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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Mark 8

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

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Verses 1-9

Mark 8:1-9

In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat.

Christ knows and supplies our need

A little lad, during the American war, was his widowed mother’s comfort and joy. One day, as the poor woman was trying to scrape the flour from the sides and bottom of the barrel to help out the day’s supply, the lad cried, “Mother, we shall have some more very soon, I know! “Why do you say so, my boy?” asked the mother. “Why, because you’ve got to scraping the barrel. I believe God always hears you scraping the barrel, and that’s a sign to Him you want another.” And before the day was over the fresh supply had come.

Feeding the people

I. Now we read that some of our foremost scientists-men of learning and research, and I am not here to say one word against them or their noble labours-have, as it were, if not formally, tacitly agreed to banish God from His own creation. They continually declare we have nothing to do with God. He is the Unknown, and must remain forever Unknowable; we are Agnostics, we know nothing of Him. We summarise in a few words the net results of the development theory as applied to the food of man. Within the last ten years special investigations have been directed to the origin and growth of corn. I cannot now indicate the course and scope of these researches more than to say that we have two ways or prosecuting the inquiry-by the records of history, and by the deposits of geology. And their teachings in fine amount to this. Wheat has never been found in a wild state in any country in the world, nor in any age. It has no development, no descent. It has always been found under the same conditions as it is now-always under the care and cultivation of man-never existed where man did not cultivate it. Moreover, it has never been found in a fossil state. So, if we hearken to the teachings of geology, man existed long before his staff of life. The most minute investigations into the origin of wheat have failed to find it under any conditions in the least different from what it is with us today. The oldest grain of wheat in the world is in the British Museum, and this has been microscopically examined and subjected to the most searching analysis, but it is found to be in all respects exactly the same as the wheat you secured a fortnight ago in this parish in the Vale of Clwyd. So there has been no development within the records of history, and it has no existence in the deposits of geology. Again: the power and the means of perpetuating its own existence have been given to every living and growing thing, animal and vegetable, and this is carried on from age to age, without any interference on the part of man. The only great exception to this grand and beneficent law is the corn-the food of man. A crop of wheat left to itself, in any latitude or country, would, in the third or fourth year of its first planting, entirely disappear. It has no power to master its surrounding difficulties so as to become self-perpetuating. Thus it does not come under the law of the “survival of the fittest.” And what is still more singular-we have never more than a sufficient supply for some fourteen months or thereabouts, even after the most bountiful harvest, and it has been calculated that we are often within a week of universal starvation should one harvest totally fail. And how near this awful catastrophe we may have been this year even, God only knows. A shade too much, or a shade too little; and oh how little, and it might have been! And science informs us that the wheat has untold millions of enemies peculiar to itself. And no wonder it is a matter of universal rejoicings when another harvest has been scoured, and the farmer’s anxious labours have been crowned with success.

II. Man must work. And this is nowhere more evident than in the harvest. Man must plough and harrow, and sow and reap, and bind and gather into barns, and thresh and grind, and knead and bake, and the hundred and one other little things allotted as his honourable share in this grand concern; otherwise his body, with its mysterious relations to earth and sky, to time and eternity, to matter and spirit, will not receive the nourishment intended for its growth and work, though all the cycles of immensity were kept to shed their benign influences on field and meadow and homestead. And on the other hand, man may do all his part, and yet not one single grain could he gather into barn or rick if our heavenly Father did not cause the earth to revolve, the planets to move, the inconstant moon to wend its way along the star-bespangled firmament, the river to roll on its pebbly bed, the myriad laughing ocean in its cradle to ebb and flow, the entrancing landscapes of the sun-tinted clouds to sail in the balmy air, and the barriers of the dawn to be loosened that the golden rays of the lord of day may dance on the petals of the flowering wheat, and kiss the dew from the lips of the lily. Now sublimate this thought into the domain of the gospel, and you will have our part-our bodily and mental part, little though it be-in the spiritual and eternal life. For instance, you have power over your own limbs to come here to God’s house, to bow the knee, to blend your voice in psalm and litany, to kneel before the holy table and receive the visible symbols of His Divine presence, and demean yourselves in bodily and mental posture as men who feel that God is amongst you; but after all you will go away empty if the Holy Spirit be not here to carry the words from the lips of the preacher to the heart of the hearer, and your Holy Communion will be an ideal ceremony if God’s presence be not here to bless and satisfy the faithful worshipper. In one and the truest sense, all is of God, but He will not take you to heaven in spite of yourselves. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

III. These miracles are characteristic of our Lord Himself, His life, His work. Contrast this miracle of feeding the multitudes with our Lord’s refusal, at Satan’s bidding, to convert the stones of the desert into bread for His own sake. Our Lord’s temptations and sufferings and death were all for the sake of others-of us-of me a sinner-of the human family. (D. Williams.)

God’s food the only satisfaction

“And they were filled.” No true wealth except the harvest. All the gold and silver are simply means of exchange: they have a purchasing power; nothing is true wealth but the harvest. The harvest alone enriches, the harvest alone satisfies. If the harvest once failed, your gold and precious stones would soon become only so much dross to be flung away. Riches, pleasure, fame, empires even, do not satisfy; these things only increase the hunger of the soul, created to have its enjoyment and satisfaction in God alone. The food in which God is present alone satisfies. If God be here you will not go away empty. The Divine presence gives eternal satisfaction. “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life.” (D. Williams.)

Fragment gatherers

The apostles-the agents who were chosen to distribute amongst the multitudes the food which Jesus blessed-were privileged to gather the fragments. Oh, what precious fragments all who help to administer bread to the perishing souls receive back themselves! The preacher, the teacher, the district visitor, if their own hearts be in the right place, what lessons of encouragement, self-discipline, and mutual love! what precious fragments in the respect, gratitude, and affection from those amongst whom they minister, do they not receive! Virtue is its own reward. Do good, and the basket of fragments is yours. The less the material, the greater the number fed, the more fragments. Strange arithmetic! But it is the rule of three and practice of God. This is true of all lives. Those who have large means, and do but little, bare no fragments to gather. (D. Williams.)

How many loaves have ye

The miracle was made less startling, less striking, by the actual manner of performing it. The moment of its beginning was veiled. The first recipients took common bread. The multiplication was imperceptible. It was only reflection which would convince. The transition was so gradual from the natural to the supernatural, from the common into the miraculous, that careless or superficial observers might rise from the meal half unaware that a Divine hand had been working. In all this we see much that is Christlike. As no man (Prophecy said) should hear His voice in the streets, so no man should be forced to track His path in the self-manifestation of His glory. There was nothing glaring or for effect, nothing (as we should now say) sensational, even in His signs. Christ sought rather to show how alike, how consistent, are all God’s acts; those which He does every day in Providence, and those which He keeps commonly out of sight in grace. When that which began in eating common bread changed imperceptibly into eating food multiplied by miracle, that was a type of God’s “two worlds,” the one seen, the other unseen, yet each the counterpart and complement of the other, and separated each from each by the thinnest possible veil of present mystery. Christ might have wrought this miracle without asking for, without making use of, the seven loaves. But He did not. In like manner, Christ might now, in His Church and in His world, dispense with everything that is ours; might begin afresh. Instead He asks for the seven loaves that we have. The applications of this truth are many and various.

I. We see it in inspiration. When it pleased God to give us a book of light, it was in His power to have made it all His own. But the human element mixes with the Divine. Bring forth all your gifts, such as they are, of understanding and culture and knowledge and utterance; bring them forth, all ye holy and humble men of heart, Moses and Samuel, David and Isaiah, Ezra and Ezekiel, Paul and John, Luke and Mark, Matthew and Peter; and then Christ, taking them at your hands, shall give them back to you blessed and blessing, to be to generations yet unborn the light of their life and the consolation of their sleep and of their awakening.

II. That which is true of the Book is true also of the life. “How many loaves have ye?” Christ puts that question to the young man, whose course is not yet shaped definitely towards this profession or that, and who would fain so pass through things temporal that he finally lose not the things eternal. Christ bids him to ponder with himself each particular of his character and of his history; gifts of nature and of education, gifts of mind and body, gifts of habit and inclination, gifts of connection and acquaintanceship, gifts of experience and self-knowledge; and to bring these, like a man-not standing idle because he has not heard or felt himself hired: not excusing himself from obeying because his loaves are but seven, or because they are coarse or stale or mouldy-but to bring them to Him who made and will bless. How many loaves have ye? Nothing? Not a soul? not a body? not time? not one friend, not one neighbour, not one servant, to whom a kind word may be spoken, or a kind deed done, in the name, for the love, of Jesus? Bring that-do that, say that-as what thou hast; very small, very trivial, very worthless, if thou wilt: yet remember the saying, “She hath done what she could.” There are others but too confident in their gifts and in their doings. It is not without its risk, even a life of charity, even a life of ministry. Are you quite sure, that, bringing out your seven loaves, you brought them to Christ for that blessing which alone gives increase? Nothing works of itself-nothing by human willing or human running-but only by the grace of Him who giveth liberally, and who showeth mercy. Most of all, that which would help Christ’s own work-to seek and to save that which is lost. “How many loaves have ye?” The question is asked of the man-it is asked also of the community. (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)

Wherever there is anything new, unusual, or exciting going on, there the crowd is sure to collect. These people were in distressing bodily want. It seems a little singular that this multitude should have so forgotten themselves, as to hurry out thus unprovided into the empty wilderness. We should never see half the distress we do, if people were only a little more considerate and thoughtful. But it was to the credit of these people that the distress they suffered was incurred by what was commendable. With a right appreciation of Christ, it would be no unwisdom to perish in following after Him, rather than to live in ease by forsaking Him. There was no relief for the multitude in the common course of things. But man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. And what a picture is thus given us of the tenderness and goodness of our Lord! Jesus pities people in want of bread for the body, as well as those in want of food for their souls. He enters into our temporal as well as spiritual needs. Nor was His compassion a mere empty sentiment. It stimulated to action. It exhibited itself in deed. It set to relieve the distress that stirred it. It would not be right to expect such interpositions as a common thing. God has His own ways for dealing out to men their daily bread, which must be regarded; but his resources are not limited. But there is method in this marvellous relief. “So they did eat.”

1. There were directions given which had to be obeyed. And so there are commands to be observed in order to get the bread of life. There must be a coming down, a sitting in the dust at Jesus’ feet, a humiliation of self to His orders ant institutes.

2. He took what the people had, and added His power and blessing to it, and thus furnished the requisite supplies. They had seven cakes and a few small fishes. Grace was never meant to supersede nature, but to work upon it, to help it, bless it, and augment it. God is a frugal economist. He never wastes what already exists. He is never prodigal in His creations. We have eyes, and ears, and hearts, and understanding wills, which can be of good service in our salvation. All that they need is to be brought to Christ, submitted to His handling, bathed in His words of blessing, and filled with His power, to serve most effectually.

3. But the food He furnished was given to these hungry ones only through second hands. The bread and the fishes He “gave to His disciples to set before them, and they did set them before the people.” Christ has appointed a ministry-an office which is filled by men, who, by His authority and command, are set apart and ordained to officiate between Christ and their fellows. And where there has been no ministry, there has been no salvation. The bread of life no man can have, until it is ministerially conveyed to him. Be it through the living voice, or the written page, or the solemn sacrament, that voice implies a speaker, that page a writer, that sacrament an administrator, who is God’s appointed agent for the carrying of it to him who gets it. (J. A. Seiss, DD.)

Faith in Christ helpful against hunger

There be those who make sport of the thought that faith in Christ can help against the pangs of hunger, or the pinchings of bodily need. That a religious sentiment should serve to put bread in the mouths of the destitute, is to them ridiculous. And even unfledged apostles are often in such unfaith as to be in perplexity and doubt if He who saves the soul can also feed the body. The world, in its wisdom, does not know Christ, and so it doubts Him, and laughs at trust in Him. Well-meaning people get wrong in their Christology, and it sets them wrong at every other point. Let men learn that Jesus is the Saviour of bodies, as well as of souls; that He is the Lord of harvests and of bread, as well as of moral precepts and spiritual counsels; that He lives not only in a system of doctrines and religious tenets, but also in sovereign potency over all the products of land and sea, as well as over all the hidden principles of production; that He is not only a marvellous prophet of truth who lived in the time long past, but also an enthroned king of the living present, swaying His potent sceptre over all worlds, all nations, and all affairs, and dispensing His comforts, blessings, and rebukes untrammelled by laws in nature or the economies of earth; and doubt will cease as to whether faith in Him may not bring bread to the destitute, as well as pardon to the guilty, or hope of heaven to the dying. (J. A. Seiss, DD.)

A picture of man’s life

In the desert of this world he is in continual want, hungering and thirsting in the midst of its transitory delights, and longing to be filled with food. Sin offers itself, and the world tempts him with its barren show, but these cannot satisfy. Only when he follows Christ, knowing that he is sick, and owning that he is blind in soul, and maimed in will, and attesting by his stedfastness in continuing with his Saviour the earnestness of his desire for the help which comes from above, will Christ give him that water which whosoever drinketh thereof shall never thirst, and that bread, even Himself, which came down from heaven. In this miracle we are taught-

1. The promptness with which Christ succours us. We see this in His providing bread before the multitude hungered, and in His care lest afterwards they should faint by the way.

2. The motive causes for all God’s mercies to us, viz., our needs and our dangers.

3. The true effects of God’s mercy-what He gives us is that true food which really satisfies, and which alone can satisfy, the whole nature of man. (W. Denton, M. A.)

The multitude fed

Christ came into personal contact with human wants and woes.

I. Some characteristics of this miracle as contrasted with others.

1. The desire to grant this blessing originated with Christ Himself. How comforting to know that He does not mete out His mercies in the scant measure of our prayers.

2. A striking instance of prevention, rather than cure. From how many ills unthought of, dangers unseen, woes unimagined, are we daily delivered by the preventing grace of God.

3. Human intervention employed. Christ the source of supply; the disciples privileged to dispense His bounty.

4. Unbelief in the innermost circle of disciples.

5. A vast multitude were benefited.

II. The miracle itself.

1. Illustrates Christ’s care for the bodies of men.

2. The abundance of God’s bounty. The more we feed upon Christ, the Bread of Life, the more there is to feed upon.

3. The need of daily feeding on Christ. The miracle falls short here. To feed once for all is not sufficient. It is because they think it is that so many are spiritually sickly and weak. (R. W. Forrest, M. A.)

On the encouragement which the gospel affords to active duty

I. One singular feature in the character of our Lord-His superiority to all the selfish passions of our nature. This miracle demonstrated His power over nature, and taught those who witnessed it that if His kingdom were of this world He possessed the power to maintain it. They would naturally wish to assemble under such a Leader. It is at this moment, when all the vulgar passions of hope and ambition were working in the minds of the multitude, “that He sends them away;” to show them that His kingdom was spiritual.

II. The character of His religion. The systems of pretended revelation which prevail in the world encourage either superstition or enthusiasm, and have often separated piety from morality. They have drawn men from the sphere of social duty to unmeaning devotions. Christ assembles the multitude that He may instruct them.

III. We are the multitude described in this passage of the Gospel. We have heard that there was a great Prophet come into the world tot the purpose of spiritual improvement. He has spread before us, in the wilderness of human life, that greater feast, of spirit and of mind, which may save us “from fainting on our way.” The services we are called to perform in the cause of humanity. “That they who had eaten were about four thousand.” The number who have this day approached the same Lord, and heard the same accents of salvation, are countless millions of the family of God. (A. Alison, LL. B.)

Satisfaction for the food in the wilderness

I. Satisfaction. Is not the Church tired out, fainting? Is not the world a wilderness to you? Does not the Spirit of God make you feel the nothingness of everything upon earth? Christ the only satisfaction.

II. The thing that satisfies a man. Bread.

III. The place where these individuals were to have that satisfaction. (J. J. West, M. A.)

Second miracle of feeding the multitude

It could hardly have been without some special reason that the same miracle should have been worked twice by Christ with scarcely any variation of detail, and twice recorded with so very great attention to detail. In each case, too, Christ Himself drew from the miracle teaching of the highest importance. Notice these points of similarity.

I. In each case Jesus, beholding the multitude of people, has compassion on them. That is the origin and source of help for man. Because of His compassion-

1. He came from heaven to earth to bring to famishing men the Bread of Life.

2. He sends to us His Church, by and through the ministry of which He gives us all the means of grace. He takes just what we have, water, bread, wine-all insufficient of themselves-and by His power makes them more than sufficient for our needs.

3. He looks at us not in the mass, but one by one. It is the individual soul which is the factor in the mind of God.

II. In each case, before working the miracle, He draws from the disciples a declaration of their inability to supply unassisted that which was needed.

III. In each case He takes, nevertheless, that which they have, and makes it sufficient. “How many loaves have ye?” “Seven.”

1. The gift of baptismal grace-the germ of all graces.

2. The seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit, bestowed in confirmation.

3. The Holy Communion.

4. All the means of grace. The Word of God. Opportunities of public worship.

5. The power of repentance.

6. The gift of prayer.

7. The ministry of the Church.

So that we have, after all, a great deal: if we use these gifts faithfully, by God’s blessing they will more than suffice for the wants of our souls.

IV. In each case He commanded the multitude to sit down. We must come to receive God’s blessing obediently, quietly, calmly. Need of this lesson in a busy, energetic age, so restless and so excited. We need more repose of mind and character. It is good to be “up and doing,” but there are times when it is well for us to sit still. The life most free from feverish excitement is the life most likely to profit by God’s gifts.

1. “Sit down” before you say your prayers, if you would really have them answered. Recall your thoughts, be patient and quiet and humble, try to remember to Whom you are about to speak, and what it is you are going to ask, what you really need.

2. “Sit down” before your acts of public worship. Let there be more restfulness about your worship, more repose of thought, more concentration of thought on what you are about to do.

3. “Sit down” before each communion you make (1 Corinthians 11:28).

(1) Let me calmly, honestly, and thoughtfully look into my past life, especially examining that part of it that has been lived since my last communion.

(2) Let me see where I am, and what I am.

(3) Let me try my best to see my sins as they really are, and as they are recorded in God’s book.

(4) Let me truly repent of past sins, and make my humble confession to God, honestly purposing amendment of life.

V. In each case, either at His command or with His approval, the fragments are gathered up. God’s gifts, whether temporal or spiritual, are never to be wasted. He gives with a splendid liberality, but only in order that His gifts may be used. Gather up-

1. Fragments of time.

2. Fragments of opportunities.

3. Fragments of temporal goods.

4. Fragments of prayer, repentance, worship, grace. (Canon Ingram.)

Divine law of increase

Usually a single man needed three of these loaves for a meal, and here were more than a thousand supplied by each loaf. Nobody can tell how it was done, any more than we can understand how God began to make the world when there was nothing anywhere. It may be objected that the Lord does not feed us now in this way; that, if we want bread, we must work for it. But think about it, and you will see His power and kindness just as plainly in giving us food in reward for our labour. We plant single kernels of grain, and God makes each one grow into a great many. What is this but another way of multiplying the loaves? How hard and dead the seed looks when we put it into the ground. The rain and the sun find it there, and the yearly wonder begins. The seed swells and bursts; a wee pale root comes out and goes down into the earth; another shoots up to the surface. They look very tiny and weak, but a microscope shows that the tender cells are protected by tough coverings, sometimes even by particles of flint along the edges, so that they can push their way through the earth. One acre of soil, three inches deep, weighs a million pounds, and all that is stirred and lifted by these growing fibres. Up come the stalks, straight and slender, yet so tough and elastic that when the wind blows they can bend clear to the ground, and then spring back again, as the strongest tree can hardly do. Soon a spike of tiny flowers appears on top, then a cluster of kernels, and at last the whole gets yellow and ripe. Is not this work of God’s stranger and more beautiful than turning one piece of bread into a thousand just like it? (C. M. Southgate.)

