William Kelly Major Works Commentary
In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,Mark Chapter 8
In the second miracle of the feeding of the multitude we have, of course, a repeated testimony to Christ as the Messiah, the Shepherd of Israel, viewed in the beneficence of His power. It was, indeed, no more than what is predicted of Him "I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread." This was a very significant token to Israel.
In the case of other rulers there is a natural necessity in general that their people should contribute to their sustenance and grandeur; but the Messiah would be the source of nourishment to His subjects. This privilege appertained to and was revealed of Him alone. There never has been, never can be, any other ruler with such a sign attached to his person and with such a character belonging to his rule as this gracious source of supplies to His people. Elsewhere it was the fruit of rapine, robbing the distant to lavish on those at home. The Messiah will act out of His own almighty power and love to Israel. This is the plain meaning of Psalm 132:15. The force of Scripture has been greatly weakened through the bad habit of spiritualizing it; in point of fact, it is losing the interpretation of Scripture when we limit it to such applications. Undoubtedly, one is entitled to take the spirit of such a word as this, and one may see from it how Christ cares for those who believe in Him and that He now displays more than ever this characteristic goodness in His loving provision for their need.
But to the great mass of God's children at present on the earth what idea does the promise of Ps. 132 present? and what meaning except a passing exercise of compassionate power do they find in these miracles? It is evident that the Spirit of God attached great importance to the fact, for the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels is the feeding of the multitude - at least, the earlier case where the Lord fed the five thousand. This, then, remains true, that in these miracles the Lord was giving the twofold witness of His being the Messiah, competent and willing to carry out all that was most characteristic of Himself, and what no other prince or king could possibly effect, because even for his own State ordinarily dependent upon revenue derived from his lieges. But the Lord Jesus has this singular source and supply of grace in Him, and His kingdom will be marked by it, so that instead of His burdening Israel or draining the world of its wealth to sustain Him, the Lord Jesus Christ will even retain the place of the blessed and only Potentate even when the earth owns Him as King. It will be a day when all burdens shall be taken away and the earth yield her increase. No doubt man's heart will be opened and "a multitude of camels shall cover Zion, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall publish the praises of Jehovah. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall serve thee; they shall come up with acceptance on Mine altar, and I will beautify the house of My magnificence. Who are these that come flying as a cloud, and as doves to their dovecotes? For the isles shall await Me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of Jehovah thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, for He hath glorified thee. . . . The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the cypress-tree, pine-tree, and box-tree, to beautify the place of My sanctuary; and I will make the place of My feet glorious. . . . For bronze I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood bronze, and for stones iron; and I will make thine officers peace, and thy rulers righteousness." (Isaiah 60:6-17) But the great distinguishing feature of the earthly kingdom of the Messiah as compared with all others will be this affluence of goodness when the Divine power undertakes all for man in the great day when the Lord's victory over Satan is made good here below. The millennium will not be man brought into the eternal state, but as yet with a body liable to death. There will still be the possibility of evil in the world but the peculiar feature will be that, while the evil is not rooted out and sin is still in the nature of man, and the power of death may be used in particular cases as a judgment on flagrant sin, yet will the power of good by Christ, the great King, prevail over evil: not the struggle of evil with good, but the supremacy of blessing flowing from Jehovah-Messiah throughout the whole earth. If there were a single spot of the earth apart, a solitary nook of nature unvisited by the stream of blessing in "that day," it would be, so far, the triumph of evil over good. We know from Rev. 20 that, after the millennium, the nations will rebel. No beneficence on the part of the Lord, no feeding His poor with bread, will change the heart of fallen man - nay, nor will His displayed glory deter him from mad opposition. The sad proof will be patent that all who are not born of God in the millennium will furnish fresh fuel for Satan to kindle the last rebellion against the Lord; but fire will come down out of heaven and dispose of them judicially, caught in the very act. How overwhelming the evidence of man's good-for-nothingness when glory dawns on the earth, just as much as the present evil age is proving man's good-for-nothingness in despising or abusing grace! The Lord showed that there was no deficiency in power, even while He was here, for the purpose of displaying the power of His kingdom. He that could feed five thousand could have as easily fed five millions. He was pleased to use the commonest material on the spot; it was the Lord of all taking what was there, and so it will be in the millennium, the Lord making all things new - not absolutely, but in a measure, and the figure of the complete work which will close all.
