From J. C. Ryle, for verses 1 – 13, “Let us observe in this passage how great is the kindness and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Let us observe, in the second place, from this passage, that with Christ nothing is impossible.” “Let us observe, in the last place, how much sorrow unbelief occasions to our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, 2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: 3 And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far. 4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? 5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. 6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. 7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. 8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. 9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.” Mark 8:1-9 (KJV)
There are some who want us to believe that the feeding of the “five thousand” and the feeding of the “four thousand” are actually the same feeding “Miracle”. If they were they would not be mentioned back to back with one another. Mark 6:34-43 contains the miracle of the feeding of the “five thousand”, and then Matthew 14:15-21 does as well. Then, we have the feeding of the “four thousand” here in chapter 8 of Mark with the feeding of the “four thousand” also mentioned in Matthew 15:32-38. The questions of the legitimacy of Scriptures only come from those who do not want to believe it. I am not talking of “honest” questions which are for information and not for placing doubt.
We see that Jesus had “Compassion” on the people who were following. His heart was moved with sympathy and called for them to be fed. The question came up again, “How are we going to feed them?” “How many loaves have we?” was the question Jesus asked. Their answer was “seven”.
As I sit and study this passage I find myself wondering why these disciples were wondering how these people were going to be fed. Then, I stop to think about how many times I have seen the wonder of the power of God in Christ and I wonder no more at the “doubts” of the disciples. It is “hardness of heart”. Why is it we can witness the power of God and His intervention in our lives one day, and then, just a few days later we are in doubt again and wondering, “Where is God in all of this?”
We must note that in Matthew’s Gospel of this account he writes in verse 38, “Now those who ate were 4,000 men, besides women and children. Matt 15:38 (HCSB)”. Seeing how there were four thousand men it would be quite reasonalble to assume there could have been 12,000 – 15,000 or more there to eat of the bread and fish of the Creator. That would only be a wife and one child for every man who was present.
The compassion of Jesus is wonderful, and it is sure that nothing is impossible for Him.
“And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha. 11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” Mark 8:10-12 (KJV)
The unbelieving will not believe even though they see a sign. If they will not believe “Moses and the Prophets” they will not believe though one has risen from the dead. Jesus made a similar statement in Luke 16:31.
Jesus had done many mighty works and the Pharisees were witnesses to many of them. Their problem was jealousy. Jesus had a following and they did not. Jesus was doing mighty works, and they could not. Jesus lived a life without fault, and they did not. Jesus lived a life without sin, and they did not. Jesus was the Son of God, and they were the children of Satan.
In Matthew 12:38-40 Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matt 12:39-40 (KJV)”. When these religious leaders were not even believing the Scriptures (Moses and the Prophets), why would they believe even though they had the Son of God standing before them doing miracles. They “Could not see the forest for the trees”. As we saw in the last chapter (chapter 7) they added their tradition to their laws, thus, in effect cancelling out the Scriptures – at least for themselves. Because of that the Word of God had no effect on their lives, and it would not have any effect on others as they looked at the Pharisees. The sign of the prophet Jonah was that he had been three days and nights in the “Fish’s belly”, and Jesus would be three days and nights in the “Heart of the earth”.
Jesus rose from the grave after three days, and rather than believe it they tried to make it into a lie, by telling lies, and bribing officials to tell lies. They were blind, so they could not see. They were deaf, so they could not hear.
Seeing miracles does not give faith. They may assure it, but faith comes by hearing the word of the Lord (Rom. 10:17). Faith stands when there is no miracle. Faith grows without a miracle, and by the word of the Lord.
“And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side. 14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. 15 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. 16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread. 17 And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? 18 Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? 19 When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. 20 And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. 21 And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?” Mark 8:13-21 (KJV)
(SEE Matthew 16:12).
As we saw in the last chapter the Pharisees made themselves “loopholes” in order to escape the clear teachings of the law. Only the religious leaders knew these “loopholes”, thus the people knew nothing of them.
The “Leaders” had a Sabbath law of a “Sabbath days journey”. By this they limited the distance a person could travel on the Sabbath. They exempted themselves by interpreting that law to mean from your property, so they could take a chair, stool, saddle, sandal, piece of clothing out a normal “Sabbath days journey”, then take another piece of personal property another “Sabbath days journey”, and place another item, and could go on and on. These actions were, thus, a form of “False doctrine” and “False living”. They were condemning themselves by their very lies and the lives they lived.
J. C. Ryle on verses 14-21, 1)
“Let us notice the solemn warning which our Lord gives to His disciples at the beginning of this passage.” 2) “Let us notice the dull understanding of the disciples, when our Lord gave the warning of this passage.”
“And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.” Mark 8:22-26 (KJV)
J. C. Ryle gives us four thoughts concerning these verses,
1) “it is well to remember, in reading passages of this kind, that the Lord is not tied to the use of any one means.”; 2) “One thing in the passage demands our special observation. That thing is the gradual nature of the cure which our Lord performed on this blind man. He did not deliver him from his blindness at once, but by degrees.”; 3) “Let us see then in this gradual restoration to sight, a vivid illustration of the manner in which the Spirit frequently works in the conversion of souls. We are all naturally blind and ignorant in the matters which concern our souls. Conversion is an illumination, a change from darkness to light, from blindness to seeing the kingdom of God.”; 4) “Finally, let us see in the gradual cure of this blind man, a striking picture of the present position of Christ’s believing people in the world, compared with that which is to come. We see in part and know in part in the present dispensation. We are like those that travel by night. We know not the meaning of much that is passing around us.”
“And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? 28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. 29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. 30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. 31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” Mark 8:27-33 (KJV)
Things J. C. Ryle writes that we as Christians need to observe,
1) “Let us observe the variety of opinions about Christ, which prevailed among the Jews. Some said that He was John the Baptist–some Elijah–and others one of the prophets. In short every kind of opinion appears to have been current, excepting that one which was true.”; 2) “Let us observe the good confession of faith which the apostle Peter witnessed.”; 3) “Let us observe the full declaration which our Lord makes of His own coming death and resurrection. We read that “He began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”; 4) “Finally, let us observe in this passage the strange mixture of grace and infirmity which may be found in the heart of a true Christian. We see that very Peter who had just witnessed so noble a confession, presuming to rebuke his Master because He spoke of suffering and dying.”
“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38 (KJV)
J. C. Ryle’s commentary on these verses,
1) “We learn, for one thing, from these verses, the absolute necessity of self-denial, if we would be Christ’s disciples, and be saved. What says our Lord? “Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”; 2) “Let us often ask ourselves whether our Christianity costs us anything? Does it entail any sacrifice? Has it the true stamp of heaven? Does it carry with it any cross? If not, we may well tremble and be afraid. We have everything to learn. A religion which costs nothing, is worth nothing. It will do us no good in the life that now is. It will lead to no salvation in the life to come.”; 3) “We learn, for another thing, from these verses, the unspeakable value of the soul. What says our Lord? “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” These words were meant to stir us up to exertion and self-denial. They ought to ring in our ears like a trumpet, every morning when we rise from our beds, and every night when we lie down. May they be deeply engraved in our memories, and never effaced by the devil and the world!”; 4) “We learn, in the last place, from these verses, the great danger of being ashamed of Christ. What says our Lord? “Whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.'”
-Tim A. Blankenship quoting much from J.C. Ryle