So they did eat, and were filled

In the original it is, “They were fed to satisfaction.” That such a result followed, was the consequence of their being fed by Him alone who satisfies the empty soul, and filleth the hungry soul with gladness. There is need to be reminded of this in an age when men are pointed to other sources of satisfaction-to education, to culture, and to refinement, and bidden to find their highest enjoyment in these and such-like pursuits. If they bear no reference to Him towards whom all that is noblest and best in nature and art is designed to lead us, they will turn out to be but broken cisterns that hold no water. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

Help in extremity

May we not learn from this miracle how Christ will exercise acts of special providence to help and succour those who are following Him? Dean Hook mentions a striking instance of this. There was an individual who gave up a profitable employment, acting under advice, and not from the mere caprice of his own judgment, because he thought, taking his temptations into account, he could not follow it without peril to his soul. And after many reverses he was reduced to such a state of distress that the last morsel in the house had been consumed, and he had not bread to give his children. His faith did not, however, forsake him; and when his distress was at its height, he received a visit from one who called to pay him a debt he had never hoped to recover, but the payment of which enabled him to support his family until he again obtained employment.

Man’s food supply

The question of the disciples has been the natural question of all thinkers at all times. The foremost difficulty to be encountered everywhere is the difficulty of getting daily bread for self or others in this wilderness, this land of thorns and thistles. We, indeed, raised above our fellows by centuries of civilization, only partially feel the direct pressure of bodily hunger, only occasionally realize the paramount necessity which governs the life of man-the necessity of procuring food. But, in fact, a vast proportion of all human effort and anxiety is directed to this one point; whatever else is left undone, this must be bone: only if there is any time and vigour over when daily bread is secured can it be spent on other things, on comforts and adornments for the body, on learning and improvement for the mind. There is, perhaps, no animal that has to spend so large a part of his time in procuring the food he needs as man. And when he has got it, it will not satisfy him as their daily food will satisfy the other creatures. No sooner is he filled than he finds out that man cannot live by bread alone; that he cannot be satisfied from any earthly stores; that he wants something more, and has another kind of hunger. This is, of course, because God has made him with a soul as well as a body, and has so made this soul and body that each requires its own proper food. Indeed, we must acknowledge that we are the most dependent of all creatures; we cannot go a few hours without suffering pangs of hunger, which must be stilled at any cost or risk, or else we die; and when this craving is appeased, then the hunger of the soul awakes, and it demands to be satisfied with something-it knows not what, perhaps; for God has made us for Himself, mede us to be satisfied with nothing less than Himself, made us to be entirely dissatisfied and discontented without Himself. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

This world a wilderness

Men often talk about this life as being a wilderness, and they are right; but do you know why, and in what sense? What is the wilderness to which our earthly life is like, the wilderness in which our Lord worked this and other miracles? Is it a great howling expanse of sand and rock, with nought but blazing earth below and blazing sky above? Is it the vast and terrible desert, where fiery death pursues the steps of the unhappy traveller, where doleful creatures cry, and whitening bones lie all about? If this were the wilderness, then would our life be very unlike one. The wildernesses of Palestine, like “the bush” in Australia, are not by any means always barren, or ugly, or desolate: often they are very beautiful, and very productive; only, their beauty and productiveness are so uncertain, so unreliable, so disappointing, that no one can live there or make his home there-unless, indeed, he receives his supplies from somewhere else. Now, our life is lust like the wilderness in this sense: very often it is full of beauty, of grace, of life, of promise; there are times when every element of hope and contentment seems present in abundance. But all this beauty and promise will not satisfy the soul of man, however much it may please his fancy and his taste. Suppose you found yourself in the wilderness among the grasses and flowers, could you feed on them? Could you sustain life on them? No; however lovely and luxuriant they might be, however grateful as elements in a landscape, they would not appease your hunger; your limbs would grow weak, your eyes would fail, your head would swim, and you would fall and starve and die amongst the dewy grasses and the many-coloured flowers. Even so would it be if you tried to satisfy your immortal souls with the pleasures and beauties, and joys and riches, of this life. We should be other than human if we did not like them, we should be very ungrateful if we did not give thanks for them-but, all the same, we cannot be satisfied with them; the old craving would return-we should feel ourselves discontented, miserable, perishing, amidst all the abundance of this world. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

God alone can satisfy

It is easy enough to please people in the wilderness it you go at the right time; the beauty of the landscape, the buoyancy of the air, the exhilarating sense of freedom and expanse-all these are delightful. It is easy to amuse people in the wilderness, with so many new things to be looked at and admired; it is easy to lead them on further and further from home, into a region where there are no barriers and few landmarks. But to satisfy them-that we cannot do; that can only be done, in the wilderness, by the Divine power of Christ, He only can feed the myriads of famishing souls which, even in listening to His words, have only felt their hunger growing keener. He can and will, and it makes no difference to Him how many the people, how few the loaves, they shall all be satisfied and go home in the strength of that food; He can and will, and it makes no difference to Him how many millions of souls are waiting upon Him for spiritual food-how feeble, apparently, and paltry the means of grace by which He designs to feed them. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

Scattering yet increasing

Good husbandry does not grind up all the year’s wheat for loaves for one’s own eating, but keeps some of it for seed, to be scattered in the furrows. And if Christian men will deal with the great love of God, the great work of Christ, the great message of the gospel, as if it were bestowed on them for their own sakes only, they will have only themselves to blame if holy desires die out in their hearts, and the consciousness of Christ’s love becomes faint, and all the blessed words of truth come to sound far off and mythical in their ears. The standing water gets green scum on it. The close-shut barn breeds weevils and smut. Let the water run. Fling the Seed broadcast. Thou shalt find it after many days-bread for thy own soul. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The conditions of increase

The condition of increase is diffusion. To impart to others is to gain for oneself. Every honest effort to bring some other human heart into conscious possession of Christ’s love deepens my own sense of its preciousness. If you would learn, teach. You will catch new gleams of His gracious heart in the very act of commending it to others. Work for God if you would live with God. Give the bread to the hungry, if you would have it for the food of your own souls. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Verses 10-23

Mark 8:10-23

Seeking of Him a sign from heaven, tempting Him.

Seeking sign

I. The unreasonableness of this request.

1. In other matters they were not scrupulous of evidence-tradition.

2. They had the signs of the times-consisting in a combination of events giving fulfilment to their own Scriptures,

3. They had His miracles-unquestioned.

4. They had, even signs from heaven-At His baptism.

5. It was not evidence that was wanting.

6. Neither is it so yet.

II. The denial of their request.

1. Not because such a request would, in other circumstances, have been sinful. Gideon. Hezekiah.

2. But because it was unnecessary, it would not have convinced them, it was asked out of malice.

3. Our request must be for necessary things, from right motives.

III. According to the other evangelists, Christ pointed them to the sign of the prophet Jonas.

1. There are several points of resemblance between Christ and Jonas.

2. The point referred to by Christ was, no doubt, His resurrection. (Expository Discourses.)

The refusals of Christ

We often speak of what He gave: we might also speak of what He withheld. The words of the Old Testament are applicable to Jesus Christ: “No good thing will He withhold,” etc. The refusals of Jesus were governed by three considerations.

1. Religious curiosity is not to be mistaken for religious necessity.

2. Religious confidence is not to be won by irreligious ostentations.

3. Religious appeals are not to be addressed to the eye, but to the heart. In applying these points show what Christ gave in comparison with what He refused. He gave bread, sight, hearing, speech, health; He gave His life, yet He refused a sign! Understand that, in some cases, not to give a sign is in reality to give the most solemn and dreadful of all signs. (Dr. J. Parker.)

Tempting God

It is a wicked and sinful practice for any to tempt the Lord, i.e., to make unlawful and needless proof of His Divine attributes, such as Power, Providence, Justice, Mercy, etc. This sin is committed-

1. By limiting and restraining God’s actions to ordinary means and secondary causes: tying Him to these, as if without them He could not or would not perform those things which He has promised to the godly or threatened against the wicked.

2. By neglecting the ordinary means appointed by God for the good and preservation of our souls and bodies, and relying upon God’s extraordinary power and providence to provide for us. Apply this to such cases as-abandonment of earthly calling; needlessly exposing oneself to danger; rejecting the means of grace.

3. By living and going on in any sin contrary to the Word of God, thereby making proof of God’s patience, whether He will punish or wink at disobedience. (G. Petter.)

Modern doubt

I. First of all, we discover the same sycophancy of spirit among sceptics now as was noticeable among the ancient Jews. The significant question those people asked concerning Christ was, “Have any of the rulers believed on Him?”

1. One of the maxims of the Talmud was this: “My son, give more heed to the words of the rabbis than to the words of the law.” Thus they pressed human authority above inspiration, and exalted traditions above the revelation from God.

2. Our times are not much better. Little men appear to imagine their proportions are vaster when they stand in the awe-inspiring shadow of big men. Hence we find all the motley company of sceptics aping masterly leaders, and trying to make the majesty of their intellects show most impressively.

3. Rabbis (in this sense) ought not to count for much with Christian people: “One is our Master, even Christ.” What God’s children are examining is truth, and not men. It must be remembered that there never was a system of even confessed error, no matter how miserable or how vile, that did not for the time being have some able advocates. We do not need to go back to Marcion’s day, nor to Basilides’ day, to illustrate this. Gibbon was gifted, and Brigham Young was a man of power-and Satan himself was one of the brightest of God’s angels.

4. Meantime, the cry lifted as to the supreme ability of not a few of these leaders of modern scepticism might as well be toned down to moderation.

II. Next to this sycophancy of spirit, we discover that modern doubt has for its characteristic the same disposition to criticise God’s Word which prevailed in Herod’s time. Our Saviour’s charge was, “making the Word of God of none effect.”

1. Those Pharisees and Sadducees had only the Old Testament, but they kept picking at it. The general principle of interpretation was very frankly avowed in those days: “The Bible is like water, the traditions are like wine; but the commentaries are like wine which has been spiced.”

2. The modern attack is just like this. The combat with opposers is not now that of theological philosophy, but of biblical criticism.

3. It is impossible to stop the mouths of carpers. The apostles themselves had to deal with strong and inveterate opposers. There were persistent Pharisees and indefatigable Sadducees. Paul himself even could not put down these disputants at will so completely that they should not harangue the populace. He could refute every argument, and overturn every position; but when he had silenced sense they kept up the uproar. Thus they made their sorry exhibition at Ephesus (see Acts 19:32-34).

III. In the third place, modern doubt is characterized, like the ancient scepticism Jesus rebuked, by an aimless drifting into a series of continual disbeliefs. This was the ground for our Lord’s most terrible denunciation: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him two fold more the child of hell than yourselves.”

1. Those old sects seem all to have known this tendency to reckless wandering in speculation, for they tried to force a system of checks at each exposed point against free thinking.

2. This generation of doubters in our time are as wandering in their purposes, and quite as devoutly blind in their career. The moment one begins to question, that moment he begins to travel. Yet is it seriously to be doubted whether he is going ever to reach that portal of God’s truth he talks of so glibly.

3. There is no settled direction which modern scepticism chooses. If there were, we might welcome the drift as perhaps being in the line of the truth, and indicating progress. But it makes one think of the eddies over the meadows after a freshet; it is unsafe to try to sail because nobody knows the channel. A thoughtful man would like to know beforehand where he is going.

4. It is best, also, to settle the value of an argument drawn from an example.

IV. This thought will find a further illustration, when we go on to consider a fourth characteristic of modem doubt: namely, the extreme malignancy of temper with which those who turn from the Christian faith afterwards attack its defenders.

1. Renegades are always the most belligerent allies on the other side.

2. It is often to advantage to read up the antecedents of some of our most prominent unbelievers. “You know who the critics are?” asks a shrewd character in Lord Beaconsfield’s story; “they are the men who have failed in literature and art.” Find an extremely ill-tempered disputant anywhere nowadays, who begins with innuendo and continues with abuse, and the explanation may be given almost instinctively this man did not succeed in the old life, and is angrily trying to retrieve his fortunes by attracting attention in a new.

3. For the temper of unbelief is simple selfishness.

4. Hence, there is no safety in yielding even just a little. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Belief will not suffer itself to be divided. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Verse 14

Mark 8:14

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.


The leaven of the Pharisees

Our Lord’s warning against false doctrine.

I. A suggestive figure of speech. “Leaven.”

(1) A suggestive figure of the power of influence, good or bad.

(a) Aggressive.

(b) Subtle in its aggressiveness.

(c) Unless resisted, all-conquering in its subtlety.

(2) Our Lord’s suggestive use of this figure.

(a) To represent the powerful influence of erroneous doctrine.

(b) To represent the danger to which His disciples were exposed from erroneous doctrines, notwithstanding their superior advantages, arising from the instructions He gave them.

II. A suggestive example of the exercise of bad influence.

(1) Its agency. Pharisees.

(a) The secret of their power.

1. Their ecclesiastical, social, and political position.

2. Their great pretensions to piety-in fasting and prayer.

(2) Its method. Doctrine.

(a) Public teaching a great power for good or evil.

(b) As the respect felt for the Pharisees enhanced their power, so our respect for either the genius or supposed sincerity of a public teacher enhances his power.

(3) An imperative duty in view of this fact. “Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.” (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

The leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees

This caution was probably suggested by His late interview with the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

I. The doctrine of the Pharisees chiefly hinged upon two tenets.

1. Acceptance with God on the ground of legal performances.

2. The obligation of the tradition of the elders. These led to multiplied observances of a legal kind, pride and boasting, hypocrisy, laxity of morals.

II. The doctrines of the Sadducees, here called the leaven of Herod, were opposed to these. Notice only three, as having a practical influence. They denied-

1. The separate existence of the soul.

2. The resurrection of the dead.

3. The superintending providence of God.

These led to the removal of restraint to vicious indulgences. Sadduceeism characterized the generation which has disappeared. Phariseeism the present.

III. Their doctrines are compared to leaven.

1. They affect the whole character.

2. The whole mass of society. “Take heed,” etc. The one, sanctimoniousness; the other, licentiousness. (Expository Discourses.)

Verses 16-21

Mark 8:16-21

And they reasoned among themselves.

Nine sharp and pointed questions, turning the minds of the disciples back upon their own experience

Their reasonings very plainly and painfully proved how very little real benefit they had yet derived from intercourse with Christ. What a display of ignorance, forgetfulness, and unbelief! So it always has been in the history of God’s dealings with men. And so it is now, among ourselves, notwithstanding all the superior advantages we enjoy. How often do all of us misunderstand the meaning of our Master’s words! How often do we distrust His Providence! And why is this? The main reason is that we are forgetful of the lessons of experience. Like the first disciples, we do not thoughtfully and prayerfully ponder what He has taught us, and what He has done for us. Consider the days of old. Remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee. Gather up into the basket of memory all the fragments of the past, carry them along with you, and make use of them day by day as occasion may require. (A. Thomson.)

Seeing, hearing, and understanding

“The first time I went to a Christian missionary,” said a Chinese evangelist, “I took my eyes. I stared at his hat, his umbrella, his coat, his shoes, the shape of his nose, and the colour of his skin and hair; but I heard not a word. The next time I took my ears as well as my eyes, and was astonished to hear the foreigner talk Chinese. The third time, with eyes and ears intent, God touched my heart, and I understood the gospel.”

How is it that ye do not understand?-

Understanding prevented

With the disciples, as with the rich youth, it was things that prevented the Lord from being understood. Because of possession the young man had not a suspicion of the grandeur of the call with which Jesus honoured him. He thought he was hardly dealt with to be offered a patent of heaven’s nobility-he was so very rich! Things filled his heart; things blocked up his windows; things barricaded his door; so that the very God could not enter. His soul was not empty, swept, and garnished, but crowded with meanest idols, among which his spirit crept about upon its knees, wasting on them the gazes that belonged to his fellows and his Master. The disciples were a little further on than he; they left all and followed the Lord; but neither had they yet got rid of things. The paltry solitariness of a loaf was enough to hide the Lord from them, to make them unable to understand Him. Why, having forgotten, could they not trust? Surely if He had told them that for His sake they must go all day without food, they would not have minded! but they lost sight of God, and were as if either He did not see, or did not care for them. In the former case it was the possession of wealth, in the latter the not having more than a loaf, that rendered incapable of receiving the Word of the Lord: the evil principle was precisely the same. If it be things that slay you, what matter whether things you have, or things you have not? The youth, not trusting in God, the source of his riches, cannot brook the word of His Son, offering him better riches, more direct from the heart of the Father. The disciples, forgetting who is Lord of the harvests of the earth, cannot understand His Word, because filled with the fear of a day’s hunger. He did not trust in God as having given; they did not trust in God as ready to give. We are like them when, in any trouble, we do not trust Him. It is hard on God, when His children will not let Him give; when they carry themselves so that He must withhold His hand, lest He harm them. To take no care that they acknowledge whence their help comes, would be to leave them worshippers of idols, trusters in that which is not. (G. Macdonald, LL. D.)

The lessons of trivial loss

Let me suggest some possible parallels between ourselves and the disciples, maundering over their one loaf-with the Bread of Life at their side in the boat. We, too, dull our understandings with trifles, fill the heavenly spaces with phantoms, waste the heavenly time with hurry. To those who possess their souls in patience come the heavenly visions. When I trouble myself over a trifle, even a trifle confessed-the loss of some little article, say-spurring my memory, and hunting the house, not from immediate need, but from dislike of loss; when a book has been borrowed of me and not returned, and I have forgotten the borrower, and fret over the missing volume, while there are thousands on my shelves, from which the moments thus lost might gather treasures, holding relation with neither moth, nor rust, nor thief; am I not like the disciples? Am I not a fool whenever loss troubles me more than recovery would gladden? God would have me wise, and smile at the trifle. Is it not time I lost a few things when I care for them so unreasonably? This losing of things is of the mercy of God; it comes to teach us to let them go. Or have I forgotten a thought that came to me, which seemed of the truth, and a revealment to my heart? I wanted to keep it, to have it, to use it by and by, and it is gone! I keep trying and trying to call it back, feeling a poor man till that thought be recovered-to be far more lost, perhaps in a notebook, into which I shall never look again to find it! I forget that it is live things God cares about-live truths, not things set down in a book, or in a memory, or embalmed in the joy of knowledge, but things lifting up the heart, things active in an active will. True, my lost thought might have so worked; but had I faith in God, the Maker of thought and memory, I should know that, if the thought was a truth, and so alone worth anything, it must come again; for it is in God-so, like the dead, not beyond my reach; kept for me, I shall have it again. (G. Macdonald, LL. D.)

Verses 22-26

Mark 8:22-26

And He cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto Him.

