the leaven’ (tes zumes) shows that the leaven of the Pharisees is different from the leaven of Herod" (198). Matthew’s parallel account (16:5-12) mentions the "leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees" but makes no mention of Herod. Mark mentions the Pharisees and Herod but makes no mention of the Sadducees. There really is no contradiction in the two accounts. Herod is not formally a Sadducee because he has not rejected the possibility of the resurrection (6:16). But the worldliness of the Herod family is strikingly similar to that of the Sadducean aristocrats. Since the Sadducees reject both the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul, they are concerned only about the "here and now." They are "worldly" minded, which closely identifies them with the Herods. It becomes obvious that Matthew uses "Sadducees" in his account as the rough equivalent to "Herodians" (Mark 3:6; Matthew 22:16).

Both of these leavens (evil influences) are working against Jesus--the hypocritical traditionalism of the Pharisees and the skeptical worldliness of the Sadducees and Herods. Therefore, Jesus repeatedly warns His disciples, "Look out!" and "Be constantly on your guard against these two evils." There is the very real danger that, in spite of their close association with Jesus, the Twelve may pay too much attention to the words of Jesus’ enemies.

Verse 16

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.

And they reasoned among themselves: Jesus is preoccupied with the demands of the sign-seekers that have been left behind and probably lapses into a meditative silence. The disciples then begin to carry on a dialogue with each other, trying to figure out what Jesus means. They are probably unaware the demand for a sign has so preoccupied the mind of Christ. They have not understood the importance of such an ominous demand by the Pharisees and Sadducees. It is probable they put the confrontation out of their minds soon after their boat left shore. And, just as the Lord is about to speak, it dawns on them they have forgotten to get enough food provisions for their trip. That is what they are thinking about while Jesus is thinking about the dangers presented by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod.

saying, It is because we have no bread: When the disciples hear Jesus mention "leaven," they fail to connect it with earlier teachings. They have already heard the parable of the leaven (Matthew 13:33), which should have taught them the word "leaven" should not always be taken literally. In fact, it is commonly used in reference to bad influence. In view of what has just happened with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the meaning of Jesus’ warning should have been evident.

The disciples, however, fail to grasp the true meaning of Jesus’ words and ascribe to the word "leaven" a literal meaning. They conclude Jesus is reprimanding them because they have neglected to take enough bread on their journey. It is also possible they think Jesus is prohibiting them from procuring bread from the Pharisees or from anyone associated with Herod.

Verse 17

And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?

And when Jesus knew it: Jesus notices the back and forth whispering of the Twelve. He is aware of what they are saying and what leads to it. (See note on 2:8.) Their lack of understanding seems to surprise Him.

he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread: Jesus asks a series of six questions that reveal His disappointment in the Twelve’s intellectual and spiritual dullness. These questions are not only intended to censure but to help the disciples clear up their misinterpretations of Jesus’ words about leaven. The first question Jesus asks is, "Why all this discussion about bringing no bread?" The fact He has multiplied bread on two occasions and fed over nine thousand people has apparently made little impression on them. Why worry about having only one loaf of bread when you have Jesus on board with you?

perceive ye not yet, neither understand: "Don’t you understand or grasp what I say even yet?" (Phillips 87).

Here the Twelve appear to be no better than the crowds who profit from Jesus’ miracles without reflection and who seek his teaching without applying it to themselves (Lane 282).

have ye your heart yet hardened: Their hearts were not hardened for the same reasons of obstinacy that characterized the Pharisees (see comments on 6:52) but because of a lack of spiritual insight. They have not taken to heart the lessons Jesus taught them earlier.

Verse 18

Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?

Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not: They are like men who have good eyes and ears, perfect for seeing and hearing, but would not or could not use them. This condition is the result of their hardened heart.

and do ye not remember: This phrase may be an independent sentence: "And don’t you remember?" The inability to remember matters of spiritual significance could be the result of hardness of heart. This phrase is probably transitional, introducing the sentence that follows in verse 19. "Do ye not remember when I brake the five loaves...?"

