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Studying Mark's Gospel: Questions Demanding an Answer

Lesson 12: Questions Demanding an Answer (Mark 8)

 

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW

 

In Mark 7 we read of Jesus’ direct confrontation of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day. Isn’t it sad that Jesus’ most harsh rebukes were not to people involved in outright sin, but those who were supposed to be examples of holiness? As you may remember, the word Pharisee means set apart ones, or holy ones.[i] Yet in their hypocrisy they depended on their own interpretations of the Law as superior to the Law itself, often just so they could find a way around it and maintain their definition of cleanliness. Jesus struck at the heart of their hypocritical ways by redefining what truly makes one clean versus unclean in God’s sight. We also examined how to bear godly fruit in our lives, not the rotten fruit that our flesh can produce. The chapter closed with two examples of Jesus demonstrating what He had just taught, retreating into primarily Gentile territory where He healed the daughter of a woman that the Pharisees would have considered unclean and would have passed by, and then healing a man of his deafness and inability to speak clearly. What a picture this was of this man being fully restored to his physical senses while the Pharisees deafened themselves to and miscommunicated God to those around them. This week we will reach the climax of the first part of our studies with a famous discussion at Caesarea Philippi. Until this point Mark had been emphasizing Jesus’ Galilean Ministry, but now we will enter the period of Jesus’ ministry aiming toward Jerusalem (Mark 8:27-38). The final part of our studies will be examining the passion of the Son of Man in Mark 11.

 

It is interesting that the more we dig into Mark we find it isn’t the “comic book Gospel” thrown together in non-stop action it appears to be at first glance, but we can see how this is a very well crafted account to minister to the group Mark wrote to. James Brooks pointed out how Mark carefully structured Chapters 6–8 after the same pattern to repeat the important lessons Jesus was trying to teach His thick-headed disciples:[ii]

 

 

Mark 6:31-44

Feeding a multitude

Mark 8:1-9

Mark 6:45-56

Crossing the lake

Mark 8:10

Mark 7:1-23

Dispute with the Pharisees

Mark 8:11-13

Mark 7:24-30

Discussion about bread

Mark 8:14-21

Mark 7:31-36

Healing

Mark 8:22-26

Mark 7:36

Confession of faith

Mark 8:27-30

 

 

Let’s turn to those lessons that speak to us as well in this important chapter.

 

DAY ONE: Fed to the Full

 

Please carefully read Mark 8:1-9 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  What circumstances did Jesus and His disciples find themselves in, and what did Jesus say about this (v. 1-3)?

 

2.  Jesus’ solution to the problem for the people was carefully planned out, done methodically, miraculously, and with a ministry purpose.[iii] As we saw in the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus was moved by compassion, a gut feeling that wells up in one’s inner being that leads to just having to do something about it. Here He had compassion and concern about the physical and spiritual well being of the crowd. How did the disciples react familiarly, and what did Jesus order happen (v. 4-7)?

 

3.  What a blessing to think that God Himself thinks about our struggles, especially when we like this crowd are faint, weak, desponding, and faint hearted. What comfort about this do we find in passages such as Matthew 11:28-30, Hebrews 4:14-16, and 1 Peter 5:7? What are some other passages like these that comfort you when you are feeling worn down and beat up?

 

4.  After Jesus blessed the seven loaves and few small fish they found, what was the result (v. 8, 9)?

 

SIDELIGHT: FED TO THE FULL

 

There are some things of significance here in verses 8-9 that we should understand to get the full picture. We notice the number seven stands out. Without going crazy over numerology, it is important to remember that seven in the Bible is used to reflect completion and perfection of something; thus the number six is the number of man, reflecting incompleteness without the perfection of salvation in Jesus Christ.[iv] The baskets mentioned here weren’t small hand baskets, but large ones made from ropes, sort of like a hamper large enough for a person to fit in, like Paul did when he was lowered over a wall in a basket (Acts 9:25).[v] The Greek wording tells us these people were filled to the full, and there were not just crumbs left over, but an overabundance or surplus of food, no doubt that the people gladly took with them on the way. The crowd of 4,000 also strikes us. Matthew’s counterpart of this story (Matthew 15:38) stated that there were 4,000 men besides women and children, and why Mark didn’t say this isn’t known. If that was the case and Matthew’s account is not of a different feeding not recorded elsewhere, there could have been up to 16,000 people fed that day[vi]... fed to the full with plenty left over!