The Christians who only think of heaven blot out the testimony of a vast range of Scripture, whereby the future scene is not merely rendered vague, but gravely falsified, and in the weightiest and most momentous traits, too. For the age to come will be for the most part unprecedented. The habit of thus making everything bend to the present moment is most injurious to our faith, because it dishonours Scripture. It springs from and feeds the spirit of infidelity perhaps as much as any other bias.
The next point I would desire to notice is the special teaching of the two miracles. Why are two facts given us so nearly of the same kind? Is there anything to be gleaned from the circumstances that on one occasion the Lord feeds five thousand, and twelve hand-baskets of fragments were taken up; and on the other, four thousand were fed, and seven hampers were taken up? There are those who are quick to say that such an inquiry is to be too curious, that it is indulging fancy if we attempt to gather a precise meaning; but I hope that few of my readers have such low thoughts of the word of God as to suppose that, besides the mere facts, we have not a display of Christ in moral principle or in a dispensational point of view in what is recorded of Him. We do need to weigh and prize the simplest incidents related, only do not confine Scripture to your horizon or mine. Let us value every fact, but do not let us despise any lesson God may convey thereby. Let us leave room for all He meant to be enjoyed. Little as we may any of us know, we know enough to stand for the truth that all Scripture is not only given by inspiration of God, but profitable; and it is the business of the Christian to beware of indulging in his favourite points or doctrines, and to seek spiritual understanding of all the word and revealed mind of God.
We may inquire, then, besides the confirmation of the Messiah's place in earthly glory and His care for His people, what we have to learn from these miracles. Upon the earlier occasion the Lord gives us the feeding of the multitude first of all, and then His dismissing them and leaving the disciples, as far as His bodily presence is concerned, sending them, under a contrary wind, across a troubled sea, where they tack all night and make little or no progress, while He is upon a mountain in prayer to God. Is not this an evident picture of what has taken place since the Lord dismissed Israel, as it were, for a time, and left the disciples, as far as His bodily presence is concerned? He is above interceding. He has taken a new position altogether; and here are the disciples, during His absence on high, exposed to conflicting elements here below. What could more justly portray the actual dispensation - Israel dismissed after His testimony to them, the disciples as now left by our Lord in this stormy world, and Himself ever living to intercede for them? Moreover, when all seems to be vain, the Lord appears unexpectedly, goes on board along with them, and "immediately the ship was at the land whither they went." What could indicate, as a type, more clearly that, as the effect of the unbelief of Israel, He would leave this world to go on high, and take the place, not of king over the earth to supply His people's necessities (for they, indeed, were not ready for Him), but of priestly advocate in heaven, till He descends and rejoins His tempest-tossed disciples, and brings in healing power and blessing everywhere? (cf. Mark 6:34-56). Along with this we see, in the earlier miracle, "twelve baskets." This, I think, refers to the way in which man becomes prominent. He is made to be the means of carrying out the mind of the Lord. So it will be by-and-by.
But here in the story before us (chapter 8) of feeding the multitude, where we have the four thousand men fed and the seven baskets left, there is a notable difference. It has nothing to do with any figure of the Lord's ways dispensationally. We see here the Lord taking care of a certain remnant of His people out of His own pure grace. It is not the testimony to the order of events from His rejection by Israel till His return in power and glory. He is the Messiah, of course; but it is the beneficent goodness of His heart that He is showing, spite of His rejection. The Lord will take up a remnant by-and-by in the last days, when the mass are apostates, and He will care for them and supply their need. Meanwhile, He turns to us of the Gentiles in His grace; and what lack we? But whether taken as an earthly or a heavenly remnant, the scene illustrates the fact and certainty of the Lord's tender care of His people now that He has been rejected. There is no leaving them here; He is with His disciples all through.