Blindness common in the East

Blindness was and is more common in Egypt and Syria than in any other part of the world. The glare of light, the dust which is produced by a dry season, extending from May to November, in which rain rarely falls, and the fruit of the newly ripe fig, all tend to produce inflammation of the eyes, and this, when severe or repeated, produces blindness. One-tenth of the population of Joppa today are blind. In a neighbouring town, Lydda, a traveller, probably exaggerating, said every other person was blind of one or both eyes. In Cairo, a city of 250,000 inhabitants, there are 4,000 blind. Accordingly, this was one of the commonest ills which the Saviour had to treat. (R. Glover.)

Sight for the blind

I. A symbol of the spiritual blindness of humanity.

II. A symbol of salvation by Divine contact.

III. A symbol of the progressive character of spiritual enlightenment.

IV. A symbol of the power of Christ to effect complete illumination. (J. R. Thomson, M. A.)

Christ’s method of dealing with individual souls

I. He isolates from disturbing influences. First with Christ, that afterwards he may be in Him.

II. He encourages and confirms faith. Personal contact and operation, and kindly words, evoking patient’s inner freewill and power.

III. He exacts implicit obedience. The first use of the restored vision is to avoid those upon whom the man had formerly depended-a hard task! The life Christ’s people are bidden to lead may not commend itself to their judgment or desire, but it is best for their spiritual interests; and if Christ is to be a complete Saviour, He must be an absolute and unquestioned Lord. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Curing spiritual blindness

I. Deliverance from blind guides.

II. Transfer of confidence to the true Guide.

III. Revelation of the invisible power of God.

IV. Exercising the soul’s newly acquired powers of spiritual vision.

V. Giving spiritual direction for the future. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Earnestness and knowledge the parents of faith

The only progressed cure recorded in the New Testament. Why was it not instantaneous like the rest? Nothing our Lord did or left undone was without meaning; so there must have been a reason for this. That reason cannot have been in Christ. He was no respecter of persons; His tender sympathy yearned over this sufferer as tenderly as over the rest. It must be traced, then, to the man himself and his fellow citizens. It the tone of morality had been higher in Bethsaida, if public opinion had been more upright, if the collective example of the citizens had been better, the probability is that the man would not have been so criminal. Now, what was wrong?

I. Want of faith. Why was there a lack of faith?

1. Because there was a lack of earnestness. Distinct evidence of this. His friends bring him to Christ, and from the fact that he does not speak except to answer a question, we infer that he was not particularly anxious to be brought. No such eagerness as in the case of Bartimaeus.

2. Because there was a want of knowledge. This man was an inhabitant of Bethsaida Julius, which was within easy walking distance of most of Christ’s great works. The people living there had heard His wonderful words of life; and surely if those who could see, and who therefore, were without excuse, had realized their privileges and acted up to them they might have taught this man; but they had not done so. They had not rejoiced in the good news from God; they had not realized that the promised Messiah had come; they had not hastened to be His witnesses to their neighbours. If they had done so, they would have brought home to the mind of this poor blind man such a sense of the power and love of Jesus Christ, that he would not have hesitated for one moment to believe that Christ was well able to restore him at once to perfect vision. And because they were so unworthy Christ sends the man to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town,” etc. His fellow citizens were not worthy to hear the story of the great work which God had wrought in him. We must not cast our pearls before swine, or give hat which is holy to the dogs. This man himself was the monument of their spiritual shortcomings; and if in the first hour of his faith in Christ and his own personal experience of the power of Christ, he had returned to his cold-blooded, indifferent, cynical neighbours, they might have quenched the little flame of grateful love which was springing up in his heart. (Hugh Price Hughes.)

Significant actions

The profound and saintly Bengel calls our attention here to this touching spectacle, that significant fact-that Christ did not command his friends to lead him out of the town, but He led him out Himself. Oh, what a spectacle for men and angels-the Divine Son of God tenderly taking the hand of this poor blind beggar, and leading him out of the town Himself! And why did He lead him out of the town, away from the noise and confusion and preoccupation of town life? Surely it was because solitude and silence are great teachers of earnestness. He needed to be alone with himself and with his great want. It has been well said by a great teacher of our own time, that solitude in the sense of being often alone, is essential to any depth of meditation and character; and at present there is very little meditation and depth of character in this man. It is necessary that he should be alone awhile, that he might realize the meaning of these things-his great need and the love of God. And then it is also very significant that, instead of speaking a word to him as usual, He moistens His finger and places it upon the sightless eyeball of the blind, in order that by palpable evidence He might bring home to this man that He is about to bestow upon him a supreme blessing. But, so far, the efforts of Christ are not entirely successful; for, after He had put His hands upon him, He asked him if he could see, and he looked up, and said, “I see men as trees”-I can see better than I ever saw before, but so vaguely, so dimly, the outline is so indistinct, that I confess I cannot distinguish between the men and the trees at the side of the road, except by the fact that the men are moving. Now, you will observe that Christ did not abandon His work when it was half done. Indeed, He asked the man whether he could see, in order to bring home to him the fact that he could see a little, and that so far hope might spring up within him; but, at the same time, that he might also bring home to him the fact that he could see only very little. And then Christ put His hands upon his eyes a second time, and after that second touch he saw clearly. (Hugh Price Hughes.)

Healing the blind

Men arrive at Christ by different processes: one is found by Christ Himself, another comes to Him, another is borne of four, and this blind man is led. This matters little, so long as we do come to Him. The act of bringing men to Jesus is most commendable.

1. It proves kindly feeling.

2. It shows practical faith in the power of Jesus.

3. It is thus an act of true wisdom.

4. It is exceedingly acceptable to the Lord; and is sure to prove effectual when the person himself willingly comes.

In this case there was something faulty in the bringing, since there was a measure of dictation as to the method in which the Lord should operate. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Lord heals in His own way

We must not attempt to dictate to Him how He shall operate. While He honours faith, He does not defer to its weakness.

1. He does not consent to work in the prescribed manner.

2. He touched, but no healing came; and thus He proved that the miracle was not attached to that special form of operation.

3. He did nothing to the blind man before their eyes; but led him out of the town. He would not indulge their observation or curiosity.

4. He did not heal him instantly, as they expected.

5. He used a means never suggested or thought of by them-“spit on his eyes,” etc.

6. When He did put His hands on him, He did it twice, so that, even in compliance with their wish, He vindicated His own freedom.

(a) Thus He refused to foster the superstition which limited His power.

(b) Thus He used a method more suited to the case

(c) Thus He gave to the people larger instruction.

(d) Thus He displayed to the individual a more personal care. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Man cannot chose his remedy

Is the sick man the doctor, that he should choose the remedy? (Madame Swetchine.)

Symbolism of touch

In the touching of the eyes with spittle, and laying on of hands, there was no inherent efficacy. They were means and channels of grace. Christ has established a Church in the world, and an ordained ministry therein, and holy sacraments, which only through Him become healing powers in the world. He could have spoken a word to the blind man at Bethsaida and all would have been accomplished that was sought for. He could save men’s souls directly by fiats of omnipotent grace, but He has chosen a Church to embody and set forth the fulness of His love toward a lost world. He has used means. (E. N. Packard.)

Analogy to spiritual cures

Doubtless we are inclined to press the analogy between the gradualness of this man’s cure and the gradualness of certain restorations to spiritual life; but this seems quite unauthorized. The cure was not an ideal type of all soul cures, but an instructive illustration of occasional Divine methods. The instant the blind eyes began to see, there was a miracle practically accomplished. The instant we turn to God in repentance and faith the new life begins; and regeneration, whenever it occurs, is instantaneous. Yet, for all that, our capacity to receive the fulness of Christ is at first but small, and the light must wax stronger and stronger as we walk in it day by day. (E. N. Packard.)

The gradual miracle

Variety is one mark of God’s working, as order is another. There was a fertility of resource, and a diversity of administration, which bespoke the agency of One who from the beginning was with God and was God, the Doer of all God’s acts and the Partner of all God’s counsels. The spiritual eye is not utterly closed nor utterly darkened; but its sight is confused, its discernment of objects both misty and inaccurate.

1. It is so in reference to the things of God. We can speak but for ourselves: but who has not known what it is to say, I cannot make real to myself one single fact or one single doctrine of the Bible? I can say indeed-and I bless God even for that-Lord, to whom else can I go? where, save in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, is there either the hope or the peradventure of healing for a case like mine? And therefore I can cling to the Christian revelation with the tenacity of a shipwrecked sailor whose one “broken piece of the ship” is his only possibility of escape: I can just float upon that fragment, knowing that, torn from it or washed off from it, I am lost: but if the question is, whether I really see ought; whether I can discern with the mind’s eye the sacred and blessed forms of a Father and a Saviour and a Comforter who are such to me; whether, when I kneel down to pray, I can feel myself to be apart with my God; whether, when I approach Christ’s Table, I feel myself to be His guest; whether, when I ask to be kept this day from all sin, I feel myself to be the temple of a Holy Spirit whose indwelling is my safeguard and my chief joy; then I must answer that my hold upon all these things is precarious and most feeble; that seeing I see, but scarcely perceive; that my God is too often to me like the gods of the heathen, which can neither see, nor hear, nor reward, nor punish; that I too often conduct myself towards Him as though I thought wickedly that He was even such an one as myself, equally short-sighted, equally fallible, equally vacillating, equally impotent. More especially is this the case in reference to the distinctive doctrines of Divine grace. How little do any of us grasp and handle and use the revelation of an absolute forgiveness! What can we say more, in regard to all these things, than that at best we see men as trees, walking? that we have a dim, dull, floating impression of there being something in them, rather than a clear, bold, strong apprehension of what and whom and why we have believed?

2. And if this be so in the things of God, in matters of direct revelation and of Christian faith; it is scarcely less true in reference to the things of men; to our views of life, the present life and the future, and to the relations in which we stand to those fellow beings with whom the Providence of God brings us into contact. We all profess as Christians to be “looking for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” And yet, when we examine our own hearts, or observe (however remotely) the evident principles of others, we find that in reality the world that is holds us all with a very firm gripe. We cannot appreciate the comparative dimensions of things heavenly and things earthly. The subject appears to suggest two words of application. First, to those who are truly in the position which I have sought by the help of this miracle to indicate. To those who are really under the healing hand of Christ, but upon whom as yet it has been laid incompletely if not indecisively. Many persons think themselves quite healed, when they are at best but half healed. Many, having experienced a first awakening, and sought with sincerity the gift of the Divine forgiveness, rest there, and count themselves to have apprehended. The importance of going forward in the process of the healing. Secondly, and finally, a word of caution must be added to those who are too easily assuming that they are even half healed. The hand is not laid without our knowing it, nay, nor without our seeking it. Even the first act of healing is a gift above gold and precious stone: despise it not! Power out of weakness, peace out of warfare, light outer darkness, sight out of dim, groping, creeping blindness, this it is to be the subject of the first healing. (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)

The free agency of Christ

I. It is a common weakness of faith to expect the blessing in a certain way. They besought Him to touch him.

II. While our Lord honours faith He does not defer to its weakness. He used a means never suggested by them-“spit on his eyes,” etc.

III. While our Lord rebukes the weakness of faith, He honours faith itself. Faith ever honours the Lord, and therefore the Lord honours it. If faith were not thus rewarded, Jesus Himself would suffer dishonour. He who has faith shall surely see; he who demands signs shall not be satisfied. Let us forever have done with prescribing methods to our Lord. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Seeing or not seeing, or men as trees walking

I. Picture the case. A person with a darkened understanding, not a man who might be pictured by a person possessed with a devil.

II. Notice the means of cure. His friends brought him to Jesus. He first received contact with Jesus. A solitary position: Jesus led the man out of the town. He was brought under ordained but despicable means. Jesus spit on his eyes. Jesus put His hands on him in the form of heavenly benediction.

III. Consider the hopeful stage. The first joyful word is-“I see.” His sight was very indistinct. His sight was very exaggerating. This exaggeration leads to alarm. There is to such people an utter loss of the enjoyment which comes from seeing beauty and loveliness.

IV. Notice the completion of the cure. Jesus touched His patient again. The first person he saw was Jesus. Jesus bade him “look up.” At last he could see every man clearly. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Seeing men as trees walking

I. An improvement upon the past. He was no longer blind-thus an immense change had taken place. There is an infinite distance between the lowest type of a Christian and the finest specimen of an unconverted soul. The most subtle animal and the barbarous savage may seem to resemble each other; but a gulf which only God can bridge separates them. Thus the most imperfect act of faith in Christ lifts a person out of the natural into the spiritual realm.

II. A state that is still unsatisfactory. “Men as trees walking.” Whilst an imperfect faith will save the soul, yet it will not prevent incorrect views of truth: exaggerated views; and many needless fears. Most of the theological contentions are through imperfect conceptions of truth. Two men with perfect sight would see an object alike-two with very dim sight would each see it to be different.

III. A guarantee of perfect vision. The blade is a prophecy of the ear: the morning twilight of the noonday splendour: the buds of spring of the fruit of autumn. He which hath begun a good work within, will perfect it. He is the finisher as well as the author of our faith. How strange if Christ had left the poor man thus. “Now are we sons of God-therefore it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” (L. Palmer.)

Three views of Christ’s work

I. Christ’s work as a salvation. The restoring of sight was a point on the brilliant line, the end of which was the salvation of mankind; so was every miracle of healing.

II. Christ’s work as a process. The good work was not accomplished in this case, as in other’s, by a word; it was done gradually. It is so in spiritual enlightenment. All good men do not see God with equal quickness or with equal clearness.

III. Christ’s work as a consummation. “He was restored, and saw every man clearly.” He will not leave His work until it be finished, if so be men beseech Him to go on to be gracious. (Dr. Parker.)

The cure of a blind man

I. A blind man brought to Christ. Their faith. If those who are spiritually blind will not pray for themselves, let others pray for them.

II. A blind man led by Christ. He did not bid his friends lead him. Never had the blind man such a leader before.

III. A blind man marvellously cured.

1. Christ used a sign.

2. The cure was wrought gradually, but-

3. It was soon completed.

He took this way because-

1. He would not be tied to any one method.

2. It should be to the patient according to his faith, which at first was very weak.

3. He would show how spiritual light shines “more and more to the perfect day.” (M. Henry.)

Get hold of sinners by the hand if you mean to get hold of them by the heart

Gough, the temperance orator, tells of the thrill of Joe Stratton’s hand laid lovingly upon his shoulder, just at the time when he was reeling on the brink of hell; and of another gentleman of high respectability, who came to his shop when he was desperately struggling to disengage himself from the coils of the serpent, and almost ready to sink down in despair; and how he took him by the hand, expressed his faith in him, and bade him play the man. Gough said, “I will:” and he did-as everybody knows.

The gradual healing of the blind man

I. Here we have Christ isolating the man whom He wanted to heal. Christ never sought to display His miraculous working; here He absolutely tries to hide it. This suggests the true point of view from which to look at the subject of miracles. Instead of being merely cold, logical proofs of His mission, they were all glowing with the earnestness of a loving sympathy, and came from Him at sight of sorrow as naturally as rays from the sun. A lesson about Christ’s character; His benevolence was without ostentation. But Christ did not invest the miracle with any of its peculiarities for His own sake only. All that is singular about it will, I think, find its best explanation in the condition and character of the subject, the man on whom it was wrought. What sort of a man was he? Well, the narrative does not tell us much, but if we use our historical imagination and our eyes we may learn something about him. First, he was a Gentile; the land in which the miracle was wrought was the half-heathen country on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. In the second place, it was other people that brought him; he does not come of his own accord. Then again, it is their prayer that is mentioned, not his-he asks nothing. And suppose he is a man of that sort, with no expectation of anything from this Rabbi, how is Christ to get at him? His eyes are shut, so cannot see the sympathy beaming in His face. There is one thing possible-to lay hold of him by the hand; and the touch, gentle, loving, firm, says this, at least: “Here is a man that has some interest in me, and whether He can do anything or not for me, He is going to try something.” Would not that kindle an expectation in him? And is it not in parable just exactly what Jesus Christ does for the whole world? Is not the mystery of the Incarnation and the re, caning of it wrapped up as in a germ in that little simple incident, “He put out His hand and touched him”? Is there not in it too a lesson for all you good-hearted Christian men and women, in all your work? We must be content to take the hands of beggars if we are to make the blind to see. How he would feel more and more at each step, “I am at His mercy! What is He going to do with me?” And how thus there would be kindled in his heart some beginnings of an expectation, as well as some surrendering of himself to Christ’s guidance! These two things, the expectation and the surrender, have in them, at all events, some faint beginnings and rude germs of the highest faith, to lead up to which is the purpose of all that Christ here does. And is not that what He does for us all? Sometimes by sorrows, sometimes by sick beds, sometimes by shutting us out from chosen spheres of activity. Ah! brethren, here is a lesson from all this-if you want Jesus Christ to give you His highest gifts and to reveal to you His fairest beauty, you must be alone with Him. He loves to deal with single souls. “I was left alone, and I saw this great vision,” is the law for all true beholding.

II. We have Christ stooping to a sense-bound nature by the use of material helps. The hand laid upon the eyes, the finger possibly moistened with saliva touching the ball, the pausing to question, the repeated application. They make a ladder by which his hope and confidence might climb to the apprehension of the blessing. And that points to a general principle of the Divine dealings. God stoops to a feeble faith, and gives to it outward things by which it may rise to an apprehension of spiritual realities. Is not that the meaning of the whole complicated system of Old Testament revelation? Is not that the meaning of His own Incarnation? And still further, may we not say that this is the inmost meaning and purpose of the whole frame of the material universe? It exists in order that, as a parable and a symbol, it may proclaim the things that are unseen and eternal. So in regard of all the externals of Christianity, forms of worship, ordinances, and so on-all these, in like manner, are provided in condescension to our weakness, in order that by them we may be lifted above themselves; for the purpose of the temple is to prepare for the time and place where the seer “saw no temple therein.” They are but the cups that carry the wine, the flowers whose chalices bear the honey, the ladder by which the soul may climb to God Himself, the rafts upon which the precious treasure may be floated into our hearts. If Christ’s touch and Christ’s saliva healed, it was not because of anything in them, but because He willed it so; and He Himself is the source of all the healing energy.

III. Lastly, we have Christ accommodating the pace of His power to the slowness of the man’s faith. He was healed slowly because he believed slowly. His faith was a condition of his cure, and the measure of it determined the measure of the restoration; and the rate of the growth of his faith settled the rate of the perfecting of Christ’s work on him. As a rule, faith in His power to heal was a condition of Christ’s healing, and that mainly because our Lord would, rather have men believing than sound of body. “According to your faith be it unto you.” And here, as a nurse or a mother might do, He keeps step with the little steps, and goes slowly because the man goes slowly. Now, both the gradual process of illumination and the rate of that process as determined by faith, are true for us. How dim and partial a glimmer of light comes to many a soul at the outset of the Christian life! How little a new convert knows about God and self and the starry truths of His great revelation! Christian progress does not consist in seeing new things, but in seeing the old things more clearly: the same Christ, the same Cross, only more distinctly and deeply apprehended, and more closely incorporated into my very being. We do not grow away from Him, but we grow into knowledge of Him. But then let me remind you that just in the measure in which you expect blessing of any kind, illumination and purifying and help of all sorts from Jesus Christ, just in that measure will you get it. You can limit the working of Almighty power, and can determine the rate at which it shall work on you. God fills the water pots to the brim, but not beyond the brim; and if, like the woman in the Old Testament story, we stop bringing vessels, the oil will stop flowing. It is an awful thing to know that we have the power, as it were, to turn a stopcock, and so increase or diminish, or cut off altogether the supply of God’s mercy and Christ’s healing and cleansing love in our hearts. You will get as much of God as you want and no more. The measure of your desire is the measure of your capacity, and the measure of your capacity is the measure of God’s gift. “Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Verses 27-30

Mark 8:27-30

Whom do men say that I am?