Verse 19

When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.

The disciples remember the facts but fail to understand their sig­nificance.

Verse 20

And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.

Verses 19 and 20 prove beyond any doubt there are two feeding incidents. The precise numbers are mentioned, and there is the consistent distinction made in the baskets. In verse 19, the word kophinos is used of small wicker baskets, and in verse 20 spuridon is used referring to the larger baskets which are iden­tified with that miracle.

Verse 21

And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?

Jesus asks His disciples again, "Do you still fail to grasp what I am saying? Does this still mean nothing to you?" This question is a repetition of the rebuke in verse 17. Bruce says, "If we may emphasise the imperfect tense of elegen, He said this over and over again, half speaking to them, half to Himself" (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 395).

The disciples’ error is twofold. First, they are without understanding (asunetoi). They cannot see that "leaven" is used as a metaphor referring to the teaching of the Pharisees. Second, they are "of little faith" (oligopistoi) (Matthew 16:8). They have witnessed Jesus feed more than nine thousand people with just a few loaves and fishes, and still they doubt His power to provide for thirteen men in a boat with one loaf. If the disciples had not been so worried about the lack of bread, they could have paid closer attention to the teaching of Jesus about the leaven.

Matthew points out in his parallel account (16:12) that Jesus finally has to explain to them that He is talking about the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Verse 22

And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.

And he cometh to Bethsaida: This is Bethsaida-Julias, located on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, near the entrance of the River Jordan. (See 6:45.) This is the same area where the feeding of the five thousand took place. Mark calls Bethsaida a "village" (komes) in verse 23, but Luke 9:10 refers to it as a "city." Josephus helps to explain this apparent discrepancy when he comments on the large agricultural villages located in Galilee:

The very many villages that are here are everywhere so full of people, because of the richness of their soil, that the very least of them contained more than 15,000 inhabitants (503).

In reference to Bethsaida-Julias, Josephus says the tetrarch Philip:

...advanced the village Bethsaida, situated at the lake of Gennesareth, unto the dignity of a city, both by the number of inhabitants it contained, and its other grandeur (377).

Based on Josephus’ descriptions of the villages in Galilee and of Bethsaida, both Mark and Luke are correct in their references to the town. Many towns with the population of a city were still referred to as "villages." Because Bethsaida has been a village so long, it is still common to refer to it as such even after its transformation by Philip the tetrarch.

and they bring a blind man unto him: This is a second miracle recorded only by Mark, the other being the healing of the deaf-mute in chapter seven. There are several similar details in these two miracles. In each case there is the withdrawal from the crowd, the touching of the impaired organs, the use of spittle, and the strict charge to keep the matter quiet.

This is the first mention in Mark of a blind person’s being brought to Jesus to be cured. A second case occurs in Mark 10:46 ff.

and besought him to touch him: Once again, it is as though the people are trying to dictate the mode of cure. They seem to think Jesus would need to lay hands on the blind man. It is remarkable that of the healings of blindness recorded in any detail in the gospels, no two are alike. Jesus deals with each case individually.

Verse 23

And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.

And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town: Similar to the episode involving the deaf-mute, Jesus takes the blind man apart from the crowd. Because the blind man cannot follow, Jesus takes him by the hand. Commentators are divided on why Jesus led the man out of the village to heal him. As in the Ephphatha miracle (7:32), it could have been He does not want to excite the crowd to the point of His being overwhelmed with demands for miraculous healings, or it may have been He just wanted to help the blind man to feel more at ease and to be able to focus all his attention on Christ.

and when he had spit on his eyes: Once again Jesus uses spittle. It is a popular belief that saliva has remedial qualities. (See 7:33.) That belief is not so strange when we remember that one of the first impulses we have when we injure a finger is to put it into our mouth. By condescending to the use of a popular remedy as a symbol of healing power, Jesus may also have been trying to encourage the blind man’s faith.

and put his hands upon him: The laying on of hands is an action that often precedes healing. Jesus probably uses this method of healing to reassure the blind man and to strengthen his faith.

he asked him if he saw ought: Jesus knows the recovery of sight in this case is going to be gradual. He asks the blind man, "Can you see anything?" It is as though Jesus wants this man to be thoroughly aware of the process of his own cure, step by step.

