Last time we left off with Jesus feeding the 4000 and we noticed some interesting differences in that. The biggest being that He began to open up the ministry to the gentiles not just the Jews. After this Jesus packs up the disciples and crosses over lake.
The next thing we see Jesus and His disciples are confronted once again by the Pharisees. Let look at what it says…
11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
The first thing we see is they they come to “test” Him. This word has within it the idea that they came to argue. Not they came to learn but instead to refute. Their minds were already made up. They ask for a sign but nothing He could say or do would change their minds. Their hearts were completely hard. So Jesus sighs, His heart is breaking because He knows there is no changing for them. He tells them He will not play the game they want to play.
As I thought about this my first reaction was to think about those who I know who just don’t get it and want to argue instead of listen. But then God gently smacked me up side the head and reminded me I do the same thing. How often in my life have I known what God was calling me to do, how he was convicting me of dealing with my own stuff, how He was leading me in a direction but instead my mind was so made up that I did not listen.
Jesus does not give up easily but understand if you resist and harden your heart there will come a time when He will let you walk the path you have decided to walk. But here is the good news. If you are His he will continue to pursue you like he does with His disciples. Let’s keep reading…
14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.
Stop right there for just a moment… Think about the absurdity of that simple sentence. They just got done eating bread and fish with 4000 people and collected 12 man size baskets of leftovers and they only brought 1 loaf of bread with them? There is a whole sermon in there someplace. But that is for another time.
15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” 16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 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? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied.
20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” 21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Here we see Jesus uses this teachable moment to warn the disciples about the leaven (or yeast) of the Pharisees. What does He mean? To a Jew this would have a lot of
meaning. You see Jews saw leaven or yeast as a picture of sin. But I believe Jesus was indicating not some grandiose sin, instead it was a small hidden sin. Something that is hidden in the secret places of the heart, but when left unchecked it grows and infects every area of your life. What was that sin? UNBELIEF!
Then Jesus uses a series of questions (a very rabbinic thing to do) to help the disciples begin to “SEE”.
“Why are you talking about having no bread? Don’t you get I am not talking about bread?
Do you still not see or understand? In these next questions notice how many times He refers to sight and seeing
Are your hearts hardened? Unfortunately, Yes right now.
18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?
And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied.
20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” 21 He said to them,
“Do you still not understand?”
He is pointing them to the truth that they need to see something. So Jesus once again performs a miracle just for them so they might see the truth.
22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Notice He pulls the man aside to a private place. This is just for him and the disciples.
When He had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
That’s gross, It is interesting to note that one cure for blindness in the roman world was spitting and washing someones eyes. I remember my mom licking her thumb and using it to wash something off my face but spitting in someones eyes seems extreme.
24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
25 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.26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”
This miracle has always bothered me. I never got it till this week. Remember when Jesus performs miracles it is not to show off it is a sign (the very thing the Pharisee’s asked for) but this sign is to those who have faith. This is important, You will never argue someone into faith. It is impossible. Jesus never tried but those who had a small amount of faith Jesus shows His signs to to strengthen their faith. The reason this miracle has always bothered me was why did it take more than once heal him? Because Jesus was teaching a lesson, a lesson to His disciples.
Some people would say the man was not fully healed because he did not have enough faith. I have heard this lie so many times come out of Christians mouths and it always bothers me. The amount of faith is not the issue. Let me explain it this way, I can have a tiny bit of faith in a strong bridge and while it might take a long time to get over the bridge (because of my fright) I will get across. But on the other hand, I could have a ton of faith in a weak bridge and it collapse under my weight. It is not the amount of faith you have, it is the strength of the object you have your faith in.
We don’t really understand this miracle unless we see it in the context it was given. Jesus has been talking to the disciples about their lack of understanding their inability to see the Signs he has been giving. So this miracle was an illustration of the fact that the disciples still had more to see and learn. He was showing them that they still didn’t understand what Jesus was doing. Here is the good news for you and I. Jesus want to help you see Him more clearly. He wants to help you have more faith in Him. HE want to open your eyes to what HE is doing in your life.