This conversation may be taken in three points of view

I. Jesus Christ the subject of universal inquiry. He appeals to all men.

1. By the variety of His works.

2. By the vitality of His teaching.

3. As the “Son of Man.”

II. Jesus Christ demanding special testimony. His followers are called-

1. To knowledge.

2. To profession.

3. To individuality of testimony.

III. Jesus Christ is revealed by His works rather than by verbal profession. (Dr. Parker.)

Personal religion

I. Christ put to the disciples themselves the question, “Whom say ye that I am?”

1. Christ would turn their thoughts from others to themselves.

2. He does not take for granted that because they externally follow Him, they know Him.

3. He examines them on the most important of all points.

4. He examines them through themselves.

5. He leads them to make a confession of their faith.

6. He puts them in a different class from the multitude.

II. To this question, Peter replied for all the disciples. Their answer was-

1. Prompt. They had been convinced of His Messiahship.

2. Unanimous. The creed was very short-of one article, all held it.

3. Correct.

4. The result of Divine teaching.

5. On this answer the Church was to be built.

III. Christ prohibits them from publishing what they knew of Him, in present circumstances.

1. He would deal with them Himself.

2. The proof of His Messiahship was not complete.

3. The Jews were not prepared.

4. The apostles were not qualified. (Expository Discourses.)

Whom do men say that I am

I. The opinions that men entertained respecting Christ were of the utmost importance.

1. According to these, they would act, and be dealt with, in this the day of their visitation.

2. Without a knowledge of Christ they could not rely on Him for their own personal salvation.

3. Their opinions respecting Christ indicated their own true state and character. What think ye of Christ?

II. Christ was concerned for the opinions of men respecting Himself.

1. Having sown, He now looks for the fruit.

2. If He has not been a “savour of life unto life,” He has been a “savour of death unto death.”

3. He has shown us that we should Hot be indifferent as to human opinion respecting ourselves.

III. Christ held men responsible for their opinions respecting Him. As man’s judge, He deals with their belief.

IV. Christ applies to His disciples for an account of the opinions which men had of Him.

1. Not because He was ignorant, etc.

2. But He taught the apostles that it was part of their duty to mark the state of their fellow men.

3. We ought to look on the things of others, and especially their eternal interests. (Expository Discourses.)

The knowledge of Christ revealed by God

The claim of Jesus to be the Messiah should be examined.

I. Such knowledge of Christ as the true Messiah cannot be communicated by man to man. We may have an acquaintance with ancient records of kingdoms and states that have passed away; we may acquire an intimate acquaintance with warriors, and heroes, and statesmen, and early monarchs, and yet be utterly uninfluenced and unaffected by what we learn; we may read of much that is heroic, and noble, and heart-stirring, in the achievements of many masterminds of days that are gone by, and only have our minds influenced, as by a bright and glowing dream. And so may it be with the Scripture records. We may be delighted, not only with the detail of ancient history, as recorded in the Bible, but we may be touched with the poetry and the pathos with which the Bible abounds, and we may acquire such an appetite for the Bible, in that sense, as shall induce us to come to it, as affording the most pleasant, and delightful, and intellectual study, and yet be unacquainted with Jesus, the Son of Man and the Son of God, and the one Mediator between our sinful souls and God; and instances are to be found, and ever have been, in which the mind has been stored with the truth, and the heart untouched by it. It is because we have reason to fear that this is too common, that we press upon you the fact that a merely intellectual acquaintance with the Bible is not such an acquaintance with Christ as will meet the necessity of your case. A speculative knowledge of Christ may be acquired by the exercise of the natural faculties; systems of theology may be conceived, magnificent and striking views may be obtained; and yet the heart of a man, as a sinner, may be altogether unmoved. He may contemplate the wondrous plan of redemption, as centred in Christ, and as achieved by Christ, “in the fulness of time”: but he may never feel the want of redemption. He may read, and be assured of the fact, that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” and yet never be in fear of perishing for want of Christ. He may read, and be well assured of the fact, that “God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in His Son”; he may go on, and read the next verse, in which it is affirmed, “He that hath the Son hath life, but he that hath not the Son hath not life,” and set remain destitute of the “life,” which God has given in Christ, because he as yet knows not that he is “dead in trespasses and sins.” He may know, and be ready to declare, without fearing contradiction, that Christ hath “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the gospel”; but he may not know (or if he does, he is not influenced by the knowledge) that he is still subject to all the consequences of sin which Jesus came to remove. He may read in another place, that “the gift of God is eternal life,” and yet be ignorant that all his life he has been earning “the wages of sin,” which “is death.”

II. That revelation then, must be first general; and secondly, particular. “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father, which is in heaven.” It is the prerogative of the Father in heaven to reveal His Son. Angels cannot tell what Jesus is; the highest intellect in heaven would fail to reveal it. But the Father does reveal it. But as we have seen that multitudes remain ignorant, though God has opened the page of revelation, we need a particular revelation. The Bible is a revelation from God the Father to us; but we need a revelation of Christ in us. During all lives, God has revealed Christ to us; but has He revealed Christ in us. It must be the result o! an express revelation from God the Father, through His own blessed Spirit, to our inward souls; it must be the everlasting Spirit “taking of the things of Christ, and showing them to us.”

III. That blessed are they who have such a knowledge of Christ, as a revelation from God. “Blessed art thou, Simon,” etc. There is no true state that can be deemed blessed, but that which results from a saving knowledge of Christ. He who has this revelation is blessed.

1. In the certainty of his knowledge. He hath the witness in himself.

2. In the reality of the effects of the truth. “The truth has made him free.” He is “an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ.”

3. In the final and eternal results which follow. “Eye hath not seen,” etc. (G. Fisk, LL. B.)

Who am I

I. The popular impression concerning Jesus.

II. The apostolic confession regarding Jesus.

III. The acceptance by Jesus of this confession.

1. The immense importance of the answer given to this question.

2. The utter inadequacy of any answer to this question save one.

3. The complete satisfaction which the true answer affords. (J. R. Thomson, M. A.)

“Whom say ye that I am?”

I. It is evident, from the history, that our Lord desired to awaken some sort of anxiety in the minds of His followers, and to excite their feelings of loyalty to truth and to Himself, so that they might be upon their guard against disaffection under any popular pressure, or any wild popular perversions of His character or mission.

II. This, then, was the great confession of faith, which has come down to us through the ages.

1. First, it will follow from a story like this, that it is of vast consequence what a man believes, and all the more if he be sincere in his creed.

2. We learn also that it is not enough to admit the bare record, and so simply consent to an historic Christ.

3. Again, to a human soul, struggling for its immortal life, Jesus the Saviour is everything at once, or He is nothing forever. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Verse 31

Mark 8:31; Mark 8:33

That the Son of Man must suffer many things.

The rebuke of love

Let us not overlook this loving rebuke; for

(1) it cures Peter’s presumption;

(2) sets him to learn a new lesson on the heavenliness of sacrifice;

(3) prevents the greatness of his faith being spoiled by the earthliness of his hopes.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend: but the wounds which the Saviour inflicts are kindest of all. From Peter’s weakness let us learn how hard it is to see all truth at once. From Christ’s rebuke let us learn that the “heavenly thing” is not to seek for glory, but for usefulness, even if we can reach it only through a cross. (R. Glover.)

Peter rebuked Christ and Christ rebuked Peter-an altercation of more than mere words

It is charged with practical truths.

1. Man’s shortsightedness.

2. Man’s sentiment exaggerated.

3. Man’s audacity to think he can help or save Christ.

On Christ’s side:

1. He rebukes the oldest.

2. He rebukes the wisest-it was Peter who said, “Thou art the Christ.”

3. He shows that men are only worthy of Him in proportion as they enter into His spirit. (Dr. Parker.)

Christ’s intimation of His sufferings

I. What there is to mark the time which our blessed Saviour thus selected, for giving prominence to a new and unwelcome subject of discourse. In the third year of His public ministry. Up to this time our Lord left the great truth of His Godhead to work its way rote the minds of His apostles. Now they had arrived at the conviction that He was none other than the ever-living God. What inducement led to, and what instruction may be gathered from, the recorded fact, that when Jesus had drawn from His disciples the acknowledgment of His Divinity, then, and not before, “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.” Now the apostles could have had none but the most indistinct apprehensions of the office and mission of our Lord, so long as they were ignorant of the death which He had undertaken to die. This made it appear remarkable, that our Lord should so long have withheld the express mention of His sufferings, As much as to say, “It will be of no avail to speak to them of My death till they are convinced of My Deity. So long as they only know Me as the Son of Man, they will not be prepared to hear of the cross; when they shall also know Me as the Son of the living God, then will be the time to tell of ignominy and death.” “Oh, how strange,” you may exclaim, “that the moment of discovering a Divine person in the form of a man should be the right moment for the being informed that this person should be crucified! To discover a Divine person is to discover what death cannot touch; and yet Christ waited till this discovery in regard of Himself, that He might then expressly mention His approaching dissolution.” But do you not observe, my brethren, what a testimony our Lord hereby gives to the fact, that the truth of His Godhead alone explains-alone gives meaning or worth to-His having died on the cross? He will say nothing of His death whilst only believed to be man; He speaks continually of His death, when once acknowledged as God. Are we not taught by this, that they only who believe Christ Divine, can put the right construction on the mystery of His death, or so survey it as to draw from it what it was intended to teach? Then we perceive, that He must have died as a sacrifice; then we understand that He must have died as an atonement to be the propitiation for our sins, to reconcile the world unto God. He could not have died for such ends had He been only man; but being also God, such ends could be answered and effected by His death, though nothing less, so far as we can tell, could have sufficed. Therefore, again and again, we say, Christ’s Divinity is the explanation of Christ’s death. We seem quite justified in gathering from the text, that hence forward our Lord made very frequent mention of His cross. If you examine, you will find so many as nine instances spoken of by the evangelists; though it was a topic which He had not before introduced. And what is very observable is, that it seems to have been upon occasions when the disciples were likely to have been puffed up and exalted, that ever after our Lord took special pains to impress upon them that He must be rejected and killed. Ah! my brethren, ought we not to learn from this keeping the cross out of sight till faith had grown strong and high privilege been imparted, that it is the advanced Christian who has need of persecution; and that grace, in place of exempting us from, is to fit us for trial? The disciples must have well known that if suffering were to be their Master’s lot, it would also be theirs. If, then and thence, Jesus spake of afflictions which should befall Himself, He must have been understood as likewise speaking of afflictions which would befall His apostles; and He abstained, you see, from dwelling on the tribulation which would be the path to His kingdom, till He found His followers strong in belief of His actual Divinity. And then take one more lesson from the peculiarity of the occasions on which, as we bays shown you, Christ made a special point of introducing the mention of His sufferings; occasions on which the disciples were in danger of being puffed up and exalted. Learn to expect, and be thankful for, something bitter in the cup, when faith has won the victory, and you have tasted, in no common measure, the powers of the invisible world. You may say, however, that it militates against much that we have advanced, that in point of fact, Christ’s mentioning His sufferings at the time when He did, produced not on the disciples the effect which our statement supposes. We have but too good proof, that though our Lord deferred so long as He did speaking of His sufferings, the apostles were still unprepared for the saying, and could neither understand it nor receive it. Even St. Peter, who had just made the noble confession which proved him ready and willing to hear tidings from Christ, no sooner hears of his Saviour being rejected and killed, than he begins presumptuously to rebuke Him; saying, “Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee.” Yet let it not be thought that Christ chose an unseasonable time, or tried an unsuitable means. The medicine may be what we want; but we, alas! may reject it, as not being what we like. The ease may be precisely such, that from that time forth, it is wholesome that we be admonished of appointed tribulation. We may only the more prove how the admonition is needed, by treating it with dislike, and trying to disbelieve it. When we find that there was such repugnance in St. Peter and his brethren to the cross, though Christ had waited so patiently for the fittest time to introduce it, we ought to learn the difficulty of taking part with the suffering Saviour, and submitting ourselves meekly, and thankfully, to the scorn and the trial of sharing His afflictions. And this lesson from man’s aversion to, and how much more the bearing of, the cross, should bring home to us with great force, our need of being continually disciplined by the Spirit of God. And yet it is not to pure and unmingled sorrow, that Christ would consign the more faithful in His Church. As St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” How beautiful is it in our text, that if Jesus then began to tell His disciples how He should die, He then began also to tell them how He should rise again from the dead. It is our unbelief, or our impatience, which makes us overlook the one statement in our eagerness to get rid of the other. If God lead you into the wilderness, it is, as He saith by the prophet Hosea, that there He may “speak comfortably to you, giving you vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Verse 33

Mark 8:31; Mark 8:33

That the Son of Man must suffer many things.

The rebuke of love

Let us not overlook this loving rebuke; for

(1) it cures Peter’s presumption;

(2) sets him to learn a new lesson on the heavenliness of sacrifice;

(3) prevents the greatness of his faith being spoiled by the earthliness of his hopes.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend: but the wounds which the Saviour inflicts are kindest of all. From Peter’s weakness let us learn how hard it is to see all truth at once. From Christ’s rebuke let us learn that the “heavenly thing” is not to seek for glory, but for usefulness, even if we can reach it only through a cross. (R. Glover.)

Peter rebuked Christ and Christ rebuked Peter-an altercation of more than mere words

It is charged with practical truths.

1. Man’s shortsightedness.

2. Man’s sentiment exaggerated.

3. Man’s audacity to think he can help or save Christ.

On Christ’s side:

1. He rebukes the oldest.

2. He rebukes the wisest-it was Peter who said, “Thou art the Christ.”

3. He shows that men are only worthy of Him in proportion as they enter into His spirit. (Dr. Parker.)

Christ’s intimation of His sufferings

I. What there is to mark the time which our blessed Saviour thus selected, for giving prominence to a new and unwelcome subject of discourse. In the third year of His public ministry. Up to this time our Lord left the great truth of His Godhead to work its way rote the minds of His apostles. Now they had arrived at the conviction that He was none other than the ever-living God. What inducement led to, and what instruction may be gathered from, the recorded fact, that when Jesus had drawn from His disciples the acknowledgment of His Divinity, then, and not before, “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.” Now the apostles could have had none but the most indistinct apprehensions of the office and mission of our Lord, so long as they were ignorant of the death which He had undertaken to die. This made it appear remarkable, that our Lord should so long have withheld the express mention of His sufferings, As much as to say, “It will be of no avail to speak to them of My death till they are convinced of My Deity. So long as they only know Me as the Son of Man, they will not be prepared to hear of the cross; when they shall also know Me as the Son of the living God, then will be the time to tell of ignominy and death.” “Oh, how strange,” you may exclaim, “that the moment of discovering a Divine person in the form of a man should be the right moment for the being informed that this person should be crucified! To discover a Divine person is to discover what death cannot touch; and yet Christ waited till this discovery in regard of Himself, that He might then expressly mention His approaching dissolution.” But do you not observe, my brethren, what a testimony our Lord hereby gives to the fact, that the truth of His Godhead alone explains-alone gives meaning or worth to-His having died on the cross? He will say nothing of His death whilst only believed to be man; He speaks continually of His death, when once acknowledged as God. Are we not taught by this, that they only who believe Christ Divine, can put the right construction on the mystery of His death, or so survey it as to draw from it what it was intended to teach? Then we perceive, that He must have died as a sacrifice; then we understand that He must have died as an atonement to be the propitiation for our sins, to reconcile the world unto God. He could not have died for such ends had He been only man; but being also God, such ends could be answered and effected by His death, though nothing less, so far as we can tell, could have sufficed. Therefore, again and again, we say, Christ’s Divinity is the explanation of Christ’s death. We seem quite justified in gathering from the text, that hence forward our Lord made very frequent mention of His cross. If you examine, you will find so many as nine instances spoken of by the evangelists; though it was a topic which He had not before introduced. And what is very observable is, that it seems to have been upon occasions when the disciples were likely to have been puffed up and exalted, that ever after our Lord took special pains to impress upon them that He must be rejected and killed. Ah! my brethren, ought we not to learn from this keeping the cross out of sight till faith had grown strong and high privilege been imparted, that it is the advanced Christian who has need of persecution; and that grace, in place of exempting us from, is to fit us for trial? The disciples must have well known that if suffering were to be their Master’s lot, it would also be theirs. If, then and thence, Jesus spake of afflictions which should befall Himself, He must have been understood as likewise speaking of afflictions which would befall His apostles; and He abstained, you see, from dwelling on the tribulation which would be the path to His kingdom, till He found His followers strong in belief of His actual Divinity. And then take one more lesson from the peculiarity of the occasions on which, as we bays shown you, Christ made a special point of introducing the mention of His sufferings; occasions on which the disciples were in danger of being puffed up and exalted. Learn to expect, and be thankful for, something bitter in the cup, when faith has won the victory, and you have tasted, in no common measure, the powers of the invisible world. You may say, however, that it militates against much that we have advanced, that in point of fact, Christ’s mentioning His sufferings at the time when He did, produced not on the disciples the effect which our statement supposes. We have but too good proof, that though our Lord deferred so long as He did speaking of His sufferings, the apostles were still unprepared for the saying, and could neither understand it nor receive it. Even St. Peter, who had just made the noble confession which proved him ready and willing to hear tidings from Christ, no sooner hears of his Saviour being rejected and killed, than he begins presumptuously to rebuke Him; saying, “Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee.” Yet let it not be thought that Christ chose an unseasonable time, or tried an unsuitable means. The medicine may be what we want; but we, alas! may reject it, as not being what we like. The ease may be precisely such, that from that time forth, it is wholesome that we be admonished of appointed tribulation. We may only the more prove how the admonition is needed, by treating it with dislike, and trying to disbelieve it. When we find that there was such repugnance in St. Peter and his brethren to the cross, though Christ had waited so patiently for the fittest time to introduce it, we ought to learn the difficulty of taking part with the suffering Saviour, and submitting ourselves meekly, and thankfully, to the scorn and the trial of sharing His afflictions. And this lesson from man’s aversion to, and how much more the bearing of, the cross, should bring home to us with great force, our need of being continually disciplined by the Spirit of God. And yet it is not to pure and unmingled sorrow, that Christ would consign the more faithful in His Church. As St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” How beautiful is it in our text, that if Jesus then began to tell His disciples how He should die, He then began also to tell them how He should rise again from the dead. It is our unbelief, or our impatience, which makes us overlook the one statement in our eagerness to get rid of the other. If God lead you into the wilderness, it is, as He saith by the prophet Hosea, that there He may “speak comfortably to you, giving you vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Verse 34

Mark 8:34

Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself.

Following Christ

Here Christ very distinctly sets before all men the conditions of discipleship in His school, and of citizenship in His kingdom. It is not a kingdom of earthly splendour. If any would come after Him, they must expect hardships, self-denial, cross-bearing, and scorn. Their rest and reward were not yet. He was, indeed, the Messiah; but it was by a rough pathway that He would bring His followers to glory. Notice-

I. The unhesitating way in which Jesus assumes to be our rightful Leader. Elsewhere He is man’s Teacher, Master, Friend, Saviour. Here He invites followers, and offers and claims to lead.

