Tags: commentary on Mark, doubt, feeding the multitudes, Jesus Christ, leaven, Mark 8, Pharisees, Sunday School lessons on Mark, unbelief
Jesus had twice fed large groups of people by miraculously multiplying a few fish and loaves of bread. After proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that those who followed Him by faith would have their physical needs met according to His will, the Savior was experiencing grief upon being confronted by persistent disbelief.
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.
The skepticism which caused Him to sigh was par for the course for the Pharisees, but Jesus’s concern was that their attitude would infect His disciples.
And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side. Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
Leaven is a substance which is small and unseen, but which will quickly permeate an entire loaf of bread. Here, Jesus compares it to the false doctrines of the Pharisees and the followers of Herod. But the disciples, who were foolishly worried because somebody had forgotten to bring bread aboard the ship, thought the Lord was making an underhanded comment about their failure to pack food.
And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.
I am not sure I want to describe Jesus’s attitude as that of “frustration” here, because that, in one sense, implies a discouraged surrender to circumstances. When we, as fallen creatures, experience “frustration” because of the failure of others to live up to our expectations, we almost always, if not, in fact, always, commit the sin of unrighteous anger. Jesus never sinned. However, we can surely see His holy grief in His response:
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? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?
How quickly we often forget the blessings the Lord has given us, and the miracles He has done in our midst, when we are faced with unexpected inconvenience or the possibility of bearing someone else’s blame! The warning of Christ was right on target, and we must heed it even today. If we are not careful, a little lack of faith will cause the dough of our life to rise into a big loaf of questioning God, and a burnt crusty mess of unbelief. We must beware of a little leavenly bout of heavenly doubt resulting in a satanic rout.
Tags: Biblical warnings, commentary on Mark, Jesus Christ, Jesus's miracles, leaven of the Pharisees, Mark 8, miracles of Jesus, Pharisees, Sufficiency of Scripture, Sunday School lessons on Mark
In Mark Chapter 8 we are warned of four main things that might sidetrack us from obeying the Word of God. When you see one of these: STOP… beware… and go back to your Bible.
S.igns and wonders
And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 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.
Why couldn’t the Pharisees who were present while Jesus was on the earth have a sign of their own, signifying Who He really was? One reason is that they already had the Old Testament. They were self-appointed experts in the Law of Moses, and the Law of Moses was one giant sign – the biggest sign ever, prior to the Cross – pointing the way to their need for a Savior. Another reason is that they also had the Old Testament prophets, who described Who Jesus would be. In fact, their forbears, whose traditions they honored, had been killing the prophets, and King Herod had just killed John the Baptist, the last and most specific of all the Old Testament prophets. Jesus knew the hearts of these Pharisees, and He knew that their request for a sign came from a place of unbelief. If you ever find yourself tempted to challenge God to let you see signs and wonders as evidence of His reality or goodness, STOP… beware… go back to the Bible. The desire to see a miraculous show is a sign that you are doubting God’s Word. Do not imagine that God is desperate for your approval. He is not impotently wishing people would believe in Him. He has not simply suggested that people should believe “in” Him – He has sovereignly commanded people to BELIEVE HIM. He’s looking for doers – participants – not gawkers and spectators. He doesn’t care how many people mindlessly chant, “Our God is an awesome God.” If you really think He’s the awesome God, you’ll be serving Him, not waiting for Him to entertain you.
S.igns and wonders
If you are antsy about ordinary, day-to-day needs, and feel like you should have to concoct your own schemes to help God meet those needs, or if you are trusting men or the government or a church, instead of God, to meet your needs, then beware: STOP… go back to your Bible.
Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and [of] the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, [It is] because we have no bread. 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? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?
Trust God, and He will supply all your needs according to His (not your) riches in glory. He has the ability to feed and clothe you. If you are truly a Christian, then you know that He has saved you from eternal damnation and given you the very righteousness of Christ. Certainly you must also believe that He knows how to best work out where you’re going to live, what you’re going to eat, and what’s going to happen with your job.
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Beware of false teaching and false doctrine. Whenever somebody tries to “add” to the purposes of Jesus – like the Herodians did – or take away from the purposes of Jesus, and say He can’t do what He said He would do – like the Pharisees did – beware… STOP… go back to your Bible. A little false teaching can get in and leaven the whole lump of what you believe. Most heresies didn’t start out with wrong doctrine. Most heresies started when somebody just wanted to add or take away a little bit of what the Bible says.
Jesus healed a blind man gradually in Mark 8. The fact that it happened gradually instead of all at once is unusual, at least in recorded Scripture, but it was not unusual for Him to heal in different ways. Sometimes He healed people in front of crowds, and sometimes outside the city. Sometimes He healed with one touch; sometimes with two. Sometimes He did it just by speaking a Word. We must not always expect God to do things the same way. Jesus brought me to saving faith at the front of a church, during an invitation near the end of a service. That was my precedent, but I must not expect everybody to be saved that way. Some people, at the moment of conversion, cry uncontrollably; some shout for joy. My wife was healed instantly and miraculously of a serious physical infirmity, but many others are healed by God through the use of doctors and medicine. Do not try to put a limit on how God operates, EXCEPT when someone tells you that, or you find yourself wondering if, God will act contrary to Scripture. If you say, “That can’t be right; it violates Scripture,” and someone tells you, “Don’t put God in a box,” STOP… beware… stick with the Bible.
