Feeding the Four Thousand (1-8)
While Jesus was in the region of Decapolis, a large, impromptu crowd assembled to listen to Jesus and seek deliverance from Him. As such, there had been no plan for feeding them; thus Jesus called His disciples and informed them of His compassion for those gathered and His hesitation in sending them away to their homes, fearing some of the weaker ones would faint along the way, some having come from great distances (1-2). The disciples failed here as miserably as they did when Jesus fed the five thousand, but for different reasons. Jesus was long on compassion, but they were short on bread. The disciples began to question how the people could be fed if Jesus was unwilling to send them away. Once again, the disciples were guilty of leaving Jesus’ compassion out of their calculations. They could not fathom Jesus using up one of His miracles on these Gentiles who had been with Jesus for three days, hanging on every word and on every miracle (3-4).
Jesus asked His disciples how many loaves of bread they had, and the text would imply they already knew: seven (5). Jesus then repeated what He had done with the five thousand—directed the crowd to sit down, took the loaves, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and then gave the broken loaves to His disciples to set before the people, which they did (6). There were a few fish, and Jesus did the same with the fish; they were set before the crowd by the disciples (7). Again, deja vu—the crowd was satisfied, and there were seven baskets filled for the disciples to eat (8). After they were fed, Jesus sent them away, and He got back into a boat and went to the region of Dalmanutha. Dalmanutha was on the west side of the sea, so it would seem Jesus was going back over to the west bank (9). This story was added by Mark, undoubtedly to punctuate the truth that the disciples were dull and slow to pick up on Who Jesus really was--King of Israel, yes, but also King over all creation. Jesus twice showed Himself to be the One who feeds from heaven with heavenly provision, linking Himself to Moses. Unlike Moses, however, Jesus fed the Gentiles, revealing He was leading a new exodus which had come for the whole earth.
Once on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, some Pharisees came and struck up an argument with Jesus. They cited that His earthly miracles were not enough for them to really believe. Those miracles, in their minds, could easily be excused as having been worked by satan. They wanted a grand show from the heavens, something Jesus could do which would show them without doubt that it was God working through Him (11). Jesus was exhausted with their perpetually needing a sign to satisfy their hearts, which did not want the kind of God who was but wanted a God after their own whims and desire. Jesus told them there would be no such sign; He would continue to reveal the Father the only way His Father wanted to be revealed (12).
Jesus then got back into the boat with His disciples and headed back to the east side of the sea (13).
On the trip back across the sea, the disciples realized they had given all their food away from the seven baskets left over after the feeding of the four thousand and only one of them was carrying a loaf of bread (14). Jesus then gave them a warning to be beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. Jesus was seeking to warn them that their thinking was inflated like religious and political animals. They were so permeated with the spirit of this world that they were still thinking like their world thought about religion and politics (15).
The disciples, remaining dense, assumed Jesus was rebuking them for their poor planning and forgetting to pack bread (16). Jesus broke in with a rhetorical question, informing them they were way off. Jesus was not concerned about the bread; He was more concerned that they were hardened so deeply in their thinking. Their religious and political world would not allow their eyes to see Jesus as the Christ nor their ears to hear Jesus as the Christ. Jesus then tried to wake up their minds, asking them how many baskets were left over from the miraculous feedings of the five thousand and then the four thousand (17-20). He then asked one last question, "do you not yet understand?” Jesus’ point was clear, "I am the Messiah and I am completely different from the religious and political systems of this world. Can't you yet see it?" (21)
Healing of the Blind Man (22-26)
Mark includes this miracle here to complete His teaching about leaven on the boat, regarding having eyes but not seeing and ears but not really hearing.