1. Man needs a Leader; life’s byways are many; the labyrinth is deep; its duration is short; the stake is great. Man’s native tendency is not upward.

2. Jesus has a rightful claim to be our Leader. He proves it by the greatness, and wisdom, and perfection of His person and character.

II. The sobering way in which Jesus announces the cost of following Him. “Whosoever will”-this points to obstacles to be overcome, and trials to be borne. To be a true follower of Christ one needs the courage of deep conviction and strong desire. This may seem stern. So it is. But it is not arbitrary or unfeeling. There are two reasons for denying self.

1. The “self” in us is to be denied, because it is wrong. Personal salvation, without the denial of the old nature, the sinful self in us, would be a contradiction.

2. The new spirit that is in us requires it. The follower of Christ has gone over to His side, and become His servant and soldier. But his new work is not easy. It was not easy to the Saviour, for it cost Him humiliation, and privations, and obloquy, and pains.

III. The cheering way in which Jesus sets before us the rewards of faithfully following Him. While Christ was the greatest of all preachers of self-sacrifice, He uniformly recommended it by pledges of future good. The reward He promises is not of any lower or sensual kind. It is that of activity, calling into right and glad exercise every power we possess. (H. M. Grout, D. D.)

Following Christ

I. Its essential conditions.

1. It must be absolutely a voluntary choice-“Whosoever will.”

(a) This is a condition universally recognized in the New Testament.

(b) It is a condition that underlies the whole plan of salvation.

(c) It is a condition from which there can be no deviation.

2. It must be absolutely an entire surrender.

(a) A surrender of every part of our being to Christ as Master.

(b) A surrender of every object which He requires to be given up.

II. Its essential principles.

1. Holiness, suggested by the necessity of the surrender of “self.”

2. Implicit obedience is suggested by the necessity of taking up the cross.

3. To love Christ, suggested by the necessity of being ready to lose life far Christ’s sake.

4. The avowal of Christ, suggested by the words of Jesus in Mark 8:38. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

The Master’s summons to His disciples

Like a commander addressing his soldiers. Full of clear vision and resolve.

I. The aim. To overcome spiritual error and Satanic influence, and establish God’s kingdom.

II. The conditions of its attainment. These are open to all.

1. Self-denial.

2. Cross-bearing.

3. Obedience and imitation.

II. Incentives.

1. Christ’s example and inspiration. He says not “go” but “come.” He goes before, and shows the way.

2. The endeavour to save the lower “self” will expose to certain destruction the higher “self”; and the sacrifice of the lower “self” and its earthly condition of satisfaction will be the salvation of the higher “self.”

3. The value of this higher life cannot be computed.

4. Recognition of Christ on earth is the condition of His recognition of us hereafter. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Come after Me

There is a wonderful spell in such a call. All history, profane as well as sacred, has shown us this. The great Roman general realized its force when he called to his soldiers, who shrank from the hardships of the Libyan desert, and promised to go before them, and to command them nothing which he would not first do himself. Even so Christ designed to help His followers by the assurance that He would first suffer that which they would be called to bear (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

Conditions of discipleship

There was an eagerness among many of the people to come after Him. The wistfulness of a considerable proportion of the northern population had been awakened. They were ruminating anxiously on Old Testament predictions, and filled with vague expectancy. They saw that the Rabbi of Nazareth was no common Rabbi. He was a wonderful Being. It is not strange, therefore, that they pictured out to themselves all sorts of possibilities in connection with His career. To what was He advancing? Whither was He bound? Was He on His way, or was He not, to the throne of the kingdom? The Saviour by and by gives sufficiently explicit indications of the ultimate witherhood of His career; but meanwhile He brings into the foreground the moral conditions of adherence to His person and His cause. “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself,”-let him be prepared to say No to many of the strongest cravings of his nature, in the direction more particularly of earthly ease, comfort, dignity, and glory. (J. Morison, D. D.)

Following Christ

I. The matter wherein we must follow Him.

1. His holy doctrine.

2. His holy life. Some of His actions were not imitable.

(1) His miraculous works.

(2) His mediatorial acts.

The things wherein we must follow Christ.

1. In that He never sought His own praise and glory, but the praise and glory of God that sent Him (John 7:18; 1Co 16:31).

2. In that He contemned His own will for His Father’s (Matthew 26:39).

3. In daily and frequent prayer to His Father (Mark 1:35).

4. In fervent zeal to His Father’s house (John 2:17).

5. In His faith and confidence.

6. His charity and love of man, shown in many ways.

II. The manner wherein we must follow Christ.

1. We must follow Him in faith.

2. In ardent affection.

3. Sincerely.

4. Wholly.

5. Constantly.

III. The reasons or motives thereunto.

1. The equity of the precept.

2. Great is the danger of not following Christ our Leader.

(1) If we look at ourselves.

(2) At danger of false guides.

(3) At the world as a guide.

3. Argue from the safety of following Christ our Guide. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

Essence of self-denial

In the parish where Mr. Hervey preached, when he inclined to loose sentiments, there resided a ploughman well-informed in religious matters. Mr. Hervey being advised by his physician, for the benefit of his health, to follow the plough in order to smell the fresh earth, frequently accompanied this ploughman in his rural employment. Mr. Hervey, understanding the ploughman was a serious person, said to him one morning, “What do you think is the hardest thing in religion?” To which he replied, “I am a poor illiterate man, and you, sir, are a minister. I beg leave to return the question.” “Then,” said Mr. Hervey, “I think the hardest thing is to deny sinful self;” and applauded, at some length, his own example of self-denial. The ploughman replied, “Mr. Hervey, you have forgotten the greatest act of the grace of self-denial, which is, to deny ourselves of a proud confidence in our own obedience.” Mr. Hervey looked at the man in amazement, thinking him an old fool; but in after years, when relating the story, he would add, “I have since clearly seen who was the fool: not the wise old Christian, but the proud James Hervey.”

Self-denial may be manifested

(1) in the subjection of our own opinions in religious matters to the authoritative announcements of Scripture. If we believe God only where we can see the truth and propriety of what He states, we do Him no honour.

(2) In the renunciation of worldly and social advantages. If the Spirit dwelling in us be not mightier than that which is in the world, we cannot be Christ’s disciples. If we have the true principle of Christianity, it will rise within us in proportion to the demand upon it.

(3) In foregoing the love of ease and quiet and wealth. The ignorant must be taught; the knowledge of Christian principles spread; the wiles of the devil exposed. In the spiritual army, all must be warriors, if they would be victors.

(4) In the abnegation of our own honour. The end of all our actions and sufferings is, that every crown earned and won may be placed on the head of Him who wore for us the crown of thorns. (J. Leifchild.)

Incentives to self-denial

1. Necessity for salvation. Having become corrupt through apostasy, we must be wrought on a different mould.

2. Grateful imitation and return. Christ’s love draws out ours.

3. Spiritual and eternal recompense. Even this world’s goods will be restored, if God sees we would benefit by possessing them. But in most cases the reward is wholly spiritual-the favour of heaven instead of the friendship of mortals-the blessed experience of being on the side of God and right. (J. Leifchild.)


I. What is meant by “himself.”

1. Things outward: things concerning the outward man, yet so near him, as they are, after a sort, himself; not only his riches, but his name, his liberty, his life; all of which must be denied rather than Christ and His truth.

2. Things inward, which can hardly be distinguished from himself.

(1) He must deny the wisdom of the flesh, which is enmity to God.

(2) He must deny his own corrupt will, which is contrary to God’s will.

(3) He must deny all his carnal passions and affections, as carnal love, hatred, fear.

(4) He must deny all his own wicked inclinations.

(5) He must deny all wicked habits and sins.

II. The difficulty of this precept.

1. Consider the nearness of things to be denied. Were it only in things without us, as to part with riches, it were difficult enough; but when it leads us out of our own wisdom and judgment, what a hard province proves it.

2. Natural pride and self-love is such, that it is with us as with Solomon (Ecclesiastes 2:10). We are so far from crossing ourselves, that we endure not any other should cross us; Haman is sick on his bed because Mordicai denies him obeisance; if John deny Herod his Herodias, he will die for it; if Jonas his gourd, he will be angry to the death; such impatience is in our nature, if we be crossed in our wills.

3. Distrust in God, and trust in the means, makes the precept yet more difficult: we see not easily how we can do well without friends, wealth, liberty, favour, preferments. Wisdom is good with an inheritance (Ecclesiastes 7:1-29). We cannot live by promises, something we would have in hand.

III. The necessity of self-denial.

1. The context affirms a twofold necessity: in the words going before-without it a man cannot be a disciple of Christ: and in the words following-no man can take up his cross who has not denied himself.

2. The true wisdom cannot be embraced before the other be displaced, no more than light can be manifest before darkness be chased away.

3. The gospel offers Christ as a Physician, man must therefore deny the means he can devise to help himself, before he come to see what need he hath of Christ.

4. No obedience can be acceptably performed to God without self-denial, for many commandments are hard and difficult.

5. Whence is all the denial of Christ at this day, but want of self-denial.

IV. The aids to self-denial. The Lord has not left us destitute of means, if we be not wanting to ourselves.

1. Strength to overcome ourselves is not from ourselves, therefore, we must remember that the Spirit is given to those who ask.

2. Consider what an advantage it will be to take ourselves in hand before our lusts be grown strong in us, and how they are far mole easily denied in the first rising then when they have seated themselves with delight in the affections and members, and are grown from motions to acts, from acts to customs, from customs to habits, from habits to another nature.

3. As it must be the first, so also the continued acts of a Christian to stand in the denial of himself, seeing the enemy continually uses our own natural inclinations against us; he ploughs with our own heifer.

4. And because they are not denied till the contrary be practiced, our care must be that the room of our hearts must be taken up with good desires, and the lustings of the Spirit which will keep out the desires of the flesh.

5. Whereas distrustfulness of heart rivetteth us with the world, labour daily for the strengthening of faith in the providence of God, and bring thy heart to lean upon that and not upon inferior means.

V. The motives to self-denial.

1. Look to Christ, He denied Himself for us, we cannot deny too much for Him.

2. Look to the world, it will leave and deny us.

3. Look to the examples of the saints who have denied themselves.

4. Look to hypocrites forsaking much for God’s favour; we have Baal’s priests tormenting themselves to uphold their idolatry.

5. Look to the end of our self-denial; there meets us God’s promise with a full hand; all will then be made up with an infinite advantage

VI. The marks of self-denial.

1. One in regard to God; it will cast a man wholly out of himself (Psalms 73:25).

2. The second in respect of Christ, for Christ, he can want as well as abound (Philippians 3:8).

3. The third, in respect of the Word of God, it is ready for all God’s will.

4. The fourth, in respect to himself, he that hath denied himself will desire no way of prosperity but God’s own, and will ascribe it all to God.

5. The fifth mark is, in respect to others; he that hath denied himself lives not to himself, but procures the good of others, and advances to his power every man’s good. He looks not on men as they are affected to himself, but as he ought to be affected to them.

6. The last note of self-denial is the life of faith, beyond and without all means of help. As nothing gives more glory to God than faith, so nothing takes so much from man. (T. Taylor, D. D.)


Self-denial is a Christian principle, and yet no new thing, since in some form it must form a part of the lives of most men. Thus, when Garibaldi was going out to battle, he told his troops what he wanted them to do, and they said, “Well, general, what are you going to give us for all this?” He replied, “I don’t know what also you will get, but you will get hunger, and cold, and wounds, perhaps death.” They stood awhile in silence, and then threw up their hands; “We are the men!” Faith in Christ puts in action, and strengthens a desire to conquer self, which seems inherent in human nature.

The disciple’s cross

The world in general has got ready a cross for each of Christ’s disciples. So determined is it in its opposition, and so remorseless in its hate. It has resolved that every Christian shall be crucified, in one way or another. If the body cannot be got hold of and transfixed, the heart may. Every true Christian must be willing to accept this treatment for Christ’s sake. He must take up his cross, and walk with it, as it were, to the place of execution, ready for the last extremity. It is the dark side of the case; and the phase of representation under which it is exhibited was no doubt suggested to our Lord by the clear view He had of the termination of His own terrestrial career. “A Christian,” says Luther, “is a Crucian.” The Saviour pictures to His hearers a procession. He Himself takes the lead with His cross. He is the chief Crucian. All His disciples follow. Each has his own particular cross. But the direction of the procession, when one looks far enough, is toward the kingdom of heavenly glory. (J. Morison, D. D.)

The cross to be expected

Be prepared for afflictions. To this end would Christ have us reckon upon the cross, that we may be forewarned. He that builds a house does not take care that the rain should not descend upon it, or the storm should not beat upon it, or the wind blow upon it; there is no fencing against these things, they cannot be prevented by any care of ours; but that the house may be able to endure all this without prejudice. And he that builds a ship, does not make this his work, that it should never meet with waves and billows; that is impossible; but that it may be light and staunch, and able to endure all weathers. A man who takes care for his body does not care for this, that he meet with no change of weather, hot and cold, but how his body may bear all this. Thus should Christians do; not so much to care how to shift and avoid afflictions, but how to bear them with an even quiet mind. As we cannot hinder the rain from falling upon the house, nor the waves from beating upon the ship, nor change of weather and seasons from affecting the body, so it is not in our power to hinder the falling out of afflictions and tribulations: all that lies upon us, is to make provision for such an hour, that we be not overwhelmed by it. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Necessity of discipline

When God built this world, He did not build a palace complete with appointments. This is a drill world. Men were not dropped down upon it like manna, fit to be gathered and used as it fell; but like seeds, to whom the plough is father, the furrow mother, and on which iron and stone, sickle, flail, and mill must act, before they come to the loaf. (H. W. Beecher.)

Affliction, our present portion

The Christian lives in the midst of crosses, as the fish lives in the sea. (Vianney.)

Difficulty not confined to religion

Is religion difficult? and what is not so, that is good for anything Is not the law a difficult and crabbed study? Does it not require great labour and perpetual drudging to excel in any kind of knowledge, to be master of any art or profession? In a word, is there anything in the world worth having, that is to be got without pains? And is eternal life and glory the only slight and inconsiderable thing that is not worth our care and industry? (Archbishop Tillotson.)

The cross is a reality

The crusaders of old, it is said, used to carry painted crosses upon their shoulders; it is to be feared that many among us take up crosses which sit just as lightly; things of ornament, passports to respectability, a cheap exchange for a struggle we never made, and a crown we never strove for. But let us not deceive ourselves. None ever yet entered into the kingdom of heaven without tribulation; not, perhaps, the tribulation of fire, or rebuke, or blasphemy, but the tribulation of a bowed spirit and a humble heart; of the flesh crucified to the spirit, and of hard conflict with the powers of darkness; and, therefore, if our religion be of such a pliable and elastic form as to have cost us neither pains to acquire, nor self-denial to preserve, nor effort to advance, nor struggle to maintain holy and undefiled-we may be assured our place among the ranks of the risen dead will be with that prodigious multitude who were pure in their own eyes, and yet were not washed from their filthiness. (D. Moore, M. A.)

Meaning of the cross

Carrying a cross after Christ means, for one thing, enduring suffering for Christ. “Cross” was the name once given to the most fearful engine of agony for the body; and the words “cross,” “crucial,” “excruciate,” etc., have come into our language from that material cross, and they now point, in a general way, to what has to be suffered, not in the body, but in the soul. To carry a cross for Christ means, for another thing, having a great weight on the mind for Christ’s sake. To carry a cross for Christ means, for another thing, that this suffering and heavily-weighted condition should be open, not secret; for the cross bearer is seen. It means, for another thing, that the man who is willing to carry the cross for Christ is willing to suffer scorn for Christ. No one carried a cross in the old Roman days but one who was the very refuse of society. To be willing to carry a cross for Christ means willingness to suffer ignominy, willingness to “go forth without the camp, bearing His reproach.” To carry a cross for Christ has another meaning. It means that for Christ’s sake the person who does so takes up a trial that comes to him in the course of God’s providence, and not through his own choice, or fault, or folly. A man does, from a sublime motive, some evil thing that good may come. Then he suffers the penalty. When he does so, that is not suffering a cross. When a man is a violator of the Petrine law; when he is a busybody and a meddler in other men’s matters, and suffers the proper penalty; when a man does a right thing at a wrong time, or in a wrong place, or in a wrong way, and suffers the penalty; when a man tries to help out the cleansing efficacy of Christ’s blood by some nostrum of his own, as if the great Lord of the universe had mistaken the proportions in which health and sickness, light and darkness, fire and frost, ease and pain, should be distributed, and suffers a complicated penalty thereby and therefrom, that penalty is not a cross in any one instance. Penalty is penalty, and nothing else. Whatever the cause may be in which you are acting or suffering, penalty is penalty, not a cross taken up for Christ. But when, for the sake of principle, for the sake of profession, for the sake and in the course of carrying out the laws of a Christian calling, any man has to suffer something sharp, or to bear something gaffing, for Christ’s sake, that is a cross. (Charles Stanford, D. D.)

Taking up the cross

I. What is this cross? By the cross is not meant any affliction which belongs to the common calamities of nature; but that suffering which is inflicted for the profession of Christ and His truth.

1. From Him: His fan to sift and purge us.

2. For Him: endured for His cause and glory.

3. His in His mystical body; not natural.

4. Not in respect of merit, but of sympathy.

II. Why is it called the cross?

1. Because of the union between Christ and the Christian, so it is a part of Christ’s own cross: for as all the members suffered with Christ on the cross, as their Surety; so He suffers with them as His members.

2. That we should never think of the troubles for Christ, but cast our eyes also upon the cross of Christ, where we shall see Him sanctifying, sweetening, and conquering all our sorrows.

3. That in all our sufferings for Christ we should support our faith and patience in beholding what was the end of Christ’s cross, and to expect the same happy end of our crosses for Christ-the crown.

III. What is it to take up the cross? It is not to devise voluntary affliction for ourselves. Neither is it to pull the cross upon our shoulders. For-

1. Christ did not carry His cross till it was laid upon Him.

2. Our rule is to use all good means for the preservation of our bodies, health, wealth, and comfort.

3. Every bearing of affliction must be an obedience of faith, and as such based upon a commandment of God. No soldier must of his own head raise war against his own peace, nor set fire upon his own house; this is not the part of a good soldier, but of a mutinous fellow. So no soldier of Christ must be superfluous in suffering.

4. We may not tempt God by running before Him, but follow Him going before us. If without sin and with good conscience we may escape danger, and do not, we run upon it, and it becomes our own cross, and not Christ’s. It is enough to suffer wrong; we must not offer wrong to our own persons. We are not bound to seek the cross, nor make it, but to bear and take it up. Nor to fill the cup for ourselves, but to drink it when God reaches it. To take up the cross, therefore, is, when a cross meet us in our way, which we cannot without sin escape, we must now take knowledge of God’s will, God’s hand, God’s time, and God’s voice calling us to suffer. Now God laying on the cross, we must not pull away the shoulder, nor hide ourselves from the cross under the covert of sinful shifts, nor avoid it by any unlawful means, but take it up, and buckle to the burden.

IV. The necessity of the cross.

1. To the godly afflictions are often as necessary as meat and drink; for prosperity is as a dead sea (Proverbs 1:32). Standing waters contract mud, and breed vermin; a still body fills with bad humours. Fallow and unstirred grounds are fruitful in weeds; therefore God in great wisdom by trials shakes them out of security, and makes them more watchful of themselves; scouring makes metals brighter and more useful.