In the Book of Mark, Jesus is portrayed as busy. He goes places “straightway.” We are following Him, so we have to move to keep up. But He’s given us stop signs to let us know when we’re following so fast that we didn’t realize He turned right, and we kept going.
Tags: alliteration, commentary on Mark, handwashing, Mark 7, Pharisees, sanitary practices in the Bible, Sunday School lessons on Mark
Chapters 7 and 8 are sections in the Gospel of Mark which highlight the teaching ministry of Jesus and some of the responses to it. The Pharisees wanted to attack Jesus, so it was natural that they went to what they perceived as one of their greatest strengths: tradition. Jesus was not opposed to traditions UNLESS they were traditions that were contrary to the Word of God.
The Pharisees had taken God’s Levitical laws about cleanliness, which God had given to separate the Jewish people from the Canaanites, and to help keep His people healthy, and had completely stripped them of their spiritual meaning. The Pharisees placed all their emphasis on the outward appearance, and none on the inward heart.
They saw some of Jesus’s disciples eating without washing their hands.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me.
As a parent, you probably make your children wash their hands before they eat, and that’s a good idea. But would you let your children get away with lying, as long as they washed their hands first? If you caught your child with his hand in the cookie jar after being forbidden from taking a cookie, and the child said, “It’s okay that I’m disobeying you, because I washed my hands first,” would you accept that as a valid excuse?
Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. And when he had called all the people [unto him], he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one [of you], and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
It’s not that Jesus was interested in stopping people from practicing basic hygiene, or even in changing their diets to more risky fare in terms of “clean” and “unclean” meats. What He was stressing to them was that physical cleanliness and eating healthy foods did not matter if the attitude of their hearts was not right.
And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, [it] cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Now contrast the attitude of the Pharisees, and their pride, with the attitude of the gentile woman who wanted Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter.
But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast [it] unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.
Remember, Jesus always taught with great authority. He was not a mealy-mouthed teacher. It’s almost as if the crowds who followed Jesus were becoming very divided. There were those who pridefully felt they should have some control over the miracles He was doing, and there were those who very humbly and with great urgency tried to fight through the onlookers and the skeptics and the proud observers because they truly believed Jesus was their only hope. We have this same type of people with us today. Will we block their way? Or will we usher them to Jesus?
Tags: commentary on Matthew, hypocrisy, Matthew 21, Matthew 22, Matthew 23, Pharisees, preschoolers, Psalm 110, Sunday School lessons on Matthew
Even though He was truly a King, there were times in His earthly ministry when Jesus submitted Himself to examination by inferior and unsuitable examiners. They questioned Him about taxes:
Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
They questioned Him about relationships:
The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
This is similar to today. People have access to the revealed will of God, and access to the friendship of His Son, but they would rather know about health, wealth, and relationships. People cultivate relationships with people that they can use – use to get things – because things are what they really love. God made things for using and people for loving, and when we get those reversed we are guilty of idolatry.
Now the King had a question for them:
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.
Psalm 110:1 would have answered this question for them about how Jesus could be the Son of David and the Lord of David:
The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
In Matthew 23 we see the King’s last public proclamation before the Cross. It is considered unloving these days to criticize unbiblical ministries, but Jesus was not hesitant about exposing false teachers, nor about denouncing them.
Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
The Pharisees based their their religion on self-righteousness, but they were not righteous themselves.
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
They had a strange idea of “ministry:” adding burdens instead of helping bear burdens.
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
The Pharisees thought that they were “great men of God,” but they did not want to serve.
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
They kept others who were trying to “press in” from entering the Kingdom.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
They had a deceitful and dangerous idea of “religion.” They had just enough religion to be dangerous – to use the right words and look the right way without any real conversion. They were like a preschooler who doesn’t really know the answer, but ecstatically waves his hand to be called on anyway: a big commotion with nothing of any value to say.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
The Pharisees lived for outward appearances, while the inside was vile and dead.
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Jesus referred to their “generation” not as an earthly, genealogical generation, but as the generation of Satan’s “children.”
Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
He called it “your house” instead of God’s house because it had been abandoned and left empty.
And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Tags: commentary on Matthew, Jesus Christ, Jewish prayers, King Jesus, Matthew 7, Matthew 8, outcasts, Pharisees, Sunday School lessons on Matthew
The Gospel of Matthew appears to be organized into sections, with a section of factual information, followed by a set of lessons, then a transitional statement, before another section of facts. If this is accurate, then the first such transitional statement in the book is probably:
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
Since Matthew stresses Jesus’s role as King, and if the Sermon on the Mount found in Chapters 5-7 is read as the King saying, “Here is what my Kingdom is like,” then Chapter 8 is where the King begins to put the power of His Kingdom on display.
