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This chapter begins with the relation of a famous miracle wrought by our Saviour; namely, his feeding of four thousand persons with seven loaves, and a few fishes.
And here we have observable, first, the tender care which Christ took of the bodies of men, to provide all necessaries for their support and comfort; he giveth us richly all things to enjoy. The great housekeeper of the world openeth his hands, and filleth all things living with plenteousness. How careful was our Saviour here that the bodies of poor creatures might not faint, nor be over weak and weary by the way! Therefore he would not dismiss them without refreshment.
Observe, 2. The original source and spring from whence this care that Christ had of the multitude did proceed and flow; namely from that sympathizing pity and tender compassion which the merciful heart of Christ did bear towards persons in distress and misery.
Learn hence, That the tender pity and compassion of Christ is not the spring and fountain of spiritual mercies only, but of temporal blessings also; I have compassion on the multitude who have nothing to eat.
Observe, 3. How the disciples, not seeing any outward, visible means for the people's support, conclude it impossible for so many to be satisfied with the little supply they had; namely, seven loaves and a few small fishes.
Learn thence, That a weak faith soon grows thoughtful, and sometimes distrustful at the sight of difficulties. Whence say the disciples, can these men be satisfied with bread? Not considering, that the power of God in blessing our food, is far above the means of food. It is as easy for him to sustain and nourish us with a little as with much; Man liveth not by bread, but by the blessing of God upon the bread he eats.
Observe, 4. That although Christ could have fed these four thousand without the loaves, yet he takes and makes use of them seeing they may be had.
Learn hence, That Christ did not neglect his own appointed ordinary means nor do anything in an extraordinary way, farther than was absolutely necessary. Christ was above means, and could work without them, and when they failed, did so; but when the means were at hand, he made use of them himself, to teach us never to expect that in a way of miracle, which may become at in a way of means.
Observe, 5. From our Lord's example, that religious custom of begging a blessing upon our food before we sit down to it, and of receiving the good creatures of God with thanksgiving. How unworthy is he of the crumbs that fall from his own table who with the swine looks not up unto, and takes no thankful notice of, the hand that feeds him?
Observe, 6. The certainty and greatness of the miracle: They did all eat and were filled. They did all eat, not a crust of bread, or bit of fish, but to satiety and fulness. All that were hungry did eat, and all that did eat were satisfied, and yet seven baskets remain; more is left than was at first set on. It is hard to say which was the greatest miracle, the miraculous eating, or miraculous leaving. If we consider what they ate, we may wonder that they left anything; if what they left, that they eat anything.
Observe lastly, Our Lord's command to gather up the fragments, Teaches us, That we make no waste of the good creatures of God. The fragments of fish-bones broken bread must be gathered up; the liberal housekeeper of the world will not allow the loss of his orts. Frugality is a commendable duty. God hath made us stewards, but not absolute lords of his blessings. We must be accountable to him for all the instances of his bounty received from him.
Observe here, 1. The unreasonable practice of the wicked Pharisees in asking a sign of Christ: that is, some new and extraordinary miracle to be wrought by him, to demonstrate him to be the true and promised Messias: but had not our Saviour shewed them signs enough already? What were all the miracles daily wrought before their eyes, but convincing signs of his divine power: But infidelity, mixed with obstinacy, is never satisfied.
Observe, 2. Our Saviour's carriage towards these obstinate Pharisees, who persisted in their unbelief; He sighed deeply in his spirit, and mourned for the hardness of their hearts.
Learn thence, That to grieve and mourn for the sins of others, to be affected with them, and deeply afflicted for them, is a gracious and Christ-like temper. It is not sufficient to make an outward shew of grieving for others sins, but we ought to lay them to heart, and to be inwardly afflicted for them. Jesus sighed deeply in his spirit.
Observe, 3. A sharp reproof given by our Saviour to them. At the same time that our Saviour did inwardly grieve for the Pharisees wickedness, he did openly reprove them for it. It is not sufficient that we mourn for the sins of others, but we must prudently reprove them, as occasion is offered, and our duty requireth.
