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A Heart For God: Confession of Faith (Mark 8:1-38)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Confession of Faith (Mark 8:1-38)

(This is supplement 7 to the #mkbiblechat study taking place every Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, 6:30 Pacific USA. Pastor Mike is teaching the Gospel of Mark on Twitter. Click here for class schedule and links to the notes. Click here to follow Pastor Mike on Twitter.)


"'I feel compassion for the multitude because they have remained with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat.'" (Mark 8:2)

"I feel compassion," our Lord says. (Same word in the Feeding of the 5000 in Mark 6:34 and the Healing of the Leper in Mark 1:41.) Compassion (splagechnizomai; Strong's 4607): "to have the bowels yearn; feel sympathy, to pity." (See also Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:20.) Compassion demonstrates itself in action to relieve suffering.

You'd think the disciples would have learned their lesson. (Mark 8:4-9) They've seen 5000 fed (not counting women and children). So now why doesn't at least one of them step out and remember as this episode unfolds? (Parallel passage: Matthew 15:32-39) They're just like us (the disciples are). We're just like them. Slow learners.

Notice Christ gives the loaves to the disciples and they distribute to the crowd. (Mark 8:6) Same pattern as the 5000. (Mark 6:41) Why? Two reasons (imho): 1. It's God's pattern to minister through His people to the world and 2. so the disciples themselves would be a part of the miracle and see it up close and personal ~ to not forget it!


"And the Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him (Jesus)." (Mark 8:11a)

The Pharisees want an "attesting miracle" ~ one that demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Messiah. (Btw, to this point in Mark, there have been 23 "attesting miracles" recorded including the previous feeding of the 4000.) The problem isn't outward evidence, it's inward attitude/refusal to believe. (Mark 8:11-12)

The Pharisees and Herodians band together against Jesus. (Matthew 22:15-21; Mark 3:6) Jesus warns the disicples: "'Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.'" (Mark 8:15b) (Is Judas listening?) Leaven is "a substance added to dough to cause it to rise." (Unger's 651) It has a dynamic to permeate through and through. In the Bible leaven is oftentimes used to represent evil.

The leaven of the Pharisees we learn from the context is commitment to tradition above God's commands (Mark 7:1ff), hypocrisy (Mark 7:6) and dissatisfaction with the signs they already had (they cannot be satisfied). (Mark 8:11ff) "Religious externalism" is how the Bible Dictionary puts it.

The leaven of Herod on the other hand is "worldly compromise." (Unger's 652) King Herod demonstrates this in his adulterous affair with Herodias where ultimately he obeys her request to execute John the Baptist. (Mark 6:17-18, 26-27)


This is the only place in the Gospels where this miracle is recorded. Or is it two miracles? Or could it be that our Lord's first touch doesn't work?

"[The man] looked up ("gained sight" ~ Open Bible marg. trans.) and [he] said, 'I see men (so his vision is restored at this point) - for I am seeing them (or "they look to me" ~ marg. trans. again) like trees, walking about.'" (Mark 8:24)

The truth here is that the blind man is really healed twice. First, Jesus heals him of his blindness. Then Jesus heals him of what is known as "post-blind syndrome."

Chuck Colson writes about it in a BreakPoint Commentary...
In his book An Anthropologist on Mars, Oliver Sacks describes the case of a man named Virgil, who had been blind since childhood. At the age of 50, Virgil underwent surgery to restore his sight. What he experienced afterward inadvertently confirmed the Bible's accounts of one of Jesus' miracles.

Following the surgery, Virgil suffered from what is called "post-blind syndrome" ~ the inability to make sense of the panorama of colors and shapes that crowd our field of vision. As Sacks writes, Virgil would "pick up details ... an angle, an edge, a color, a movement ~ but he would not be able to synthesize them, to form a complex perception at a glance." For example, when looking at a cat, Virgil "would see a paw, the nose, the tail, an ear, but he couldn't see the cat as a whole."

It took time and practice, but Virgil studied a tree and learned to put it together. As his wife [explained] it, "He now knows that the trunk and leaves go together to form a complete unit."

These words ought to ring a bell for Christians who know their New Testament. The story of Virgil bears an uncanny resemblance to the story of the blind man of Bethsaida.

Keith Mano writes in the National Review ... "A faker, not knowing about post-blind syndrome, would have reported that Jesus had given him perfect vision."

Instead, the Gospel reports that Jesus cured the man twice: once of blindness and then of post-blind syndrome.

Jesus has been working to establish "faith" in 12 men. This is the climax of the first half of the Gospel of Mark. (Mark 8:27-38) Peter, as representative of the others, verbalizes faith in Christ. (Mark 8:29) This is huge. This is massive. Just think of the impact that will take place later through Peter and the others. This is where it gets its start. Nothing more is said in the verse. Nothing more need be for impact. Jesus goes on to warn the disciples to not reveal His identity. (Mark 8:30) And then Jesus speaks of His death to His disciples for the first time. (Mark 8:31) (Selah ~ pause to reflect)


1. Look up the definition of "compassion" in the dictionary. (Mark 8:2) Do you remember an experience in your own life where "compassion" was demonstrated?

2. What does Jesus mean when He says, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod?" (Mark 8:15)

3. Sometimes we fall into Satan's trap of putting our own interests above God's. (Mark 8:32-33) Why do you think that is?

4. Why doesn't God always heal immediately? (Mark 8:22-25)

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