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Christ feedeth the people miraculously: refuseth to give a sign to the Pharisees: admonisheth his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod: giveth a blind man his sight: acknowledgeth that he is the Christ, who should suffer, and rise again; and exhorteth to patience in persecution for the profession of the gospel.
Anno Domini 31.
Mark 8:11. Began to question with him,— Συζητειν, to dispute. Heylin. This may refer to the ancient method of disputation, which was carried on by question and answer. Dr. Doddridge renders it began to examine him.
Mark 8:12. There shall no sign be given— Ει δοθησεται . I am not alive, if a sign, &c. That this is an elliptical form of adjuration, is evident from Heb 3:11 in the original. The oath must be supplied thus: Let me not be true, if they shall enter into my rest,—if a sign shall be given, &c. Or as in Ezekiel 14:16. I live not, if sons or daughters be delivered, See the LXX. and Bos's Ellipses. Some MSS. and versions read ου δοθησεται, shall not be given. See Wetstein.
Mark 8:15. And of the leaven of Herod.— See the note on Matthew 22:16. It seems evident from this passage, that the Herodians were of the sect of the Sadducees; for what St. Mark calls the leaven of Herod, St. Matthew, in the parallel passage, calls the leaven of the Sadducees. Herodian, therefore, was but another name for such sort of Sadducees as maintained the expediency of submitting to the innovations introduced by Herod and the Romans; for it may easily be thought, that those who favoured Herod and the powers who supported him, were generally of this sect. At the same time all the Sadducees were not Herodians, some of them shewing little of that complaisance to the reigning powers, for which their brethren were so remarkable: and this accounts sufficientlyfor the distinction between the Herodians and Sadducees, found Matthew 22:16; Matthew 22:46.
Mark 8:17. Heart yet hardened?— Still insensible. Heylin.
Mark 8:18. And do ye not remember?— Continue this on with what follows, and it seems to connect more properly. Do ye not remember, when I broke the five loaves, how many baskets? &c. As in Matthew 16:9. See Bowyer's Conjectures on Mark.
Mark 8:22-26. And they bring a blind man, &c.— Two things are remarkable in this miracle: first, our Lord led the man out of the town, before he would heal him; and, when the cure was performed, he forbad him to return thither, or so much as to tell it unto any who lived in the town. The reason was, the people had for a long time been solicitous to have him acknowledged as the Messiah; and every new miracle which they beheld, moved them afresh to make the attempt. Nor could the inhabitants of Bethsaida complain of being ill used, though they were not permitted to be witnesses of the cure, since they had brought this mark of Christ's displeasure upon themselves, by their ingratitude, impenitence, and infidelity. See Matthew 11:21. And as for the man, he could not think it any hardship to be hindered from returning into the city, since it was not the place of his abode, Mark 8:26. Secondly, in giving sight to this blind man, Jesus did not, as on other occasions of the like nature, impart the faculty at once, but by degrees: for at first the man saw things but obscurely; then, by a second imposition of Christ's hands, he had a clear sight of every object in view. Our Lord's intention in this might be, to make it evident that in his cures he was not confined to one method of operation, but could dispense them in what manner he pleased. In the mean time, though the cure was performed by degrees, it was accomplished in so small a space of time, as to make it evident that it was not produced by any natural efficacy of our Lord's spittle or touch, but merely by the exertion of his miraculous power. The blind man's expression, after the first imposition of Christ's hands, may easily be accounted for, on the supposition that he was not born blind, but had lost his sight by some accident; for if that was the case, he might have retained the idea both of men and of trees; in which light, his words I see men as trees walking, express the indistinctness of his vision very properly. See Doddridge, and ch. Mark 7:33.
Mark 8:27. Whom do men say that I am?— See on Matthew 16:13; Matthew 16:28. It is remarkable, that the noble confession of St. Peter, recorded in St. Matthew, is suppressed here; which is a strong presumption that either St. Peter dictated this Gospel, or revised it, according to the ancient tradition.