Verse 24

And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.

And he looked up: It is a natural reaction to look up in order to answer the question.

and said, I see men as trees, walking: His vision is still imperfect. The only way he can distinguish between people and trees is that the people are moving. His answer is an indication he had not been born blind because he knows how people look.

Verse 25

After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.

After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: Jesus again lays His hands on the man’s eyes and completes the cure. The expression "look up" is from dieblepsen and means to "look fixedly, stare straight before one" (Thayer 135).

and he was restored, and saw every man clearly: This time when the man focuses his eyes, people no longer look like trees. He sees everything sharply and clearly. The word "clearly" is from telaugos and means "clearly at a distance" (Thayer 621). His sight is so completely restored he can see at a distance as well as up close.

Neither Mark nor the Lord reveals to us why the healing process in this particular case is gradual. The three gradual stages--the Lord’s applying spittle and His hands to the eyes, followed by His questioning of the blind man about his progress, and then another application of His hands--make this miracle unique. Why is the blindness not cured instantaneously? It is not because of a lack of power on the part of Jesus. Surely He, who is able to raise even the dead back to life instantly, could instantly restore this man’s sight if He chooses to do so. "It is possible that the gradual restoration of the man’s sight was meant as a lesson to the Twelve, symbolizing the gradual removal of their mental blindness" (Plummer 201). Barclay seems to agree as he says, "There is symbolic truth here. No man sees all God’s truth all at once" (190-191). Others believe the gradual cure is because of the blind man’s imperfection of faith. Still, others believe it is to show that Jesus could choose a variety of ways to operate, that He as sovereign Lord is not tied to any one way of accomplishing things. Any and all of these reasons could be right; only the Lord knows for sure.

Verse 26

And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.

Obviously the man could reach his home without going into the village. Why does Jesus charge this man to go straight home? It is possible that Jesus knows the influence of the citizens of Bethsaida will not be good for this man. He has already mourned over their callousness toward His mighty works (Matthew 11:21). It is in the best interest of the man to go home where he can calmly meditate on the wonderful blessing he has received. It is also possible Jesus does not want the people of the village to become a hindrance to His mission.

Verse 27

And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: From Bethsaida, Jesus and the Twelve move northward, following the eastern banks of the River Jordan until they reach the area of its origin. Mark says they reached the villages around Caesarea Philippi, a town about 25 miles north of Bethsaida, sitting at the foot of beautiful Mt. Hermon, which towers in majesty to an elevation of seven thousand or eight thousand feet above. Philip the tetrarch, who had rebuilt Bethsaida and renamed it Bethsaida-Julias in honor of the daughter of Augustus Caesar, also rebuilt "Paneas, a city, at the fountains of Jordan, which he renamed Caesarea" in honor of Augustus himself (Josephus 377). It is called "Caesarea Philippi" in order to distinguish it from Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast where the Apostle Paul is later imprisoned.

In leaving one of Philip’s new cities and heading northward to another, Jesus is once more looking for solitude to further train the Twelve and to prepare for His own suffering and death, which is just a little over six months ahead. Here, He and the Twelve will be free from the threats of Herod Antipas and the Pharisees and Sadducees.

But they find themselves in a much more distinctively and aggressively Hellenized country. Caesarea Philippi has no Old Testament history, though some historians have identified it with Baal-Gad. Later, it is named Paneas because up on the hillside there is a cavern believed to be the birthplace of the Greek god, Pan. This cavern became Pan’s sanctuary. According to Josephus, there was a spring that gushed forth from a cave in the hillside that was held to be the source of the River Jordan. Later, when Philip rebuilt the city, he constructed a spectacular temple of white marble near the old shrine of Pan and dedicated it to Caesar, who was regarded as a god.

