A great multitude had been with Jesus for three days. They had run out of food, but stayed with Him instead of leaving to eat. Notice what Jesus tells the disciples:
Mark 8:2 "I feel compassion for the multitude because they have remained with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat
Jesus feels compassion for those who forsake their lives, their comfort, their rights and desires to follow Him and sit at His feet. Many people think, "Oh, I could never be a missionary. I could never quit my job to be a minister. I could never give up my standard of living to evangelize in the poor areas of our country." But when you give your life completely to Jesus Christ, He feels compassion on you and provides for your needs. How does He do it? Sometimes naturally, sometimes supernaturally. This time it's supernatural.
The faith of the disciples seems almost laughable. "C-mon guys," we think, "Get a clue! Don't you remember the feeding of the 5,000 back in chapter six?" But don't get down on them unless you're willing to point the finger at yourself. Because, like it or not, this is a perfect picture of our own faith's short-term memory.
Think back - how often has God come though - either naturally or supernaturally? Countless times. But we forget. At the time, it is an amazing miracle, but as the days and weeks pass, we forget, and eventually begin to think, "I've never seen anything miraculous. God's never done anything for me before."
I should have kept a journal over all these years - documenting God's work in my own life. I have seen God provide financially - sometimes thousands of dollars. I have seen God heal people as I prayed for them. I have seen God perform many miracles, and yet, as the years pass, I forget about them. Then I encounter a difficulty and think that there's no way God could deal with this. Yes, I am just as faithlessly forgetful as the disciples were when they said, "Lord, where could we possibly buy bread for all these men?"
To keep from sinning against God in faithlessness, it is valuable to hide His Word in our hearts - memorizing verses to recall during situations that seem impossible and irreconcilable. Verses like...
Luke 18:27 "The things impossible with men are possible with God."
Eph. 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us
These can bring comfort and faith at times of need, where there appears to be no provision.
So once again the Lord multiplies bread and fish, and there is an abundance left over.
The Lord and His disciples head by boat over to the district of Dalmanutha ("Dal-man-oo-THAH"), on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
When they arrive, some Pharisees come out and argue with Him, demanding a sign from heaven. They weren't just asking for a sign, for obviously they had seen Him multiply food, cast out demons, and miraculously heal and cure people's maladies. No, they wanted a sign from heaven, specifically. "Make the sky turn green. Bring down fire from heaven. Make the sun go backwards. Make the clouds spell out words. We want a sign from heaven. You could have been doing all these earthly miracles by the god of this world, the devil."
Jesus sighed deeply in His spirit. A sigh conveys such a multitude of emotions. Discouragement, disappointment, anger, frustration... "Why do you want a sign?" He asks. That is the source of the sigh - their motivation for wanting a sign. This was not as one man said to Jesus,
Mark 9:24 ..."I do believe; help my unbelief."
They were saying, "We don't believe you. You'll have to show us a sign from heaven if you want us to believe." And of course, even if He did, they wouldn't.
So Jesus says, "Nope, no sign."
Back in the boat again, Jesus exhorts them, saying,
Mark 8:15 ..."Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."
"Oh, man!" the disciples say to each other. "He must be talking about leaven because He's mad that we forgot to bring bread!" Seven baskets full left over, and they forget bread! Oy vey!
Jesus wasn't mad before, but now He tells them, "Hello?! Haven't you seen me provide bread enough yet to realize that I can certainly make up for you forgetting to bring bread?" He was able to keep them fed, but only they were able to keep themselves from the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.
What was the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod? What is leaven? We call it yeast. This stuff, by corruption and fermentation, causes bread to rise- it corrupts by puffing up. Because of this, leaven is always a picture of sin in Scripture. In 1Corinthians 5, Paul said,
1Cor. 5:6-8 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
So the Corinthian church had the leaven of malice and wickedness. What was the leaven that Jesus was warning the disciples against?
The leaven of the Pharisees was hypocrisy. Luke tells us that Jesus told the disciples,
Luke 12:1 ..."Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
Hypocrisy spreads, just like leaven. It puffs people up, just like leaven puffs up the bread. It spreads rapidly and thoroughly, and ultimately it corrupts the entire loaf. The Pharisees were so concerned with their outward appearance, but inside they were corrupt and corroded. That is hypocrisy - claiming to be righteous when inwardly you're wicked. Matthew explains further, saying,
Matt. 16:12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jesus was warning them against that hypocritical teaching. Against falling into the same sin of hypocrisy - outward righteousness and inward wickedness.