Mark 8:32. And he spake that saying openly.— Plainly and freely, παρρησια : our Lord thought fit to foretel his own sufferings plainly, to bear down any towering imaginations which might have sprung up in the apostles' minds from the preceding discourses; for their faith was now so confirmed, that they could bear the discovery. See John 10:24; John 11:14.
Mark 8:38. Whosoever therefore, &c.— Jesus fitly inculcated the necessity of self-denial from the consideration of a judgment to come; the most awful and important event in the whole compass of our duration, and which, the word of God directsustobelieve,willbeattendedwith the most awful circumstances. His intention was, that we should fortify ourselves with this reflection, that it is eligible to endure a littlenow, when that little, through grace, may preserve us from enduring unspeakably more hereafter, and lead us to the possession of infinite and endless joys. Wherefore, if our great Master should ever honour any of us so far as to call us forth to suffer for him, let us do it bravely, and be true to God, to religion, and our own souls; having our eyes always steadily fixed on the bright crown, the white robe, the triumphant palm of the noble army of martyrs. The first verse of the next chapter should properly be joined to this. See its connection in the note on Matthew 16:28.
Inferences.—How apt is unbelief to raise, and to stop at difficulties, as if they were too great for Christ to surmount, (Mark 8:4.) and how prone to misconstrue his dispensations, and to forget the years of the right hand of the most High! How unreasonably does it reject the plainest and properest evidence which Christ has given, and want to be gratified in some extraordinary way of its own suggesting! Mark 8:11. But faith, and not fancy, is to be encouraged; and all this unbelief, whether in the total, or only in a particular degree, argues such hardness of heart, as calls for lamentation and severe reproof. Yet, alas! how great is its remainder in too many of God's people? Mark 8:17. How does an evil leaven exist, and attempt to insinuate itself into them; and what need have they to be warned, and to be continually watching against it; and that with respect to corrupt doctrine, as well as practice, because of the bad influence which principles have upon the heart and life! This works and prevails, to the ruin of obstinate sinners; for if they persist in infidelity and impenitence, Christ will never gratify their curiosity or humour to reclaim them. He will turn away from them in righteous indignation, and leave them to the heavy judgment which they deserve.
But, on the contrary, how ready is this Lord of love to bear with his people's infirmities; to help and heal, and save those who are sensible of their wants, and apply by faith to him for mercy! He sometimes relieves them in an instant; at others in a more gradual way, Mark 8:23. Sometimes in a public, at others in a more private manner; as may be most for his glory, and their good: and all his gracious discoveries to them, are at the most seasonable times, when they are fittest to receive them, and most likely not to abuse them. But, if Satan gets an advantage, and they, through his influence, and the carnal workings of their own hearts, make a wrong use of them, Christ will shew his dreadful displeasure, Mark 8:33.
The hand of our blessed Saviour, Mar 8:23 may be considered as an emblem of his healing grace, and of the conduct of his ministers. He here uses it to three purposes. 1. That he may be a guide to the blind man, while he continues blind. 2. That he may apply the remedy to him. 3. That he may give him imposition of hands, Mark 8:25. A man may imitate Christ herein. 1. By treating the person spiritually blind with a charitable mildness before his cure. 2. By applying to him the remedy of evangelical truths with all discretion. 3. By praying, and doing good offices for him.
Retirement of some sort or other, is absolutely necessary after conversion, Mark 8:26. When a man has once received the knowledge of the truth he must meditate upon it, feed on it, and let it take deep root in his heart.
