5. Dealing With Difficulties and Doubts - Ed Kuffel (Mark 8:1-12) A ReMARKable LIFE

A ReMARKable Life Series
  • The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child. Christ – fully man, fully God. But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations. Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.
5. Dealing With Difficulties and Doubts (Mark 8:1-21)
  • Jesus feeds more than 4000, creating food for all from 7 loaves of bread and a few fishes. Still, the Pharisees ask for a sign, but Jesus says no sign will be given. He then warns the 12 about the false hope of the religious and world system, and marvels at their lack of understanding.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Jesus is the ultimate provider. (Mark 8:18-21)
  • Even the 12 did not fully understand Jesus, who He was and what He did. (Mark 8:4, 16)
  • Jesus is the ultimate provider. (Mark 8:818-21)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What is your response to Jesus' miracle of feeding the 4000? What does it say about Jesus?
  • Sometimes Jesus is difficult to understand. What should one's response be in the face of lack of understanding?
  • What is your response to Jesus?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What was the point of the feeding of the 4000?
  • There are varying responses to Jesus. What is the response of the 12? Of the crowds? Of the religious authorities?
  • What does it mean that there were 7 basketfuls of food leftover after the 4000 were fed?
  • What was the agenda of the Pharisees in verse 11? What were they looking for?
  • Why did Jesus not provide a sign to the Pharisees?
  • What is the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod?
  • Describe the response of the 12 to Jesus' statement about the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. Why did they talk about bread? What were they missing?
  • Why was Jesus distressed with the questions of the Pharisees? Compare His reaction to them with His reaction to the multitudes when they were hungry.
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What does it mean to us today that Jesus provided food for 4000 people from nearly nothing?
  • What is Jesus' attitude towards those who are searching and who are spiritually needy?
  • What is Jesus' attitude towards those who are full of unbelief and reject Him?
  • What signs did Jesus provide as to who He is?
  • What are we to do with the signs that Jesus has given us as to who He is?
  • On what do we base our faith in Jesus?
  • Why does Jesus say things that are hard to understand?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
So far, Mark has shown Jesus as Jesus ministering in Galilee and beyond into Gentile areas, performing miraculous healings, making food for thousands, raising the dead to life, ruling the winds and the seas, and teaching that people need to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand. We have also seen the 12 sent out by Jesus to minister in His name, which they did. Further, though Jesus is surrounded by the masses who follow Him everywhere, opposition from the religious authorities has continued unabated. Everyone is asking, “Who is this Jesus?” And some are even thinking and believing that He really is the Messiah. Jesus has been showing by the miracles He has performed that He is indeed the Messiah come to bring salvation. In fact, the miracles seem to sound a call to spiritual understanding – the ears of the deaf man were opened; the eyes of the blind man were opened … “Now listen to what I say and look at who I am,” Jesus is saying. But the people fail to hear and see, and as we know now looking back, the road to bringing about salvation is leading inexorably to the cross, which is not what the expectations of the Messiah are. In the passage covered in these Notes, this on-going question of who is Jesus is again painted in stark relief.

The passage begins with the “great crowd” of people who are following Jesus around (some 4000 men plus women and children) to hear His teaching and, presumably, receive healing. Mark 8:2 indicates that the crowd had been with Jesus for 3 days! So Jesus faces another situation where the people are hungry and need food, and sending them away will create more problems (Mark 8:3). Jesus discussed the matter with the 12, and shared His compassion – His care and concern – for the people. I believe Jesus had this discussion with the 12 in part to discern if they had learned from the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 plus, and that He could - and would – provide. Alas, the 12 still didn’t get it as in answer to Jesus’ concerns they simply say, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” It seems obvious to us that the answer is that Jesus can feed them; yet the 12 continue to be oblivious to the reality of who Jesus is. All they can focus on is the “impossible problem” and not Jesus. So as before, Jesus had the multitude sit down and He then took the bare provisions they did have, namely 7 loaves and a few small fish, gave thanks and started to break the bread and then the fish, and then give the pieces to the 12 to serve them to the multitude. All present ate and were satisfied. It was a miracle,and it showed that Jesus is the one who satisfies completely and with abundance. And not only that, to show that God’s provision is “above and beyond,” there were 7 large baskets full of leftover food. These baskets were much larger than the baskets used for the leftover food in the prior miraculous feeding; those baskets were small wicker baskets that were carried by Jewish people when they were away from home, and were big enough only to hold a meal and some essentials for one individual. The baskets referred to in Mark 8:8 were large enough to hold a person; indeed they were the same kind of basket in which the Apostle Paul was lowered from the wall in Damascus when he escaped from those wanting to kill him (Acts 9:25).

