What does Mark 8 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Mark 8 runs in a loose parallel of Mark 6:31–7:37. Jesus performs a mass feeding (Mark 8:1–9; Mark 6:31–44), publicly disagrees with the religious leaders (Mark 8:10–21; Mark 7:1–23), and performs a healing miracle that the Old Testament associates with the Messiah (Mark 8:22–26; Mark 7:31–37).

Jesus had taken His disciples—apparently more than just the Twelve—into Gentile territory, presumably in an attempt to find a quiet place to teach. In Mark 7, they traveled northwest of Capernaum to the region of Tyre (Mark 7:24), then continued farther north to Sidon (Mark 7:31). Now they are in the district east of the Sea of Galilee.

While in Tyre, Jesus had set a tableau to show that He has come for the Gentiles as well as the Jews, even if said Gentiles interrupt their private meeting. Now, He continues the theme by serving a meal for a mixed group of four-thousand-plus Gentiles and Jews in Decapolis. The Pharisees had condemned the disciples for neglecting to wash their hands before meals in case the food had touched something unclean (Mark 7:1–5). Jesus provides food for Gentiles—the worst of all unclean things. The disciples, however, wonder how they will feed all the people, having forgotten that Jesus fed an even larger crowd outside Bethsaida (Mark 6:31–44).

From Decapolis, Jesus and the disciples return by boat to the west coast of the Sea of Galilee. The Pharisees renew their attack, demanding a sign that Jesus' authority comes from God and not Satan (Mark 3:22). They do not mean the miracles Jesus has performed, but something that unquestionably proves He is the Messiah come to liberate Israel. In Mark's account, Jesus leaves them with nothing, but in Matthew Jesus tells them they haven't read the signs they've already received, and they won't get another except one related to Jonah (Matthew 16:1–4).

Jesus promptly takes His disciples back to the boat. He tries to express to the disciples that the beliefs of the Pharisees and Herod's followers are like tiny bits of leaven that, if they're not careful, will permeate their belief systems, as a little yeast makes a whole loaf of bread rise. The disciples completely miss the point and translate His warning into frustration that they have forgotten to bring more than one loaf of bread. Jesus drops the larger message and reminds them that He is more than capable of turning a single loaf of bread into a meal for all of them.

In Bethsaida, Jesus heals a blind man—another miracle that is identified in the Old Testament as a sign of the Messiah. The disciples respond by declaring that Jesus is the Messiah. Unfortunately, they don't know what the Messiah is. Jesus clearly explains that the Messiah's eternal reign as prophesied in the Old Testament will not come yet. First, He will have to die and be resurrected. Next, His followers will have to be willing to make a similar sacrifice.