There are multiple reasons for why Jesus performed miracles during His earthly ministry. Among them was definitely His desire to help people who were hurting. Another was to give a sign to the Jewish people (I Corinthians 1:22). Yet another was to illustrate the lessons He was teaching. He did not perform miracles merely to attract sight-seers.
And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
In Chapter 8 the miracles He performed benefited outcasts: a leper (unclean); a gentile (the centurion); and a woman (Peter’s mother-in-law. Who could be more of an outcast than a mother-in-law? Sorry, just kidding). According to tradition, the Pharisees had a typical daily prayer that said, “Thank You, God, that I am not a slave [conveniently ignoring their status as Roman subjects], not a gentile, and not a woman.” But these were exactly the types of people to whom Jesus wanted to bring the power of His Kingdom.
Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
Jesus wanted loyal followers, not just “hangers-on.” He didn’t want an entourage or a “posse.”
Tags: commentary on Matthew, hypocrisy, hypocrites, judgment, Judgmental, Matthew 7, Pharisees, Sermon on the Mount, Sunday School lessons on Matthew
Matthew Chapter 7 deals with judgment, beginning with the practice of judging others.
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Judging others to a standard you can’t bear yourself is the essence of hypocrisy – and hypocrisy was one of the marks of the Pharisees.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Jesus began with a humorous illustration, but the humor turned serious when He called them hypocrites. As followers of Jesus, our main focus should be on judging ourselves so that we can help others. The Pharisees judged others to make themselves look good.
In the natural realm, I have some fairly serious eye problems, and am a frequent visitor at the eye doctor’s office. One thing I’ve learned from being poked and probed and examined is that great tenderness is needed in the field of eye care. Spiritually speaking, though, the same principle applies just as much. If you ever find yourself in a position to help a brother recognize and remove a spiritual fault from his life (and that’s a big “if” – something to be considered carefully and thoroughly and prayerfully before proceeding), then you will need to proceed the way you would if you were removing a sliver from his eye: with great tenderness and care.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
We must exercise discernment in church discipline because God has trusted us to handle the “holy things” of the Lord. In the Old Testament, the worship in the Tabernacle and the Temple had to be very orderly and precise, in order to prevent that which was considered holy and clean from becoming defiled and made unclean by that which was profane. New Testament worship is different, but the principle still applies. Just as the cups and dishes in the Temple were treated with reverence, so must our words and attitudes be handled somewhat delicately and with attentive gentleness.
Matthew Chapter 7 eventually shifts from judgment of ourselves to our judgment of others to God’s judgment of us.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
In this parable both houses looked sturdy. Both builders had good intentions. So what was the difference? Why was one house sturdy and one not sturdy? The difference was the foundations. Christ Jesus the Solid Rock is our foundation. That’s why we see this teaching right after the Lord’s statement about false professions. A false profession will hold up fine and look strong until the storm of judgment comes.
Your life may look sturdy. You may have your hope in a supportive family, a good job, loyal friends, good works, financial security, and your own logical belief system. But when the storm hits, only hope founded on Christ the Solid Rock will stand.
Tags: germophobia, hand-washing, Jesus Christ, legalism, Mark 7, OCD, personal hygiene, Pharisees, tradition, traditionalism
There is a famous quote that says, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” Jesus’s disciples found themselves in the middle of a dispute about tradition and traditionalism in Mark Chapter 7.
Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
When the Pharisees and scribes pressed Jesus about His disciples’ hygiene habits, He must have felt pretty fed up.
He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Tradition can be a valuable thing. We have over 2000 years of New Testament Christian history from which to learn if we will apply ourselves. When we try too hard to escape traditionalism, we often fall into the trap of rebellion just for the sake of seeming more “modern” or “fresh.” It is true that repetition over time does not always make a thing right. But it is also true that, in the final analysis, the Bible itself is our ultimate standard for faith, practice, and worship. Jesus told the Pharisees and scribes that they were…
…[m]aking the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
Tags: bad neighbors, false hospitality, good hospitality, good neighbors, hospitality, Jesus Christ, Luke 14, neighbors in the Bible, Pharisees
The Pharisees, the self-righteous religious ruling class during Christ’s days on earth, knew of Jesus’s compassion for those who were suffering. In order to “trap” Jesus into some type of perceived religious violation, they were not above cruelly using a sick or disabled person to unwittingly play a role in their false accusations. However, the Lord Jesus was and is a keen discerner of ulterior motives.
In Luke Chapter 14 we find Him invited to a meal at the home of one of the chief Pharisees. After the Lord shamed them into silence by healing a man afflicted with dropsy, He took the opportunity to explain a valuable lesson.
Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
We must be careful not to play the game of false hospitality. Although fellowship with our neighbors is an important part of the Christian life, the love of God should motivate us to be kind, loving, and hospitable especially to those who will not be able to reward us or pay us back in kind.