Now the leaven of Herod was not explained so thoroughly. Remember that two weeks ago we read about the fate of John the Baptist. How Herod had arrested him and kept him in prison. Then came that fateful day when Herod was giving a banquet for his lords, military commanders, and the leading men of Galilee. After his step-daughter danced for the group, Herod said, "Ask me for anything and I'll give it to you." She asked her mother what to ask for and was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Then we read,
Mark 6:26-27 And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison
Herod's leaven was his pride. His pride made him do what he knew was wrong - it kept him from deciding to do what he knew was right.
Now Jesus has warned his disciples against the hypocritical teaching of the Pharisees and the pride of Herod. Why? Because He had just had victory over a temptation to sin in both of those areas. They had challenged Him for a sign from heaven. He could have been caught up in pride and showed them just how much power He had. He could have been caught up in hypocrisy and done a mighty outward work that was against what was in His heart. In His victory over temptation, He encourages His disciples in the same areas. How frustrating it must have been when they thought, "Oh no! It's because we forgot bread!"
Again we find a strange and mysterious account of the healings that Jesus performed. Each is different and also, I believe, an illustration of the kingdom of God. Here, unlike any other healing, we see a progression, a graduated healing. I believe that this is a good picture of our own spiritual healing from blindness to sight.
We come into this world sinful, spiritually blind. The light of Jesus Christ is something that we cannot comprehend. But then He touches us, and we pass out of darkness and into light. But it is only partial sight. As 1Corinthians 13 says,
1Cor. 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face...
There will come a time that we will see clearly. John wrote,
1John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.
One day, we will see perfectly and clearly.
On the way to the villages of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus poses the question to the disciples: "Who do people say that I am?" They answered and told Him, "Well, people have been saying that you are John the Baptist, others say you're Elijah, and others think you're one of the prophets." Then Jesus hits home to their own hearts, saying , "Okay, but who do YOU say I am?"
Jesus is still asking that question of every man today. It doesn't matter who your parents think Jesus is. It doesn't matter who your friends or coworkers think Jesus is. Who do YOU say He is?
Peter responded rightly. He said,
Matt. 16:16 ..."Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
What was Jesus' response to Peter? Matthew 16 tells us that Jesus said, "Yes Peter! And...
Matt. 16:18 "...upon this rock I will build My church..."
Today we see many churches that are built not on this statement, but on other things. Built on programs, on personalities, on powerful signs and wonders. But Jesus said He would build His church on Peter's proclamation. Beware of a church that is being built on anything other than Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. If it's being built on any other foundation, it is not Jesus' church.
Now that the disciples know that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, Jesus begins to teach them about His mission and future. He tells them plainly that He will be rejected by the Jewish leadership, that He will be killed, and that He will raise from the dead on the third day.
This didn't fit in with Peter's plan. Jesus was supposed to raise a mighty army, conquer the Romans, and then Peter and the other disciples would rule and reign at His side in the new kingdom.
Remember that Peter had just been commended for his answer regarding Jesus as the Christ. Peter must have felt he was obviously smarter than the rest of these guys. He must have felt he was certainly in better standing than the other disciples. So Peter pulled Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. "This is a bad idea, Jesus. Definitely not a good P.R. move. Let's rework this plan a bit..."
Much to Peter's surprise, Jesus rebukes Him back, saying
Mark 8:33 ..."Get behind Me, satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's"
Ouch. That had to be a terrible moment for Peter.
Now why would Jesus call him satan? Because when you stand in opposition to the wisdom and the plan of God, you are doing the work of the devil. We must always remember that we are to pray, "THY will be done," not "MY will be done."
Now Jesus calls everyone together and gives them a very difficult - but very necessary - teaching.
Mark 8:34 ..."If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
The cross was an instrument of humiliation, torture, and death. To truly follow Christ means to give up your life. Entirely. Christianity is not a part of your life - it IS your life. Following Jesus is not a part-time occupation, it is to be your full-time preoccupation.
Are you just playing around with Christ? Or have you really given your entire life to Him? Are you willing to follow Him wherever He leads you? Are you willing to give up anything and everything if He requests it? Is any of your life still yours? Lose your life for the gospel's sake, and you will find new, more abundant life.
And don't be ashamed of Christ, else He be ashamed of you at the resurrection.