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Friday, May 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Mark 8

Smith's WritingsSmith's Writings

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Verses 1-38


In the previous chapters, 6 and 7, we have seen that the presence of the Lord Jesus, in the midst of men, had made manifest the corruption and unbelief of the social, political, and religious world. Every overture of grace being rejected the Lord retires from the haunts of men and is found apart in "the desert place," alone on "a mountain," and "walking upon the sea." ( Mar_6:31 ; Mar_6:46 ; Mar_6:48 ).

In chapter 8, the Lord identifies His own with Himself in this outside place, and exhorts them to follow Him (1, 10, 27, 34). Further we learn the fulness of the resources in Christ for those who follow Him in the path of separation. Their needs are met (1-9); opposers are silenced (10-13); spiritual vision is given to see all things clearly (14-26). Moreover while we are warned that to follow Christ through a world from which He is rejected, will entail suffering, reproach, and present loss, we are also encouraged by the prospect of the glory of the Kingdom to which the path of suffering leads. If we suffer with Him. we shall also reign with Him.

(Vv. 1-9). The former miracle in which the Lord fed the five thousand, had a distinctly dispensational bearing, as it became a solemn witness that the One the nation rejected was their true Messiah. It is immediately followed by the Lord taking a place on the mountain as intercessor, while His disciples are left to face the opposition of the world - a picture, surely of Christ's present service on high on behalf of His people.

This second miracle of feeding the multitude has a more distinctly moral significance as setting forth, not only the resources that are in the Lord to meet the needs of His people, but also the compassion of His heart that feels for those whose needs He meets. The disciples do not come to the Lord, as in the former miracle, calling His attention to the people's needs. Here everything proceeds from the Lord. He sees the need; He calls the disciples to Himself; He brings before them His compassion; He sets the people in rest, making them to sit down; He takes what is to hand, and giving thanks for it, distributes it to the people through the disciples, and thus satisfies their need.

Let us remember that He is the same today. He knows our needs, and has the heart to love and the hand to nourish and cherish His people ( Eph_5:23 ; Eph_5:25 ; Eph_5:29 ). Too often, like the disciples, we feel the need and the utter inadequacy of the little we have to meet it. If, however, like the Lord, we bring our little into touch with heaven and give thanks for it, should we not find that God can make it go a long way, and not only meet our need, but even have something in hand?

(Vv. 10-13). On a previous occasion when the disciples entered a ship, the Lord went up into a mountain to intercede for them ( Mar_6:45-47 ). On this second occasion the Lord went "with His disciples," setting forth the further truth that, He is not only for us on high, but, with us to support us in the storms of life, and in meeting the opposition of the enemy. This opposition is ever directed against Christ: so we read that having come to land the Pharisees "began to dispute against Him" (N. Tr.). Already signs in abundance had been given- therefore to ask for a further sign only betrayed the enmity and unbelief of the flesh. The wickedness of man, however, became an occasion for revealing the perfection of the heart of Christ. Their malicious opposition aroused no angry resentment in the Lord, as too often some little opposition may do with ourselves. With Him it was met with feelings of sorrow and pity, for we read, "He sighed deeply in His spirit." He asks the searching question, "Why doth this generation seek after a sign?" Signs are of no avail, and proofs useless, to those who, moved by malice refuse to believe. Such seal their own doom, for we read that the Lord "left them and . . . departed to the other side." Solemn, indeed when men leave the Lord; but how far more terrible the condition of those from whom the Lord departs.

(Vv. 14-21). Upon entering the ship the second time we learn that the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and what was more serious had forgotten the grace and power of the Lord that had met the needs of hungry multitudes. Occupied with their material needs they fail to understand the warning of the Lord against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. Though associated with Christ in a path apart from the corrupt world, they were, as with believers today, in danger of being leavened with the time-serving spirit of the political world which marked the Herodians, or the form of godliness without the power that marked the Pharisees.

As so often with ourselves, the disciples reason about the Lord's words and miss their spiritual import by materialising them and seeking to reduce hem to the level of the human understanding. The Lord rebukes them for heir lack of spiritual perception, and short memory of His grace and power. He asks some searching question which we may well address to ourselves. "Why reason ye?" Why "perceive ye not yet, neither understand?" "Have ye your heart yet hardened?" "Do ye not remember?"

Instead of facing facts, and listening to the truth, we, at times "reason"; and our natural reasoning obscures our spiritual understanding. Behind the darkness of nature there is, too often, the hardness of heart which comes from so quickly forgetting the grace and love of His heart - we do "not remember". These searching questions have a voice for all believers, for they were uttered, not to opposers, but, to true disciples.