Once fed, Jesus sent the crowd of 4000 plus people away while He and the 12 got in the boat and left to cross the Sea of Galilee to another location, Dalmanutha (Mark 8:10). It is not known where Dalmanutha was, though it may have been on the western shore of the Sea. In any case, this next scene reported by Mark involves the opposition of the Pharisees, and seems not likely to have taken place after Jesus and the 12 arrived at Dalmanutha as opposed to being a scene inserted by Mark in his compilation to show the on-going opposition to Jesus and His teaching and do so in parallel with Mark’s presentation in the opposition shown in the prior section of this gospel (Mark 6:1-7:37 in which the opposition is set in Mark 7:1-23). The gist of the request of the Pharisees is that they want more proof from God Himself of who Jesus is; the miracles He has already done are not sufficient in their eyes. In short, they are insincere and unbelieving, and are testing (actually, tempting) Jesus, all the while refusing to hear what He had already taught and to see what He had already done as proof enough that He was the Messiah. Jesus responds with grief and disappointment (He “sighed deeply in his spirit.” Mark 8:12) in the hard hearts and unbelief from those who, given their spiritual privilege of knowing the God of the Scriptures, should have responded to Jesus in faith. They did not; their response was rejection, and Jesus refused to give them a sign. Effectively, He made an oath not to provide a sign (Mark 8:12b). Why did He refuse? He had already proven Himself as Messiah by the miracles He had performed, and there was therefore no need for some special “sign.” What He had done was a sufficient basis for responding to Him in faith. Ultimately, His sign would be His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. But for now, what He has already said and done were sufficient for a person to respond in faith. Jesus then leaves these unbelieving Pharisees and heads back across the Sea of Galilee.

In the boat, Jesus and the 12 have a conversation about who He is. The 12 still do not see Him clearly, and their mistake in not bringing provisions with them becomes the jumping off point for what Jesus says to them. He tells them to beware of the leaven (yeast) of the Pharisees and of Herod. In the Scriptures, yeast is generally a symbol of evil. So Jesus is saying that the desire of the Pharisees for a sign, indicating their unbelief and hypocrisy, and of Herod, for his desire to be supported in his worldliness and behavior, comes from an evil heart. Jesus is telling the 12 that they must recognize Him by faith for who He is, the Messiah who is the author of salvation. (Mark 8:14 & 15) The 12 apparently miss, or ignore, what Jesus had just told them as they continue to engage in a discussion about the fact that they had no bread. One wonders if they were trying to figure out whose fault it was so they could assess blame. But Mark is pointing out in this that the 12 still do not understand Jesus, nor do they get His point about the error of the Pharisees and Herod. Jesus then essentially rebukes the 12 for their lack of understanding and asks them, rhetorically, if they are the ones who refuse to hear and see who He is. He reminds them of the miraculous feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 for whom He provided bread in abundance, so much abundance that there were many baskets of leftover food. If Jesus did this for those multitudes, wouldn’t he provide for the 12? In effect Jesus said to them, “Who else do you need but Me!” John, the author of the fourth gospel, would perhaps have connected this to Jesus’ saying that He was the bread of life.” (John 6:47-51) It almost seems that Jesus is pleading to the 12 to understand, as if to say, “Open your eyes; get your mind off your stomachs. I am the Messiah, believe in Me.” (Mark 8:21)

Lest we get too judgmental of the 12, at least they were following Jesus despite their lack of understanding. And which of us would have had any greater understanding were we in their shoes. They were Jewish men, steeped in their traditions and regulations, with the same expectations of the Messiah as their fellow Jews. They had heard Jesus, seen His miracles, and interacted with Him as He taught them and spent time with them. They were astonished at the miracles He had done, and had done mission work themselves under His authority. But they yet didn’t understand the height and depth of who He was, God Himself in human form, the Messiah in whom is salvation to those who believe. Nevertheless, they didn’t leave His side; and more importantly, Jesus did not abandon them but continued to pour Himself into them, having chosen them to carry out His work. What an encouragement to us as we can be slow to understand and weak in faith. To know that Jesus is in fact our provider and the One in whom is our salvation and life is the wonder of it all. Praise Him for who He is!