Observe, 4. Ths sin which the Pharisees are reproved for; namely, for seeking after a sign: that is, before their eyes, to prove the divinity of his person.
Learn hence, That it is a sin for any to require new signs and miracles for the confirmation of that doctrine which has been already sufficiently confirmed by miracles; yea, an heinous sin, which deserveth a sharp reproof and censure.
Observe lastly, Our Saviour's peremptory denial of the Pharisees presumptuous request; There shall be no sign given to this generation: this is no such sign or miracle as they desire or would have; no sign or miracle shall be wrought at their motion and suit. Although after this, Christ of his own accord, and at his own pleasure, wrought many miracles before their eyes. Such as willfully harden themselves against the light of their own consciences, are righteously delivered up to hardness of heart, and final impenitency. These hypocritical Pharisees shut their eyes against the most convictive evidence; and they are given up to their own obstinacy; our Saviour left them, and departed.
Observe here, 1. How dull the disciples of Christ were under Christ's own teaching, and how apt to put a carnal sense upon his words. They apprehended he had spoken to them of the leaven of bread, what he intended of the leaven of the Pharisees doctrine.
Observe, 2. The rebuke our Saviour gives his disciples for not understanding the sense and signification of what he spake. Christ is much offended with his own people, when he discerns blindness and ignorance in them, after more than ordinary means of knowledge enjoyed by them: How is it that ye do not yet understand?
Observe, 3. The metaphor by which Christ sets forth the corrupt doctrines of the Pharisees and Herodians. He compares it to leaven; partly for its sourness, and partly for its diffusiveness. Now the leaven of Herod, or the Herodians, is supposed to be this: That because Herod was made king of the Jews, and lived at the time when the Messiah was expected, there were those that maintained the opinion that he was the promised Messiah; which opinion Christ compares to leaven, because as that diffuses itself into the whole mass or lump of bread with which it is mixed, so false doctrine was not only evil and corrupt in itself, but apt to spread its contagion farther and farther, to the infecting of others with it.
Learn thence, That error is as damnable as vice; and persons erroneous in judgment to be avoided, as well as those that are wicked in conversation; and he, that has a due care of his soul's salvation, will be as much afraid of erroneous principles, as he is of debauched practices.
Observe, 4. Our Saviour does not command his disciples to separate from communion with the Pharisees, and oblige them not to hear their doctrine but only beware of their errors; which they mixed with their doctrine. We may and ought to hold communion with a church, though erroneous in judgment, if not fundamentally erroneous. For separation from a church is not justifiable upon any other grounds than that which makes a separation between God and that church, which is either apostasy into gross idolatry, or in point of doctrine, into damnable heresy.
Observe, 5. The fault observed by our Saviour in his disciples, hardness of heart; Have ye your hearts yet hardened? There may be, and oft-times is, some degree of hardness of heart in sincere Christians; but this is not a total hardness; it is lamented and humbled for, not indulged and delighted in. As Christ is grieved for the hardness of heart in sincere Christians; but this is not a total hardness; it is lamented and humbled for, not indulged and delighted in. As Christ is grieved for the hardness of his people's hearts, so are they grieved also; it is both bitter and burdensome to them.
Here we have recorded a special miracle wrought by our Saviour at Bethsaida, in curing a blind man brought unto him.
Where observe, 1. What evident proof the Pharisees had of Christ's divine power and godhead: he had before caused the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk; now he makes the blind to see; yet did the Pharisees obstinately resist all means of their conviction, and continued in their opposition to truth, to their inevitable and unutterable condemnation.
Observe, 2. The wonderful humility, the great condescension of Jesus Christ towards this blind man; He took him by the hand, and led him, himself. A great evidence of his condescending humility, and of his goodness and mercy; shewing how ready and willing he was to help and heal him; see here a singular pattern of humility and condescending grace and mercy in our dear Redeemer, in that he vouchsafed with his own hands to take and lead a poor blind man through the streets of Bethsaida, in the sight of all the people. Let us learn of him, who was thus meek, and lovely in heart.
