My grandfather was an avid reader. My Pop would always lie on the couch, munching on a fried bologna sandwich, while thumbing the pages of a worn-out book. (he did all of this without his teeth, I might add.) My sisters and I often spent summer days with my grandparents and I would borrow books from his collection and munch on bologna sandwiches with him. One of the most delightful book series I came across was The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S Lewis. One of the series of books was called The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe is set during the second World War when four children are evacuated from London to the remote countryside to live with a professor. One day, while the children were playing hide and seek, the youngest girl, Lucy, finds a wardrobe in a spare room, and she chooses to hide there. She keeps pushing back into the wardrobe to hide and she somehow stumbles into a magical, snowy world called Narnia. She soon realizes that this magical world is controlled by an evil, wicked witch who wants to be Queen of Narnia. Eventually all the children find their way to Narnia and are in danger of being put to death by the Wicked Witch of Narnia. They meet a talking beaver who then tells them of a Great Lion who is the rightful ruler of Narnia called Aslan. Here’s a video to help you see the story.
Once the children realize they will meet Aslan, there is a conversation between them and Mr. Beaver about Aslan.
There is also similar talk around the man, Jesus. This chapter is a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus and his rag-tag group of disciples. Mark highlights a crucial conversation they have on the road while travelling to Caesarea Philippi together.
Who do people say that I am?
And they respond with many answers. Some say this. Others say that.
And you? Who do you say that I am?
“You are the Christ.” -Peter says.
The secret is out. He doesn’t deny he is the Christ, but instead begins to explain to his disciples what being the Christ means. Upon hearing this, Peter vehemently denies it. Jesus responds with a crazy statement, saying, “Get behind me Satan.” Now that the disciples know who Jesus truly is, he will not allow them to persist in their own notions about why the Christ has come.
From here on out in Mark’s gospel, we will be operating on the belief that Jesus really is the Christ. We currently know that Jesus Christ can heal, can cast out demons, can open eyes of blind people, unstop deaf ears, open mute tongues, cleanse lepers, raise children from the dead, feed thousands of people with next to nothing, and can command storms to die down. He has fantastic authority over seemingly all areas of life. But is that all?
This is the turning point of Mark’s gospel. There are only two roads to travel once you have encountered a miracle-worker like Jesus. You either believe he is good and has authority to do all things. Or you don’t. It is really that simple. With that in mind, while you read Mark Chapter 8…
The One who Keeps on Breaking…
We begin with a story you have heard once before about Jesus feeding a large crowd of people. In chapter six, Jesus was in Israel and he fed a crowd of 5,000 Jews, but this story takes place in the Decapolis region home to the Gentiles. Jesus has been teaching a great crowd of people for three days, and it seems clear they haven’t eaten much if at all. Jesus, feeling compassion for them, is worried that they will not travel safely home without food. In his typical modus operandi, he decides to feed them, but the disciples are asking him how it is possible with so little bread. Jesus, of course, uses the loaves available to him, and after giving God thanks for them he broke the loaves and gives them to the people.
The English translation of this story is rather unfortunate because it just says that Jesus broke the loaves, implying it was something he did once and it was over. In the Greek language that Mark was writing in, he used the imperfect past tense, which implies a slightly different meaning. I am no Greek scholar, but I have studied Spanish extensively, and I’ll use that knowledge to explain this. In Spanish there are two tenses you can use for an action in the past (in Greek there are three!). In Spanish, one tense is called the preterite and you use it when something happened once and then it was over. (I.E: Yesterday, I went to the store.) It was a one time thing that I did yesterday. Boom. Action happened. Action over.
The other tense is called the imperfect, and this implies an action that was done more than once in the past. The best English way of translating this would be something like, When I was a kid, I used to love going to the gas station with my granddad. He would always take me there for a treat. This wasn’t something I did once, I used to go several times. That lets the reader know that it was a frequent action in the past. Although this story is about Jesus feeding 4,000 people one time, the verb Mark uses in Greek for “Broke the Loaves” is in the imperfect tense. Implying that it was an action Jesus kept on doing. When I read this verse, “And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd” (Mark 8:6)
I tend to read it as
And Jesus took the seven loaves, after giving thanks, he broke the loaves and he kept on breaking the loaves and gave them to his disciples to set before the people.