Jesus went to Bethsaida and a blind man was brought to Him outside the village for Him to touch. Faith was high; the power to heal intensifying. Jesus spit on his eyes. Nothing magical about spitting, but what the man lacked in sight Jesus made up for in feeling. Jesus then laid hands on Him and asked, "Do you see anything?" (22-23) He could see people but when he described them to Jesus, it was clear the blind man was not healed enough to really know and distinguish what he was seeing (24). Jesus then laid his hands on his eyes again and he opened his eyes; the second time his sight was fully restored and he could see everything clearly (25).
Jesus, not wanting a crowd to follow Him for the healing He had performed, told the healed man to go back into the village but not to tell his story in other villages (26).
The whole purpose of this miracle was clearly for Jesus' disciples who needed to know that, while they could see, they were not seeing Jesus clearly or with discernment. They had yeast in their eyes, seeing too much religiously and politically like the world sees.
The Journey to Jerusalem and the Cost of the Kingdom (8:27-10:52)
Peter's Confession (27-30)
From this moment on, Jesus focused His attention on His disciples. He did miracles as people came seeking them from Him but He was not concentrating on His crowd ministry. He concentrated on putting His message into His disciples as He set His face toward Jerusalem.
Jesus left the shore of the Sea of Galilee and took His disciples to Caesarea Philippi, one of the most beautiful spots in Palestine. All the reasons for this being the site of the question posed to His disciples, is not included in this Gospel so we will share it when we come to Matthew.
While on the way, Jesus, by asking His two questions, was asking His disciples if they had gotten any of the leaven out of their eyes yet—were they really seeing Him differently?
Jesus asked the broad question, “Who do people say I am?" (27) There were different answers, but mostly people assumed the spirit of a past prophet was driving Him (28).
Jesus then asked them all a personal question, “Who do you say I am?" (29) Peter at long last had gotten some of the leaven out of his eyes and confessed Jesus to be the Messiah whom Yahweh had promised to send. Because they still were seeing Jesus too much as the religious and political Messiah the world was looking for, he warned them not to tell anyone (30).
The Cost of Following the Messiah (31-38)
Jesus, with His mind on Jerusalem, began to share with His disciples His imminent rejection, suffering, and death by religious leaders and then of course His certain resurrection after three days (31). Peter, not liking Jesus' negative tone, took him aside and sought to correct Him (32). All the disciples were watching and listening as Jesus was being rebuked by Peter. Jesus then became more clear about the religious and political leaven—it was sourced in satan. It was the kind of leaven which continually thought about how to fulfill the desires of humans and not the will of God. He told the spirit of this age, the spirit of leaven, the satan in Peter, to get behind Him and stop trying to assert leadership over Him and make Him think the way the world thought and the way His disciples were thinking. Remember, it is Peter who is telling this story to Mark, affirming that after such a great confession, he was blinded by the religious and political views of his day (33-34).
Jesus then called the crowd to Him to listen with His disciples how to get the leaven out of their eyes and stop seeing religiously and politically as the world sees.
He called them to deny their inclination, however innocent, to put their desire and comfort in front of God's will. They were to take up their cross and execute their desire and comfort on the figurative cross Jesus was going to put in their heart, the same cross Jesus was going to die on (34).
Jesus then warned the crowd that those who sought to save their life of desire and comfort would lose it and those who sought the will of Yahweh first would actually find comfort, rest, wholeness, and health (35).
Jesus then said something most frightening: a person could gain a world of fortune, power, and religious respect and forfeit their own soul. Worldly success was no guarantee nor sign of a person's soul having been saved (36). Jesus posed one of His rhetorical questions: “What can a person give in return for their soul?" (37) Nothing!
Jesus then told the crowd and His disciples that to be ashamed of Him and His words, to be ashamed of Who He actually was religiously and politically, would find Jesus being ashamed of them.
Jesus recognized the crowd was living in a generation without covenant commitment (adulterous) and without purpose (sinful), so their view of all things religious and political was so different from Jesus' perspective. Even so, to be ashamed of the difference, to be ashamed of Jesus and His words, would find Jesus being ashamed of them when He came in unmistakable glory (38).