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 faith, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, commentary on Mark, Mark 6, overcoming obstacles, Sunday School lessons on Mark, the unpardonable sin, true faith, unbelief
If you are familiar with modern television or movie tropes, then you might call this passage in Mark 6 a “flashback sequence” where we learn what happened to John the Baptist.
For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.
Herod feared John the Baptist, but not enough to repent and “believe” his message. He had John the Baptist killed for his wife’s sake.
And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.
Herod feared God a little, but he feared men more. He loved God’s messenger a little, but he loved himself more. This is unbelief, and this was the first step on the way to the unpardonable sin, which the Jewish leaders committed, and into which they led many of their people. They rejected God (John the Baptist, His prophet). They rejected Jesus, God’s Son (consenting to, and helping to instigate, His Crucifixion). And they blasphemed (rejected, always resisting) the Holy Ghost – God’s final witness – when they stoned Stephen.
Even the Disciples – Jesus’s closest followers – had trouble with unbelief.
And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.
Jesus was moved with compassion for people. Do we, as followers of Jesus, have genuine compassion? If we do, we will move toward, not away from, people who are suffering. The Disciples saw only the problem. Seeing only the problem is a symptom of unbelief. Jesus saw the potential. Seeing the potential is evidence of faith. False faith sees only problems for God to solve; true faith sees opportunities to minister IN problems. False faith sees only obstacles to be removed, and calls on God only to move us over, past, or around the obstacles without having to deal with them; true faith sees opportunities to stand on the obstacles and get close to God. True faith calls us to stand on the obstacles and proclaim His worth to others.
And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.
Jesus did not send away people who were needy; He sent away people who were greedy. For His Disciples’ sake, He also He sent them away to help them avoid a false “spiritual high.” We often want the excitement of religion. We call it God “moving” or we say we are “experiencing the presence of God” when things tend to get hyped up and emotional during a corporate worship service, but sometimes the best place to experience the presence of God is alone in a quiet place AFTER serving Him publicly, and with the intention of going back to serve Him again.
And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
Jesus, the Divine Servant, came to serve men – but only as He served God. We must never forget why we’re serving others. It’s because we serve HIM.
Tags: brazen serpent, John 3, Moses in the wilderness, Numbers 21, pride, rebellion, snakes, unbelief, wilderness wandering
Previously, we saw:
Now, we will see the Snake on a Pole.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
Notice first what God did not tell Moses. He didn’t tell Moses to get the people together and pass anti-snake legislation. He didn’t tell them to make an antidote or antivenin. He didn’t tell them to beat the rocks and the bushes and kill all the snakes. He didn’t tell them to start doing better, to start being more positive, to get happy, to change their attitude and everything would be alright. He didn’t tell them – and this is the best thing He didn’t tell them – He didn’t tell them that it’s too late, too bad, there’s no hope. No, He said make a brazen serpent – a serpent of brass or of bronze. Again, though, God did not then instruct Moses to go around and touch every person with it. Or to hide it in a box and tell the people to come pray to it. He told Moses to lift it up.
And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The snake had to be lifted up – and the people had to look. The famous preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, related in his personal salvation testimony how powerful this truth was to him. Even a young child can look. But each snake-bitten Israelite in the wilderness had to look for himself or herself. Those who looked lived. Those who didn’t look died. Why would anyone not look?
The Snake on a Pole: Snakes Produce Parting
We might say the people were “parted” into those who looked and those who didn’t look. Some didn’t look because of rebellion: “I don’t have to do what you say.” Some didn’t look because of pride: “I’m not going to look foolish, staring at a snake on a pole.” Some didn’t look because of unbelief: “There’s no way it could be that simple – I’m strong – I can beat this poison on my own, and then I’ll be able to say that I deserved to live.”
It’s happening even now. There’s Jesus Christ – the Son of Man – the Son of God – God incarnate – God made flesh and blood – lifted up. You’re going to have to look with eyes of faith – we don’t have a brazen Savior mounted on a cross. The symbol of our faith is the Cross without Christ still on it – because His story didn’t end there. You’re going to have to admit that you need to look – and you’re going to have to actually look.
Why did God choose a serpent – an animal associated with sin – to also be a symbol for the Savior?
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
II Corinthians 5:21
Jesus Christ was made sin on the Cross. Just as the snake on the pole produced parting, there will be a parting also produced by Christ on the Cross.
Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
People are going to say that they knew about the “snake on the pole.” They heard about it in church. They ate and drank and took communion, observing the Lord’s Supper. They saw many crosses.
But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
But Jesus will say that they knew “about” Him, but that they never “looked upon” Him – they never had faith that He could save them.
There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
There will be a parting. You can look away now, and be told to depart later. Or you can look to Jesus now, and live. Please don’t say, “I’m not in any kind of shape to come to Jesus … I don’t dress like a church person – I don’t talk like a church person – I don’t look like a Christian is supposed to look.” Christianity is not about what you look like. It’s about Whom you look to. God in His grace and mercy has allowed you to make it this far despite your sin and rebellion. Don’t walk away from His invitation and command with the poison still in your system. Look to Jesus today – look and live.
If you’ve already looked, what a world of good it will do you to look again. Look often – look every chance you get. There’s nothing more encouraging for Christian who’s on a long journey home than to look upon the One Who saved you at the start.