Clearly, each name this city wore connected it with some sort of pagan worship. "Baal-Gad" connected it to Baal, "Paneas" connected it to Pan, and "Caesarea Philippi" connected it to the worship of the Roman Emperor. The city still exists today and is called "Banias," which is a form of "Panias."

Although Jesus and the Twelve probably do not go into the city itself (Jesus seems to avoid cities with ostentatious Greek architecture), the beautiful region of Caesarea Philippi is an ideal setting for this examination of his disciples. Edersheim records this description by Tristram:

Everywhere there is a wild medley of cascades, mulberry trees, fig trees, dashing torrents, festoons of vines, bubbling fountains, reeds and ruins, and the mingled music of birds and waters (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah 74).

It is important to consider the history and the appearance of Caesarea Philippi when recalling the significance of the events that transpired in that area. As Barclay says, "It seems incredible that it was here of all places that Peter saw in a homeless Galilean carpenter the Son of God" (192). This monumental confession is made by Peter in a chiefly Gentile district so far from Galilee and Judea, from the temple and synagogues, from priests and scribes, and from Pharisees and Sadducees. In a distinctly pagan setting, with the splendid, white marble temple as a backdrop, reminding everyone that Caesar is a god, Peter confesses that an itinerant teacher from Nazareth, who is heading for a cross, is the Son of God.

Six days after Peter’s confession, the other momentous event happens in this area when Jesus takes Peter, James, and John upon Mt. Hermon and is transfigured.

and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am: This account is recorded by both Matthew (16:13-20) and Luke (9:18-21). As mentioned earlier, Jesus leads His disciples on this long, infrequently traveled road to have an opportunity to instruct them more specifically and confidentially about the meaning of His Messiahship. He begins by asking them a question about His own identity. "This crucial question shows that the education of the Twelve is now reaching a high level" (Plummer 202). This is the first time Jesus approaches the question of His identity even in the circle of His disciples. Up to this point, His teaching has primarily focused on the kingdom of God, its nature, laws, and conditions of entrance, but not specifically upon the identity of its King.

There is hardly anything in all the gospel story which shows the sheer force of the personality of Jesus as does this incident. It comes in the very middle of Mark’s gospel and it does so designedly, for it comes at the gospel’s peak moment. In one way at least this moment was the crisis of Jesus’ life. Whatever his disciples might be thinking, he knew for certain that ahead lay an inescapable cross. Things could not go on much longer. The opposition was gathering itself to strike. The problem confronting Jesus was this--had he had any effect at all? Had he achieved anything? Or, to put it another way, had anyone discovered who he really was? If he had lived and taught and moved amongst men and no one has glimpsed God in him, then all his work had gone for nothing (Barclay 192).

Thus, Jesus begins to press the Twelve toward a clearer understanding of His identity. This pressing is critical for them because Jesus is going to reveal to them the secret of His impending suffering and death, which He knows will severely try their faith. It is imperative that the Twelve understand more clearly the identity of Jesus and the nature of His Messiahship. Jesus begins by asking, "Who do men say that I am?"

Because this is a critical time, even a crisis time, in His ministry, Jesus prepares for it by prayer (Luke 9:18). He had done the same thing when He prepared for the first preaching trip in Galilee (1:35) and for His selection of the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12).

Verse 28

And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.

And they answered, John the Baptist: All of these conjectures have been made (6:14-15). Some think He is John the Baptist. This opinion that John has arisen from the dead arises from the superstition of the people. Herod Antipas has accepted it.

but some say, Elias: Some think He is Elijah, who, like Enoch, does not die but is taken up bodily to Heaven, now to return as Malachi has predicted (4:5).

and others, One of the prophets: Others think He is one of the prophets. Matthew 16:14 adds that some have singled out the prophet Jeremiah. It is possible some have made this connection because one side of the Lord’s teaching is a severe denunciation of sin, a characteristic of Jeremiah’s teaching. Also, Jeremiah is called the "weeping prophet," and Jesus is a "man of sorrows."