 

Scripture Memory:  This week we will be memorizing Mark 8:34-35.  Review the passage several times throughout the day each day this week, and by the end of the week, you should have it memorized completely.

 

He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it.”  (Mark 8:34b-35, nkjv)

 

DAY TWO: Faithless and Forgetful

 

Please carefully read Mark 8:10-21 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  Leaving the Gentile territory and returning to Jewish ground, what immediately faced Jesus, and how did He respond to this (v. 10-13)?

 

2.  Most ancient peoples, including most of the Jewish people, believed that signs in the heavens could predict events about to take place such as the death of a ruler, the fall of a city and so on. The specific nature of the Pharisee’s request for a sign here is unclear,[vii] but it appears that they did not demand a spectacular miracle, but wanted Jesus to give them unmistakable proof that He and His mission were authorized by God.[viii] Jesus’ response to this was grief, sadness, disappointment and sighing. In fact, the Greek phrase for sighed deeply in His spirit is only used here in the New Testament.[ix] Mark omitted part of what Jesus actually said in response to the Pharisees since his Roman readers wouldn’t know of the story. What did Jesus also say, and what did that mean (Matthew 12:38-41; Acts 2:30-36)?

 

3.  Departing in somewhat of a hurry, what happened, and how was there another misunderstanding on the part of the disciples (v. 14-16)?

 

4.  You’d think that with Jesus, the Bread of Life on board who had just done these awesome works, these guys wouldn’t forget so easily that He would take care of their physical needs.[x] At this Jesus had enough of their hard headed forgetfulness and significantly reproves them. What are some of the things He said to simultaneously rebuke and wake them up from spiritual slumber (v. 17-21)?

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him _____________ himself, and ______________ _______ his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will _________________ it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it.”  (Mark 8:34b-35, nkjv)

 

DAY THREE: Fully Fit

 

Please carefully read Mark 8:22-26 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  As we saw in the chart in Last Week in Review, after both the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 there was a discussion about bread, and then a healing that served as a living lesson for His followers to learn from. When they reached Bethsaida, what happened and what did Jesus do (v. 22, 23)?


2.  Spitting in one’s eyes to heal them is to say the least surprising to us! The Greek word ptuo (to spit) comes from the sound that is formed by lips when spitting. Usually spitting on someone is considered an insult, and the Essenes (the group who preserved the Dead Sea Scrolls) had a 30-day punishment for spitting, yet at the same time it was allowed in other healing contexts by the Jews as long as it didn’t accompany some occultic incantations.[xi] What happened after this initial touch by Jesus (v. 24, 25)? What did Jesus instruct this man (v. 26)?


3.  The Amplified Bible said that after the second touch of Jesus, the blind man “was restored and saw everything distinctly.” This is a good translation, for the verb tenses used mean that he saw thoroughly, and kept on seeing all things clearly and at a distance. This the only incident in the Gospels of Jesus doing a two-stage healing, but it was done for a purpose, like an acted out parable.[xii] The man was no longer totally blind, but his sight was still poor, like the disciples only seemed to be seeing and understanding in part. The disciples had been touched by Jesus, but their spiritual insight was incomplete, and needed a completed healing.[xiii] According to the following passages, what are some ways that God works to lead us out of spiritual denseness and blindness to become like that blind man, fully restored, renewed, and fit before Him?

