In our study of Mark chapter eight, we will see that Jesus is the bread that gives us life and sustains our lives.
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.'
Once again, we see that Jesus was faced with a hungry crowd of followers. This crowd is different from the one described in chapter six as these people had followed Jesus for three days.
His disciples answered, 'But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?'
The reaction of the disciples is puzzling as they must have forgotten how Jesus had fed the five thousand. Because they had forgotten that, they were not prepared for this crowd. We may be hard on them and say that we would never forget what He has done but is that really true. If we do not share what He has done in our daily lives, we will forget many of the details and these details are what helps us to grow in our understanding of God.
'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.
We see that it is later in the year as the grass is not green and He had the people sit on the ground. Once again, He gave thanks and broke the bread for the people.
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.
We see that this time there were about four thousand instead of the five thousand that were fed previously. This is often referred to as the neglected miracle of Christ as everyone remembers the feeding of the five thousand but few remember the four thousand. We see this miracle of bread performed twice and are reminded that, throughout the Bible, the number two is associated with the number of legal witnesses required. In these two miracles, Jesus was testifying that He was the Bread of Life.
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.
After this, the Jewish leaders tried to test Jesus again by asking for a miracle. He had just fed well over 4000 people and yet they asked for a sign. You can feel the sadness as Jesus let out a deep sigh of pity. He felt sorry for them because they could not see the signs that were right in front of them so they kept asking for more signs. It is much the same today as people look for spectacular signs of the end of the age instead of looking at the small signs around them.
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.'
While they were in the boat, Jesus used the example of bread to teach His disciples. He warned them about yeast which is used to make bread fluffy and to taste good. It is a single cell organism that converts its food (sugar and starch) into carbon dioxide. The men would have been familiar with the removal of yeast (leaven) from their homes during the celebration of the Passover but were probably wondering why Jesus was telling them this now. They talked about it among themselves and could only come up with the fact that they did not have but one loaf of bread with them. They were still focused on the physical instead of spiritual matters. We may be quick to criticize them as we can look back at the entire ministry of Christ and clearly see what He was talking about, but, they did not have all of the facts that we do. One thing that we can learn from this is that we must look to Jesus for the answers about spiritual matters and not the views of men.
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?'
Here, Jesus asks them five questions and we are reminded that, throughout the Bible, the number five is associated with grace and grace is a gift. With these questions, He is trying to get them to see past the human desire to work for the things of God. The yeast that He had warned them about was the teaching of the Pharisees that was trying to add the Law (works) to grace.
'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?'
The conversation continues as Jesus reminds them of the fact that He had fed all of those people when it did not seem possible. Their part in the feeding of the people had simply been to deliver what the Lord had provided. All the people had to do was to accept the food as a gift from God. He had been sufficient for the physical needs and He is sufficient for their spiritual need of salvation. This is a picture of how we are to share our faith with the world. As disciples, we are to simply take the gift that God has provided and present it to those that do not know Him. Then, they can simply accept the gift or refuse it.
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?'
Once again, they came to Bethsaida known as the house of fish and the hometown of some of the disciples. Again, a blind man was brought to Jesus to be healed but we notice that he took the man out of the town before He healed him. The town had become like Nazareth in the fact that they had seen the miracles of Jesus but rejected Him. This time Jesus spit on the man's eyes which speaks of the words of God. The town was a religious town and had knowledge of the things of God but still could not see Jesus as the promised Messiah. The same type of thing is happening today in the local "churches". Many have a religious tradition but no room for the work of the Lord. Very little happens there like a tree that does not produce any fruit. But, Jesus is taking many of His people by the hand and leading them outside of these "churches" where there is room for Him to work.
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.'
When the man first opened his eyes, he could not clearly see so Jesus put His hands on him again. Why did He have to do so twice? This was a picture of the fact that even the people of that religious town could be saved if they would only yield to the touch of Jesus. Why did Jesus tell the man not to go back into the town? They had already seen the miracles that Jesus performed and still did not believe.
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.
Here, we see the fundamental question that divides the world today. Who was/is Jesus? There are those who say He was a great man like John the Baptist. There are those (Muslims) that say He was a prophet. Then, there are Christians (like Peter) who acknowledge Him as the Son of God and Savior of the world. Why did Jesus tell them to keep it to themselves? It was not the proper time for it to be revealed and it was not the manner in which God was going to reveal it. Talk is cheap and so God was going to reveal Jesus as the Christ when He died on the cross and rose again.
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.
Now that they knew who He was, Jesus began to teach them about the things that were to come. He explained that the religious system would reject Him even to the point of killing Him but that He would rise again in victory. It is the same today, in that, man has tried to make the church a religious system and in the process have rejected the teaching of Jesus. The old laws have been brought back into the church and new ones have been added with every denomination.
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.'
Peter could not accept the things that Jesus was saying and began to correct Him. Jesus corrected Peter and even called him Satan. How could this be? The simple fact of the matter is that there are two sides to the battle that is going on even to day. You are either in tune with God's plan or you are working for the devil. What do you have your mind set on? If its not the "things of God", then, you are on the wrong team.
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 does it mean to be a Christian ("come after me")? First, we must "deny himself" speaking of the fact that we must admit that we cannot work to better ourselves to a point where we become acceptable to God. Secondly, we do His will no matter what ridicule or shame we face. Those that prefer this life and the things of this world will miss eternity with Him.
'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.'
A Christian will boldly stand up and say that we are saved only by the grace of God through the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If we are ashamed to stand for His name now, we can be sure that He will not stand for us on the day of judgment. Without the Bread of Life which is Jesus Christ, we die.