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MARK CHAPTER 8
Mark 8:1-9 Christ miraculously feedeth four thousand persons.
Mark 8:10-13 He refuseth the Pharisees a sign.
Mark 8:14-21 He warns his disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod, and explains his meaning.
Mark 8:22-26 He giveth a blind man sight.
Mark 8:27-30 The people’s opinions, and Peter’s confession, of him.
Mark 8:31-33 He foreshows his own death, and rebukes Peter for dissuading him from it.
Mark 8:34-38 He shows his followers that they must deny themselves, and not be ashamed of him and his gospel.
These verses give us an account of another miracle wrought by our Saviour, of the same nature with the one which we had in Mark 6:30-44; only there five thousand (besides women and children) were fed with five loaves and two fishes, here four thousand are fed with seven loaves and a few fishes; there twelve baskets full of fragments were taken up, here but seven. We meet with the same history in Matthew 15:32-38;
See Poole on "Matthew 15:32", and following verses to Matthew 15:38. Both miracles testified Christ to have acted by a Divine power, and were certainly wrought to prove that the doctrine which he delivered to them was from God; both of them show the compassion that he had for the sons of men, showed to them not only with relation to their spiritual, but also to their corporal wants and infirmities. In both of them is commended to us, from his great example, the religious custom of begging a blessing upon our food when we sit down to it, and receiving the good creatures of God with thanksgiving. From both of them we may learn, in the doing of our duty, not to be too solicitous what we shall eat, or what we shall drink. God will some way or other provide for those who neglect themselves to follow him. From both we may also learn our duty to take a provident care to make no waste of the good things which God lends us. These are the chief things this history affords us for our instruction.
Matthew saith, he came into the coasts of Magdala; it is probable they were two contiguous tracts of land. We often read of the Pharisees coming to our Saviour to ask a sign. Had they not signs? What were all the miracles he wrought but signs of his Divine power and mission? But they ask for a sign from heaven, such a sign as Moses, Joshua, and Elijah gave them, by this means making a trial of his Divine power. Our Saviour, who never wrought miracles to satisfy men’s curiosity, but only to confirm their faith, refuseth to show them any such sign as they desired, and leaves these coasts.
We met with this whole history, with some additions, in Matthew 16:5-12;
See Poole on "Matthew 16:5", and following verses to Matthew 16:12. It teacheth us both a lesson of human frailty, and what is our Christian duty: of our frailty, in not considering the works of the Lord for us, so as to make any use of them for the time to come. God doth his great works of providence to he had in remembrance, and that not only with respect to himself, that he might be glorified by us upon the remembrance of them, and this not only by our rejoicing in him, but also by our trusting in him, and not desponding under such like difficulties as God by any of them hath delivered us from. And also with respect to our duty, that we might in present exigences relieve ourselves from former experiences: and if we do not thus conceive of God’s dispensations, we do not perceive, nor understand, the meaning and will of God in them; though we have eyes we see not, though we have ears we hear not, and in remembering we remember not, our remembrance is of no benefit, no advantage at all unto us. Our Saviour, indeed, did not at all speak here of bodily bread; though he did bid them beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, he spake to them about the doctrine of the Pharisees, and so Matthew tells us they (after this reproof) considered, though he (after his accustomed manner) spake to them under a parabolical expression. Saith he: What though you have forgotten to bring bread, do not you know, have not I, by two miraculous operations, taught you that I am able to furnish you with bread, though you have none, or such a quantity as is very insufficient? God expects of us that we should so keep in mind his former dispensations of providence to us, under straits and difficulties, as to trust in him when his providence brings us again into the like difficulties, yet not declining the use of any reasonable and just means for providing for ourselves. Thus David knew, and understood, that God had delivered him from the lion and the bear, while going against Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:31-58; he made it a ground of his confidence: so also Psalms 116:8; and Paul, when he concluded God would deliver because he had delivered. God, when he brake the heads of leviathan in pieces, gave him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness, Psalms 74:14; he intends former mercies to be food for his people in following straits and exigences.