 

Psalms 146:8-9; Isaiah 42:6-16; Proverbs 4:18-19

1 Peter 2:9-10

Revelation 3:17-20


Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

He said to them, “Whoever desires to _______________ after Me, let him _____________ himself, and ______________ _______ his cross, and ________________ Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will _________________ it, but whoever ________________ his life for My sake and the ____________________ will save it.”  (Mark 8:34b-35, nkjv)

 

DAY FOUR: Who Do You Say That I Am?

 

Please carefully read Mark 8:27-33 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  We have now come to the climax of the first part of our studies in Mark. What did Jesus ask His men as they walked along the road, and how did they respond (v. 27, 28)?

 

2.  Jesus then asked His men a question that, as John MacArthur well said, the answer given to it will determine one’s eternal destiny![xiv] What did Jesus ask, and what was the response (v. 29)?

 

3.  Matthew 16 and Luke 9 expand on Peter’s answer and Jesus’ response, but Mark recorded Peter’s confession in the simplest, most direct form, consistent with his presentation of Jesus to his readers.[xv] The reason Jesus asked this was because they clearly needed to understand He was Christ, the Messiah, but also understand the true purpose of His coming. What was that purpose, how did Peter react, and what was Jesus’ startling response (v. 30-33)?


SIDELIGHT: CAESAREA PHILIPPI

 

This city shouldn’t be confused with Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast 60 miles northwest of Jerusalem. It was rebuilt and enlarged version of the ancient city Paneas, completed by Philip the tetrarch. A grotto dedicated to the god Pan was there. Herod the Great built a temple in Paneas, dedicating it to the emperor Augustus. When Herod died and Philip succeeded him, he renamed the city for the emperor and for himself. The qualification “of Philip” was to distinguish the city, which was about twenty-five miles north of Lake Galilee, from the Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea, which was built by Herod the Great and also named for Augustus. The city had a beautiful setting at the foot of Mt. Hermon, beside some gushing springs that constitute one of the sources of the Jordan River.[xvi] “It was a place dedicated to the glory of Rome, and that glory is now gone, but the glory of Jesus Christ remains and will go on eternally.”[xvii]

 

4.  Peter of course reacted to this out of shock. One minute ago he had hit the ball out of the park, and the next he struck out completely! He didn’t understand yet the relationship between Jesus’ suffering and glory, and didn’t comprehend God’s will in view of his deep love for Jesus.[xviii] But why such a response by Jesus?  Kenneth Wuest helps understand this:

It was an agonizing cry, for Jesus recognized a repetition of the temptation of Satan when the latter said to Him, after he had shown Him the great Roman empire, “These things, all of them, I will give to you, if having fallen down, you will worship me” (Matt. 4:9). This is the order of the words in the Greek text. Notice the bargaining power of the Devil. It was a temptation to go around the Cross and receive the rulership of the world empire from the hands of Satan, the price, the worship of him. Here was Satan again, using the foremost of the disciples, to tempt our Lord to go around the Cross. It is the opinion of the present writer that our Lord did not call Peter, Satan, but that, recognizing the source, He spoke directly to the Tempter, including Peter in the rebuke. Since Satan is incorrigible, he could not be brought to repentance, and epitimaō (πιτιμαω) is most fitting here. Our Lord, in His utterance, brands Peter’s words as Satanic.[xix]

Peter did eventually realize the true purpose of our Lord, and would later boldly proclaim this. What are some ways he did so?

 

Acts 2:22-36

1 Peter 1:3-5, 1 Peter 2:21-25

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

He said to them, “Whoever desires to _______________ after Me, let him _____________ himself, and ______________ _______ his cross, and ________________ Me.  For whoever desires to _________________ his life will _________________ it, but whoever ________________ his life for My sake and the ____________________ will _______________ it.”  (Mark 8:34b-35, nkjv)

 

DAY FIVE: Who Will You Live For?

Please carefully read Mark 8:34-38 and answer the following questions.

1.  After Jesus’ response to this, He addressed an important issue with His followers to help them understand the significance of what He told them.  What did He first say (v. 34, 35)?

