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Mark 8:1121, 2733comment (0)

January 7, 2010

By Cecil Taylor

Related Scripture: Mark 8:1121, 2733

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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Mark 8:11–21, 27–33

Pharisees Seek a Sign (11–13)

Pharisees were one of the most important religious/political parties of Judaism in Jesus’ day. Josephus, a Jewish historian of the period, said there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at this time compared to about 1,500 Sadducees. In a show of official hostility, representatives of the Pharisees demanded that Jesus give them a sign (Greek “semeion”) from heaven that He was the Messiah and had divine authority. They wanted something that would convince them that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. The word for “tempting, testing” has the sinister meaning of putting to the test to prove that something is not what it appears to be. Jesus’ opponents were sure He could not produce such a sign. Given the things Jesus was already doing, it is not clear what kind of sign would have convinced them. The time they chose to ask for such a sign was the very moment He had just supplied “bread in the wilderness,” a clear indication of both divine and messianic authority.

A sign of the kind they demanded Jesus resolutely refused to give. To grant it would neuter personal choice and make faith impossible. He left the Pharisees and sailed with His disciples to the other side of the Galilee.

Blindness of the Disciples (14–21)
On the way, the disciples found they had not brought food. In the boat was only one loaf  (silver-dollar size). The Lord took that occasion to warn them against the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. Probably “Herod” included the whole religious aristocracy of the ruler (Herod), his supporters (the Herodians) and the ruling party (the Sadducees). Usually leaven, or yeast, stands for an evil influence. Perhaps He had in mind a bad influence more general, i.e., rejection of God’s will for people to accept Jesus as the King-Messiah. Or maybe He meant something more specific, i.e., the leaven of the Pharisees was hypocrisy (see Luke 12:1) while the leaven of Herod consisted of materialism and anti-supernaturalism.

The disciples missed the point because they thought He was referring to their failure to bring along food. But He questioned them about the feeding of the 5,000 — and the later feeding of the 4,000 — evidently to show them He could not be talking about a shortage of bread. After all, He had fed the mobs and the disciples with food to spare, and He could do so again. With Jesus aboard, all their needs and more were guaranteed. But the disciples still did not understand.

Peter’s Confession and the First Passion Prediction (27–33)
Jesus and His disciples went north to “the villages of Caesarea Philippi,” ancient Dan and modern Banias. Herod Philip, son of Herod the Great, built this city and named it for his benefactor, Tiberius Caesar. To distinguish it from Caesarea on the seacoast, he put his own name on it. On the way to that area, Jesus asked His disciples what people were saying about Him. They reported that popular opinion held Jesus to be somebody great and unusual. Then Jesus put the question to the Twelve. Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” It is not clear what he meant by “Christ,” but the disciples probably expected Jesus to set up a political/military kingdom and crush Gentile powers. Jesus’ strict orders to keep silent about His identity as Messiah imply first that He accepted Peter’s confession as true but second that He wanted no talk of His messiahship. They were crystal clear on what kind of messiah He was, i.e., the Suffering Servant who gives His life to redeem His people.

Jesus began to teach the Twelve a new fact about His role. Jewish authorities would reject and kill Him (like the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 50:4–6; 52:13–53:12) but He would rise again. This was the first prediction of His Passion, i.e., His death. While He spoke openly of His resurrection “after three days,” the disciples missed this point. “Three days” meant “a brief period of time” (as John 2:13–22; cf. Josh. 1:11; Hos. 6:2). Peter opposed talk of Jesus’ death but Jesus rebuked him. In rejecting Jesus’ role as Suffering Servant, the apostle had taken the side of “Satan,” i.e., the “adversary” of God.

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