2. Another reason why the Lord hath yoked the Christian to the cross is, because He will thence fetch a strong argument to confound Satan (Job 1:9); He will have it appear that His servants love Christ and religion for itself, not for wealth or ease.

3. Comfort to the saints in their suffering.

(1) In that they have such a partner.

(2) In that we have Christ Himself at the other end of the cross, helping and supporting us. He is of power to carry the heavy end, and bear off the weight from us.

(3) In that we have all the saints our companions. How can we sink having so many shoulders under our burden.

V. What is required in taking up the cross?

1. A continual expectation and a standing unfearfully in the station wherein God hath set us, with a strong resolution not to be discouraged, though crosses come never so thick. Expected evils smart less.

2. A contentedness to abide under a great burden, as a man stands under the burden he hath taken up.

3. Love of God, notwithstanding the cross.

4. Humility and silence; not disputing the matter with God.

5. Joy and rejoicing, not in the smart of the cross, but in waiting the sweet fruit of it. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

Verse 35

Mark 8:35

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it.

Bearing the cross

A three-fold inducement is here held out.

I. Each man has two lives-A lower and earthly, and a higher and heavenly. If any man thinks only of the former, and makes everything bend to that, with all its temporal enjoyments and self-pleasing, he will forfeit all right to the latter. If, however, he learns to sit loosely to that, and is prepared to resign it whenever a strong sense of duty prompts the resignation, he carries in his hand a passport into a higher and nobler existence.

II. There is a vast disproportion between the two lives.

1. He pictures to His hearers a man placed upon trial for his conduct, and condemned to forfeit all claim to eternal life, because he has thought only of the present, and taken his fill of its pleasures; and then He weighs in the balance one against the other, what he has gained and what he has lost, and the former flies up at once and kicks the beam, for it is altogether lighter than vanity itself.

2. There are many things which may be recovered by ransom or won back by exchange; but eternal life, once forfeited, is past recovery; at least no corruptible things, such as silver and gold, neither thousands of rams nor ten thousands of rivers of oil, can effect a redemption or offer the least compensation.

III. He appeals to the requital at the final judgment. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

Meaning of the term “life”

The first thing for us to do is to settle the meaning of the word “life.” In this the Lord helps us. He calls it in one place our “life in this world” (John 12:25). The term is the very same which is used in Genesis, where it is said that “man became a living soul.” Again, it is a word which the Hebrews used as a synonym for happiness. A happy life in this world; perhaps that phrase might do by way of beginning our definition. But that definition is not complete. A good Christian life is a happy life; nay, it is the happiest of all, and it is led in this world; so that one might lead a happy life in this world, and yet lose nothing in the world to come. Let us go on then to take in other elements. “Life in this world” appears to mean life which has no reference to any other; a worldly life only-no more; a life which is regarded as a complete and finished thing in itself; which needs no rounding and filling out by aught to come after it; a life which has in its activities, in its aims, in its felt necessities, no relation to any other: that seems to be the life here spoken of … God Almighty, when He made man, made him at first the tenant of this natural world, which was to him, for a time, a home, and, during that time, gave him all that the natural man requires: nor was it till God proposed to him a supernatural end, and an eternal life of glory and felicity like that of God Himself, that the natural earthly life sank away out of sight, and man, reaching forth towards the heavenly prize, lost his relish for visible and temporal joys. This, then, is what we understand by that “life” which we are hidden not to love, nor save, nor find. It is this natural existence, this earthly state, this present life, alone and by itself, with nothing in it prophetic of the world to come, with nothing in it to sanctify, hallow, bless; a life, perhaps of toil, perhaps of pleasure, yet marked by no holy signs, secular, social, and domestic; wherein all is for time and man, and nothing for God. That is our natural state; we began that way; and there should we have remained, but for some act on God’s part calling us away; as the scripture calls it, “electing” us; giving us a new birth unto another and wholly different condition; and begetting us again unto a lively hope which has its spring and centre in a supernatural region. (Morgan Dix, D. D.)

Life saved, yet lost

Let us force again upon our thoughts the danger of getting back into the bondage from which the Lord has made us free. This common natural life of ours; the life of those who are “conceived and born in sin;” the life which is so loaded down with divers kinds of trial and sorrow; the life which has, no doubt, much that is bright and pleasant in it, but also much that is very hard and bitter; this life which can be abstracted from any practical relation to aught that is to come hereafter, and made to look as if it came out of nothing and went back into nothing; why should we love it so dearly as to care for nothing else? why should we be so wrapped up in it as to feel almost as if it sufficed to our necessity? Men thus love it; and a cold shudder passes through the soul when they think, “After a little while, comes an end, and then what shall become of me?” And some men are like persons seeking to find what is lost. You lose a piece of silver, and you give your whole thought to searching for it. You mislay a book, or an important paper, and you give yourself no rest till you find it again. A name is gone from your memory, or the details of an incident from your recollection, and you think, and think, and try to get hold of the lost idea, the impression which you cannot trace. So do some men search the world through, fix their whole thoughts on their life, and try to get out of it the pleasure they miss, and of it to fill the void in their hearts. And think what it is to save: the double sense that is here. You save a thing from destruction: you rescue a drowning man, you run in haste to snatch something from the flames. Or again, you save things by putting them away and making no use of them. You hide things in dark closets or on top shelves, and there they remain, unused, till the dust settles on them, and the moth or the worm consume them. Or so might one hide grain away, instead of sowing it in the ground, and what might have produced the bright green leaf and the rich full fruit in the ear, lies there sterile and valueless. Thus do some men save their lives; they never will take any risk; they never do one brave, unselfish thing; they are always in alarm for consequences, afraid of compromising themselves or their interest, afraid of losing the earthly possession. Or they bury their talents and skill, their ideals and ambitions, so that when they come to die no one can recollect one single thing they ever did in all their lives, that others might be thankful for, or for which society was the better. (Morgan Dix, D. D.)

Insecurity of this life

Some years ago a vessel lay becalmed on a smooth sea in the vicinity of an iceberg. In full view the mountain mass of frozen splendour rose before the passengers of the vessel, its towers and pinnacles glittering in the sunlight, and clothed in the enchanting and varied colours of the rainbow. A party on board the vessel resolved to climb the steep sides of the iceberg, and spend the day in a picnic on the summit. The novelty and attraction of the hazardous enterprise blinded them to the danger, and they left the vessel, ascended the steep mountain of ice, spread their table on the summit, and enjoyed their dance of pleasure on the surface of the frosty marble. Nothing disturbed their security, or marred their enjoyment. Their sport was finished and they made their way down to the water level and embarked. But scarcely had they reached a safe distance before the loud crash of the crumbling mass was heard. The scene of their gaiety was covered with the huge fragments of the falling pinnacles, and the giant iceberg rolled over with a shock that sent a thrill of awe and terror to the breast of every spectator. Not one of that gay party could ever be induced to try that rash experiment again. But what is this world with all its brilliancy, its hopes, and its alluring pleasures, but a glittering iceberg, melting slowly away? Its false splendour, enchanting to the eye, dissolves, and as drop after drop trickles down its sides, or steals unseen through its hidden pores, its very foundations are undermined, and the steady decay prepares for a sudden catastrophe. Such is the world to many who dance over its surface, and in a false security forget the treacherous footing on which they stand. But can anyone who knows what it is, avoid feeling that every moment is pregnant with danger, and that the final catastrophe is hastening on? Is it in a merely fanciful alarm that we warn you to flee from the wrath to come, that we tell you that every moment of life is full of the deepest solemnity, and that we admonish you of the treacherous character of hopes that glitter like the pinnacles of the iceberg in the sunlight, which a moment may crumble to ruined fragments, strewn over your grave? If it is solemn to die, is it not solemn to live, when any moment may be the door through which you may pass into eternity? What are all the objects upon which you rely-health, strength, youthful vigour-but the frozen marble beneath your feet, that may yield in an hour when you dream not, and leave you to sink in a river which no plummet can fathom? Could you be so secure, so heedless of warning, if you realized your true condition. (Homiletic Encyclopaedia.)

The shroud of Saladin

Who has not heard, or rather read, of that famous Asiatic warrior, Saladin? After subjugating Egypt, establishing himself as Sultan of Egypt and Syria, taking towns without number, and retaking Jerusalem itself from the hands of the crusaders, this Moslem hero of the Third Crusade, and beau ideal of mediaeval chivalry, had at length to yield to a still mightier conqueror. A few moments before he breathed his last he ordered a herald to suspend on the point of a lance the shroud in which he was to be buried, and to cry as he raised it, “Look, here is all that Saladin the Great, the conqueror, the emperor, bears away with him of all his glory.” Thus all the honours and riches of this world, all bodily pleasures and gratifications, all earthly greatness, are reduced by death to the shroud and the winding sheet; but the soul, immortal in its nature, and secure in its existence, “smiles at the drawn dagger” or other implement of death. Who, then, can estimate the untold value of the soul? (J. J. Given, M. A.)

Men burn for goods, who will not for Christ

Richard Denton, a blacksmith, was the means of converting the martyr, William Woolsey. When told by that holy man that he wondered he had not followed him to prison, Denton replied that he could not burn in the cause of Christ. Not long after, his house being on fire, he ran in to save some of his goods, and was burnt to death!

And the gospel’s

These words, peculiar to St. Mark, are written for those who in this day cannot follow Christ personally, as the apostles did. They teach us that those who now forsake the comforts of home and intellectual society, and the prospects of preferment in a wealthy Church, to preach the gospel amongst uncivilized or savage tribes, in so doing lose their lives, or all that worldly men esteem life worth living for, not only for the gospel, or for the Church’s sake, but for Christ Himself. (M. F. Sadler.)

Life lost and saved

It is a riddle to flesh and blood, that the same life should be both saved and lost: For the resolving whereof we must know that there is a two-fold tribunal, the court of the world, and the court of heaven; and as he that saves himself in the common law, may be cast in the Chancery; so he that saves himself here in the consistories of men, may elsewhere lose himself, namely, in the court of heaven. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

Loving Christ best

I. If we look at Christ, He is to be loved best of all, and all things must be accounted “dross and dung in comparison of Him” (Philippians 3:7-8). Again, if we look on His merit and desert, he loved not His life unto death for us, but readily offered it up on our behalf (Luke 12:50). How then should we hold ourselves bound in way of thankfulness, if we had a thousand lives, to give them up for Him? shall the Just for the unjust, and not the unjust for the Just?

II. If we look to the truth and gospel, it is far more worthy than all we can give in exchange for it; it cost Christ dear: He thought it worthy of His life, and bought with His precious blood, which was the blood of God (Acts 20:28); and should we think much to buy it with our last blood?

III. If we look on ourselves:

1. We are soldiers under Christ’s colours. A soldier in the field sells his life for a base pay, and is ready for his king and country to endure blows, gashes, and death itself. How much more ought the Christian soldier for the love of his Captain, and honour of his profession, contemn fears and perils, and think his life well sold in so honourable a quarrel and cause as Christ’s is?

2. This is indeed rightly to love ourselves, when we can rightly hate ourselves. We must learn to love ourselves by not loving ourselves. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

Thought no test of love

I grant we have callings, and earthly affairs, which tie us ordinarily to speak and think of such things; but the special calling of a Christian must be ever subordinate to the general, and in all earthly business a man must carry a heavenly mind. God gives no leave to be earthly-minded, even while a man is earthly employed. Again, the speaking and thinking more of a thing upon necessity doth not ever argue more love unto it, but the speaking and thinking of things out of the valuation of judgment: for instance, a workman thinks more of his tools, and an husbandman speaks more of his husbandry, than of his wife or children, because these are the objects of his labour; but it follows not he loves them better, because he does not in his judgment esteem these better. Now let a Christian preserve in his judgment a better estimate of Christ and heavenly things, and his speeches in things earthly will still prefer that, and run upon it. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

Life saved by losing it

And this is, if we believe our Lord, to save and preserve our life by thus casting it away. A man that will save his seed, and not cast it away into the ground, loseth it by such saving; but if he sow it, he reneweth it, and multiplieth it, some times an hundredfold. So to lose thyself for Christ, is to save thyself, and to reap an hundred fold. For it is but sown to spring out unto the eternal harvest. Ever remember that the right love of a man’s self is in and for Christ. Objection. You speak of nothing but hindrance and loss, and as if a Christian may not have riches, friends, life and comforts of it. Answer.

1. Yes, he may have them, and must save them; but not in Christ’s cause when he is called from them.

2. Divorce not the parts of the text: as there is loss in the text, so there is a greater gain by it; as the harvest makes him a gainer, who in seed time seemed a loser. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

Verses 36-37

Mark 8:36-37

For what shall it profit a man?

The worth and excellency of the soul

The soul of man is of inestimable value.

1. In respect of its capacity of understanding.

2. In respect of its capacity of moral perfection.

3. In respect of its capacity of pleasure and delight.

4. The high price which God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have set upon our souls. (Dr. Scott.)

The gain of the world compared with the loss of the soul

I. The gain supposed.

1. It is an uncertain gain-“If.”

2. It is a difficult gain.

3. It is a trifling gain.

4. It is an unsatisfactory gain,

5. It is a temporary gain.

II. The loss sustained.

1. The loss of heaven.

2. The loss of happiness.

3. The loss of hope.

III. The inquiry proposed.

1. Will the pleasures of sin compensate you for eternal pain?

2. Will any worldly gain compensate you for the loss of the soul?

3. Christ shunned the offer, you accept less.

4. Or will you ask, “What must I do to be saved?” (H. F. Pickworth.)

I. The manner of propounding this truth. The manner of propounding is by a continued interrogation, which not only carrieth in it more strength than an ordinary negation, but stirreth up the hearer to ponder and well weigh the matter, as if he were to give his judgment and answer; as if the Lord had said in larger speech, “Tell me out of your own judgments and best understanding, let your own consciences be judges whether the whole world were a reasonable gain for the loss of the soul, or whether the whole world could recover such a loss, or no.”

2. In the manner note another point of wisdom, namely, in matters of much importance, as is the losing of the soul; or else of great danger, as is the winning of the world, to use more than ordinary vehemence.

3. Our Saviour in the manner teacheth how naturally we are all of us inclined to the world, to seek it with all greediness, and so have need of many and strong back biases.

II. The matter affords sundry instructions:-

1. The more a man is addicted to gain the world, the greater is the danger of losing his soul. They that will be rich fall into many temptations and snares.

2. Desire to be rich and gain the world stuffeth the soul with a thousand damnable lusts, everyone able to sink it to hell.

3. Desire of gain threatens danger and singular detriment to the soul; because it brings it almost to an impossibility of repentance and salvation; Matthew 19:20 : “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to be saved.”

4. As it keeps out grace in all the means of it, so it eats out and casteth it out of the heart, as the lean kine ate up the fat, and were lean and ill-favoured still. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

Gaining the world

What a man loses this side of the grave by this unholy bargain.

1. A good conscience.

2. His communion with God.

3. His hope in the future.

Some are selling their souls-

1. For pleasure.

2. For the world.

3. For business.

4. For fear of ridicule. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

A sum in gospel arithmetic

I propose to estimate and compare the value of the two properties.

I. The world is a very grand property. Its flowers are God’s thoughts in bloom. Its rocks are God’s thoughts in stone. Its dew drops are God’s thoughts in pearl. How beautiful the spring with bridal blossoms in her hair. “Oh,” you say, “take my soul! give me that world.” But look more minutely into the value of this world. You will not buy property unless you can get a good title. You cannot get a good title to the world. In five minutes after I give up my soul for the world, I may have to part with it. There is only one way in which I can hold an earthly possession, and that is through the senses: all beautiful sights through the eye, but the eye may be blotted out-all captivating sounds through the ear, but my ear may be deafened-all lusciousness of fruits and viands through my taste, but my taste may be destroyed-all appreciation of culture and of art through my mind, but I may lose my mind. What a frail hold, then, I have upon any earthly possession! Now, in courts of law, if you want to get a man off a property, you must serve upon him a writ of ejectment, giving him a certain time to vacate the premises; but when death comes to us and serves a writ of ejectment, he does not give us one second of forewarning. He says, “Off of this place! You have no right any longer to the possession.” We might cry out, “I gave a hundred thousand dollars for that property”-the plea would be of no avail. We might say, “We have a warrantee deed for that property”-the plea would be of no avail. We might say, “We have a lien on that storehouse”-the plea would be of no avail. Death is blind, and he cannot see a seal, and cannot read an indenture. So that first and last, I want to tell you that when you propose that I give up my soul for the world, you cannot give me the first item of title. Having examined the title of a property, your next question is about insurance. You would not be silly enough to buy a large warehouse that could not possibly be insured. You would not have anything to do with such a property. Now, I ask you what assurance can you give me that this world is not going to be burned up? Absolutely none. Geologists tell us that it is already on fire, that the heart of the world is one great living coal, that it is just like a ship on fire at sea, the flames not bursting out because the hatches are kept down. And yet you propose to palm off on me, in return for my soul, a world for which, in the first place, you give no title, and in the second place, for which you can give no insurance. “Oh,” you say, “the water of the oceans will wash over all the land and put out the fire.” Oh no, there are inflammable elements in the water-hydrogen and oxygen. Call off the hydrogen, and then the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans would blaze like heaps of shavings. You want me to take this world for which you can give no possible insurance. Astronomers have swept their telescopes through the sky, and have found out that there have been thirteen worlds, in the last two centuries, that have disappeared. At first, they looked just like other worlds. Then they got deeply red-they were on fire. Then they got ashen, showing they were burned down. Then they disappeared, showing that even the ashes were scattered. And if the geologist be right in his prophecy, then our world is to go in the same way. And yet you want me to exchange my soul for it. Ah no, it is a world that is burning now. Suppose you brought an insurance agent to look at your property for the purpose of giving you a policy upon it, and while he stood in front of the house, he would say, “That house is on fire now in the basement”-you could not get any insurance upon it. Yet you talk about this world as though it were a safe investment, as though you could get some insurance upon it, when down in the basement it is on fire. I remark, also, that this world is a property, with which everybody who has taken it as a possession, has had trouble. Now, between my house and this church, there is a reach of land which is not built on. I ask what is the matter, and they reply that everybody who has had anything to do with that property got into trouble about it. It is just so with this world; everybody who has had anything to do with it, as a possession, has been in perplexity. How was it with Lord Byron? Did he not sell his immortal soul for the purpose of getting the world? Was he satisfied with the possession? Alas, alas, the poet graphically describes his case when he says:

“Drank every cup of joy, heard every trump

Of fame; drank early, deeply drank; drank draughts

Which common millions might have drank. Then died

Of thirst, because there was no more to drink.”

Oh yes, he had trouble with it, and so did Napoleon. After conquering nations by the force of the sword, he lies down to die, his entire possession the military boots that he insisted on having upon his feet while he was dying. So it has been with men who had better ambition. Thackeray, one of the most genial and lovable souls, after he had won the applause of all intelligent lands through his wonderful genius, sits down in a restaurant in Paris, looks to the other end of the room, and wonders whose that forlorn and wretched face is; rising up, after awhile, he finds that it is Thackeray in the mirror. Oh yes, this world is a cheat. Talk about a man gaining the world! Who ever gained half the world?