In God’s Kingdom, the supply will always meet the demand. If there are 4,000 mouths to feed, and seven loaves of bread available, it will be enough to feed all the people. It is difficult to understand especially when all the principles of scarcity and demand apply to our world. This gives me great hope in our world where millions of people die from hunger every year.
In God’s Kingdom, there is always enough and No one goes hungry.
God’s supply is inexhaustible and will never run out for his people. There will never be a child who goes to bed hungry, nor a nation who suffers a famine, nor anything like it. Not when the Man who breaks the loaves and keeps on breaking the loaves is present.
When you’ve really missed the point
After this marvelous story, Jesus is met again by Pharisees who demand he prove himself to them. In an ironic statement, Jesus says he will not give them a sign of his authority. This story is interesting because the Gospel of Matthew also tells us about this meeting and his gospel has Jesus saying that a sign will be given. (and he then tells a small parable that the Pharisees don’t understand.) But Mark says Jesus doesn’t say anything at all. This may seem contradictory, but In this case, I don’t think is Mark is trying to record a ‘word for word’ on what actually happened. I think Mark is highlighting the unreal disbelief of the Pharisees. It’s as if Mark is saying to us… Hello, he just fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread.. And you’re asking if he has authority? Of course he does!”
And you still just aren’t picking up on the point…
It’s okay if this story doesn’t make sense to us at first because the disciples clearly didn’t understand it either. Jesus tries to warn his disciples about the Pharisee’s influence, but they misunderstand the warning and think he is reprimanding them about bread. (crazy, huh?). Jesus then asks his disciples a series of questions to help them think through what he said. This is an explanation for another day, but suffice it to say there is much we can learn from this interaction. Jesus clearly wants the disciples to be careful about the influences the pharisees and Herod can have on their idea of who he is.
Look for the Sandwich.
There are a few things you need to make a good sandwich- bread, meat, cheese, maybe some condiments.. Somehow all of these different ingredients pull together to make something totally unified and delicious.
Mark uses the sandwich idea by juxtaposing two contrasting ideas together as of way of highlighting a truth about Jesus. This chapter contains these sandwich elements- a miraculous event, a demand for proof, a warning to not be swayed by disbelief, a healing of a blind man, and finally the Crucial Conversation about who Jesus is.. There are elements of belief, doubt, belief, and doubt littered all over this chapter. Why does Mark bring this to our attention? The truth about Jesus is frankly bewildering, at times scary, and has serious implications. Can’t you resonate with the disciples not really getting it? I know there are days that i can.
Notice the Two-Step Miracle
Verses 22-25 narrate a story about Jesus healing a blind man in two swoops. In all other healing stories, Jesus instantly heals a person, but this story is very unique. Jesus leads a man outside a village, puts spit on the man’s eyes, asking him, “Do you see anything?” the man responds he can see a little bit, but things aren’t clear.
Jesus puts his hands on him a second time, and this time the man can see clearly. Ask yourself why this story about seeing partially and then being able to fully see is relevant to Jesus being the Christ.
Do you believe?
Last, we’ve journeyed together through eight important chapters of Jesus ministry all for the sake of a very important question. Who do you say Jesus is? Take some time to ponder this question, and then continue reading the rest of Mark’s gospel. After Peter concludes that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus wastes no time explaining what will happen to him. It’s difficult to believe and Peter openly rebukes Jesus. Jesus stays on his course telling Peter that Peter is only concerned with the here and now, and Jesus is thinking about far greater things. Jesus finally calls his disciples together and explains what it will mean to be a disciple. What can a person give in exchange for their soul?
Read Mark 8 to find out…
Mark 8 English Standard Version (ESV)
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand
8 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.[a]
The Pharisees Demand a Sign
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”[b] 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida
22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus[c] laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.35 For whoever would save his life[d] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”