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Three Views of Christ

Mark  8

Who Jesus appears to be depends greatly upon the one doing the looking. He is God; he therefore cannot be fully comprehended by mortal man. But, as has been said, the whole human being is the proper instrument for seeing God. We shall see three views here.

In those days, when there was again a large crowd and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and *said to them, "I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. "If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance." And His disciples answered Him, "Where will anyone be able to find enough bread here in this desolate place to satisfy these people?" And He was asking them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven." And He *directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people. They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well. And they ate and were satisfied; and they picked up seven large baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces. About four thousand were there; and He sent them away. And immediately He entered the boat with His disciples and came to the district of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him. Sighing deeply in His spirit, He *said, "Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." Leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side. And they had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. And He was giving orders to them, saying, "Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, *said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? "HAVING EYES, DO YOU NOT SEE? AND HAVING EARS, DO YOU NOT HEAR? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?" They *said to Him, "Twelve." "When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they *said to Him, "Seven." And He was saying to them, "Do you not yet understand?" And they *came to Bethsaida. And they *brought a blind man to Jesus and *implored Him to touch him. Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around." Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. And He sent him to his home, saying, "Do not even enter the village." Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, "Who do people say that I am?" They told Him, saying, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets." And He continued by questioning them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter *answered and *said to Him, "You are the Christ." And He warned them to tell no one about Him. 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. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and *said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? "For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."

(Mark 8:1-38 NASB)

The view from the Pharisees

“Show us a sign”

It is the demand of the cynic in every generation. In essence, the cynic tells God to put up or shut up. But can you not see that such an argument has effect only between equals? If a little child makes that statement to me, I am not very inclined to produce what he demands. Who, indeed, are we to give orders to God? But isn’t that just what this is?

Such a demand conveys a complete misunderstanding of God. It also lights up the issue of faith. The cynic says, show me the miracles and then I’ll believe. He wants a relationship where trust is not needed, and a god who is not personal – but can be manipulated. God is not a trained monkey to perform at our command.

Indeed, God’s miracles are for God’s purposes. He chooses when and where, at his pleasure. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

“Sighed deeply”

The phrase is often translated, “groaned.” It’s Christ’s reaction to the Pharisees and their hardened hearts. His reaction is different to different people:

  • For hypocrites like these, he uses shock tactics. He calls them hypocrites to their faces, shows them how the exasperate God.
  • For the skeptical, he issues a challenge. Note that he does not cater to the skeptics every whim; but he does tell him to seek, so that he might find.
  • For the tender hearted, he issues the soft and gentle invitation.
Leaven of the Pharisees

You’ve heard the parable of how one bad apple can ruin the whole barrel. I’ve never seen a barrel of apples, so I couldn’t say. But I’m told it’s true.

A more contemporary example might be this: how many parts have to be broken before your car won’t run? Not very many; sometimes it takes only one. And when one breaks, it often stresses the next one so that it, too, breaks.

That’s what the doctrine of the hypocrite does to the church, and why Jesus is so strict about this. It’s that creeping disease of “almost the right thing.” It spreads far too quickly and is difficult to wipe out.

Leaving it uncorrected

One thing you should note: Jesus leaves these people in their sins. Why?

  • First, because they are adept at halfway measures. Jesus wants all of you, and will take nothing less.
  • Also, because of the hardness of their hearts. Some molds have to be broken.

View of the halfhearted

It’s tragic how many people stick one foot into the kingdom of God. God is nice on Sundays, but the rest of the week he’s a nuisance. If you’ll look at this second feeding, you’ll note that Jesus does not rebuke his disciples for their lack of faith – but for their lack of understanding. That’s typical. Faith cannot be forced upon anyone, for faith is a trust relationship – and that implies risk. All Christ can do is provide the evidence; the disciples then must decide what to do about it.

So many baskets

Jesus makes a point of asking them how many baskets they took up – both this time and at the prior one. Why? Why did he ask that question?

  • Some hold that the number of baskets has significance. Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel; seven is the number of perfection.
  • Others hold that this is simply the number of baskets they had with them. Remember Elijah and the oil that wouldn’t stop flowing until they ran out of containers?
  • One thing is clear – the disciples just didn’t get it. Truth sometimes must be taught in its own order, and they weren’t ready yet (as Peter shows).
Get behind me, Satan

Remember that the word “Satan” can also be translated, “accuser.” Peter here is doing something that many of us love to do: giving God directions. How we love to tell God how to do something! But stop and think:

  • Jesus here connects this as being a work of the devil. It is just that; for the devil’s sin is pride. His fall came when he decided that he would be like God.
  • More commonly, it is a sign of an immature understanding of the faith. We need to go on from the simple into the mature.
Questions to ask

Look at the questions Christ asks here – they are instructive as well as being good for self-examination.

  • “Don’t you understand?” – have you used your brains lately? So often we hear that the church wants us to check our brains at the door. But it is not so.
  • “Are your hearts hardened?” – is it just a case that you don’t want to understand? Because you already have another answer?
  • “Do you have eyes to see?” - how many times have you told your children to pay attention? Listen to the echo here.
  • “Don’t you remember?” – how often our faith would be strengthened if we would remember all the things he has done for us.

View of the disciple

OK, let’s get past the cynic and the immature disciple. Suppose you are one who is mature in the faith; is there anything to learn in this passage? Perhaps we can learn by asking questions. Here are four:

Why didn’t he heal the blind man on the first try?

Some will tell you that Jesus power was limited, so he had to do it twice. But I think there is an easier explanation – or two.

  • It is most likely that this is a reflection of the lack of faith found in his village. This is sufficient to explain all.
  • It is also just possible that our Lord is telling us something here. We are so impatient with him; we ask for healing and when it isn’t complete instantly, we despair. We should remember this man.
Why did he send the blind man home?
  • Perhaps it’s a case of not wanting popular acclaim. He is already troubled by the crowds around him. They make it difficult for him to properly instruct his disciples.
  • More likely, it is to avoid upsetting the timetable of God. He must die as the Passover lamb, not be rushed into becoming King immediately.
  • There is also a personal issue. This man’s faith is weak. To send him into the village to explain all might have been cruel.

In all this we see one principle: It’s important to follow God’s directions as accurately as possible. God has his purposes, but does not reveal them to us.

Who do you say I am?

Compared to this, there is no other question. There are only three answers possible to anyone who studies the Scriptures: liar, lunatic or Lord. The world would like to see him as one of the prophets, a great man – but he did not offer them that choice.

What should we do?

I submit there are four lessons for us here:

  • First, we must be on our guard for those minor heresies that so destroy a church. Study the Scriptures diligently – so you can correct my mistakes.
  • Next, we must deny ourselves. We must give up the right to “be me.” In return, we get the privilege of “being in Him.”
  • That means that we must take up the Cross. God has some burden for each of us to bear; just because it’s not particularly convenient doesn’t mean it’s not yours. Take it up, willingly.
  • And above all: follow Jesus. Let your love for Him abound, follow where he leads, fearing no evil.

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