(Vv. 22-26). The case of the blind man clearly sets forth the difference between the nation and the disciples. The nation, as such, were in total blindness. The disciples, though true believers in the Lord, at that time lacked spiritual intelligence. They saw but dimly His Divine glory. They recognised and owned Him as the true Messiah, but their Jewish prejudices, and habits of thought hindered them from seeing fully His further glories as the Son of Man and Son of God. For this they needed to be wholly separated from the nation; and hence the significance of the Lord's act in leading the man out of the town, as before He had taken the deaf and dumb man aside from the multitude.

At the first touch the man's sight was received, but he had not at once the skill to use the sight. He said, "I see men as trees walking." The disciples were in like condition spiritually. They were hindered from discerning the glory of the Lord by having an exalted sense of the greatness and importance of man. We need, not only the grace that gives sight, but the further grace to use the sight that we may see "every man clearly" - to see men as they really are, and to see ourselves in all our weakness, and above all to see Jesus in all His perfection.

The Lord sends the man to his house. He was not to return to the town, nor tell it to any in the town. The time for testimony to the nation at large was over.

(Vv. 27-33). The discourse of the Lord with His disciples that follows, shows, not only the unbelief of the natural man, but how little the true disciples discerned His true mission and glory. The great test question then, as now, is "Who do men say that I am?" All glory for God and blessing for man turns upon the Person of Christ. It becomes manifest that mere human intelligence will never arrive at the truth. The men of that day included many scholars with great intellectual abilities, nevertheless all their thoughts about Christ ended in speculation and uncertainty. Some said He was John the Baptist, others that He was Elias, others again that He was one of the prophets. None arrived at the truth. In contrast we see in Peter the result of simple faith in one that was an ignorant and unlearned man when measured against the intellectual leaders of this world. Faith does not speculate or reason, but with the utmost certainty arrives at the truth, for faith is the gift of God. Thus Peter can say, "Thou art the Christ."

The Lord charged them that they should tell no man of Him. He had been rejected by the nation, so His position as the Messiah is for the time set aside and the Lord takes the wider title of Son of Man which leads to greater glories than earthly dominion in connection with Israel, for as Son of Man He will have universal dominion over all created things. But before He can take His place as Son of Man with all things put in subjection under Him, and exercise His grace towards all men, He must go into death, accomplish redemption and break the power of Satan, death and the grave. With the cross in view He began to teach His disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected and killed, and after three days rise again. Of this great truth the time had come to speak openly to the disciples, and no longer in parables.

At once it becomes manifest that though the disciples had true faith in Christ, yet, like the man with the partially recovered sight they but dimly discerned the glory of the Lord as the Son of Man. Peter could not endure the thought that His Master and Lord should be despised and rejected of men, and so rebuked the Lord. Knowing the effect that Peter's words would have upon the disciples, the Lord, looking upon them, "Rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me Satan: for thy mind is not on the things that be of God, but the things that be of men." (N. Tr.). How solemn that, as true believers, it is possible to make statements with the utmost sincerity which come from Satan. Peter may have thought he was only expressing a loving sentiment for His Master; actually he was doing the work of Satan by seeking to turn the Lord from the path of obedience to the Father's will, and casting a stumbling block in the way of the disciples. He was viewing all from a merely human standpoint. At the moment he saw men as trees walking.

(Vv. 34-38). The Lord having called the people unto Him, with His disciples, leads their thoughts from "the things that be of men" by instructing them in the mind of God. If they would follow Him into the new world of blessing and glory that He was opening up as the Son of Man, they must be prepared for His position of suffering and rejection in this world. Here it is no question of expiatory suffering when forsaken by God, but of meeting the contradiction of sinners and suffering from the hands of men, in which, in some little measure, believers can share even to a martyr's death. To follow Christ in a world from which He has been rejected will mean that self must be denied, the present life let go, and the world refused. But whatever the path involves in this world, it leads to the day of glory when the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.

Contemplating the Lord Jesus as presented in this chapter, we see Him in the outside place with His own, having a perfect knowledge of our needs, with a heart that feels for us in our needs, and a hand that provides or our needs. Moreover to follow Him will mean that we, not only walk where He walked - in the outside place, but that we walk as He walked. In our little measure we shall have hearts moved with compassion for the needs of others; we shall give thanks for God's mercies, and we shall meet the opposition of those who dispute against us, in no spirit of resentment, but with sorrow of heart. We, too, shall deny ourselves, accept the path of reproach, refusing the life here and the present evil world, while looking on to the glory of the world to come, even as He, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God ( Heb_12:2-3 ).

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Mark 8". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/mark-8.html. 1832.
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