Mark 8 is a kind of fulcrum in the ministry of Jesus. Next, James, John, and Peter will witness His transfiguration. In chapters 9 and 10, He will again warn them of His impending sacrifice. Chapter 11 begins with the Triumphal Entry which marks the beginning of Passion Week. Throughout this time, Jesus will intensify His teaching to prepare the disciples for their roles in the early church. Eventually, they will begin to understand.
Verse Context:
Mark 8:1–10 is the third of a series of stories about bread and the proper place of ceremonial cleanness. In Mark 7:1–5, the Pharisees condemn Jesus' disciples for eating bread with unclean hands. In Mark 7:24–30, a Syrophoenician woman boldly requests the metaphoric ''crumbs'' of God's provision. Here, Jesus feeds bread to a great crowd of Gentiles and Jews. Later, He will equate the insidious false teachings of the Pharisees with leaven (Mark 8:14–21). This account is also found in Matthew 15:32–39.
Mark 8:11–13 continues after Jesus fed the five thousand outside of Bethsaida (Mark 6:30–44), then returned to Galilee and argued with the Pharisees over His authority over tradition (Mark 7:1–13). Now, after feeding four thousand in Decapolis, He returns to Galilee and argues with the Pharisees over whether they have the right to ask Him for a sign that His authority comes from God. In both cases, the Pharisees have all the evidence they need. They just refuse to see it. This may be the same event recorded in Matthew 16:1–4 and Luke 11:29–32, but it is unclear.
Mark 8:14–21 is the fourth of a series of stories about bread and righteousness, in which the disciples again miss Jesus' point. ''Bread'' represents God's provision, whether that be literal (Mark 6:30–44; 8:1–9), or metaphorical (Mark 7:24–30). The Pharisees are careful to ensure nothing, even themselves, make their literal bread unclean (Mark 7:1–5). But Jesus warns that spiritually, their teaching acts as tainted leaven that permeates God's truth and fundamentally changes its constitution. The disciples get confused and think He's scolding them about forgetting to bring rations. Matthew 16:5–12 also records this account. Luke 12:1–3 speaks of the leaven of the Pharisees as hypocrisy.
Mark 8:22–26 contains an important fulfillment of prophecy. Much has been made about the fact that Jesus heals a physically blind man directly after dealing with spiritually blind Pharisees (Mark 8:11–12) and disciples (Mark 8:14–21). But it can't be overstated, particularly in this precise place in the book, that healing the blind is specifically listed in the Old Testament as a sign of God's Messiah (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:6–7). Even the restoration of Paul's sight was orchestrated by Jesus (Acts 9:17–18). The two-step nature of this healing is no accident: it symbolizes the fact that salvation does not impart instantaneous spiritual wisdom. Like the man in Bethsaida, the disciples' spiritual sight grows only gradually. Mark's account is the only recording of this miracle.
Mark 8:27–30 begins the second half of Mark's Gospel, focusing on Jesus as ''the Christ.'' The encounters beginning here must have been a whirlwind of emotions for the disciples. Peter declares Jesus is the Christ and immediately after denies what the Christ is there to do (Mark 8:31–33). Jesus teaches a crowd that they must give up their lives for their belief in Him (Mark 8:34—9:1), and six days later, Peter, James, and John witness Jesus' true glory (Mark 9:2–8). Within a week, the disciples experience the highs and lows of following the Christ. Peter's confession is also in Matthew 16:13–20 and Luke 9:18–20.
Mark 8:31–33 is the tipping point of the Gospel of Mark. The theme shifts from ''who is Jesus'' to ''what is expected of Jesus Messiah?'' In the next chapter is the transfiguration (Mark 9:2–13). In chapters 9 and 10, Jesus again predicts His death (Mark 9:30–32; 10:32–34). Then begins Passion Week with the triumphal entry (Mark 11:1–11). As in Jesus' next two prophecies of His coming death, the disciples are so intent on their own interpretations of what ''Messiah'' means that they refuse to accept Jesus' very clear warnings. Peter's stubbornness is also recorded in Matthew 16:21–23.
Mark 8:34—9:1 deals with sacrifice and rewards. To follow Jesus the disciples have sacrificed their livelihoods (Mark 1:16–20; 2:14), reputations (Mark 2:18, 23–24; 7:5), regular meals (Mark 6:30–31), and sleep (Mark 1:32–37; 6:45–48). In return, they expect glory (Mark 9:33–37) and power (Mark 10:35–45). Jesus explains that God's timing is more strategic and their roles are more important and difficult than they could imagine. To follow Christ, we must follow Him: His teaching (Mark 8:38), His life (Mark 10:42–45), and His sacrifice (John 15:20). In return, we should not expect earthly rewards, but we will get eternal life. Matthew 16:24–28 and Luke 9:23–27 also record these events.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter describes another miraculous feeding of thousands by Jesus. He also counters the hard-hearted and selfish hypocrisy of the Pharisees in seeking even more miraculous signs. Speaking to the disciples, Jesus rebukes their short memories and reminds them about God's intent to provide for His followers. After healing a blind man, Jesus accepts Peter's proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah. Almost immediately, though, Jesus rebukes Peter for resisting the idea that the Messiah must suffer and die.
Chapter Context:
Mark 8 continues Jesus' attempts to teach the disciples God's plan for the Messiah. Jesus has not come for the religious Pharisees but for the meek who willingly respond to Him. He has not yet come as the glorious and victorious champion of Israel, but to die for the whole world. And His followers must also be willing to sacrifice their lives. The chapter marks a turning point in Jesus' ministry as His miracles grow fewer and His teaching increases. Interestingly, Jesus also faces a repeat of the temptations He experienced in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11).
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
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