"In those days, the crowd being again great,* and having nothing to eat, He called the disciples to Him." Now it is not, as in the last, that the disciples come to Him, anxious about the multitude. It was His own doing out of His own loving thought. He said unto them, "I have compassion on the crowd, because they have stayed with Me already three days, and have nothing to eat; and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint on the way, for† some of them are come from far." One gathers hence that the object of the scene is not to furnish a type of the ways of the Lord when He presented Himself to Israel and Israel would not have Him. Here it is simply His provision for the remnant of His people, for the poor that go after Him. They might have little perception of His glory, yet He cares for them. It is entirely a question of Christ's goodness in this case, watching over them and providing for them, more than enough, though nothing would be lost. It was their wretchedness that appealed to His heart; and the Lord took the whole thing in hand Himself, though He privileged the disciples to be channels of His bounty.
*"Again great": so Edd., following BDCLMNΔ, etc., 1, 33, 69, Old Lat., Syrsin Arm. Goth. AEth. Memph. "Very great" has the support of AEFHK, later uncials, and most cursives, Syr. (exc. sin.).
†"For": as A, etc., Amiat., Syrpesch hcl. "And": so Edd., with ABLΔ, 1, 33, Memph. Syrsin.
Accordingly, even when the disciples ask Him, "Whence will one be able to satisfy these with bread here in a desert place?" He inquires, "How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven." The "seven" at the beginning and the end of this case refers, it would seem, not to the question of man's instrumentality (for which "twelve" is the regular symbol in Scripture), but simply to the fulness of provision, scanty in man's eyes, but complete in His eye of grace and power, as well as of that beyond the mere meeting of their present need. It is the Lord's perfect care and compassion for His people. Not only did He satisfy them, but there is completeness stamped upon the whole transaction, to the praise of His goodness and power. "They ate and were satisfied, and they took up of the fragments that remained seven hampers. And they that had eaten* were about four thousand, and He sent them away76.
*["They that had eaten"]: as ACN and later uncials, 1, 69 Latt. Syr. Arm. Goth. Edd. omit, with BL, 33, Memph.
Matthew 15:39; Mat 16:1-4.
"And immediately He went on board ship with His disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha."77 This is another point of distinction I wished to notice. On the former occasion He left His disciples and went alone; at this time He accompanies them. It has no reference to what is going on with the present dispensation, nor to His ascension in order to the exercise of priestly functions in heaven. What we here behold is the Lord's perfect care for His people, and then His presence with the disciples, watching over them and guarding them in the midst of the difficulties of a perverse generation, superstitious or sceptical, but equally unbelieving before God. For the Pharisees came forth and began to argue with Him, "seeking from Him a sign from heaven." This is most painful, for the fact of asking for the signs shows that they had no serious thought about, and no heart for, the remarkable miracles that had been wrought by the Lord. Yet they must have produced a deep and wide impression; for it was impossible that first five thousand men, beside women and children, and then four thousand, could be thus fed without the thing being noised abroad throughout the country. The question of the Pharisees, I presume, grew out of the speculation set afloat by the Lord's having wrought these miracles. At any rate, they wanted a sign from One who had provided the greatest in quantity and quality before their eyes. Could they have given a more awful proof of man's unbelief? A sign! Why, what had all the Lord's ministry been? A sign from heaven! Why, the Lord was Himself the Bread of God which cometh down from heaven; and He had been showing what He was in the-fullness of His love to His people upon. the earth. It is the capricious, rebellious heart of man, discontented with all that God gives. If God gives the fullest earthly sign, according to His word, for an earthly people, they want a sign from heaven.
The Lord treats this demand with unwonted sharpness. He says, and "groaned in His spirit" as He says, "Why doth this generation seek a sign? Verily, I say unto you, a sign shall in no wise be given to this generation. And He left them, and, going again on board ship,* departed to the other side." The Lord's refusal is very striking to my own mind. We know that their demand was not from felt sense of need, nor from desire to have that need supplied; the Lord never refused such an appeal. It was not because they were miserable sinners, not because they drew too largely upon Him They were only changing the form of their unbelief, persistently and ingeniously perverse in refusing all that God's wisdom presented. There was such a multitude and variety of signs as had never before been seen: there was the very substance of every sign in His own person; but there was neither eye to see, nor ear to hear, nor heart to receive, what God gives in Christ. He, therefore, abruptly turns from them, enters a ship, and departs to the other side. The truth is, the time for signs was nearly over. There had been abundance given; but it was never the way of God to multiply signs beyond the occasion for which they are introduced; because, although they may rouse persons at the beginning of a testimony from God, if continued afterwards, they would frustrate the moral object He has in view, if they would not lose their very character of signs. A miracle would cease to be a miracle if continually going on.