This miracle is only mentioned by Mark particularly, possibly because of two singularities in it:
1. With reference to the signs he used.
2. With reference to the gradual cure.
Our Saviour sometimes used some signs in his miraculous operations, sometimes he used none, but by the word of his power alone healed them; in the signs he used, to let the people understand there was nothing in them, he often varied; sometimes he laid his hands upon them, sometimes he took them by the hand, sometimes he used one sign, sometimes another. Here:
1. He takes the blind man by the hand.
2. He leads him out of the town, the inhabitants being not worthy to see a miracle: it was one of the cities upbraided by our Saviour for their impenitency and unbelief; Matthew 11:21.
3. He spit on his eyes: so Mark 7:33.
4. Then he twice put his hands on him.
Christ was wont to heal at once; here he healeth by degrees; so as the healing of this blind man was a true pattern of his healing spiritual blindness, which usually is done gradually, but perfected at last as this bodily cure was.
Herod, and those that followed him, judged Christ to be John the Baptist raised from the dead, or to have the soul of John the Baptist clothed with other flesh. Others conceived him to be Elias, of whom they were in expectation that he should come before the Messias. Others thought he was Jeremias, as Matthew saith, or one of the old prophets; they could not tell what to determine of one who appeared to them in the shape of a man, but did such things as none could do, but the Divine power either immediately, or mediately, putting forth itself in a human body.
Luke reports no more of this than Mark, but Matthew reports it much larger, giving us a further reply of Christ to Peter; See Poole on "Matthew 16:15", and following verses to Matthew 16:20, which we have there discoursed largely upon. I shall only say here; That if so great a point as Peter’s primacy had been understood by Christ’s disciples of that age to have been settled by that answer of our Saviour, it is likely two of the evangelists would not have omitted an account of it. If they had forgotten it, there is no doubt but some or other of Christ’s disciples would have put them in mind of it. Our Saviour’s charge that they should tell no man of him, seemeth to him, that although our Saviour was willing to be taken notice of as a prophet, yet he was not willing as yet to be taken notice of as the Messiah, or Son of God, which latter Matthew reports as added to his confession; and perhaps both Mark and Luke, in their following words, give us the reason, for if we observe it, he immediately falls into a discourse of his suffering, and he might possibly think, that a weak faith of his Divine nature would be overthrown by the sight of his subsequent sufferings. So that he reserved the publication of himself to be the Son of God, until such time when (as the apostle said, Romans 1:4) he was declared so with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by his resurrection from the dead.
Our Lord is elsewhere said to have taught his disciples, according as they were able to bear, or to hear, what he spake unto them. He did not at the first teach them that he must suffer death: the doctrine of the cross of Christ was like new wine not fit to be put into old bottles; yet necessary to be taught them, lest when they saw it soon after they should have been offended, as indeed they were to some degree, notwithstanding the premonition they had of it. With the doctrine of his suffering, he joins also the doctrine of his resurrection the third day: so saith Matthew. Mark saith, after three days, meta, which seemeth to be a difference between the two evangelists, and also a difficulty, when it is certain that our Saviour did not lie three entire days in the grave. But either Mark reckons the time from his first being betrayed and apprehended, so it was after three days; and Matthew speaketh only of the time which he lay in the grave, that was but part of three days; or else it was the fault of our translators to translate μετα, after, because indeed it often so signifies, whereas it sometimes signifies in, which had better fitted this text, to make it agree with Matthew. This is Grotius’s and Beza’s observation, (see his notes on the text), and is abundantly justified by Matthew 27:64, where his adversaries desired of Pilate that the sepulchre might be made fast ἕως τῆς τρίτης ἡμέρας until the third day, because he had said while he was alive, μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστῆναι, After three days I will arise, which if they had understood of after the third day fully spent, they would not have petitioned that the sepulchre should have been made fast only until the third day, but it is plain they understood it the third day he would rise. So after three days here is, after the third day is come, not after the third day is past, which neither agrees with Matthew nor yet with the truth. If any desire further to make out this notion, he may read the learned Beza’s larger notes on this verse.