2. How does this tie in with what is ultimately important in one’s life (v. 36, 37)?

3.  The NLT translates verses 34, 35:  “If any of you wants to be my follower,” he told them, “you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.” The Greek word for deny, “aparneomai,” means to forget, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests, to have no acquaintance with it. To take up your cross meant you were on the way to execution, and there is nothing wiser to do with ourselves in view of what Jesus has done for us. The word follow is “akoloutheo,” to take the same road as another. These are not suggestions in Greek either, but are commands in a form that means to obey it at once and is to be a permanent attitude and practice on our part. A classic chapter we refer to often is Romans 12, but it sums up well the thought here. Read Romans 12:1-5 in light of what Jesus said here, and record what this means for both our relationship with God and with others in the body of Christ.

4.  How did Jesus close His statement to those with Him (v. 34)? How does Matthew 10:32-33 add to this as well?

Scripture Memory:  Can you write out this week’s passage by memory here below? Give it a try, and keep reviewing the passage several times throughout the day.

Mark 8:34b-35:

 

DAY SIX: Following Christ

Jesus’ disciples learned much during this time, and a lot of it the hard way, for they had allowed spiritual dullness to block out what Jesus was teaching them. We would be wise to learn the same lessons in our lives. Let’s think about three of these lessons.

1.  The first lesson in the feeding of the 4,000 and the encounter with the Pharisees is that we must live by faith in His Word and trust Him, realizing He is the only one sufficient to meet our needs, not the external and physical. Thankfully He knows our needs and will provide for us as we concentrate on seeking Him and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33-34). We saw how Jesus felt about the disciples and the Pharisees; this makes us wonder how Jesus feels about us. Think about it: When you go before Him, does He have to repeat the same lessons over and over, and get a little exasperated with you? Does He sigh deeply within His spirit out of frustration over your lack of simple faith in His word? Does He have to rebuke you for your hard-headedness and teach you these things the hard way? Or does He look at you and see the heart of an imperfect person who is doing all they can in the power of His Spirit to seek after and serve Him, and smile over you? Think through the following areas of your life based on what Jesus reproved the disciples about, here based on the NLT, and record some ways you can improve in them.

(1) “Why are you so worried about having no food?” (Lack of trust that He will provide for your needs):

(2)  “Won't you ever learn or understand? Are your hearts too hard to take it in?” (Emotional concerns or some other factors leading to spiritual congestive heart failure):

(3) “You have eyes - can't you see? You have ears - can't you hear?” (Senses filled with things that will keep your eyes off Jesus and onto the wrong thing, or listening to the wrong voices dulling His call to you):

(4) “Don't you remember anything at all?” (Failing to remember the promises of God’s Word or to recall how He has worked in your life in the past):

2.  We have seen that as we put these truths into practice in our lives, we will be fed to the full, be faithful and not forgetful, and be fully fit for His service. There are also two questions asked directly and indirectly by Jesus here that demand an answer from us. The first was, “But who do you say that I am?” Who is Jesus to you? If you are a Christian already, the obvious answer would be that of Peter that He is the Christ, the Messiah, Lord and Savior, the Son of Man and the Son of God. This question will be answered by all at some point, determining their eternal destiny by their answer. But let’s think about how this can be practically applied in our walks with Jesus now that we are saved by Him. Who is Jesus to you when you are going through good times? Who is He when the bottom drops out of your life unexpectedly? Who is He when you are tempted to sin against Him? Who is He in light of your human relationships, your singleness or marriage, and your family? Who is Jesus to you in all you face in this life? Think about this for a while and write down your thoughts here to share with your group in view of your life.

3.  The third lesson and the second question that Jesus asked indirectly is, “Who will you live for?” In the last part of our lesson and memory verse we were exhorted to deny ourselves, die to ourselves, and follow Jesus all the way. As John Phillips well said, there is a cross for the Christ and a cross for the Christian.[xx] But what does this mean for you personally today? Perhaps these thoughts from Warren Wiersbe will help you discern how this applies to your life today:

Denying self is not the same as self-denial. We practice self-denial when, for a good purpose, we occasionally give up things or activities. But we deny self when we surrender ourselves to Christ and determine to obey His will. This once-for-all dedication is followed by a daily “dying to self” as we take up the cross and follow Him. From the human point of view, we are losing ourselves, but from the divine perspective, we are finding ourselves. When we live for Christ, we become more like Him, and this brings out our own unique individuality.

