Greetings! This reading is Mark 8.
I am trying a new format. You can still click the link above to read the whole passage separately, but I thought I would try pasting the verses below then commenting in between passages. Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a preference. It seems like this method would be more readable, but I’m open to suggestions.
Mark 8 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
Jesus fed another huge crowd – 4,000 men plus women and children – with only 7 loaves and a few fishes. It is not clear exactly how long it was between the first mass feeding and this one, but the disciples were either dropping hints to Jesus or they weren’t sure if He would do the miracle again. I thought it was interesting that with the first miracle feeding there were 12 baskets of food left over – one per disciple! I’m not sure if there is significance with the 7 baskets in this miracle.
The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
Oddly, Jesus is performing miracles left and right yet the Pharisees want a special miracle in the sky. Sometimes people think that if they could just see one miracle then they would believe in God. But people are quick to rationalize or deny miracles. After Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11) many people put their faith in Jesus. Yet the religious leaders not only ignored the power of the miracle Jesus performed but they plotted to kill Jesus and Lazarus to hide the evidence! It can take more than miracles to change rebellious hearts to turn towards God.
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Jesus warned again about the dangers of false teachings. He noted that they were like yeast, which represents evil in this passage. Just as a little yeast makes the whole loaf of bread rise, a little bad teaching can do great damage to people and cultures. For example, see False teachers in action.
Jesus performs another miraculous healing of a blind man. He did it in two stages, perhaps to show that some healings will be gradual.
They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”
There is an interesting contrast in the last two passages. Peter acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ (the promised Messiah of Israel). In the parallel passage in Matthew 16 Jesus praises Peter for saying this. Yet when he rebukes Jesus for predicting his death Peter is criticized for speaking as Satan would. Among other things, there is a good lesson in here about knowing some things about Jesus but remembering we don’t know everything (ironically, my first analysis of this passage had an error!).
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Jesus asks Peter a crucial question that we all must answer: Who do you say that I am? Is He my Lord and Savior, or just some guy who taught a few good things and a few things I don’t like?
When Jesus said to come after him is to “take up your cross and follow” it meant a lot to those listeners. Crucifixion was the cruelest form of execution ever devised, and the condemned killer had to carry his cross publicly to the execution site. Jesus offers eternal life and peace in this life, but He does warn that following him comes with a cost.
Meditate on these words of Jesus: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.
The next reading is Mark 9.