Regardless of the differences of opinion as to whom Jesus is, the people regard Him as more than just an ordinary man or teacher. At a time when the Pharisees, who feel greatly superior to the multitudes in general, are condemning Jesus as a blasphemer, law breaker, devil, associate of publicans and sinners, it is significant that the multitudes think of Him as a prophet worthy of honor.

It is also significant, however, that none of them regard Him as the Messiah. The reason for their unbelief on this point is that they have prejudices about the nature and mission of the Messiah. Jewish writings that were done between the writings of the Old and New Testaments make it clear the Jews’ expectation of the Messiah is of a divinely sent, strictly nationalistic hero, who would, through a military bloodbath, quash all of the Jews’ religious, political, and military oppressors. They believe He will assume the throne of David in Jerusalem and rule over a new Jewish kingdom that will effect prosperity, peace, and equitable settlement of all grievances of the people. The Jews have tenaciously held to this image of the promised Messiah, and obviously, Jesus does not fit the mold. In fact, He adamantly refuses to let the people make Him a king after the feeding of the five thousand.

Verse 29

And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am: The emphasis here is on "ye." The Lord is saying, "Now that we know what others are saying, what about you? Whom do you say that I am?" This question has arisen previously in the minds of the Twelve (4:41). They have been with Jesus, have seen His works, have heard His teaching; the Lord expects better things out of them than from other men.

And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ: All three of the records attribute the answer to Peter, but they report it a little differently. Matthew 16:16 gives the fullest answer, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Luke 9:20 has "Thou art the Christ of God." The word "Christ" is the English spelling of the Greek word Christos, which means the "Anointed One." "Messiah" is the same word in Hebrew. Lane offers this explanation of the name "Christ":

It implies divine election and appointment to a particular task and a special endowment of power for its performance. In the Old Testament the royal, priestly and prophetic offices are associated with an anointing with oil which symbolized consecration to God’s service and enjoyment of the divine protection (Exodus 29:7; Exodus 29:21; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Kings 19:16; Psalms 105:15; Isaiah 61:1 ff.) (291).

Thus, the words "Christ" and "Messiah" show the work and office of Jesus. Just as prophets, priests, and kings are anointed, Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 10:38) and is prophet, priest, and king (Hebrews 1:1-3). He is made both "Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36) and is made high priest (Hebrews 7:20-28).

The ancient prophets had given Israel the hope of an anointed leader who is to be a descendent of David (2 Samuel 7:14-16; Isaiah 55:3-5; Jeremiah 23:5). As mentioned earlier, however, the expectations of the first century Jews as to the nature and work of the "Davidic Messiah" are radically contrary to the nature and work of Jesus. In spite of those contemporary expectations, Peter’s confession recognizes Jesus as the fulfillment of the divine promise of an "appointed one" of God and the One in whom Israel’s hopes rest.

Peter, in particular, seems to have understood that Jesus is the Messiah from the beginning (John 1:41; Matthew 14:13; John 6:69), but now his belief is clearly and formally confessed.

Verse 30

And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.

The word "charged" is from epitimao, meaning "to admonish or charge sharply" (Wuest 167). The Expositor’s Greek New Testament says, "He threatened them, spoke in a tone of menace, as if anticipating foolish talk about Him being the Christ" (Bruce 397). Why does Jesus warn them to keep quiet about Him? For one thing, the disciples themselves still have much to learn about Him and what it truly means to follow Him. If they reveal this newly learned secret, it might have hastened the suffering and death of Jesus before He has adequately prepared them. Also, it might have caused some of the people to start a national and political movement with Jesus as King, instead of the universal and spiritual movement the Lord has in mind.