Discipleship is a matter of profit and loss, a question of whether we will waste our lives or invest our lives. Note the severe warning Jesus gives us here: once we have spent our lives, we cannot buy them back! Remember, He was instructing His disciples, men who had already confessed Him as the Son of God. He was not telling them how to be saved and go to heaven, but how to save their lives and make the most of their opportunities on earth. “Losing your soul” is the equivalent of wasting your life, missing the great opportunities God gives you to make your life count. You may “gain the whole world” and be a success in the eyes of men, and yet have nothing to show for your life when you stand before God. If that happens, though you did own the whole world, it would not be a sufficient price to give to God to buy another chance at life.[xxi]

As you think through this, record some thoughts as to what this means in your own life. Perhaps pondering this question may also bring things into focus: If you died today and stood before God, what would show on your life’s record - a life lived for Him as best you could, or a saved soul but a lost life?

Scripture Memory:  Hopefully you now can write out this week’s passage completely by memory. Do so now, and keep on reviewing it do you will be ready to share it with others in your group time.

Mark 8:34b-35:

 


[i] Unless elsewhere noted, all Greek word/phrase translations are based on the following:  A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  In Oak Harbor:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1932, 1933, 1997);  James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible:  Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order, Electronic Edition (Ontario:  Woodside Bible Fellowship; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996); M.R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002); Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament:  For the English Reader (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1984, 1997); and Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary:  New Testament, Electronic Edition (Chattanooga:  AMG Publishers, in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1992, 1993, 2000).

[ii] James A. Brooks, Mark.  In David S. Dockery ed., The New American Commentary, Vol. 23 (Nashville:  Broadman Press, 1991), p. 124.

[iii] John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 2004), p. 173. 

[iv] Edgar Elliott, Ph.D., New Testament Synthesis I (Newburg:  Trinity Theological Seminary, 2003), Tape 10. 

[v] J. M Freeman & H.J. Chadwick, The New Manners and Customs of the Bible, Electronic Edition (Brunswick: Bridge-Logos Publishers, in Logos Research Systems, Inc, 1998); Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1 (Wheaton:  Victor Books/SP Publications, Inc, 1989), p. 137.

[vi] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), p. 1222.

[vii] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downer’s Grove:  InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 155.

[viii] John D. Grassmick, Mark.  In John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament (Wheaton:  Victor Books/SP Publications, 1983), p. 137.

[ix] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  In Oak Harbor:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1932, 1933, 1997).

[x] Walter W. Wessell, Mark.  In Frank E. Gaebelein ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8 (Grand Rapids:  Regency Reference Library, 1984), p. 689.

[xi] D.R.W. Wood, D.R.W. Wood, and I.H. Marshall, New Bible Dictionary (Downer’s Grove:  InterVarsity Press, 1996; in Logos Research Systems, Inc.).

[xii] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, p. 156.

[xiii] John D. Grassmick, Mark, p. 138; James A. Brooks, Mark, p. 133.

[xiv] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1224.

[xv] John D. Grassmick, p. 139.

[xvi] James A. Brooks, Mark.  In David S. Dockery ed., The New American Commentary, Vol. 23, p. 134.

[xvii] Warren W. Wiersbe, p. 138.

[xviii] Wiersbe, p. 140.

[xix] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament:  For the English Reader (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co; in Bellingham :  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1984, 1997).

[xx] See John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark, pp. 183, 185.

[xxi] Wiersbe, p. 140.

© 2005 by Harvest Christian Fellowship. All rights reserved. Written by Thomas Klock for Men’s Bible Fellowship, 2005-2006.

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