Observe, 3. Our Lord leads the blind man out of the town before he heals him, not in the town where all the people might take notice of it. Thereby teaching us to avoid all shews of ambition, all appearance of vain-glory; in what we do. Even as Christ sought not his own glory, but the glory of him that sent him.
Observe, 4. The manner of the cure wrought upon this blind man; it was gradual, and by degrees; not instantaneous, and at once: he had first a dark, dim, and obscure sight, afterwards a clear, and a perfect sight. Christ thereby, gave evidence of his absolute and omnipotent power, that he was not tied to any particular means, or manner, or order of working; but wrought his miracles variously, as he saw to be most fit for the glory of God, and the benefit of his people.
Observe lastly, The charge, given by our Saviour not to publish this miracle in the town of Bethsaida; a place where Christ had so often preached, and wrought so many miracles; but the inhabitants had obstinately and contemptuously undervalued and despised both his doctrine and miracles; therefore we read, Matthew 11:21 that our Saviour denounced a woe against Bethsaida, assuring her, that it would be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for her. The higher a people rise under the means, the lower they fall if they miscarry. Such a people as have been nearest to conversion, being not converted, shall have the greatest condemnation when they are judged.
These verses relate to us a conference which our Saviour had with his disciples, touching their own and others opinion of his person.
Where observe, 1. The place where Christ and his disciples did confer; it was in the way as they walked together. Teaching us our duty to take all occasions and opportunities for holy conference, to good discourse touching spiritual things, when in the house, when in the field, when travelling in the way, Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another. Malachi 3:16
Observe, 2. The conference itself: Whom do men say that I am? That is, What do the common people think and speak of me? Not as if Christ were ignorant what men said of him, or did vain-gloriously enquire after the opinion of the multitude concerning him; but with an intention more firmly to settle and establish his disciples in the belief of his being the true and promised Messias. The disciples tell him, That some said, He was John the Baptist, others Elias, others one of the prophets. It is no new thing, it seems, to find diversity of judgments and opinions concerning Christ, and the affairs of his kingdom. When our Saviour was amongst men, who daily conversed with him, yet was there then a great diversity of opinions concerning him.
Observe, 3. How St. Peter, as the mouth of all the apostles, and in their names make a full and oepn confession of Christ, acknowledging him to be the true and promised Messiah: Peter said, Thou art the Christ.
Whence note, That the veil of Christ's human nature did not keep the eye of his disciples faith from seeing him to be truly and really God.
2. That Jesus the sons of the virgin Mary, was the Christ, the true Messiah, or the person ordained by God to be the Mediator betwixt God and man: the Redeemer and Saviour of mankind: Thou art the Christ.
Observe, 4. The charge and special injunction given by our Saviour to tell no man of him: that is, not commonly and openly to declare that he was the Son of God and the true Messiah: because he was now in his state of humiliation, and the glory of his divinity was to be concealed till his resurrection. Christ had his own fit-times and proper seasons, in which he revealed the great mysteries of his kingdom to the world.
Observe, 5. The great wisdom of our Saviour in acquainting his disciples with the near approach of his death and passion; thereby to prevent that scandal and offence which otherwise they might have taken at his sufferings; the better to fit and prepare them to bear that great trial, and to correct the error which they had entertained touching an earthly kingdom of Christ: that the Messiah was to be a temporal prince.
Observe, 6. St. Peter's carriage towards Christ upon this occasion; He took him aside, and began to blame him for affirming that he must die. O how ready is flesh and blood to oppose all that tends to suffering! What need have we to be ortified against the temptations of our friends, as well as of our enemies! Satan sometimes makes use of good men as his instrument to do his work by, when they little suspect it. Little did Peter think, that Satan now set him on work to hinder the redemption of mankind, by dissuading Christ from dying.