How low were the disciples' notions about the nature of Christ's kingdom! and how slow of understanding, believing, and consenting to the plainest notices which he gave them of his sufferings and death! Mark 8:32. But we must receive a humbled as well as an exalted Saviour. If we would have him for our own, we must be ready to suffer with him; and not be ashamed to own him, by a professed subjection to him, however we may be reproached for it, as ever we hope to be glorified with him, and to be owned by him, when he shall come in the illustrious pomp and grandeur of the last day. What are all the sufferings and shame of this present state, compared with the glory that shall be then revealed? What is all the gain which we can make in this life, compared to the eternal loss of our souls? Fatal and dreadful experience this, when, after having enjoyed pleasures, riches, or empire a few years, men find, by losing all in a moment, that all is nothing, and that whatever they possessed here, is altogether unprofitable for the other life!
How tremendous and alarming is our Lord's threatening! Mark 8:28. We may flatter ourselves, if we please, here below, and by trivial reasons excuse ourselves from giving testimony to the word of Christ, and to himself in his servants: the day of the Lord will disperse all those thin clouds with which we cover ourselves, and expose to open view the base interests which we shall have preferred to those of God and his Gospel. How much happier will it be to represent to ourselves that awful day in all its terrors, whenever a regard to an adulterous and sinful generation would lead us to be ashamed of Christ and of his word! So shall we be bold to confess and acknowledge that Son of man, that Son of God, below; who will reward us fully above, for all that we suffer for his sake, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The compassions of Jesus flow without ceasing towards the wretched and indigent. Vast multitudes followed him; and, so eager were the people to attend him, that neither toil nor hunger discouraged them. He therefore who graciously fed their souls with his heavenly doctrine, is again pleased by a miracle to feed their almost famished bodies. We have seen it recorded in nearly the same words, Matthew 15:32; Mat 15:39 and may learn, (1.) To count nothing hard in the way of duty, while we are following Christ. (2.) To trust him with our bodies as well as our souls, and verily we shall be fed. (3.) Not to be discouraged if we do not sometimes see any immediate prospect of relief under our difficulties: the Lord can open an unexpected door of deliverance for us.
2nd, Dalmanutha was a place not far from Magdala, Matthew 15:39. Thither our Lord bent his course.
1. The Pharisees there met him, and, cavilling as usual, demanded a sign from heaven; as if all other miracles did not sufficiently prove his divine mission: not that they desired to be convinced, but sought a pretence for their infidelity. Therefore, 2. Christ refused to grant their request. Not that he could not work the miracle they sought, but because he knew the wickedness of their intentions in asking it; and therefore sighed deeply, as grieved for the hardness of their hearts, and expostulated with them on the unreasonableness of their infidelity, when such amazing signs had been given them for their conviction already: and, denying their request, he abandons them to their ruin. Note; They who will not submit to the evidence of the Scriptures, are justly given up to the blindness of their minds, and left to perish in their unbelief.
3. On this he took occasion, as they were crossing the lake, to caution his disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod; which they, having taken scarcely any bread with them, interpreted literally as a rebuke for their carelessness, and an admonition not to apply to the Pharisees for relief, or to eat of their bread. And while they were casting the blame of their negligence upon each other, Jesus, who perceived their folly and stupidity, sharply rebuked them for their uneasiness in this matter, as arguing great unbelief of his power, which they had seen so wonderfully and lately exerted, whereof he reminds them; and therefore it was strange that they should be so senseless, and their hearts yet so hardened, as not to perceive, that he intended not his discourse concerning bread literally, which he could so easily supply, but of the doctrines of the Pharisees and Herod, which were to be shunned as dangerously pernicious. Note; (1.) It is amazing to think of the hardness of our hearts in general; that, after multiplied experiences of God's goodness, we are apt again to distrust his care the moment new difficulties arise. (2.) The more we know and understand what Christ is, and has done for us, the more will our hearts be engaged to trust him in every emergence.
3rdly, The miracle recorded, Mar 8:22-26 is related by St. Mark alone, and is probably selected from the innumerable multitude of others, because some circumstances in it are singular.
1. The application was made to Jesus by a poor blind man's friends, who led him to the Saviour, desiring that he would touch him, persuaded that this would effectually work a cure. Note; In our prayers we should not cease to pray for poor blind sinners, intreating the Lord to open the eyes of their mind.