Verse 31

And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

And he began to teach them: This is truly a new beginning. It introduces a new section of Mark and a new teaching. The new teaching is more explicit and with a sharper tone. The subject matter of the new teaching is the necessity of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. The general consensus of commentators is that Mark 8:27 begins the second half of Mark, indicating the important connection between Peter’s confession and the first prophecy by Jesus of the Passion. Matthew and Luke also connect this first prophecy to the confession of Peter.

Three times in this section, beginning here and concluding with chapter 10:52, Mark records a threefold pattern, which becomes the framework for the rest of his gospel. First, he records Jesus’ prediction concerning the crucifixion and the resurrection (8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34); those prophecies are followed by a reply or incident showing the disciples do not yet understand (8:32; 9:32-34; 10:35-37), which results in further teaching on the meaning of the cross for the disciples (8:33-38; 9:35-37; 10:38-45). The primary purpose of this section is to clarify what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah and what is required to be identified with Him.

that the Son of man: The title "Son of man" is mentioned in Mark fourteen times. It is mentioned only twice up to this point, but twelve times beginning with verse 31 of this chapter. As mentioned in comments on chapter two, verse 28, the title can sometimes refer simply to "man." Also, recent studies of early Palestinian Aramaic show the expression is sometimes used as a circumlocution for "I." A "circumlocution" is a roundabout, indirect, or lengthy way of saying something. For example, a man may say, "The son of man is suffering under the heat of the noonday sun;" which means "I am suffering under the heat of the noonday sun." The expression is used as a circumlocution for "I" primarily in sentences containing an allusion to humiliation, danger, or death, although Lane says use of the idiom in reference to one’s self is sometimes dictated by humility or modesty (297). A third meaning of the expression is found in Daniel. Here the expression is used to prophesy the coming Messiah:

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (7:13-14).

The reason Jesus refers to Himself by the ambiguous expression "Son of man" is so He could, at the same time, reveal something about Himself and conceal something about Himself. Jesus obviously knows the expression revealed Himself as the Messiah prophesied by Daniel, but most everyone, especially those who are unfamiliar with the Old Testament, do not make the connection. It is probable the majority understand the expression as a circumlocution for "I." Jesus’ ministry has to be carried out in perfect fulfillment of prophecy; hence, it is necessary to partially conceal His identity in the early days of His ministry. If Jesus’ identity becomes clearly known too soon, it might force a premature showdown with His murderous enemies; and the multitudes might become even larger, more demanding, and more distracting than they are, thus hindering His efforts to train the Twelve. The expression "Son of man," therefore, is the perfect title for Jesus to affirm His Messiahship and to conceal His identity partially at the same time.

must suffer many things: Immediately following Peter’s open recognition of Him as the Messiah, Jesus introduces the necessity of suffering. The word "must" is dei and means "it is necessary in the nature of the case" (Wuest 167). Why is it that He "must" suffer? Because it is God’s loving will to send His Son to suffer and fulfill the demands of the law for the sins of the world (Genesis 2:17; John 3:16; Romans 5:12-21; Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The necessity is not of man’s making, but of God’s. The cause is not man’s hostility to Christ, but God’s love for man.

and be rejected: "Rejected" is from apodokimazein and is to "reject after scrutiny, and implies an official testing and rejection of His claims" (Swete 178).

of the elders: "The elders" (presbuteroi) are the lay members of the Sanhedrin and are to be distinguished from the "elders" of Mark 7:3; Mark 7:5.

and of the chief priests: The "chief priests" include not only the ruling High Priest, Caiaphas, and Annas, the former High Priest, but also the members of the high-priestly families.

and scribes: The three classes together constituted the Sanhedrin, or supreme council of the Jews, by which Jesus predicts that He is to be rejected and put to death.

and be killed: This expression implies a violent death but gives no hint of crucifixion. The specific details of Jesus’ humiliation are very gradually revealed.

and after three days: There is some question as to the exact meaning of this phrase, which will be enlarged upon in chapter sixteen. Lane says:

While there is some evidence that "after three days" can be regarded in a Semitic context as equivalent to "on the third day" (Genesis 42:17 f; Genesis 2 Chronicles10:5, 12), it is probable that Jesus’ reference to three days was an indefinite expression for a short period of time. A conviction, grounded upon Scripture, was that "the Holy One, blessed be he, does not leave his own in distress for more than three days" (303).