It is from hence manifest, that notwithstanding the confession of Peter, that he was the Christ, yet they had a very imperfect knowledge of the business of the redemption of man by the blood of Christ, and a very imperfect faith as to the hypostatical union of the Divine and human nature in the one person of the Redeemer; for had Peter known these things he would have seen a necessity of Christ’s dying and resurrection from the dead, in order to the redemption and salvation of man, and would neither have dissuaded our Saviour from it, nor doubted of the truth of what was spoken by him, who was the Truth, and could not lie. Our Saviour’s telling him ου φρονεις, thou savourest not, might have been more favourably translated, thou understandest not, or thou mindest not, and must not be understood of a total ignorance, or regardlessness, or not relishing, but of a partial knowledge, the want of a due regard to or saviour of the things of God. Thou preferrest thy carnal affection to me, and indulgest thine own desires, to the hinderance of the honour and glory of God, and the salvation of souls, which I came to purchase by these my sufferings, and so art a Satan; an adversary, to me, who came to fulfil the will of my Father, and must not therefore give the least ear to thee, who, in what thou sayest, dost but seek and take care to please thyself. This leadeth him to the following discourse.
Our Saviour hearing Peter so stumble at the news, he told him, and the rest, of the cross which himself was to endure; and taking notice of his exceeding fondness to gratify himself, to the prejudice of a far greater good, he now tells them the law of his discipleship, that as he was not to please himself, nor to decline afflictions for the gospel, so neither must any who would be his followers; they must all deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow him. And because this was a hard saying to flesh and blood, and what was to be their certain lot, he presseth it upon them by several arguments to the end of this chapter.
See Poole on "Matthew 10:38". See Poole on "Matthew 16:24".
We met with this argument twice in Matthew, to the notes upon which I refer the reader.
See Poole on "Matthew 10:39". Mark adds those words,
and the gospel’s, thereby teaching us that a suffering for the sake of the gospel, with therefore owning the propositions of it, or living up to the precepts, is by Christ accounted a suffering for Christ’s sake. ψυχην here must signify life, ( as it is translated), for a man cannot lose his soul for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s. The meaning is, He that will deny and abandon me and my gospel, out of a desire to save his temporal life, shall lose it, or at least shall lose his soul’s portion in a better life. But he that is willing to lose his life, or will run the hazard of it, for my sake, for his owning and professing me, and the faith of my gospel, or living up to the rules, shall either save it in specie, by the special workings of my providence for him, delivering him out of his persecutors’ hands, or shall be recompensed with an eternal life, of much more value.
Luke saith, if he lose himself and be cast away. Though ψυχην was rightly translated life in the former verse, the sense justifying that translation of it there, yet here it is as truly translated soul; for there are many things which men value in proportion with their lives, their honour, estates, nay, many value their lusts above their lives; and Christ himself here teacheth us that his disciples ought to value his honour and glory, and their steady profession of faith and holiness, above their life, because he that will lose his life shall save it. See the notes on these words, See Poole on "Matthew 16:26".
These words occurring twice in Matthew, Matthew 10:33; Matthew 16:27, have been before spoken to:
See Poole on "Matthew 10:33". See Poole on "Matthew 16:27". Luke repeats them most perfectly, as here they are recorded. Mark expounds Luke’s words, where he saith that Christ shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. By the glory of the holy angels is meant no more than attended by the holy angels, according to Matthew 13:41, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and other scriptures. Matthew saith, Matthew 16:27, For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works: and Matthew 10:33, Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. There are two passions which prevail upon men to make them apostatize in a day of temptation, fear and shame. The first prevailed upon Peter, in the high priest’s hall. The second we find no instance of any good man guilty of in holy writ, and it most certainly argues a rotten and a corrupt heart. When men think it beneath their honour and quality to own the despised and maligned truth and ways of God, this is not only a denial of Christ, but the most inexcusable denial of him. Nor can any such persons look for any thing less at the hands of Christ, than that he should think it much more beneath his honour and dignity in the day of judgment to own them.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Mark 8". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17