*["The ship"]: as AE, etc., 33 Syrsin pesch hcl Arm. Memph. Goth. Edd. omit, with BCLΔ and best copies of Vulgate.
But deeper than any such question was this fact the truth of God had been presented in every possible form, with all possible outward vouchers and tokens and seals, to awaken, arrest, and attract the chosen people. There was no lack of signs; it was faith they wanted. Accordingly, the Lord, when He goes to the other side, charges the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. The omission of the Sadducees is to be noticed in this place. Sadduceeism, no doubt, is a withering evil, but it is not the most dangerous. The leaven of the Pharisees, if not that of Herod also, may have a worse character and be a greater hindrance in the confession of Christ. For what is the leaven of the Pharisees? It is the cleaving to outward religious forms of any kind, which practically hide the Lord and His Christ. It is the effect of traditional influence, and may be orthodox in much; but it is religion - self - that is worshipped, rather than the true and living God known in His Son. The next is the leaven of Herod - that is, worldliness, the desire of what will give present reputation or keep up conformity to this world. These are two of the great perils Christians have to watch against. The disciples did not understand the Lord. They thought it was a question of loaves! "They reasoned with one another [saying],* [It is] because we have no bread.""' Sometimes we wonder at such stupidity in the disciples, but if we reflect on our own history, can we not discern our own dulness in understanding the Word of God, our own slowness in following and walking in His will?
*["Saying"]: as ACLN and later copies, nearly all cursives, Syr. Arm. Memph. Goth. AEth. Edd. omit, after BD.
Alas! it is too true a picture of our own hitches and difficulties. It all arises from a want of perception of the truth, and grace, and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this, again, is because we walk in such feeble self-judgment. It is our own undiscerned will that makes His mind in Scripture dark to us. If our eye were but single, if we walked in a spirit of lowly dependence, to do nothing but follow the Lord, we should find nine-tenths of our difficulties at an end. But we have an old as well as a new nature, which we do well to judge unsparingly. Through the mercy of God we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; but the old man seeks to intrude and get the upper hand, and so hinders the believer from following Christ simply and fully. This was at work among the disciples. They thought the Pharisees a respectable sort of people, and they were not prepared for their Master's sweeping condemnation. There is no deliverance from any of these obstacles and snares but in Christ; and there is no possibility of practically walking in the power of Christ unless the flesh is judged. Our Lord rebukes the disciples very decidedly: "Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart [yet]* hardened?" It was really so. Our Lord all through treats it as an affair of the heart, and not as an intellectual mistake. It is important that we should accustom ourselves to judge things from their moral roots. If we pursue a wrong course, let us beware of excusing ourselves; if we do, we never get either profit by the way or victory in the end. We must discover that which caused the mistake. What was its source? What exposed us to it? Christ was not our only motive. I believe we never do a wrong thing where Christ is the one object before us. It is not that the flesh is not in us, but it is the Holy Ghost, and not the flesh, that has power in us where Christ is the single actuating spring of the heart. What is self-indulgence or the world's esteem to a man who is filled with Christ? This is what the Apostle so earnestly sought for the Ephesian saints - "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." (Ephesians 3:17.) It was not that they might merely have Christ as their Saviour, nor only even that they might obey Christ as their Lord, but that they might have Him dwelling in their hearts by faith. It is the soul occupied with Christ to the exclusion of other objects - Christ abiding as the treasure of the heart; and what power to discern and to act according to Christ where this is so! And what is the effect of an unjudged will? Children of light though we be,. light now in the Lord, yet the light is only in Him for us, and we see it not, if we think, or speak, or act far from the Lord practically. Thus it is we neither remember His ways nor understand Himself79.
*["Yet"]: as AX, etc., 69, Amiat. Syr. Edd. omit, with BCDL, etc., 1, 33, Memph.