Plummer concurs: "The expression may be colloquial, a current phrase for a short time, like our ’after two or three days’" (204). Robertson adds:

Matthew 16:21 has "the third day" in the locative case of point of time (so also Luke 9:22). There are some people who stickle for a strict interpretation of "after three days" which would be "on the fourth day," not "on the third day." Evidently Mark’s phrase here has the same sense as that in Matthew and Luke else they are hopelessly contradictory. In popular language "after three days," can and often does mean "on the third day," but the fourth day is impossible (Word Pictures in the New Testament 335).

rise again: The mention of the resurrection seems to make no impression on the disciples because they are still puzzled by it much later (9:10). The glorious climax of resurrection is overshadowed by the stunning revelation of suffering, rejection, and death.

Verse 32

And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

And he spake that saying openly: The verb is imperfect, showing continuous action. Jesus repeatedly and in detail gives them what He has to tell them. On this occasion He uses no metaphor, parable, or any such veiled reference to His suffering and resulting victory (2:20) but plain, unmistakable words.

The word "spake" (elalei) implies Jesus dwells on the subject for some time. Peter, consequently, has time to consider the matter and responds to Jesus after some consideration. There may have been some impulsiveness on Peter’s part, but it is not as if he immediately interrupts Jesus on the spur of the moment without having some time to deliberate on the Lord’s words.

And Peter took him: Peter takes Jesus aside from the other disciples in order to rebuke Him. Such candid predictions of suffering and death are completely contradictory to Peter’s concept of the Messiah. Peter can take it no longer. He is convinced the Lord, in a moment of weakness, has made a huge mistake. He takes Jesus aside as if to ask a question or talk privately, perhaps in order to spare Jesus the embarrassment of public correction. The expression "took him" (proslabomenos):

...is used of the stronger or wealthier coming to the help of the weaker or poorer (Psa 17:17; Acts 18:26; Romans 14:1; Romans 14:3; Romans 15:7), and carries here an air of conscious superiority (Swete 180).

And began to rebuke him: Matthew 16:22 gives the words of Peter’s rebuke: "Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee." There is affection in Peter’s voice, but it is misdirected and shown in a completely wrong way. Peter should have known better. His protest is born out of ignorance of God’s will and his deep love for Jesus.

Verse 33

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples: Peter’s rebuke of Jesus has been done privately; but Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, for the good of all, must be done openly, for the other disciples undoubtedly share the conviction that Jesus is wrong. Peter has taken Jesus aside privately; but when Jesus hears what Peter says, He quickly wheels around on Peter and faces the other disciples in order to be in plain view. Mark is the only one who gives such graphic details of the Lord’s reaction.

he rebuked Peter: Mark does not record the great eulogy Jesus gives of Peter in Matthew 16:17; Matthew 16:19, after Peter’s confession; but he does record the stinging rebuke given by Jesus on this occasion. The word "rebuked" is epitimao and is the same word Peter uses in rebuking Jesus. At this time Peter does not realize the dreadful thing he has done.

saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: This is the same expression Jesus uses when Satan tempts Him in the wilderness (Matthew 4:10). Jesus recognizes Satan’s influence once more in Peter’s suggestion that the Messiah can accomplish His work while bypassing suffering and death. The expression "Get thee behind me" means "Be gone, Satan!" or "Get out of my sight, Satan!" Matthew 16:23 points out this rebuke is directed expressly to Peter. Peter is putting temptation in our Lord’s way and is so acting the role of Satan. The human nature of Jesus is indeed tempted to try to fulfill the will of God while bypassing the cross. The prayer of agony Jesus prays in Gethsemane shows the thought of escaping crucifixion is attractive. Because Jesus recognizes the grave danger of such a temptation, He does not entertain the suggestion for a moment. He reacts immediately, decisively, and forcefully.

for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men: The word "savourest" is phroneo and means to "have a mind for" (Wuest 170). Jesus is saying to Peter, "You are not looking at things from God’s point of view, but from man’s." The prophet Isaiah says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD" (55:8). Peter, being ignorant of God’s will, can see no connection between the cross and the crown. It is human nature to want glory without suffering; consequently, the prospect of Jesus’ being crucified is indeed offensive to Peter and the other disciples.

