Mark 8:22-38

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 16, 2005

Can you hear Me now?

After having encountered some opposition by Pharisees in Dalmanutha (7:11), Jesus and the disciples got in their boat and headed across the Sea of Galilee.  Yet as Jesus talked with His disciples, He became frustrated with them because He could tell how little they still understood about who He was.  Today’s message is a journey in understanding.

:22-26 Blind in Bethsaida

:23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town

Jesus took the man away from the other people, similar to what He had just done with the deaf man (7:33). I wonder if Jesus isn’t trying to avoid more of the circus atmosphere and simply minister to this man one-on-one.

:24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.

and said – imperfect tenses used here, “He was asking … he was saying”. It seems there is a sort of conversation or examination going on.

This is the only record of an incomplete cure.  The man wasn’t healed immediately.

:25 …and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.


Growing in understanding

Though this was a very real event, it’s interesting how this miracle follows the events back on the boat where Jesus had some pretty tough words for His disciples being pretty clueless to the really important things going on around them.

(Mark 8:21 KJV)  And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?

The idea of “seeing” is synonymous in the Bible with “understanding”.  The various Greek words for “seeing” are also often translated “understanding”.

I wonder if there isn’t a lesson here about how Jesus helps us grow in understanding.

When we first come to Jesus, He heals us.
But sometimes we still don’t see everything very clear.
We need another touch of Jesus to see clearly.
One of those “unnoticed” words used often throughout the Gospel of Mark is the word “immediately”, or, “straightway”.  It seems that Mark pays particular attention to the things that happen “immediately” (over 40 times), such as when Jesus spoke the word to the deaf man, he was healed “immediately” (Mark 7:35)
But this man isn’t healed “immediately”.  He needs another touch from Jesus.
He isn’t rebuked by Jesus for his lack of faith.  He’s simply asked if he sees anything.
When the man replies that he only sees men like trees walking, Jesus isn’t finished with him.
Jesus isn’t finished until the man sees people for what they are.
Perhaps a test of how well we understand the things of God is in the answer to how we see people.

Are they just wooden, like trees?  Or do we see real people?

:27-30 Who am I?

:27 into the towns of Caesarea Philippi

This was a city about 25 miles to the north of the Sea of Galilee on the slopes of Mount Hermon. It’s the farthest north of any place that Jesus went to.  It was once the center of the worship of the god “Pan” and today it has the name “Banias”.

:27 Whom do men say that I am?

Why does Jesus ask this question?  Does He have some sort of an ego problem, worrying about what people are saying about Him?

Jesus needs to take a temperature reading of His own disciples.  He wants to know if they get who He is or not.

:28 And they answered, John the Baptist …

These were some of the common theories at that time. These are all wrong answers.  The crowds still don’t know who Jesus is.

:29 But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

It’s one thing to know what others think about Jesus.  The real question is:  What do you think about Jesus? Your salvation isn’t based on what others think about Jesus, but what you think about Jesus.

ChristChristos – “anointed”; this is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah”.  The word “Messiah” means “anointed one”, meaning a king.  The Messiah was the promised king from the line of David.  He was the Savior that would one day rescue the nation of Israel from all her enemies.

Peter gets it.  He understands.

Matthew records Jesus as having told Peter that the Father had given Peter special revelation (Mat. 16:17).

:30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.

he charged themepitimao – to admonish or charge sharply.  It’s the same word that will be translated “rebuke” a couple of times in the upcoming verses (8:32,33). One translator says, “He threatened them, spoke in a tone of menace, as if anticipating foolish talk.”

Why does Jesus say stuff like this?

I think there are several reasons why Jesus does things that would seem to try and limit His “popularity”.

Sometimes He didn’t want the wrong people talking about Him – like the demons (Mark 1:34, 3:12).

Sometimes He was more concerned that a person tell specific people about their miracle rather than the larger crowd. When He healed a leper, He wanted the priests to see what had happened, as a witness to them. (Mark 1:44-45)

Sometimes, I believe Jesus simply was trying to keep from being detoured from His main purpose. Sometimes the miracle was simply too great and might cause people to try and sidetrack Jesus from His main calling. When He had fed the five thousand …

(John 6:14-15 KJV) Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. {15} When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
He didn’t come to be their earthly king. He came to die for their sins.
There were miracles where Jesus told the people involved not to talk about the miracle like the raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:43); healing the deaf man at Decapolis (Mark 7:36) and the blind man at Bethsaida (8:26).