Observe, 7. With what indignation Christ rejects Peter's admonition; Get thee behind, me Satan. Christ heard Satan speaking in Peter; it was Peter's tongue, but Satan tuned it, therefore Christ calls Peter by Satan's name. They that will do the devil's work, shall have the devil's name too. He that would hinder the redemption of mankind is Satan, an adversary to mankind.
From our Saviour's smart reproof given to Peter, we learn, That no respect to men's persons, or regard to their piety, must cause us, to flatter them in their sins, or move us to speak favourably of their sins. As well as our Saviour loved Peter he rebukes him severely.
O Lord! so intent was thy heart upon the great work of our redemption, that thou couldst not bear the least word that should obstruct thee in it, or divert thee from it.
Observe here, 1. How our blessed Saviour recommends his religion to everyone's election and choice, not attempting by force and violence to compel any person to the embracing of it. If any man will come after me: that is, if any man chooses and resolves to be a Christian.
Observe, 2. Our Saviour's terms propounded; namely, self-denial, gospel-suffering, and gospel-service.
1. Self-denial; Let him deny himself. By which we are not to understand, either the denying of our senses in matters of faith, or the renouncing of our reason in the matters of religion; but a willingness to part with all our earthly comforts, and temporal enjoyments, for the sake of Christ, when called thereunto.
2. Gospel-suffering; He must take up his cross. An allusion to the Roman custom, that the malefactor who was to be crucified, took his cross upon his shoulder, and carried it to the place of execution.
Where note, That not the making of the cross, but the patient bearing of it, when God has made it, and laid it upon our shoulders, is the duty enjoined. Let him take up his cross.
3. Gospel-service; Let him follow me, says Christ: that is, obey my commands, and imitate my example. He must set my life and doctrine continually before him, and be daily correcting and reforming his life by that rule and pattern.
Observe, 3. The reasons urged by our Saviour to induce men to a willingness to lay down their lives for the sake of Christ and his holy religion; He that will save his life, shall lose it; and he that is willing to lose his life for the gospel's sake, the same shall find it.
Intimating to us, 1. That the love of this temporal life is a great temptation to men to deny Christ, and to renounce his holy religion.
And, 2. That the surest way to attain eternal life, is cheerfully to lay down our temporal life, when the glory of Christ, and the honour of religion, requires it at our hand.
Our Saviour had shewn in the former verses the great danger of seeking to save our temporal life, by exposing to hazard our eternal life. This he confirms in the words before us by a double argument: the first drawn from the excellency of eternal life, or the life of the soul: the second from the irrecoverableness of this loss, or the impossibility of redeeming the loss of the soul by any way or means whatsoever. What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Learn, 1. That Almighty God has intrusted every one of us with a soul of inestimable worth and presciousness, capable of being saved or lost, and that to all eternity.
2. That the gain of the whole world is not comparable with the loss of one precious soul; the soul's loss is an inconceivable, irrecompensible, and irrecoverable loss.
That is, whosoever shall deny or disown me, either in my person, my gospel, or my members, for any fear or favour of man, he shall with shame be disowned and eternally rejected by me at the great day.
There are two passions that make persons disown Christ and religion in the duty of temptation; namely, fear and shame. Many good men have been overcome by the former, as St. Peter, and others; but we find not any good man in scripture guilty of the latter: namely, that denied Christ out of shame. This argues a rotten, unsound, and corrupt heart.
If any man thinks it beneath his honour and quality to own the opposed truths and despised members of Jesus Christ, he will think it much more beneath him, his honour and dignity, to own them at the great day.
Learn hence, That it is not sufficient that we own Christ by believing in him, but we must honour him with an outward professing of him also.
Secondly, That such as are ashamed of Christ's doctrine or members, are ashamed of Christ himself.
Thirdly, That such as either for fear dare not, or for shame will not, own the doctrine of Christ, or the members of Christ now, shall find Christ ashamed to own and confess them at the great day. Whosoever is ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and wicked generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Mark 8". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24