Verse 34

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also: Until now Jesus has been talking to the Twelve privately. Now He summons a crowd that has been respectful enough to remain at a distance but eager enough to come immediately when called. Plummer observes that "In the East a crowd is easily collected" (206). The secret of the Passion is given to the Twelve only, but the profound teaching that now follows is needed by the multitude as well as the Twelve. Jesus proceeds to teach the meaning of true discipleship and the great cost of it.

he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me: The word "will" (thelo) means "to desire" (Wuest 170). The phrase means "Whosoever desires to come after me." The word "come" (erchomai) is used in the sense of becoming His disciple.

let him deny himself: This phrase means "to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests" (Thayer 54). The idea is very inadequately expressed by thoughts of giving up some property or rights rather than of oneself. Paul gives this graphic interpretation:

For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:19-20).

and take up his cross: The pronoun "his" emphatically implies everyone has a cross to bear. This is the first time Mark mentions a "cross." A special indignity connected with crucifixion is that the condemned man is forced to carry upon his back, to the place of crucifixion, the cross upon which he is to suffer. While the convict, however, is compelled by the Roman officials to carry his cross, the disciple of Christ voluntarily bears his. He decisively takes his stand for Christ and willingly accepts any painful consequences that may follow.

and follow me: Another condition of true discipleship given by Jesus is to "follow me." The verb is in the present imperative and refers to an action that is continuous. We must begin to follow and keep on following. To "follow me" means to "obey Me without question."

Verse 35

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

Jesus makes this paradoxical statement at least four times (Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33; John 12:25). The person who denies Christ in order to save his physical life shall lose eternal life. But the person who is willing to die for the cause of Christ will enjoy eternal life. Here Jesus is giving the basis for His urgent command in verse 34. Swete makes these comments:

The immediate reference is doubtless to the alternative of martyrdom or apostasy, but the saying admits of wider application; cf. the form it takes in John 12:25, and the variations here in Matthew and Luke. All self-seeking is condemned as self-destruction, all true self-sacrifice is approved as self-preservation (183).

Verse 36

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

The word "soul" here is psuchen and is better translated "life." Christ is speaking of life that endures--eternal life. This verse along with verse 37 points out simply but dramatically that there is no price a person can set as a value for his eternal life. Even if a person should have gained the entire world, it would be poor compensation for that which is eternal.

Verse 37

Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

If the soul is lost, nothing can be given in exchange for it, or it can never afterwards be saved. The loss is irrevocable.

Verse 38

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words: The word "Whosoever" includes all, whatever their position or circumstances may be. If they are ashamed of Him now as the suffering Messiah, He will be ashamed of them in the day of judgment.

in this adulterous and sinful generation: This expression is a favorite of the Old Testament prophets when referring to idolatry. Here it refers to Jesus’ own generation. Their attitude toward Him is evidence of apostasy from God.

of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels: The ultimate consequences for the person who is ashamed of Jesus will be meted out in the day of judgment, at which time Christ will reject and condemn him (Matthew 25:41-46). He shall come "in the glory of his Father with his holy angels." In other words, the Father will impart His own glory (splendor, majesty) to Him, and will give to Him His own angels, to function as His attendants (2 Thessalonians 1:7). Jesus speaks of angels as beings who really exist. It shall be the function of angels to separate the just from the wicked at the time of final judgment. Consequently, the coming of Christ in this verse must be identified with the final judgment which Jesus mentions often (Matthew 12:41-42).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Mark 8". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/mark-8.html. 1993-2022.
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