Don’t get sidetracked

Do you understand what the “main things” are in your life?
Keep the “main thing” the “main thing”.
There’s a movie out in the theaters, “Finding Neverland” about the life of British playwright and journalist Sir James Matthew Barrie.  He’s best known for his children’s fantasy, Peter Pan. Barrie liked to tell the story of the small boy who had been given a seat in the author’s box to watch the play. At the end he was asked which of the bits he liked the best. The boy replied, “What I think I liked best was tearing up the program and dropping the bits on people’s heads.”
It’s easy to become distracted and miss the main event, isn’t it? We expect that from children, but adults can be guilty as well.
Too Long, Too Far, Too Low
The day was April 21, 1918. Manfred von Richthofen (“The Red Baron”) led his flight of tri-planes to search for British observation aircraft. An engagement ensued between a flight of Sopwith Camels led by Canadian Royal Air Force pilot Capt. Arthur Roy Brown. Brown’s friend Lt. Wilfred May was a rookie on his first offensive patrol. May had been ordered to keep out of combat, but couldn’t resist. He jammed his guns and, defenseless, headed away from the battle. Richthoten spotted the lone plane and chose it for kill number 81. Brown observed the scene below him and dove to help his fellow airman, knowing that May was no match for Richthofen.
“It was then, with Brown closing from behind, that Richthofen, usually a meticulous and disciplined fighter pilot, made a mistake and broke one of his own rules by following May too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory. Two miles behind the Allied lines, as Brown caught up with Richthofen and fired, the chase passed over the machine-gun nests of Australian Field Artillery.” The debate continues over who fired the fatal shot that passed through Richthofen’s torso. Ultimately it doesn’t matter- whether hit from the air or the ground, The Red Baron was mortally wounded.
Richthofen was good. Probably over-confident. But he “broke one of his own rules.” Maybe in his mind he was just stretching the rule a bit. Or he was distracted by something that appeared too good to be true. Whatever the case, he compromised his own standards, which led to his death. For the Red Baron, the temptation of number 81 was too much.
You might think that the Red Baron’s “main thing” was to shoot down enemy planes.  It wasn’t.  It was to win a war, not trophies.
We can get careless and get off track.  We too can end up breaking our own rules or even worse, God’s Rules.
The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. (George Sweeting)
Do you have any idea of what God’s “main thing” is for you and your life?
Paul wrote,
(Phil 3:13-14 KJV) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, {14} I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

:31-33 The cross

:31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must …

began to teach – They had got the first part right.  Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

But now they needed to know just what kind of Messiah Jesus was.

In about six months, the disciples will see what kind of a Messiah Jesus is.

The way the verse is laid out grammatically, Jesus says there are four things that are “necessary”, four things that are “musts”:

To suffer, to be rejected, to be killed, to rise again

Why were these things “necessary”?

They were necessary to fulfill prophecy.

They were necessary in order for Jesus to fulfill His main goal, to die for our sins.

This was the “main thing” for Jesus.

:32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

openlyparrhesia – freedom in speaking; frankly. Jesus wasn’t trying to conceal in any way what He must do.

There were times when Jesus spoke cryptically about His death such as,

 (John 2:19 KJV)  Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

But this time with His disciples, He’s very clear.  Nothing mysterious here.

rebukeepitimao – censure severely; this is a pretty tough word to describe how Peter is confronting Jesus.

Peter has already made his mark as a great “spokesman” for the rest of the disciples.

For the afternoon he’s already batted 1000.  He’s the guy that nailed the answer to the last question about who Jesus was.  He’s the guy that God speaks to.
And now for Peter, he knows that this idea of Jesus dying must be wrong.

:33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter

Mark’s gospel is the only one that mentions that Jesus made a point of looking at the other disciples when He said these rough words to Peter.

Jesus rebuked Peter openly before the other disciples because Peter had rebuked Jesus openly.  Jesus could not allow the other disciples to think that Peter’s actions and words were appropriate because they were not.

:33 Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.