The cure of the blind man of Bethsaida is not only a striking, but a sweetly instructive, lesson. Our Blessed Lord shows, if I may so say, all possible interest in the case, both before the miracle was wrought and in the mode of cure. "He took the blind man by the hand, and led him forth out of the village80; and when He had spit on his eyes, and put His hands upon him, He asked him if he beheld* anything." He acts as one would who was deeply concerned, heartily entering into every detail. It is the only instance recorded in Mark of a gradual character; indeed, as far as I know, it is the great standing witness of distinct stages in curing blindness. We have in John 9 an illustrious miracle where sight was given, and not all at once, to the man blind from his birth. But there is a marked peculiarity in the case before us. The fact is that there are two things needful where a Person has not seen at all. One is the faculty of seeing, the other is the power of applying that faculty. Supposing a blind man had visual capacity conveyed to him, it does not follow that he could see thereon. He would not be able to measure distances or to judge with accuracy of the various objects before his eyes. In order to estimate aright any such object, the habit of seeing, comparing, etc., is indispensable. Not only is this true of other creatures, but of man also. We all acquire this gradually; but, growing up as it does from our infancy, it is apt to be overlooked. So true and important, however, is the practice of seeing that if a person who had never seen suddenly received his sight he would not be able at first to discern whether a thing were round or square by barely looking at it; and this though he might have been accustomed to judge of the very same things by the touch. It is a fact of much interest which seems to me to be intimated in the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida. Though the same conclusion was the deduction of human science scarce two hundred years ago,† here you have it quietly assumed in the word of God these eighteen centuries.
*"If he beheld" (lit. beholds): as ADcorrLN, etc., nearly all cursives (1, 69), Amiat. Syr. Goth. Arm. Memph. Edd. "Dost thou behold?" with BCDpmΔ, Memph.
†"I shall here insert a problem of that very ingenious and studious promoter of real knowledge, the learned and worthy Mr. Molineaux, which he was pleased to send me in a letter some months since; it is this: Suppose a man born blind, and now an adult, and taught by his touch to distinguish between a cube and a sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell, when he felt the one and the other, which is the cube, which the sphere. Suppose, then, the cube and sphere placed on a table and the blind man be made to see: query, 'Whether by his sight, before he touched them, he could now distinguish and tell which is the globe, which the cube?' to which the acute and judicious proposer answers: 'Not.' For though he has the experience of how a globe, how a cube, affects his touch, yet he has not yet obtained the experience, that what affects his touch so or so, must affect his sight so or so; or that a protuberant angle in the cube, that pressed his hand unequally, shall appear to his eye as it does in the cube. I agree with this gentleman . . . in his answer to this his problem; I am of opinion that the blind man at first sight would not be able with certainty to say which was the globe, which the cube, whilst he only saw them; though he could unerringly name them by his touch, and certainly distinguish them by the difference of their figures felt. This I have set down, and leave with my reader, as an occasion for him to consider how much he may be beholden to experience, improvement, and acquired notions, where he thinks he had not the least use of or help from them: and the rather because this observing gentleman further adds, that having, upon the occasion of my book, proposed this to divers very ingenious men, he hardly ever met with one that at first gave the answer to it which he thinks true, till by hearing his reasons they were convinced." ("Locke's Works," vol. i., p. 124, ed. 10.)
First of all, the Lord took the man by the hand and led him out of the village; next, He applied to His eyes that which came from His own mouth, and put His hands upon him. For here He is all through the true servant. It is not enough that the task is done, but the manner of doing it must be that which should glorify God and win the heart of him who is healed. What consideration, what condescension, what taking of trouble, so to speak! A word had been enough. But the Servant-Son of God enters into the case fully, and asks the patient (though He only, He perfectly well, knew all about it) "if he beheld anything" (verse 23). Even in John 9, where the eyes were anointed with a plaster of clay, and the blind man then went and washed in the pool of Siloam, the full cure followed immediately. In the case before us there was a special reason for dividing, not the miraculous remedy so much as the effect. The Lord was showing an exercise of Divine power, which at first sight seems to be not so striking as those more commonly healed by a word or a touch. The man looked up and said he beheld men, for he saw persons walking about, like trees. There is no little difference between a man and a tree, but he could not yet distinguish them (especially if, as I presume, born blind).* All was vague before him. He might, and no doubt did, in his blind estate readily discern between a tree and a man by a touch. But he had not yet learnt to apply his new-born vision, and the miracle purposely halved the cure. His mind could hardly confound the men who moved with trees, but his faculty of vision only showed that the two things were somewhat alike: they were as trees walking. It was all as yet confusion to him. There was naturally no aptitude in using with clearness the faculty he had just acquired.
