Mark Study Chapters 8: Who’s the Chief?
We’re coming to the half way point on this Bible study of the Gospel of Mark. How important it is from time to time to gaze at the life of Christ. He is our example in all things. Less of us. More of Him. Sometimes I fear we over-simplify the words of Jesus as we follow Him with our complicated lives. Really. The Body of Christ has grown so complicated.
There are so many things to argue about, and to disagree about. When we stare boldly at the life of Christ, and compare ourselves against His mark, we see how far off of it we’ve grown. The Body of Christ is organic. It’s made up of millions and millions of cells covering the globe. So each “section” or “region” of this organism will look different when examined up close. But it should still carry resemblance to our Savior.
Keeping in mind that Mark authored this book with the intention of proving that Jesus was the expected Messiah, particularly those in disbelief, he also wrote to support the Church in Rome that was in its infancy. Thousands of years later, however, these words and the message that Mark conveyed are still poignant for our growth and stability.
Today we move to chapter 8 in the Book of Mark.
Read Mark 8:1-21.
Lessons of Faith and Understanding
We’re going to look at some marks of faith. We can actually sweep the last segment of chapter seven into this, beginning in verse 31 where Jesus heals the deaf-mute in a special way, having a special significance. Jesus is proclaiming that He is the One who opens ears and gives the understanding.
Jesus and His disciples arrive in Dalmutha. The Pharisees want to see signs and miracles. Big ones. They desire Jesus to perhaps issue miracles like Elijah, where he called fire to come down from heaven and consume the sacrifice on the altar. They were testing Him. I fear today, with such a demand from believers for signs and miracles, that we, too, are guilty of their crime.
How did Jesus respond?
Look closely at verses 12 and 13.
No Sign Shall Be Given
The text states that He sighed deeply in His spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? I tell you the truth, No sign shall be given to this generation. Then He left them; and once again getting into the boat, He went to the other side of the lake.”
Jesus “sighed deeply in His spirit.” The chosen people of His covenant stood in unbelief and opposition. Jesus was deeply grieved and full of sorrow and indignation. Refusing to satisfy their souls, He departed and went on to the far reaches of the Sea of Galilee to bless a different group of people.
The next section is humorous to me, because I feel like I am standing right there with the disciples as if I can just hear them arguing about who forgot to bring the food! Where were the women when they were needed, huh? Today, thousands of years later, we’re no different. Aren’t we often so consumed with being important for Jesus that we focus on the big spiritual things, and neglect our basic physical needs?
That’s what was happening amongst the disciples there in Galilee. They were so focused on the “big” things, that the practical things, like bringing food, were overlooked. They each might have though someone else would do it! But no one did. They had not long ago assisted Jesus in His miracle of feeding 4,000 men, but there they stood hungry, amongst a crowd with no food.
Warning About the Leaven of the Pharisees
Jesus turns it into a spiritual manner. He warns HIs disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees. What do the disciples think He means, and what does He actually mean?
This passage actually connects the healing of the deaf-mute and the miracle of feeding the 4,000. The disciples assume Jesus is speaking about the leaven used in making bread. They don’t yet comprehend that Jesus is alluding to the teaching of the Pharisees, and that it is turning the good bread, the Word of God, rancid. Don’t miss this lesson and the connection to the previous one! Jesus desired more than anything to give His disciples spiritual understanding, just as He healed the deaf-mute, providing him the ability to understand human conversation. Jesus wants His disciples to have constant, spiritual awareness, and to understand spiritual things.
Read Mark 8:22-9:1.
Eyes to See and a Mouth to Speak
This text opens with Jesus performing another miracle. Before it was a man would couldn’t hear or speak. And now we find a man who can’t see. Interesting. Without spending too much time on this, I want you to see that this miracle is performed in two stages, both dealing with sight. First, Jesus grants the man physical vision. In the second stage, the manifestation is spiritual. He is granted understanding. Both of these gifts were divine gifts from God, granted by Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
This passage could seem random or scattered. Let’s unpack it and try to make sense of what Jesus is saying. First, to grasp why Jesus begins this conversation, we must understand the background of Caesarea Philippi. For centuries, this place was known as Baal Gad, who was the pagan god for luck and nature, who came to be known as Pan, the half-man, half-goat flute player. Many temples were erected here.
Caesarea Philippi is in the northern part of Israel, and sits at the foothills of Mount Hermon along the Jordan River where a spring flowed from a cave so deep that it couldn’t be measured and came to be believed to be the Gates of Hell. A marble shrine was built there in the grotto. Ritual human sacrifices were cast into a natural abyss with waters at the back of the cave. If sacrifices disappeared beneath the water, to the people this meant that Pan had accepted the offering. But if signs of blood appeared in the surrounding springs, the sacrifice had been rejected.
Caesarea was built on top of a large rock by King Phillip to honor Caesar in Rome. And it was here that Jesus, who loved to use local symbols and concepts in His teaching, calls out that it is Simon who is the rock, or foundation, and so there renames him Peter, meaning Rock.
Amongst the pagan locals, Mount Hermon was known as the Mount of the Chief. How profound that Jesus reveals Himself there as Chief. Amongst the site where Pan and Caesar were worshipped as gods, Jesus reveals that He is the One True God.
Looking at Peter’s confession, what was the significance of it taking place in Caesarea Philippi? How did Peter come to realize that Jesus was the Messiah? What does that mean for us?
Jesus is Chief
Peter is actually announcing that the Messiah is here and casting light into the darkness with his profession. It was the Holy Spirit that revealed this to Simon. It is the Holy Spirit that has revealed it to you and I. It has nothing to do with our status, our bank accounts, our birthplaces, our race, our jobs, our education. God has chosen us and brought us to a place where we can see an understand.
Something to keep in mind, please recognize that you can’t force faith on people. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Just be a light in the darkness and pray for your loved ones and allow God to use you as He will.
See here. Peter has just been elevated. At the start of the study of the Gospel of Mark, we see Jesus go through temptation. And we learned what about the wiles of Satan? That he attacks us in our weakest hour. What happens to Peter next? Yes. He undergoes attack. It comes through deception in relation to his thought patterns. Satan wants to divert Peter’s attention.
What is the connection of Jesus saying that whoever wants to follow Him must take up their cross?
Peter was more concerned about things that were appealing to the flesh than about accepting and doing the will of God. Jesus went on to announce that in order to be His disciple one must take up their cross and follow Him. This means we must deny the flesh. I am challenged by this more than anything in my time here in Marbella, seeing people prosper and flourish by the work of their flesh. Self-denial is a concept easy to accept as far as growing in the Christian faith, but it’s a steep mountain to ascend in practice!
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…