II. Now, let us look at the other property-the soul. We cannot make a bargain without seeing the comparative value. The soul! How shall I estimate the value of it? Well, by its exquisite organization. It is the most wonderful piece of mechanism ever put together. Machinery is of value in proportion as it is mighty and silent at the same time. You look at the engine and the machinery in the Philadelphia Mint, and as you see it performing its wonderful work, you will be surprised to find how silently it goes. Machinery that roars and tears soon destroys itself; but silent machinery is often most effective. Now, so it is with the soul of man, with all its tremendous faculties-it moves in silence. Judgment without any racket, lifting its scales; memory without any noise, bringing down all its treasures; conscience taking its judgment seat without any excitement; the understanding and the will all doing their work. Velocity, majesty, might; but silence-silence. You listen at the door of your heart. You can hear no sound. The soul is all quiet. It is so delicate an instrument, that no human hand can touch it. You break a bone, and with splinters and bandages the surgeon sets it; the eye becomes inflamed, the apothecary’s wash cools it; but the soul off the track, unbalanced, no human power can readjust it. With one sweep of its wing it circles the universe, and over-vaults the throne of God. Why, in the hour of death the soul is so mighty, it throws aside the body as though it were a toy. It drives back medical skill as impotent. It breaks through the circle of loved ones who stand around the dying couch. With one leap it springs beyond star, and moon, and sun, and chasms of immensity. Oh, it is a soul superior to all material things. I calculate further the value of the soul by the price that has been paid for it. In St. Petersburg, there is a diamond that Government paid two hundred thousand dollars for. “Well,” you say, ‘‘it must have been very valuable, or the Government would not have paid two hundred thousand dollars for it.” I want to see what my soul is worth, and what your soul is worth, by seeing what has been paid for it. For that immortal soul, the richest blood that was ever shed, the deepest groan that was ever uttered, all the griefs of earth compressed into one tear, all the sufferings of earth gathered into one rapier of pain and struck through His holy heart. Does it not imply tremendous value? I argue also the value of the soul from the home that has been fitted up for it in the future. One would have thought that a street of adamant would have done. No, it is a street of gold. One would have thought that a wall of granite would have done. No, it is the flame of sardonyx mingling with the green of emerald. One would have thought that an occasional doxology would have done? No, it is a perpetual song. (Dr. Talmage.)

The chief thing forgotten

So short-sighted and foolish is man! I once read of a woman whose house was on fire. She was very active in removing her goods, but forgot her child, who was asleep in the cradle. At last she thought of the poor babe, and ran, with earnest desire, to save it. But it was now too late; the flames prevented her from crossing the threshold. Judge of the agony of mind which wrung from her the bitter exclamation: “Oh, my child! my child! I have saved my goods, but lost my child!” So will it be with many a poor sinner, who spent all his life in the occupations of the world, while the “one thing needful” was forgotten. What will it then avail for a man to say, “I secured a good place, or a good trade, or profession, but I lost my soul? I made many friends, but God is my enemy. I heaped up riches, but now they must all be left.”

Profit and loss

What is the good of life to us if we do not live? what is the profit of being a man in form and not a man in fact? what is the worth of existence if its worth is all, or, for the most part, outside of us and not in us? There are two remarks which might be made in illustration of this question, in the sense in which I take it.

I. The gain here spoken of is nominal, imaginary.

II. The loss is real, and it is the greatest conceivable.

I. I shall only have time here to say a few words with regard to the latter point. As to the former I will only say, that to lose the soul, not to live man’s higher life, is really also to lose the world, whether you mean by it the material world, or the activities and pleasures of human life. It is only in an imaginary, entirely illusory way that any man who loses his soul gains the world. We gain as much of the world as really enriches us, really enters in the shape of thought and feeling into the current of our existence, really affords us unmixed and enduring satisfaction, and we gain no more of the world than this. We have of the world not what we call our own, but what we are able to enjoy and no more. It is not to gain the world, to gain riches which can buy anything the world contains, unless you can buy along with it the power to enjoy it. Thus rich men gain the whole world and do not gain it at all. They have no delight in books, no interest in public affairs, no zest for amusements. They have gained the world, and do not possess it. Their world is almost the poorest conceivable. It does not enrich them. It does not occupy their affections, or fill up their idle hours; it does not lend stir or variety or charm or value to their existence. Cultivate and expand the mind: in proportion as you do so, though your fortunes remain stationary, you gain the world. On the other hand, an educated man may be poor-the inhabitant of a garret or of a cottage; but the world which exists for him, in which he lives, is rich and spacious. In the observation of nature, in the study of books, above all in the study of man, he finds deep, unfailing delights. The seas which break on the shores of other lands, the storms that sweep over them, the streams that flow through them, the people who inhabit them, are all full of interest to him, and possess him And are possessed by him. In comparison with that of a man devoid of intellectual life, his world is one full of a thousand various pleasures, and occupations, and possessions. Without something higher and better than even intellect and mental culture and activity, you cannot gain the world, except in a poor and illusory manner. Only if you have the soul to scorn delights and live laborious days, not for fame but for the good of others, to spend riches and health and intellect and life, not in ministering to selfish tastes, be they either fine or coarse, but in doing good, helping others to be better and happier, in being to them a minister of the things which God has given you, and a herald to them of the glad tidings of God’s love, and man’s fellow feeling and charity;-only if you have such a soul can you truly gain the world, enjoy its best, purest, most various, and abundant pleasures and satisfactions, and also have the sting taken out of its worst trials and afflictions. The luxury of doing good in the love of goodness, of giving rather than receiving, is the best and richest which the world affords. It was a luxury to enjoy which the Son of Man advised one whom He loved well, one who had gained the world and had large possessions, to sell all that he had and give it to the poor, and come and follow Him. The gain here spoken of, then, is illusory.

II. The loss is real and immense.

1. In the first place, the soul is lost by not being exercised. Life which is not effort, growth, increase, is not life at all; it is life lost. Souls are not in danger of being lost when they are without such light as we enjoy. They are lost. There is no contingency in the matter. Where man’s higher life has not been called forth, the loss is not what may be, but what is-it is condemnation and death. Only compare a savage of any country with a Christian of your own land, and see if the loss is nothing or little. I speak of the heathen abroad, because what is to be said of them has its application at home. Use the body, exercise your limbs, observe the laws which govern the use of your physical nature, and you will thus best secure its health and soundness. In the same way it does not save the soul to entertain, as many do, a constant and worrying anxiety as to the soul. Use the soul, exercise your higher life, and you will thus save the soul, thus promote your higher life.

2. I remark, in the second place, that the soul is lost when it is perverted and corrupted. It is perverted and corrupted in the sphere of the lower life. In this sphere souls are doubly lost, as a citadel for which contending armies strive for weeks and months is doubly lost when those who ought to hold it are driven out and those who ought not to hold it enter in. They are lost as a friend is lost who becomes a foe; they are lost as guns are lost in battle when they are turned upon their retreating owners. When, instead of a man having passions and commanding them, passions possess the man and command him, all human life, all higher life is lost; it is gradually or rapidly narrowed, curtailed, darkened, debased, emptied of its worth and value. The soul is perverted in the sphere of the lower life. It is more important, perhaps, to remark that it is perverted and corrupted in its own sphere. It reminds us that souls are perverted in their own sphere-perverted not only by passion but by religion. If the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness! If your religion is false, where can you be in contact with truth? Souls lost through passion often keep a mysterious reserve of goodness in which there is hope. It is not so where religion is not love, but sect and party, selfishness, spiritual pride, bigotry; where religion, instead of demolishing every wall of partition between man and man, and between man and God, erects new barriers and new divisions. Man’s higher life of faith and goodness is here under a double curse-it is cut off at once from nature and from grace, it is severed at once from the world and God, it has neither pagan health nor Christian beauty, neither natural bloom nor spiritual glory.

3. It is easy, I remark in conclusion, to exhaust the world and life in all directions but one. As for the great mass of men, they are by their very condition denied all, or almost all, that makes life attractive, beautiful, enjoyable. Even much study itself is a weariness of the flesh. As we think of all this, we are tempted to say-Surely every man walketh in a vain show; they are disquieted in vain. Other life is vain-man’s true life is not vanity, nor vexation of spirit. For all men, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, for the drudge toiling in darkness in a mine, for those whose labours are in the lofty fields of science, there is a life possible, not remote, far off, unnatural, but their own life, man’s true life, life of faith and goodness, Christ’s life in the unseen and eternal, from which vanity is remote, to which vexation cannot come, in which the rich find the true use of riches, the learned and gifted of their gifts, the poor an untold wealth in poverty, all men the grandeur, worth, sacredness of this mortal existence. In the same way, I will add, is immortality brought to light also. Flesh and blood may turn again to clay, all human glory may fade; but truth and righteousness and love are Divine and cannot die. A life which is filled by these is a part of the life of God, who inhabiteth eternity. (J. Service, D. D.)

Selling one’s soul

I. Let us examine, in the first place, this fine human possession, which the devil wishes to obtain, called, by all of the evangelists who report Jesus’ words, a man’s “own soul.”

1. Think of this: Each of us has a whole soul to himself. There is that within us which has measureless capacities. There is within us, too, that which has marvellous susceptibilities. A human heart can weep and sing, groan and laugh, shudder and shiver. There is, also, that within us which has untold possibilities. Each birth begins a history, the pages of which are not written out at once. It can be a Nero or a Paul, a Saul or a David, a Bunyan or a Byron, a star or a shadow.

2. Think of this next: This soul is entirely each man’s own. We might have expected such a thing, for all God’s gifts and creations are perfect. He gave each human creature one soul, and then he placed the individual owner in dominion over it. Hence, He respects the property title in all His dealings with it. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (see Revelation 3:20). Even the devil has no power to steal away a man’s soul unawares.

3. Then think of another thing: Great estimates have been set upon the value of a human soul.

4. Then, again, think of this: If lost, this soul of ours is all lost at once. When a soul is sold to the devil, it resembles real estate, in that it carries all improvements with it. For the sale of soul transfers all the powers of it. The intellect enters perdition unchanged. Moreover, this ruin carries with it all the soul’s sensibilities. We can suffer here; but no one can picture with language how the finally lost at last learn to suffer. The sale of the soul, furthermore, carries with it all its biographies. Our souls are our biographies incorporated in existence. Each fibre of being is a thought, a word, or a feeling. He who sells his soul to the devil sells his father’s tenderness and his mother’s tears, his chances of good, his resolutions of reform, his remembrance of Sabbaths, his own fruitless remorses over sin, his educations, his embellishments-his all.

II. Now let us, in the second place, turn to consider the devil’s price for a soul, called, by the evangelists all alike, “the whole world.”

1. Observe the rather fine show it makes.

2. But now, on the other hand, it is just fair that men should note some delusive reserves concealed in this luring price. For example, remember that the devil never offered the entire world to anybody except Jesus Christ (see Matthew 4:8-9). He never said anything like that to a common man. Let us give even Satan his due. One lie there is he has not yet told upon this earth. He has offered no man the whole world. Nor has any one person ever had it. Nor does anybody keep what he gets.

3. Still further: observe as you contemplate this lure of the devil, which he calls his price, the painful drawbacks one meets in the enjoyment of it after it is attained. The world we get attracts jealousy the moment we have it in possession. Mere possession of “the world” brings satiety. One of the kings in Europe, it is recorded, wearied and disgusted with luxurious pleasures, offered a vast reward just for the discovery of what he called “a new sensation.” The princes of the earth are not contented. Rasselas was restless even in the Happy Valley. The gain of this world engenders a fresh craving for more. Poetic justice at least was that when the Parthians rewarded Crassus for the infamy of his avarice by pouring melted gold down his throat until he was full of it; then he had enough, and died. Then love is lost in the strife of desire.

III. All that remains now to be considered, is the grand offer of Christ, as He attempts to arrest the ruinous bargain He sees going rapidly on toward its consummation.

1. First, What does the Saviour say? The answer is found in the context. From this we learn that Christ’s offer for a man’s soul, is the soul itself. It is as if He said, “Give Me your soul, and I will secure the everlasting possession of it to yourself; if you will lose your life-or soul-to Me, I will see that you shall save it.” He will take nothing away in this transfer but our imperfections and our sins.

2. Then what will the Saviour ask? Only this: “Come to Me; repent of sin; trust Me for an atonement; enter upon My service; try to do good; rest in My love; perfect yourself for heaven.”

3. Can the Saviour be actually in earnest? The Son of God became the Son of man in order to make this offer for human souls. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Loss of the soul-its extent

I. It is an entire loss. When Francis

I. lost the important battle of Pavia, he described it by saying, “We have lost all but honour.” But there is nothing to qualify or mitigate the loss of the soul. It is the loss of losses, the death of deaths-a catastrophe unequalled in extent, and unparalleled in its amount through all the universe of God.

II. A loss without compensation. The great fire of London consumed six hundred streets, thirteen thousand dwellings, and ninety churches, and destroyed property to the amount of seven and a half millions of pounds sterling. Yet that calamity was in some sort changed into a blessing; for the rebuilding of the city, in a superior style of architecture, and with more regard to sanitary arrangements, banished forever the fearful plague which had previously made such havoc. But for the loss of the soul nothing can countervail so as to make amends for it.

III. Irreparable. Other losses may be repaired. Lost friendships may be regained or replaced; lost health may be restored; lost property recovered; but the loss of the soul can never be retrieved. When Sir Isaac Newton had lost some most important and complicated calculations, the result of years of patient thought and investigation, by the burning of his papers, the loss to him was immense; and yet, with patience equal to his genius, he could say to the favourite animal that caused it, “Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the labour thou hast cost me!” But what is the loss even of years of patient philosophic investigation and profound mathematical research, compared with the loss of a human soul, capable of conducting, in some degree, similar investigations, and of repeating and repairing them if lost?

IV. Cast away. The second death. (J. J. Given, M. A.)

How awful the charge of souls

Ministers have taken even the care of immortal souls, their education for eternity, their discipline for heaven! Have we ever essayed, however vain the effort, to take the dimensions of a soul, to sound its depths, and explore its vast capacities? Look at the infant child that appears but little raised above the level of mere vegetable life. Mark the gigantic strides by which he rises in a few short years to such wonders of intelligence, that he dives into the hidden mysteries of nature, calculates the distance of the stars, and, by the magic of his telescope, sees world ascending above world, and system towering above system, up to the footstool of the throne of God! Into what, then, may a soul expand, when, free from the prison house of flesh, it is let out to expatiate amidst its native heavens! Or, what may such a nature be in its ruins, in a fall corresponding to such a height! These, then, are the mighty concerns with which we have professedly engaged to intermeddle. For the perdition or salvation of beings on so immense a scale, we shall have to render an account. (H. Woodward, M. A.)

All gain is loss when a man does not save his soul

He who possesses all things without God, has nothing. No man is so foolish as to be willing to purchase an empire at the price of his life; and yet the world is full of those pretenders to wisdom, who give up salvation and immortal life for a vain pleasure, a handful of money, or an inch of land. How much are the greatest conquerors to be pitied, if, whilst intoxicated with their victories and conquests, they ravage and lay waste the earth, their own souls are laid waste by sin and passion, and destroyed to all eternity. (Quesnel.)

The price of the soul

An appeal to the instincts of common sense, which comes specially home to a commercial nation like the English. The selling price-the market value of everything is challenged. All schemes and proposals-whether in the realm of politics or of commerce-are met with this question. The eager desire for profit carries men away till there is no room left for any other purpose in life. For money men will almost dare to die. There are men who for money’s worth will sell others’ lives-ship owners the lives of their sailors, mothers the happiness of their daughters. But there are more precious treasures at stake sometimes than even flesh and blood. Some will tamper, for money’s worth, with what involves the loss of the soul. This is a gain which it is dead loss to win; a price which it is suicidal to pay-selling for money that which no money can buy again; giving-like the foolish Glaucus-golden armour for brazen; trading on capital; embarking, with rotten securities, on a bubble scheme. No amount of earthly gain can free the soul from death and judgment. The moral life once gone-its vitality not destroyed but ruined and turned against itself-how shall it be recovered? Even now there is a foretaste of this awful state. At times there is within the heart a very hell of sin; jealousy, covetousness, cruelty, selfishness, all combining to make such a hell within the breast as a man would shrink from disclosing even to his most lenient friend. Plain sober reason, then, obliges us to consider Christ’s question. (H. B. Ottley M. A.)

What shall it profit …

To be good, nay, to pursue goodness as our ruling aim, is to make, or gain our souls. To be bad, or not to follow after that which is good, is to unmake or lose the soul. And hence, whatever other aims we may lawfully, or even laudably, place before us, this should stand first with us all. For what are we profited if we should achieve the highest distinction-what are we profited should we become great poets or artists, great scholars or statesmen, if we did not use our powers for good ends? Or, to use the sacred familiar words, “What is any man profited if he should gain the whole world only by the loss of his own soul?” Nay, more; what is the world profited if he should lose that? I often think of Sir Walter Scott kissing Lockhart, that bitter man of the world, and saying to him with his dying breath, “Be good, my dear, be good.” For Scott had gone far both to gain the world, and to lose it; only to discover at last-as sooner or later you will discover-that nothing but goodness is of any real worth. To be good, to do our duty in a dutiful and loving spirit, is the crown and top of all performance. And nothing short of this, nothing apart from this, will be of much comfort to us through life or in death. For, whatever England may do, it is very certain that God “expects every man to do his duty”-his duty to himself, to God, and to his neighbour-not only on this exceptional day or that, but every day. (S. Cox, D. D.)

Losing the soul

If you yield to temptation and fail in the hour of trial, if you cease from the work and retire from the strife, whatever else you may gain, you will be losing your soul-losing possession of it, losing command of it, losing hope for it. You will be adjudging yourself unworthy of the life eternal, condemning yourself to live in the flesh and walk after the flesh, instead of living and walking in the spirit. All that is noblest, purest, best in you will die for want of sustenance or want of exercise. All that is loftiest and noblest in thought, in morality, in religion, in life, will lose its power over you, its charm for you, and will fail any longer to quicken responses of love and desire within you. If you would know to what depths you may sink should you relinquish your aim, you have only to recall an experience which can hardly be strange to any man of mature years who has kept his soul alive. For who has not met an early friend, after long years of separation, only to find that by addicting himself to sensuous or selfish aims, by cherishing a vulgar and worldly spirit-or, in a word, by walking after the flesh-he has belied all the fair promise of his youth, and grown insensible to the charm and power of all that you still hold to be fairest, noblest, best? Speak to him of the open secrets of beauty, of purity, of truth, of love, and he stares at you as one who listens to a forgotten dream; or perhaps-as I once saw a poor fellow do-bursts into tears, and exclaims, “No one has spoken to me like that for an age!” If you would waken any real interest in him, elicit any frank response, your whole talk must take a lower range; you must come down to the level on which he now lives and moves. What has the man been doing with himself all these years? He has been losing his soul, suffering it to “lust in him unused.” He has exchanged his “immortal jewel,” not for the whole world-though even that were a losing bargain-but for a little of that which even the world confesses to be vile and sordid and base. To that base level even you may sink, if, amid all trials and temptations and defeats, you do not steadfastly pursue the high spiritual aim which Christ invites and commands you to cherish; if you do not seek above all else to be good, and do not therefore follow after whatsoever things are just, true, pure, fair. Hold fast to that aim, then; that by your constancy you may gain and possess your soul. (S. Cox, D. D.)

