Mark 8 Bible Study

Section 1 – Jesus feeds the 4000

Read Mark 8:1-10

Question: In Mark 6, Jesus feeds 5,000, so why do you think Mark bothers to include a seemingly less impressive miracle?  Worth looking at Mark 8:19-20 for a cryptic clue from Jesus.  The careful reader might spot something in Mark 7:31 that will also help with the answer.

When Jesus feeds 5,000, he does so amongst Jewish villages.  But when Jesus feeds the 4,000 he does so in the region of the Decapolis.  In other words, the feeding of the 5,000 was a Jewish miracle, but the feeding of the 4,000 was a Gentile miracle.  This also explains the symbolism of 12 baskets being gathered in Mark 6:43, a number of completeness, especially associated with the 12 tribes of Israel, in comparison to the symbolism of 7 baskets being collected in Mark 8:8, a different number of completeness, most closely associated with 7 days of creation.  There are also 7 loaves in Mark 8 showing that this was a significant number.  In the space of two miracles, it’s almost as if Jesus has declared him to be the one who feeds the 12 tribes of Israel, but also the one who feeds all of creation.  Jews and Gentiles are invited to eat in the kingdom of God.  Eating with Gentiles in Mark 8 is especially significant when you think about the way Jesus challenged Jewish food laws in Mark 7.

If you compare Mark 6:34 with Mark 8:2, we see that Jesus had compassion on both Jews and Gentiles.  It’s worth noting that Jesus cares when people are hungry.  He’s not just all about spiritual provision.  He also cares for practical need.

Section 2- The Pharisees, The Disciples and The Leaven

Read Mark 8:11-21

Question: Why doesn’t Jesus give the Pharisees a sign?

They came to argue with him and test him in verse 11.  There isn’t a genuine need or way in which Jesus can help, it’s simply a test.  We should be warned against testing God by asking for signs and wonders.  But we should still pray and seek signs and wonders as part of our compassion towards those in need.

Question: What is the leaven of the Pharisees and why should we beware of it?

Leaven or yeast is usually a metaphor for teaching.  There is a sense that just as leaven goes all the way through a loaf of bread and determines the shape and way it rises, wrongful teaching of the pharisees has subtly shaped and inflated parts of Jewishness that were never intended to be that way.  Think of the comparison with Passover where flat, unleavened bread was used for the celebration.

In particular, given the comparison between Jews and Gentiles, 12 tribes of Israel and 7 days of Creation, it seems that the Pharisees reluctance to show love to outsiders was one of the pitfalls of their theology.  Perhaps this is reason they wanted to test him immediately after he had fed 4,000 Gentiles.

This is another warning in the Gospels against the cold-hearted teaching of the Pharisees.  We must love outsiders!

Section 3 – A Blind Man and Partially Blind Peter

Question: If someone asked you “Who is Jesus?” what would you answer?

Read Mark 8:22-38

Question: Why is the blind man only partially healed initially? Is there any kind of relationship between the healing of the blind man and the revelation that Peter has in this chapter?

When the blind man was partially healed, he could see something, but he did not see clearly.  Then Peter proves that he has partial knowledge of who Jesus really is, but immediately afterwards shows that his understanding is partial.  He knows Jesus is the Christ.  But he cannot fathom a Christ who would suffer many things and be killed (even if he were to rise again 3 days later).  He perceives something, but he does not see clearly.

Question: What does it mean that Jesus is the Christ?

2 Samuel 7:12-13
Jeremiah 23:5-6
Daniel 7:13-14 (it is here that the title Son of Man also comes to be associated with the Messiah)

The Jews had not at this time read a connection between the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 (one who would die and then live again – have a look at Isaiah 53:10 – how can the one who dies for sin, also see his offspring and have the Lord prolong his days, unless he is one to be resurrected?)  And so this is what Peter does not perceive in verses 31-33.  In Peter’s mind, Jesus the Messiah had come to reign forever, not to suffer and die.

Question: What does taking up a cross and losing your life for Jesus’ sake look like for you?

All followers of Jesus, follow him into sacrificial love for others.  And so we are called to lay down our lives for him in love and service to others.  The good progress of others into joy and faith should feature more highly in our list of priorities than our own well-being.  This is the love and sacrifice that drove Jesus to the cross, where we should follow him.

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