A little boy always went next door to play on the neighbor’s lawn even though his mom had warned him against doing so. This worried the mom so badly that she asked him why he was so disobedient. He replied that Satan tempted him so bad and he did not know what to do. The mom then advised him to say ‘get thee behind me Satan’ whenever he was tempted. She then built a fence around the house. This worked for a week, then one sunny afternoon the mom looked over the window and there was her son playing on the neighbour’s lawn having cut a hole in the fence. “John”, she yelled, “Come here!” She then said “did I not tell you to say ‘get thee behind me Satan’ whenever he tempted you?” “Yes”, the boy replied, “I said, ‘get thee behind me Satan’, then he went behind me and pushed me through the hole in the fence.”

Peter may not have even been aware of it, but he’s been “pushed through the hole in the fence”

savourestphroneo – to have understanding, to have a mental disposition towards; to be of one’s party

Peter has the wrong mindset.  He doesn’t realize that his ideas are in opposition to God’s.

Jesus rebuked Satan because Satan was the one behind Peter’s words.

It’s amazing how one minute Peter is being given revelation by God the Father, and the next he’s being a spokesman for Satan.

:34-38 Discipleship

:34 Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

“If anyone has a desire to come after me, let him once and for all deny himself, once and for all take up his cross, and for the rest of his life follow on the same road I’ve walked on”


Being a disciple

Jesus is laying out what it means to be a disciple.  There are three things involved:
1. Deny yourself
When a person became a convert to Judaism, a “proselyte”, there were certain steps they were to follow, and what Jesus lays out is very similar to these steps.

Adam Clarke writes, “A condition required in the Jewish proselyte was, that he should perfectly renounce all his prejudices, his errors, his idolatry, and every thing that concerned his false religion; and that he should entirely separate himself from his most intimate friends and acquaintances.

To follow Jesus, the main thing you are to “renounce”, the false religion you’ve been following, is your “self”.


It’s like the man who said, “Lord, I pray that if you don’t want me to go get donuts, that there won’t be a parking spot at the donut shop.”  But sure enough, when he got there, there was a parking spot right in front of the donut shop door, after his twentieth time around the block ...

It’s hard to deny yourself.

2. Take up your cross
The picture of taking up a cross was appropriate in Roman-occupied Palestine. Jesus’ listeners had seen condemned criminals carrying a part of their cross through the city on the way to the place of execution.  They were ordered to carry their cross to demonstrate their submission to the authority of Rome, against which they had rebelled.

Jesus would take up His cross, not in submission to Rome, but in submission and obedience to the Father.

The cross involves suffering

Death on a cross was not a pretty thing.  It wasn’t something you recovered from.  It was designed to be painful.

The cross involves calling.

The cross is not just a place of suffering, it was a calling.  It was what Jesus was called to do.  It’s what He did for us.

We are to take up “our” cross, not His.  We are to follow out what God’s purpose and calling are for our lives and then to follow after it, even if it does involved suffering.

3. Follow Jesus
Jesus set the example.  He said over and over that He would die on a cross. He went first.  We are to follow.

In the garden, Jesus prayed “not My will but Thine be done”.  He was denying Himself and He would take up His cross (Mat. 26:37-42)

This isn’t stuff that comes easy.  We don’t like to deny ourselves.  We don’t like the idea of having a cross we need to take up.
Peter, James, and John also had trouble with these concepts.  Look at just how they respond when Jesus talks about His own death.
Peter has already rebuked Jesus for talking about dying (Mark 8:32).
James & John

(Mark 10:32-37 KJV) And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, {33} Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: {34} And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again. {35} And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. {36} And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? {37} They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

Do you think they “got it”?  Not yet.  They need more “understanding”.

:35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it

If you’re going to try and rescue your own soul, you’re going to fail.  But if you are willing to give up your life for Jesus, you’ll find real life.

:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation…

adulterous and sinful – sound like today?

and my words – not just Jesus, but the things He said as well.

There are folks who call themselves “Christian”, yet they are ashamed of the things that Jesus said.  Like:

(John 14:6 KJV)  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Every person Jesus called, He called publicly.  There is no such thing as a “secret service” Christian.

Are you ashamed of Him?  Let today be the day you take a step to publicly admit that you are going to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.