2. He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town, choosing to heal him secretly, and perhaps in just judgment upon the place, where so many miracles had been wrought, and yet the people continued in their infidelity.
3. He healed him; and this he did, not by a word, but in an unusual manner, and gradually. He spat on his eyes, and, asking what he saw, some glimmerings of light broke in upon him, and he beheld men as trees walking, his vision being yet indistinct and confused; but when Jesus had put his hands upon his eyes, and bid him look up again, then he saw every object clearly. Thus often is he pleased to work in the heart: at first the light, like the dawning day, breaks upon the soul, and some glimmerings of spiritual things are perceived; of the danger and guilt of sin; the necessity of caring for the soul; the want of a Redeemer, &c. Afterwards our views enlarge; we gain deeper discoveries of our own corruption, and Christ's all-sufficiency; we enter into spiritual liberty, and then into fuller liberty; till at last, if we be faithful to the grace of God, we come to the most perfect day in glory, and know even as we are known.
4. He charges the man not to return to Bethsaida, nor acquaint any one there with his cure: their obstinate impenitence under the miracles that they had seen, rendered them unworthy of any more of those mighty works. They who slight their own mercies, justly forfeit them.
4thly, In the journey of Christ, and his disciples to the towns of Cesarea-Philippi, we are told,
1. The inquiry of Christ concerning the opinion which the people entertained of him, and what were the sentiments of the apostles in particular. They inform him of the general veneration in which he was held, though men's opinions concerning him were divided; some supposing him the Baptist risen from the dead; others Elias; others one of the former prophets returned. With regard to themselves, St. Peter, in the name of the rest, professes their faith in him as a much greater character, even that of the divine Messiah. Hereupon Jesus commanded them to keep this for the present secret, the time being not yet come for declaring in such express terms his pretensions; lest the people, prepossessed with notions of a temporal Messiah, should be excited to an insurrection, or his enemies be exasperated to attempt to cut him off immediately, before he had finished his work.
2. Christ hereupon informs them more freely and openly than he had done before, concerning the sufferings that he must endure, to wean them from those vain imaginations concerning the temporal kingdom which they expected, and to prepare them for so afflictive an event. Peter's heart, fired at the mention of this, could not bear to hear of his Master's death, when he had just entertained the most sanguine hopes of his greatness; and therefore, taking him aside, expressed his astonishment that he should talk in such a manner; for which Peter got a severe and just rebuke before his fellow-disciples, to check their aspiring views, as well as his own. Christ tells him, that he acted as his bitterest enemy in opposing his sufferings: Satan could do no worse: and he shewed an utter want of discernment concerning the nature of the Messiah's kingdom, and the great ends that God designed to accomplish by that death which he was about to undergo. In truth, Peter's eyes were so fixed on temporal grandeur, that he could relish nothing which seemed to contradict his aspiring views. Note; The cross is ever displeasing to our fallen nature, and we are too apt, like Peter, to be seeking for ourselves ease or greatness: hence in suffering times so many are offended.
3. He takes occasion hereupon to declare the terms of discipleship, and to suggest arguments to engage his faithful followers to meet courageously the persecutions which they must expect in his service. Self-denial, readiness to take up the cross, and conformity to the pattern of a suffering Saviour, are absolutely required of every follower of Jesus: nor must we count our lives dear to us, when his service requires us to part with them. Not that our sufferings, or even death itself, will be our loss; no: they will prove our greatest gain, and we shall find in life eternal an abundant recompense: whereas, if through fear or dread of suffering in this world, we save our lives by base compliances, our loss will be irreparable and eternal; we shall perish without remedy; and the gain of ten thousand worlds will never countervail the loss of an immortal soul: and as sure as ever we are ashamed of the cause of Jesus, and disown him by our unfaithfulness, so surely may we expect to be disowned by him in the great day of his appearing and glory: let us therefore count the cost, and with full purpose of heart cleave unto the Lord.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 8". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany