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IV. THE SERVANT’S SELF-REVELATION TO THE DISCIPLES 6:6B-8:30
The increasing hostility of Israel’s religious leaders and the rejection of the multitudes (Mark 3:7 to Mark 6:6 a) led Jesus to concentrate on training His disciples increasingly. This section of Mark’s Gospel shows how Jesus did that. While Jesus gave his disciples increasing responsibility for ministry (Mark 6:6-30), the focus of Jesus’ instruction was His own identity, which the disciples had great difficulty understanding (Mark 6:31 to Mark 8:30).
"After the ’beginning of the gospel’ in Mark 1:1-15, the first half of Mark’s Gospel falls rather neatly into three major sections (Mark 1:16 to Mark 3:12; Mark 3:13 to Mark 6:6; Mark 6:7 to Mark 8:26). Each section opens with a story about the disciples (Mark 1:16-20; Mark 3:1-19; and Mark 6:7-13). Each section winds down with a story about the negative response generated by Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:1-6; Mark 6:1-6 a; Mark 8:14-21). And each section concludes with a summary statement that recalls for the reader the nature of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:7-12; Mark 6:6 b; Mark 8:22-26)." [Note: Guelich, p. 316.]
Jesus and His disciples were still in the Decapolis region east of the lake. Three days had passed and the crowds were now hungry, having exhausted the provisions they had brought with them. Perhaps Jesus waited three days to see if the disciples would ask Him to feed this crowd as He had fed the former one (Mark 6:31-44). They did not. Jesus’ compassion for the multitude led Him to articulate their plight. Still the disciples did not ask Jesus to meet the need. Even the similar surroundings did not jog the disciples’ memories.
1. The feeding of the 4,000 8:1-9 (cf. Matthew 15:32-38)
This miracle repeated the lesson of the feeding of the 5,000 for the disciples who had not learned what they should have from the former miracle (Mark 8:17-21). [Note: See E. Schuyler English, "A Neglected Miracle," Bibliotheca Sacra 126:504 (October-December 1969):300-5.]
"Mark clearly understood that there were two occasions when Jesus miraculously fed a multitude." [Note: Lane, p. 272.]
C. The second cycle of self-revelation to the disciples 8:1-30
The disciples had not yet understood the lessons that Jesus sought to teach them. Mark constructed his Gospel to show that in His discipleship training Jesus repeated lessons to train them. One writer noticed the following repetitive parallel structure in this section of the Gospel. [Note: Lane, p. 269.]
Why did the disciples not catch on? Probably several months had passed since Jesus fed the 5,000. People tend to forget even great events. Moreover depending on Jesus rather than relying on self is a very difficult lesson to learn, especially when one has a limited perception of who Jesus is. Furthermore Jesus’ reluctance to perform miracles may have discouraged the disciples from asking Him for help. [Note: Cranfield, p. 205.] Their question revealed their blindness. Rather than thinking about sending the crowds away, they despaired of finding enough bread to satisfy everyone in that wilderness (Gr. eremon, cf. Mark 6:32). At least they referred their question to Jesus this time (cf. Mark 6:37).
Jesus asked them the same question He had voiced before He fed the 5,000 (Mark 6:38). Even this did not remind the disciples to trust Jesus to provide for their need.
Mark explained exactly what Jesus did more particularly than Matthew did (Matthew 15:36). This reflects his typical interest in detail.
"Comparing Jesus’ prayers offered before these two feeding miracles shows that the first included the Jewish blessing of looking toward heaven (Mark 6:41), whereas the second was a simple thanksgiving (Mark 8:6)." [Note: Bailey, p. 80.]
Jesus’ provision was again typically adequate and abundant but not excessive.
Some critics of the Bible have argued that Matthew and Mark told the story of one miraculous feeding twice and made mistakes that account for the differences in the accounts. [Note: E.g., Gould, p. 142.] However the differences between the two stories are so great that most readers believe Jesus fed two different groups of people on two separate occasions.
Another debatable point is whether this crowd was Gentile, since the location was primarily Gentile, and the former crowd was Jewish, in view of its location. Probably there were more Gentiles present on this occasion and more Jews on the other. This points to a mixture of Jews and Gentiles that Jesus helped and that believed on Him, prefiguring the mixed composition of the church and the kingdom.
2. The return to Galilee 8:10 (cf. Matthew 15:39)
Jesus and the disciples returned to Galilee by boat after they had fed the 5,000 (Mark 6:45-56). They did the same thing after feeding the 4,000. The exact location of Dalmanutha is unknown, but it must have been near Magadan (Magdala?) on the west side of the lake (Matthew 15:39).
Matthew noted that the Sadducees accompanied the Pharisees (Matthew 15:1). They came out from Jerusalem again to argue, not to learn. They asked Jesus to provide some confirmation of His divine authority and trustworthiness. They wanted an immediate, public, definitive proof that God was with Him (cf. Mark 11:30). They had previously concluded that His power came from Satan (Mark 3:22). The miracles that Jesus performed did not convince them. They were not requesting another one of these but a different type of verification, perhaps similar to those God gave the Israelites at Mt. Sinai to authenticate Moses as His servant. They did this to subject Jesus to a trial (Gr. peirazo) that would reveal His true character. They hoped to expose Him as a phony.
"’Sign’ (semeion) consistently differs in Mark from ’wonders’ or ’miracles’ (dunameis). Nowhere in the Synoptics does ’sign’ refer to a ’miracle’ or is a miraculous event called a ’sign.’ . . . They sought a ’sign’ in the OT Jewish sense, a confirmation or authentication of Jesus’ ministry." [Note: Guelich, p. 413.]
Probably the Pharisees wanted Jesus to give them indisputable proof that God confirmed Jesus’ credibility. [Note: Ibid., p. 414.]
"The Pharisees were progressive, a party among, though not of, the people. Their goal was that Israel should become the righteous nation of the covenant. To this end they taught compliance with the ’tradition of the elders,’ an oral code of conduct effectively adapting the law of Moses to later times and changing demands." [Note: Kingsbury, pp. 63-64.]
3. Conflict with the Pharisees over signs 8:11-13 (cf. Matthew 16:1-4)
Matthew’s account of this incident is fuller than Mark’s. Probably Mark just summarized it here to parallel Mark 7:1-23 and so advance his theme of discipleship training.
The Greek word translated "sighing deeply" is anastenazo.
"It describes Jesus’ grief and disappointment when faced with the unbelief of those who, because of their spiritual privileges, ought to have been more responsive to him." [Note: Wessel, p. 688.]
The spirit was Jesus’ human spirit. The contemporary Jews who opposed Jesus constituted the generation to which He referred. He refused to give the type of sign they requested because the evidence that He had presented was more than adequate to convince an open-minded person. Jesus distinguished between miracles (Gr. dynamis) and signs (Gr. semeion) by using the second word here. He had given plenty of miracles to bolster faith. He would not give a sign to those bent on disbelieving. From this Mark’s readers were to learn that Jesus’ miracles were ample proof of His deity.
Jesus again left unbelievers (cf. Mark 4:35; Mark 7:24). He acted in keeping with His pronounced judgment. He departed for the northeast coast of the lake. From now on, Jesus’ ministry focused more on His disciples than on the public.
This incident was and is a lesson to disciples on the importance of accepting the evidence that Jesus has given concerning His supernatural person.
The one loaf of bread also recalls the two miraculous feedings of multitudes. A shortage of bread should have been no great concern to the disciples in view of Jesus’ supernatural powers.
4. Jesus’ teaching about the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod 8:14-21 (cf. Matthew 16:5-12)
This pericope parallels and recalls Jesus’ teaching about bread when He cast the demon out of the Phoenician girl (Mark 7:24-30). In both cases leavened bread metaphorically represented teaching. The Gentile woman wanted Jesus’ teaching and so presented a positive example for the disciples. The Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus’ teaching and advanced false teaching, which Jesus warned His disciples to avoid.
Jesus evidently used the leaven in the loaf of bread as an object lesson to illustrate the pervasive corrupting teaching of the Pharisees and of Herod. Leaven was a common metaphor for corruption in both Jewish and Hellenistic circles. [Note: Lane, p. 280.] The teaching of the Pharisees was that Jesus received His authority from Satan rather than from God (Mark 3:22; cf. Mark 7:8-13). It was a denial of His role as God’s anointed Servant, Messiah. The teaching of Herod Antipas, what he believed and articulated, was likewise that Jesus was not the Messiah. Herod told others that Jesus was just John the Baptist come back to life (Mark 6:14-16). The Pharisees and Herod, though so different from each other in many respects, promoted the same heretical view that Jesus was not the Messiah, much less divine. In short, this leaven was unbelief. Another view is that the yeast of the Pharisees was their hypocritical, self-righteous traditionalism and the yeast of Herod was his spirit of imperial pride. [Note: Bailey, p. 80.]
The disciples’ interest in the problem of lack of food contrasts with Jesus’ fervent concern over unbelief (cf. Mark 8:12; Mark 8:15). Spiritual truth failed to impress them because they had minds that were not open to it (Mark 8:17).
Jesus strongly rebuked His disciples for their lack of spiritual understanding (cf. Isaiah 6:9-10; Jeremiah 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2). In view of the two miraculous feedings they had witnessed, they should have understood who He was. They did "remember" the facts (Mark 8:19-20), but they did not "understand" their significance (Mark 8:21). As God had provided bread abundantly for the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus had provided bread abundantly for them in another wilderness. The conclusion should have been obvious. Jesus was the prophet that Moses predicted would follow him and supersede him. He was the divine Messiah.
"His rebuke was not because of their failure to grasp the meaning of His warning (Mark 8:15), but at their failure to understand the meaning of His presence with them." [Note: Grassmick, p. 138.]
It was extremely important that the disciples perceive who Jesus is. Without that perception they could not enter into relationship with Him that was realistic and fulfilling. Jesus’ use of questions forced them to interact with the implications of what they had heard and seen.
"In this way, Mark appears to say that being an ’insider,’ even a ’disciple,’ did not guarantee that one ’understood’ or perceived the significance of Jesus and his ministry." [Note: Guelich, p. 427.]
The incident ends with a question but no answer. Mark leaves the reader hanging. The answer is of utmost importance. Peter finally verbalized it in Mark 8:29. However the reader of this Gospel already knows the answer because of what Mark previously wrote.
As mentioned above, Bethsaida Julius stood on the northeast shore of the lake (cf. Mark 6:45). Evidently friends of the blind man led him to Jesus.
5. The healing of a blind man near Bethsaida 8:22-26
Mark is the only evangelist who recorded this miracle. It corresponds to the healing of the deaf man with the speech impediment (Mark 7:31-36), the only other miracle that Mark alone recorded. This is the only miracle in Mark that was not instantaneous; it happened gradually. Sight is a common metaphor for understanding. The disciples should have seen the deaf man as a picture of themselves unable to comprehend what Jesus said. This blind man also represented them in their inability to understand what Jesus showed them (cf. Mark 8:21). Jesus could and would make them whole, as He healed these two physically limited men.
"Our Lord’s action here is significant. Having abandoned Bethsaida to judgment (Matthew 11:21-24), He would neither heal in that village nor permit further testimony to be borne there (Mark 8:26). The probation of Bethsaida as a community was ended, but He would still show mercy to individuals." [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1059.]
Jesus may have led the man out of Bethsaida so He could establish a personal relationship with him (cf. Mark 5:35-43; Mark 7:31-37) and perhaps to avoid publicity (cf. Mark 8:26). The man’s willingness to follow Jesus demonstrated some faith. This was evidently one of only three miracles that Jesus did in private that Mark recorded. In all three cases, some disciples were present, as witnesses.
The English translations permit a rather unpleasant interpretation of what Jesus did, namely, spitting in the man’s face and placing His hands on his head or shoulders. The Greek text encourages us to interpret the data differently. Probably Jesus applied a small quantity of His spittle to the man’s eyes with His fingers. This action would have made it clear to the blind man that Jesus was restoring his vision. Perhaps the saliva told the man that this healing came out of Jesus’ mouth (cf. Genesis 1:3; Genesis 1:6, et al.).
". . . the use of saliva was a well-known Jewish remedy for affections of the eyes." [Note: Edersheim, 2:48.]
Jesus asked the man, "Do you see anything?" to get him to state what he saw for the disciples’ benefit. Evidently the man had lost his vision; he appears not to have been blind from birth. He knew what trees looked like. Blindness from disease was and still is common in many Middle Eastern countries.
Why did Jesus heal the man gradually in stages? Perhaps He did so to show that He could heal in any manner He chose. [Note: Calvin, 2:285.] Perhaps the man was fearful, and Jesus healed him as He did to accommodate his needs. [Note: Alexander Maclaren, "St. Mark," in Expositions of Holy Scripture, 8:326.] Perhaps He did so to illustrate for the disciples that He chose to give spiritual perception one step at a time. Perhaps He wanted to present Himself as the Great Physician. Probably Jesus had more than one reason.
"Is this miracle paradigmatic of Jesus’ struggle with the disciples? Is Jesus’ earthly ministry stage one, during which time Jesus must contend with the disciples who are at once committed to him but afflicted with incomprehension? Is the time following Easter stage two, when Jesus shall have led the disciples, like this man, to ’see everything clearly’?" [Note: Kingsbury, p. 102.]
Mark was careful to record that the man "looked intently" (NASB). Human responsibility played a part in this healing as does gaining spiritual understanding. Nevertheless it is God who is ultimately responsible for the perception. Perhaps Jesus healed the man’s optic nerve completely at first, but, as with children, the man had to learn to focus on objects. So Jesus touched the man’s eyes a second time, which gave him the ability to see clearly. [Note: J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, p. 248.]
"The primary focus of this story, however, is on the man’s total healing. The disciples show themselves to be in need of the second touch, and the story bespeaks their experiencing it. A time must come when they see all things distinctly." [Note: Guelich, p. 436.]
Probably Jesus gave this order to safeguard His mission (cf. Mark 1:44-45; Mark 5:43; Mark 7:36). The man appears to have lived somewhere other than in Bethsaida.
With this miracle Jesus fulfilled another aspect of messianic prophecy. The divine Messiah would open blind eyes (Isaiah 35:5-6). Old Testament writers claimed that it is God who gives sight to the blind (Psalms 146:8; Isaiah 29:18). The conclusion should have been obvious: Jesus is the God-man.
Jesus and his disciples continued traveling north from Bethsaida toward Caesarea Philippi, where Herod Philip lived, that stood about 25 miles away. The disciples confessed their belief that Jesus was Lord near the place where the pagans confessed that Caesar was Lord. Jesus asked the question in Mark 8:27 with a view to asking the second question in Mark 8:29. In Mark, Jesus’ questions often led to new teaching (cf. Mark 9:33; Mark 12:24; Mark 12:35). The popular answers to Jesus’ first question all reflect an inadequate view of Him. They assigned Jesus a preparatory role but failed to recognize His consummative role. Evidently few people believed that Jesus was the Messiah, so the disciples did not even mention that possibility.
6. Peter’s confession of faith 8:27-30 (cf. Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 9:18-21)
The healing of the deaf man with the speech impediment resulted in a confession of Jesus’ greatness that fell short of identifying Him as God (Mark 7:37). The healing of the blind man was the incident that God used to open the disciples’ eyes to the biblical messianic identity of Jesus that Peter articulated.
Mark further highlighted the cause and effect relationship between these last two events by structuring the pericopes similarly. First, he presented the circumstances (Mark 8:22; Mark 8:27). Second, he described partial sight and understanding (Mark 8:23-24; Mark 8:28). Third, he recorded the giving of sight and understanding (Mark 8:25; Mark 8:29). Fourth, he noted Jesus’ command to remain silent (Mark 8:26; Mark 8:30). [Note: Wessel, p. 692.]
"Mark has placed at the center of his narrative the recognition that Jesus is the Messiah. The pivotal importance of this moment is indicated by the fact that already in the first line of the Gospel the evangelist designates Jesus as the Messiah. Yet between Ch. Mark 1:1 and Ch. Mark 8:29 there is no recognition of this fact in spite of a remarkable sequence of events which demanded a decision concerning Jesus’ identity. . . .
"The recognition that Jesus is the Messiah is thus the point of intersection toward which all the theological currents of the first half of the Gospel converge and from which the dynamic of the second half of the Gospel derives. In no other way could Mark more sharply indicate the historical and theological significance of the conversation in the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi." [Note: Lane, pp. 288, 289.]
Jesus stressed "you" when He asked this question. He wanted to know whom the disciples, in contrast to the multitudes, believed He was. Peter spoke for the disciples. The other disciples evidently agreed with his statement and made no objection. This is the first time in Mark that Peter acted as spokesman for the Twelve. Yet from this time on, Peter was the prominent representative of the other disciples. Peter’s name appears twice in Mark before and 16 times after this incident. It occurs five times before this incident in Matthew , 18 times after, four times in Luke before and 16 times after, and four times in John before and 29 times after. [Note: Hiebert, p. 203, footnote 3.]
". . . Peter’s name, ’Rock,’ is ironic, for he thinks he is like a rock. He happens to be the opposite of what his nickname suggests, for he falls asleep and later falls apart under the incriminating remarks of a maid of the High Priest." [Note: Rhoads and Michie, p. 60.]
"Christ" is the English transliteration of the Greek christos that translates the Hebrew masiah meaning "anointed one." Originally this Hebrew term had a broad meaning and included anyone anointed by God, including priests, kings, and prophets. Later in the Old Testament it came to have the technical meaning of the divine Davidic king who would appear to deliver Israel and establish a worldwide kingdom (Psalms 110:1; Daniel 9:25-26). In Mark, Jesus rarely used this term Himself (cf. Mark 9:41; Mark 12:35; Mark 13:21), and He never used it of Himself. Probably He avoided it because of its political connotations and the popular misunderstanding of it, but Jesus accepted the title when others applied it to Him (cf. Mark 14:6-62; John 4:25-26).
". . . the title . . . was particularly fitted to express his true relation both to the OT and to the people of God. . . . the title, applied to Jesus, designates him as the true meaning and fulfillment of the long succession of Israel’s anointed kings and priests, the King and Priest . . .; the Prophet anointed with the Spirit of God, who fulfills the long line of Israel’s prophets, and the One in whom the life of the whole nation of Israel finds its fulfillment and meaning, in whom and for whose sake the people of Israel were, and the new Israel now is, the anointed people of God." [Note: Cranfield, pp. 270-71. See Bateman, pp. 537-59.]
The timing of this question in Jesus’ ministry was very important. The disciples had believed that Jesus was the Messiah from the beginning of their contact with Him (John 1:41; John 1:51). However their understanding of the Messiah then was the traditional one of their day, namely, that of a political leader. The multitudes likewise failed to understand that Jesus was much more than that. The religious leaders were becoming increasingly antagonistic. The disciples were about to receive new revelation regarding Jesus that would have costly implications for them. Therefore it was necessary for them to confess Jesus’ identity clearly and unmistakably now.
Why did Mark only record that Peter said, "You are the Messiah," rather than his complete statement, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16)? Mark’s emphasis throughout his Gospel was on Jesus’ humanity, as we have seen. By omitting the last part of Peter’s statement, Mark did not mean that Peter failed to acknowledge Jesus’ deity. This is precisely what Peter was confessing. However in Mark the term Messiah includes the concept of deity, as it does in the Old Testament. When the disciples said they had found the Messiah before Jesus called them to be His disciples, they used the title in the popular way (John 1:41; John 1:51). Mark did not record those statements. He presented the disciples using the term "Messiah" in its true biblical meaning for his Gentile readers.
"For the Christians of Rome who read Mark, the confession ’You are the Messiah’ was precisely their profession of faith . . ." [Note: Lane, p. 292, n. 67. Cf. 1 John 5:1.]
Peter’s confession constitutes a high-water mark in the disciples’ understanding of and commitment to Jesus. They still had much to learn about the significance of Jesus being the Messiah that the Old Testament promised and its implications. Nevertheless now Jesus could build on their faith and commitment.
". . . Jesus’ identity is progressively unveiled in three stages, though only from the standpoint of the reader. . . .
"The first stage in the progressive disclosure of Jesus’ identity is the confession of Peter on behalf of the disciples (Mark 8:27-30)." [Note: Kingsbury, p. 43. Cf. 10:46-11:11 (and 12:35-37); and 11:12-15:39.]
Probably Jesus instructed the disciples to tell no one about Him for at least two reasons. First, such an announcement would have hindered His mission. Second, the disciples would not have been able to cope with the questions and opposition such an announcement would generate. They still held many popular misconceptions about Israel’s Messiah that Jesus needed to correct. Jesus proceeded to continue preparing them so they could represent Him effectively.
"At the center of his Gospel Mark placed Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah. Up to this point the underlying question had been, ’Who is He?’ After Peter’s declaration on behalf of the Twelve, Mark’s narrative is oriented toward the Cross and the Resurrection. From now on the underlying double question was, ’What kind of Messiah is He, and what does it mean to follow Him?’ This crucial passage is the point to which the first half of the book leads and from which the second half proceeds." [Note: Grassmick, pp. 138-39.]
A. The first passion prediction and its lessons 8:31-9:29
In this section, Mark recorded Jesus’ first clear prediction of His passion (Mark 8:31), the disciples’ reaction to it (Mark 8:32-33), and several lessons on discipleship (Mark 8:34 to Mark 9:29).
Jesus’ clear revelation of His coming suffering, death, and resurrection resulted from Peter’s confession of faith. The disciples were now ready to receive what would have been completely incomprehensible if they still viewed Jesus as only a political Messiah.
Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man, a biblical messianic title (Daniel 7:13-14; cf. Mark 2:10; Mark 2:28). This was by far the favorite term that Jesus used to describe Himself in the Gospels. It appears 81 times. In its Old Testament usage this title presented Messiah as coming in glory but also suffering and dying. This title was not as popular as "Messiah" so when Jesus used it people unfamiliar with the Old Testament often did not know what He meant. "Son of Man" was an idiom in Jesus’ day that most people would have understood as a circumlocution for "I." [Note: Ibid., p. 297.]
Here Jesus revealed that the Son of Man must (Gr. dei) suffer, because of God’s purpose. Most Jews of Jesus’ day believed that Messiah would establish His kingdom without suffering and dying.
"The necessity arises, first, from the hostility of men; secondly, from the spiritual nature of his work, which made it impossible for him to oppose force to force; and thirdly from the providential purpose of God, who made the death of Jesus the central thing in redemption [Isa_52:13 to Isa_53:12]." [Note: Gould, p. 153.]
The three groups that would reject Jesus made up the Sanhedrin. The elders were its lay members. They were men of wealth and were the leaders of aristocratic families. The chief priests were the ranking priests and were mostly Sadducees. They occupied a hereditary office and supervised the temple and the sacrificial system. The chief priests included Annas, Caiaphas, and the leaders of the 24 divisions of the priesthood. The scribes or teachers of the law were the approved interpreters of the law, and they were mostly Pharisees. They were the theologians and lawyers of Judaism who were experts in Israel’s laws. Together these three groups formed a united front as opponents of Jesus.
Jesus also announced His resurrection "after three days." Mark’s readers would have understood this phrase as synonymous with "on the third day" (cf. Hosea 6:1-2; Matthew 16:21; Luke 9:22).
"Verse 31 is particularly important because it is the only explanation in Mark’s Gospel of ’the messianic secret.’ Jesus did not want his messiahship to be disclosed because it involved suffering, rejection, and death. Popular expectations of messiahship would have hindered, if not prevented, the accomplishment of his divinely ordained (dei, ’must’) messianic mission." [Note: Wessel, p. 696. For further discussion of the "messianic secret," see Lowery, pp. 74-76.]
1. The first major prophecy of Jesus’ passion 8:31-33 (cf. Matthew 16:21-23; Luke 9:22)
V. THE SERVANT’S JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM 8:31-10:52
Having comprehended Jesus’ true identity the disciples next turned south with Jesus and headed from Caesarea Philippi toward Jerusalem. This section of the Gospel traces that journey and stresses Jesus’ preparation of His disciples for His coming death and resurrection.
"It is no coincidence that the narrator frames the journey to Jerusalem with two healing stories about blindness [Mark 8:22-26; Mark 10:46-52], for the journey surely seems dominated by Jesus’ urgent efforts to deal with the disciples’ blindness to the things of God." [Note: Rhoads and Michie, pp. 126-27.]
Mark structured his narrative around three predictions of His passion that Jesus gave the disciples. Each unit begins with a prediction followed by the disciples’ reaction. Then follow lessons that Jesus taught them about discipleship. Until now, Mark reported Jesus speaking in veiled terms (cf. Mark 2:20; Mark 4:33-34). From now on He spoke more clearly to both the disciples and the multitudes.
"This openness is theologically significant within the larger context of Jesus’ messianic self-revelation in the Gospel of Mark. It points beyond Jesus’ hiddenness, which reaches its climax on the cross, to his revealed glory. In the cross and resurrection of Jesus the secret of the Kingdom is thoroughly veiled as well as gloriously revealed. Mark exposes this tension, which is inherent in the gospel, through the reaction of the disciples to Jesus’ sober teaching throughout Chs. Mark 8:31 to Mark 10:52." [Note: Lane, p. 294.]
Until now, Jesus had only hinted at His sufferings (cf. Mark 2:20; Mark 4:33-34; Mark 7:14-15; Mark 7:17-23). The disciples were unprepared for this clear revelation that Messiah would suffer, die, and rise again. Peter understood it but refused to accept it. He could not reconcile this view of Messiah with the popular one. The word Mark chose to describe Peter’s rebuke is a strong one (Gr. epitimao). It is the same one he used to describe Jesus silencing demons (cf. Mark 1:25; Mark 3:12). Peter reacted with "an air of conscious superiority." [Note: Swete, p. 180.]
Jesus spoke His rebuke for the other disciples as well as for Peter. This indicates that Peter was speaking for them. Jesus called Peter Satan because He recognized Satan as the ultimate source of Peter’s suggestion (cf. Matthew 4:10). Peter’s words had opposed God’s will in favor of the popular messianic idea.
2. The requirements of discipleship 8:34-9:1 (cf. Matthew 16:24-28; Luke 9:23-27)
Jesus now proceeded to explain to His disciples that suffering would not only be His destiny but theirs too.
Jesus addressed the crowds as well as the disciples because the requirements are the same for anyone who contemplates discipleship. Some in the crowd were thinking about becoming Jesus’ disciples but had not yet made up their minds.
"He stated two requirements which, like repent and believe (cf. Mark 1:15), are bound together." [Note: Grassmick, p. 140.]
One negative requirement is self-denial, replacing one’s own preferences and plans with God’s priorities and program. [Note: See Michael P. Green, "The Meaning of Cross-Bearing," Bibliotheca Sacra 140:558 (April-June 1983):117-33.] The other positive requirement is following Jesus faithfully and publicly even though that would mean shame, suffering, and perhaps physical death (cf. Mark 1:17-18; Mark 2:14; Mark 10:21; Mark 10:52).
Four explanatory clarifications follow, each introduced by "for" (Gr. gar, Mark 8:35-38) plus an encouragement (Mark 8:38). They are appropriate warnings for present disciples and those considering discipleship. For believers they apply to the loss of reward and for unbelievers to the loss of eternal life, salvation. Both types of people were in Jesus’ audience when He said this.
Jesus used the word "life" (Gr. psyche) in two ways in this verse. The translation of this Greek word as "soul" here has caused some people to conclude that Jesus was only warning about the loss of salvation. He was not. In its first occurrence in each clause, "life" refers to one’s physical life. In the second part of each clause "it" means the essential person that continues to exist beyond the grave. Likewise "lose" has two meanings. In the first clause it means the loss of reward for believers or the loss of salvation for unbelievers. In the second clause it means loss of physical life.
Jesus meant that if a person wants to retain control of his or her life now, he or she will suffer the loss of something more valuable in the future. Conversely if a person will relinquish control of his or her life to follow God’s will faithfully, he or she will gain something of greater ultimate worth. [Note: See Narry F. Santos, "Jesus’ Paradoxical Teaching in Mark 8:35; 9:35; and 10:43-44," Bibliotheca Sacra 157:625 (January-March 2000):15-25.]
"The calm assertion, ’for my sake,’ reflects Christ’s consciousness of His unique supremacy which justly claims the absolute allegiance of His disciples. And the gospel’s, added only in Mark (cf. Mark 10:29), points to the message which he accepts and propagates at the cost of himself. The two form two sides of one great reality. Christ is known to us only through the gospel, and our adherence to the gospel means our loyalty to Him." [Note: Hiebert, p. 209.]
"In the second half of Mark ’the gospel’ always denotes the message announced by the Church, of which Jesus is the content (Chs. Mark 8:35; Mark 10:29; Mark 13:10; Mark 14:9), precisely as in Ch. Mark 1:1." [Note: Lane, p. 309.]
The psyche in these verses means the essential person. It is foolish to preserve one’s comforts now because by doing so one sacrifices something of much greater value that God would give him or her. The "whole world" comprehends earthly possessions, position, pleasure, and power-all that the world can provide. Mark 8:37 stresses the irrevocable nature of the choice.
"Whoever" means unbelievers or believers (cf. Mark 8:34). For unbelievers living when the Son of Man returns to set up His kingdom, Jesus being ashamed before the Father will result in their loss of salvation. For believers living then, it will mean their loss of reward. This is the first explicit reference in Mark to Jesus’ return in glory. Being ashamed of Jesus, rejecting His claims, has serious consequences.
". . . this conflict between Jesus and the disciples on the way to Jerusalem exemplifies the clash between the values of the disciples and those of Jesus." [Note: Rhoads and Michie, p. 91.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Mark 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19