Loss of the soul

And what is it to lose a soul? It is to let weeds grow there instead of flowers. It is to let selfishness grow, suspicious, curious tempers grow, wantonness grow, until they have all the field to themselves. Set these in full force within a being, and add, if you will, a whole universe of possession: it is hell You may think that these are only strong rhetorical words. It is just as simple literal fact as that two and two make four. I do not think that you will need to look far around you in the world for the proof of it. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)

Monuments of soul ruin

Often, when travelling among the Alps, one sees a small black cross planted upon a rock, or on the brink of a torrent, or on the verge of a highway, to mark the spot where men have met with sudden death by accident. Solemn reminders these of our mortality! but they led our mind still further; for, we said within us, if the places where men seal themselves for the second death could be thus manifestly indicated, what a scene would this world present! Here the memorial of a soul undone by yielding to a foul temptation, there a conscience seared by the rejection of a final warning, and yonder a heart forever turned into a stone, by resisting the last tender appeal of love. Our places of worship would scarce hold the sorrowful monuments which might be erected over spots where spirits were forever lost-spirits that date their ruin from sinning against the gospel while under the sound of it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Lost, in seeking for gain

One summer afternoon, a steamer crowded with passengers, many of them miners from California, was speeding along the Mississippi. Striking suddenly and strongly against the wreck of another vessel which, unknown to the captain, lay near the surface of the water, her bow was stove in, and she began to fill rapidly. Her deck was a scene of wild confusion. Her boats were launched, but did not suffice to carry off one-fourth of the terrified passengers. The rest, divesting themselves of their garments, cast themselves into the river, “some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship and so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land.” Some minutes after the last of them had quitted the vessel, another man appeared on her deck. Seizing a spar, he also leaped into the river, but instead of floating as the others had done, he sank instantly as if he had been a stone. His body was afterwards recovered, and it was found that he had employed the quarter of an hour, in which his fellow passengers had been striving to save their lives, in rifling the trunks of the miners. All around his waist their bags of gold were fastened. In one short quarter of an hour he had gained more gold than most men earn in their lifetime; but was he advantaged thereby, seeing that he lost himself? And though you should gain power, or rank, or fame, or learning, or great wealth; though your life should be one prolonged triumphal procession, all men applauding you; though all your days you should drink unrestrained of the cup of the world’s pleasures, and never reach its bitter dregs; yet what shall you be advantaged if, nevertheless, you lose yourself, and, at last, instead of being received into heaven, are cast away? (R. A. Bertram.)

Great loss for momentary gratification

When Lysimachus was engaged in a war with the Getae, he was so tormented by thirst, that he offered his kingdom to his enemies for permission to quench it. His exclamation, when he had drunk the water they gave him, is striking. “Ah, wretched me, who for such a momentary gratification have lost so great a kingdom!”

What shall a man give in exchange for his soul

Think what a solemn question these words of our Lord Jesus Christ contain! What a mighty sum they propound to us for calculation!

I. Every one of us has an undying soul. This is not the only life we have to do with-we have every one of us an undying soul. There is a conscience in all mankind that is worth a thousand metaphysical arguments. What though we cannot see it? Are there not millions of things which we cannot see, and of the existence of which we have nevertheless no doubt? I do ask you to realize the dignity and the responsibility of having an immortal soul; to realize that in your soul you have the greatest talent that God has committed to your charge. Know that in your soul you have a pearl above all price, the loss of which nothing can ever make up.

II. Anyone may lose his own soul. Weak as we are in all things that are good, we have a mighty power to do ourselves harm. You cannot save that soul of yours, remember that. We are all by nature in great peril of losing our souls. But someone may ask, How may a man lose his soul? The answers to that question are many. Just as there are many diseases which assault and hurt the body, so there are many evils which assault and hurt the soul. Numerous, however, as are the ways in which a man may lose his own soul, they may be classed under these three heads.

1. You may murder your own soul by open sin, or serving lusts and pleasures.

2. You may poison your own soul by taking up some false religion.

3. You may starve your own soul to death by trifling and indecision. But, does it take much trouble to ruin a soul? Oh, no! There’s nothing you need do! You have only to sit still, etc. But are there many, you ask, who are losing their souls? Yes, indeed, there are t But, who is responsible for the loss of your soul? No one but yourself! But, where does your soul go when it is lost? There is but one place to which it can go.

III. The loss of any man’s soul is the heaviest loss he can suffer. No man living can show the full extent of the loss of the soul, nor paint it in its true colours. Nothing can ever make up for the loss of the soul in the life that now is. The loss of property and character are not always irreparable; once lost the soul is lost for evermore. The loss of his soul is irretrievable! Does any one of you wish to have some clear idea of the value of a soul? Then go and see what men think about the value of a soul when they are dying. Go and read the sixteenth chapter of St. Luke. Measure it by the price that was paid for it eighteen hundred years ago. We shall all understand the value of a soul one day. Seek to know its value now. Do not be like the Egyptian queen, who, in foolish ostentation, took a pearl of great value, dissolved it in some acid, and then drank it off. Do not, like her, east away that precious soul of yours, that pearl above all price, that God has committed to your charge.

IV. Any man’s soul may be saved. I dare say the proclamation is startling to some; it was once startling to me. “How can these things be?” No wonder you ask that question. This is the great knot the heathen philosophers could never untie-this is the problem which sages of Greece and Rome could not solve-this is a question which nothing can answer but the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Because Christ has died upon the cross to bear men’s sins.

2. Because Christ still lives.

3. Because the promises of Christ’s gospel are full, free, and unconditional.


1. Do not neglect your own soul.

2. Come to Christ without delay.

3. To all who have sought to have their souls saved, and have found Jesus a Saviour, “cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart,” etc. (Bishop Ryle.)

The soul

The soul is excellent in its nature. It is a spiritual being, “it is a kind of angelical thing.” The mind sparkles with knowledge, the will is crowned with liberty, and all the affections are as stars shining in their orbs. How quick are the motions of a spark! How swift the wings of cherubim! So quick and agile are the motions of the soul. What is quicker than thought? How many miles can the soul travel in an instant? The soul being spiritual moves upward; it has also a self-moving power, and can subsist when the body is dead, as the mariner can subsist when the ship is broken; it is also immortal-a bud of eternity. (T. Watson.)

Preciousness of the soul

It is a misapplication of forces for the nobler to spend itself upon the meaner. Men do not usually care to spend a pound in the hope of getting back a groat and no more, and yet, when the soul is given up for the sake of worldly gain, the loss is greater still, and not even the groat remains. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Soul a jewel

The soul is a jewel, a diamond set in a ring of clay; the soul is a glass in which some rays of the divine glory shine; it is a celestial spark lighted by the breath of God. (T. Watson.)

Winning the world

I do verily believe, that the winning of the whole world of power, is in itself so slight a gain, that it were fair to strike the balance, and say there is little left; for even Alexander himself envied the peasant in his cottage, and thought there was more happiness on the plains among the shepherds than in his palace amongst his gold and silver. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A witness to the worth of the world

Alexander, I summon thee! what thinkest thou: is it worth much to gain the world? Is its sceptre the wand of happiness? Is its crown the security of joy? See Alexander’s tears! He weeps! Yes, he weeps for another world to conquer! Ambition is insatiable! The gain of the whole world is not enough. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Profit and loss

I. What is a man profited if he should gain the whole world? Power over extensive empires. Power over great riches. Treasures of knowledge and pleasures. What will it profit him when he comes to die? In the day of judgment? when he gets to hell?

II. The losing the soul. Its intrinsic value. Its capabilities. Where the soul must go to that is lost.

III. The practical lesson. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Gaining the world pretty sport

This world is like the boy’s butterfly-it is pretty sport to chase it; but bruise its wings by an over-earnest grasp, and it is nothing but a disappointment. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 37

Mark 8:37

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

The folly of setting the heart on things below, and not on things above

No ransom can purchase life. You may remember, as I do, the dying hours of a monarch who emphatically lived to pamper the flesh, to serve lusts and pleasures, but not for God or his fellow men. When he knew the fatal hour was approaching, he said to the medical men about him, “Oh, I would give any sum you name, if you would but give me another year of life.” But it was of no use. They could not; they could but shake their heads and tell him that One only could give life, and when He saw fit He would take it away-God, even God. There is nothing in this world that a man can find, which will bribe death to stop away. Kings die, and their sceptre and crown roll in the dust, Philosophers succumb, and all their busy chambers of the brain, which have been occupied by deep researches, become occupied by the worms of the earth. The young man, glorying in his beauty and strength, succumbs to death, and his sun sets at noonday. And the pretty babe, which is just opening like a bud in all its infantine beauty-ah, how often does death lay its cold hand on that! There is no conceivable thing capable of saving a man, woman, or child, whom God has appointed to die. By the question in the text, our Lord means this; and He means more than this. He refers also to the life of the world to come. What ransom shall a man give for that life? There is such a ransom. There is One who has found a ransom. It is Jesus. He is the life of the world. He that hath the Son hath life. Have you found this ransom? (R. W. Dibdin, M. A.)

The soul’s ransom

What is the world, but the means of having food and raiment and ease, in greater variety and abundance than others have them-a distinction which, if viewed narrowly, is not worth half the pains and labour by which only it can be obtained. But what is the sold? It is the immortal and everlasting principle of all thought and feeling in man’s nature-the subject in which abide all hope and fear, all joy and sorrow, all happiness and all misery. It is that part of our intellectual frame which cannot die, forget, cease to be conscious, or fly from itself; but which lives forever, either beloved and cherished by its Almighty Creator, or expelled from His presence in horror and despair. If threescore years and ten were to bring it to an end, and make all its thoughts perish; if, after death, there were no judgment; if the worm of remorse were to become extinct on the bed where the last breath goes forth, and to cease its gnawings with the mortal pains of the body,-then might we hesitate between the interests of the present and the future, and adopt the maxim of the atheist, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” But, as these things cannot be; as the soul, which sinneth and repenteth not, has to die a death which will never be completed, a death of horror and despair, of which the sighs and agony and groaning ascend up perpetually; the question which should now interest us the most is, “What shall we give in exchange for our souls?” We must, in the first place, present before God, on the altar of faith, the Atonement which He Himself has provided, the sole procuring cause of human salvation; we must offer up to Him a broken and contrite heart, weaned from the world, and devoted to His service; we must solicit His mercy with the tears of penitence and vows of reformation, entreating that His grace may be sufficient for us, and His strength made perfect in our weakness;-and these are the things which the Lord will accept in exchange for our souls. (Bp. Russell.)

Incomputable value of the soul

What would a man not give? If he had the whole world, would he not willingly give it, provided he really knew, believed, or felt, that otherwise he would be utterly lost? King Richard, in Shakespeare, says, “My kingdom for a horse!” How many kingdoms would be surrendered-if man were not utterly infatuated-for the safety of the soul? The Saviour has gone forward in thought, and takes His standpoint in eternity. It is from that standpoint that He puts His question. It is implied that the time will come, in the experience of the persistently infatuated, when kingdom upon kingdom-were they available-would be an insufficient exchange for the soul. (J. Morison, D. D.)

Nothing can compensate for loss of soul

“I was called upon,” says an American clergyman, “some years ago, to visit an individual, a part of whose face had been eaten away by a most loathsome cancer. Fixing my eyes on this man in his agony, I said, ‘Supposing that Almighty God were to give you your choice, which would you prefer, your cancer, your pain, and your sufferings, with a certainty of death before you, but of immortality hereafter; or health, prosperity, long life in this world, and the risk of losing your immortal soul?’ ‘Ah, sir!’ said the man, ‘give me the cancer and the pain, with the Bible and the hope of heaven, and others may take the world, long life, and prosperity.’”

Gain cannot satisfy the heart

Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs, a pious minister, mentions the case of a rich man who, when he lay on his death bed, called for his bags of money; and, having laid a bag of gold to his heart, after a little he bade them take it away, saying, “It will not do; it will not do.”

Exchange for his soul-Cost of an estate

“What is the value of this estate?” said a gentleman to another with whom he was riding, as they passed a fine mansion surrounded by fair and fertile fields. “I don’t know what it is valued at; I know what it cost its late possessor.” “How much?” “His soul, Early in life, he professed faith in Christ, and obtained a subordinate position in a mercantile establishment. He continued to maintain a reputable religious profession, till he became a partner in the firm. Then he gave less attention to religion, and more and more to business; and the care of this world choked the Word. He became exceedingly rich in money, but so poor and miserly in soul, that none would have suspected he had ever been religious. At length he purchased this large estate, built a costly mansion, and then sickened and died. Just before he died, he remarked, “My prosperity has been my ruin!”

No satisfaction from the world at death

The dying tell us that earthly possessions cannot satisfy us in death. Philip II of Spain cried, “O would God I had never reigned! O that I had lived alone with God! What doth all my glory profit, but that I have so much the more torment in death.” Albert the Good said, “I am surrounded with wealth and rank, but if I trusted only to them, I should be a miserable man.” Salmasius declared, “I have lost a world of time. Oh, sirs! mind the world less, and God more.” Bunsen exclaimed, “My riches and experience is having known Jesus Christ. All the rest is nothing.”

Verse 38

Mark 8:38

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words.


Ashamed of Jesus

I. Inquire into the nature of the crime of being ashamed of Christ, and of His words. The duty opposed to the crime is expressed by confessing Christ before men; therefore to be ashamed of Christ and of His word, is to deny or disown Christ and His doctrine before men. There have not wanted some in all times to justify the prudence of concealing our religious sentiments, and to encourage men to live well with the world in an outward compliance with its customs, provided the heart be right with God. It is also added that to suppose it necessary for men to own their religious sentiments at the peril of their lives, is making God a hard master. What does our confession avail Him who can see the heart? But yet these are but excuses, and founded in ignorance of the nature of religion, and of the great ends to be served by it. Were we to estimate our religion by the service or benefit done to God, we might part with it all at once. He gets no more by the sincerity of our hearts than by our outward professions; and therefore upon this view we may bid adieu to both. If you think, however, that there is something in inward sincerity that is agreeable in His sight, that renders men acceptable to Him, I wonder, at the same time, you should not think hypocrisy and dissimulation with the world odious in His sight, and such vices as will render us detestable to Him. To suppose inward sincerity consistent with an external hypocrisy toward the world, is itself a very great absurdity. For what is hypocrisy But how comes it to be necessary for a man to say anything about his religion? To a clear resolution of this question we must consider the nature of religion, and the ends to be served by it. The duties of religion respect God but also the well-being of the world. Religion is a principle of obedience to God, as Governor of the world. It cannot therefore possibly be a mere secret concern between God and every man’s conscience, since it respects Him in so public a character, and must extend to everything in which God, as Governor of the world, is supposed to be concerned. For surely it is impossible to pay the proper respect and obedience which is due to the Governor of the world, whilst we deny Him, in the face of the world, to be the Governor of it. But further: if any religious obedience be due to God as Governor of the world, it must principally consist in promoting the great end of His government. Again: if it be really, as it is, impossible for us to do God any private service by which He may be the better, it is very absurd to imagine that religion can consist, or be preserved by any secret belief or opinion, how cordially soever embraced. What thanks can be due to you for silently believing God to be the Governor of the world, whilst you openly deny it, and in your actions disclaim it? Even this principle, which is the foundation of all religion, has nothing of religion in it, so long as it is inactive, and consists in speculation, without bringing forth fruits agreeable to such a persuasion. Lastly: if it be any part of religion to promote religion and the knowledge of God’s truth in the world, it cannot be consistent with our duty to dissemble, or to deny our faith. The man who hides his own religion close in his heart, tempts others, who suspect not his hypocrisy, to throw theirs quite out; and whilst he rejoices in this sheet anchor of a pure inward faith, he sees others who steer after him make shipwreck of their faith and their salvation. Under this head I have one thing more to observe to you, that there are in this vice, as indeed in most others, very different degrees. While some were contented to hide themselves, and dissemble their acquaintance with Christ, St. Peter openly denied Him, and confirmed it with an oath, that he knew not the Man. Thus some for fear in those days of persecution, denied their Lord; and some in these days, such is our unhappy case, are so vain and conceited, as to he ashamed of the Lord who bought them. Among these, some openly blaspheme Him; others are content to make a sport of His religion; whilst a third sort profess a pleasure in such conversation, though their hearts ache for their iniquity, but they want the courage to rebuke even by their silence the sin of the scorner. All these are in the number of those who are ashamed of Christ. Secondly: to inquire into the several temptations which lead men to this crime of bring ashamed of Christ and of His words. The fountain from which these temptations spring is plainly enough described in the text, “This adulterous and sinful generation.” And we know full well, that there is not a natural fear lurking in the heart of man, but the world knows how to reach it; not a passion, but it has an enchantment ready for it; no weakness, no vanity, but it knows how to lay hold of it” so that all our natural hopes and fears, our passions, our infirmities, are liable to be drawn into the conspiracy against Christ and His word. But the other kind of temptations come upon our invitation: we make our faith a sacrifice to the great idol, the world, when we part with it for honour, wealth, or pleasure. In this circumstance men take pains to show how little they value their religion, and seek occasions to display their libertinism and infidelity, in order to make their way to the favour of a corrupt and degenerate age. This behaviour admits of no excuse. But whenever infidelity grows into credit and repute, and the world has so vitiated a taste, as to esteem the symptoms of irreligion as signs of a good understanding and sound judgment; that a man cannot appear to be in earnest concerned for his religion without being thought a fool, or suspected to be a knave; then there arises another temptation to make men ashamed of Christ, and of His word. No man likes to be despised by those about him. There is a contagion in ill company, and he who dwells with the scorner shall not be guiltless. Had our Lord been merely a teacher of good things, without any special commission or authority from the great Creator and Governor of the world, it would have been highly absurd to assume to Himself this great prerogative of being owned and acknowledged before men. When, therefore, we read that our Lord requires of us to confess Him before men, the true way to know what we are to confess, is to reflect what He confessed Himself; for it cannot be supposed that He thought it reasonable for Himself to make one confession, and for His disciples and servants to make another. Look, then, into the gospel, and see His own confession. He confessed Himself to be the only Son of God, to come from the bosom of the Father to die for the sins of the world; to have all power given to Him in heaven and earth; to be the Judge of the world. (The Practical Pulpit.)

Our great work for Christ is to confess Him

But this confession of Christ-this not being ashamed of Him and of His words-is different in different generations and different societies. In the earliest age of all, the offence was the offence of the cross-that men should not he ashamed to confess that they believed that He who was crucified was the Son of God, and that they hoped to be saved by His very cress. Since then, this offence has ceased in outward form, but in reality it has reappeared under different forms of religious cowardice. In licentious ages and societies men have been ashamed of the self-denying words and example of the Lord; in superstitious ages, of upholding the purity of His religion; in heretical ages, of manfully contending for the faith of His true godhead; in later periods of our history men seem to have been ashamed of confessing that we are saved through Christ alone; and in this age, and in learned and scientific societies, are not men ashamed of confessing those words of Christ, and of His servants, which assert the supernatural in our holy religion? (M. F. Sadler.)

Ashamed of Jesus

I. The persons described. Those who, from shame-

(1) Decline to assume a profession of the gospel;

(2) Do not maintain a consistent profession of the gospel;

(3) Abandon the profession of the gospel.

II. The doom threatened. It is certain, awful, just. (Plans of Sermons.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Mark 8". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/mark-8.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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