We will see this scenario play out in the next few verses of this chapter in fact. Jesus is about to reveal more to these disciples but it will take 3 different times for them to understand what he is saying to them. In fact the next time Jesus heals a blind man is in Chapter 10 right after His third revelation about what true discipleship is.
27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi.
Caesarea Philippi is a gentile city know for it’s pagan worship of Ceaser.
In the Old Testament, this site marked the northernmost point of the lands conquered by Joshua and is called Baal-Gad after the pagan god (the Baal or ‘Lord’) who was worshipped here (see Joshua 11:16-17). In the 2nd century AD, Caesarea Philippi became known as Paneas after the goat-footed Greek god Pan, for whom a shrine was built here. Today, the site is called Banyas (or Panias) and is a popular destination for tourists.
Just before Jesus was born, the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar handed the settlement over to Herod the Great – who called it Caesarea (in honour of Augustus Caesar) and built a ‘Caesarium’ – a white marble temple of the Imperial cult, dedicated to Caesar. The emperor was worshipped here as ‘Augustus’ (meaning ‘more than human’ or semi-divine). After Herod’s death, Herod’s son Philip (Herod Philip II) – the tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis – added to the town and re-named it Caesarea Philippi (‘Philip’s town built in honour of Caesar’) as he ruled the area and wished to distinguish it from the Roman port of Caesarea Maritima on the coast.
It is in this non-Jewish area – renowned for its pagan shrines and emperor worship – that Peter is the first disciple to publicly recognise Jesus as the Messiah – the Christ.
On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
Here they answer with all the common ideas of the day. These answers are not much different than what we here in our world about Jesus. “If he existed he was a good man, a prophet and teacher”
29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
This is an amazing statement made by Peter, in Matthew 16 it tells us that Jesus commends Peter for this revelation and says that the Church will be founded on the truth that He is the Messiah. Then he tells them that hell will not be able to to withstand the onslaught of the Church. They they will be given all authority to rescue the lost. What a high point for these disciples. But true to form they still don’t get it.
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 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 concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
I love Peter! Here’s why, one second he is on top of the world the next he is sticking his foot in his mouth again. Wow! that is a some rebuke by Jesus. Jesus praises him one minute and calls him Satan in the next. We don’t see it in the translation but the word have in mind is the word for understanding. Jesus tells him he is still partially blind. He see part but not all of the plan. He recognizes Jesus as Messiah but he does not understand that the cost of that calling is sacrifice and death. From this point on in the book of Mark there is a different tone. Up to now Jesus has shown his kingship, His power, His authority. Now He begins to teach His disciples about servent hood and sacrifice. HE is the Servant King!
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Here Jesus gives his first explanation of what a True disciple is. So far I have asked you are you a disciple of Christ? And almost everyone here would say yes. But now is where the question gets real. Look at what He says.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. – Self Sacrifice is the key to being a disciple of Christ. Don’t answer too quick. Are you willing to give up everything to follow Christ? Are you willing to lay it all down before Him. Are you willing to walk away from every bad habit, every sin, every grudge, every hurt, every harmful relationship, Every dream, every plan, every goal, every idol that keeps you from being fully wholeheartedly devoted to Him and Him alone?
Jesus reminds us that this sacrifice in this world is nothing compared to what awaits us in the next. This is the heart of discipleship. There was a book many years ago called The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur. In that book he taught the truth that many people call Jesus savior, but never make Him Lord. It stirred up all kinds of controversy. Some said he was preaching legalism. That salvation is not free, that you are saved by works. The other side said grace is free, but it is not cheap. I believe both sides are right. Jesus never calls us to be halfway in our faith. Jesus does not ask us to be converts He calls us to be disciples.
So here is the question are you His disciple? Do you want to be? It is a daily sacrifice to be a disciple, but it starts with a decision to follow. He will lead you He will teach you through the Holy Spirit what that means. But you must make the decision, to say OPEN THE EYES OF MY HEART LORD