*I do not think the comparison of men, indistinctly seen, with trees at all disproves his being born blind, as some infer.
"After that He put His hands again upon his eyes, and he looked steadfastly*; and he was restored, and saw all things clearly." "He hath done all things well." As that is a saying peculiar to Mark, so it is everywhere a truth illustrated in it; and it is the great point we have brought out here. It was not only that He did what He did with unfailing energy, but the manner In which He wrought was no less admirable. "He hath done all things well." Mark 7:37) And never was this more conspicuously shown than in the second application of the Lord's hands to the half-opened eyes, by which the blind man of Bethsaida was made to see all men clearly. "And He sent him to his house, saying, Neither go into the village, nor tell it to any in the village."
*"He looked steadfastly": as Edd., after BCcorrD and a few cursives. "Made him look up": so AN and later uncials, Syrsin.
Matthew 16:13-16; Luke 9:18-20.
Next (verse 27 et seq.) we have the good confession, not of the Lord before Pontius Pilate, but of Peter before the Lord, against an unbelieving generation. The Lord puts the question to His disciples: "Who do men say that I am? And they answered Him, saying,* John the Baptist; and others, Elias; but others, One of the prophets." All was uncertainty, and that is all that man ever, and in spite of busy and laborious efforts, arrives at. The painful, toilsome searching of the creature into things too high for it only ends in perplexity and bitter disappointment. It leaves a man totally short of, and utterly in the dark about, that which, after all, is the only thing of prime importance. Some say one thing, some another; but who of all the sons of men does or can say the right thing?
*"Answered": as AD, etc., all cursives, Lat. Syrhcl Arm. Goth. "Spoke": so Edd., following BC, etc., Syrpesch Memph. AEth. "Him, saying": these words T.R. omits, as AN, etc., I, Syr.
And He asked them,* But ye, who say ye that I am? And Peter answers and says to Him, Thou art the Christ81ff.." Now, we have not here, as in Matthew, the Lord pronouncing, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona." How comes that? Neither have we here, as there, the Lord's remarkable address to Peter: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My church." Why is all this difference? Because Peter is represented as simply saying here, "Thou art the Christ." Where it is added that he confessed the Lord to be "the Son of the living God," there the special notice was also given that he was blessed, "For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." A confession so singularly rich drew out the Saviour's recognition of His Father's grace to Simon Barjona. Thereon the Lord also exercises His rights, and gives him the new name of "Peter," and adds, "Upon this rock I will build My Church." He was the Son of the living God. If He had been only the Christ, the Messiah of Israel, it would not have been a sufficient basis for the Church. His Messianic dignity (in which He is also spoken of as Son of God, Ps. 2) might have been a sufficient rock for Israel, as it was their faith and hope; but "the Son of the living God" was a revelation of His glory that went far beyond it. The moment you have the Lord known and confessed in this His highest glory, He for the first time begins to announce His building of His Church. That new edifice, which takes the place of Christ-rejecting Israel, is founded upon Him who is not only the Christ, but the Son of the living God. Accordingly, death and resurrection follow as that which not only determined Him to be the Son of God with power, but gives the Christian and the Church their proper character (2 Corinthians 5:15-19; Eph. 1, 2) It is upon this rock the Church is builded. What could show more clearly that the Church is an absolutely new thing? The attempt to make out this sense of the Church in the Old Testament times proves that the true nature of God's present temple is unknown. The important thing is to see the points of distinction and contrast. Those who confound Jewish duties, and experience, and hopes with the revelation of our Lord when the people rejected Him with the fully developed display of Him in the New Testament, and the consequently new responsibilities and joys of the Christian, blot out, not all truth, but every feature that is essentially characteristic of the "one new man" (Eph. 2), and take away what is specially incumbent on the Christian and the Church of God. This, if true, demonstrates the importance for our souls of taking heed to Scripture. There are those who are so steeped in human tradition and so unversed in the dispensational ways of God that to tell them the Church was part of the mystery hidden from ages and only revealed since Pentecost would be to their minds a revival of the monstrous and wicked error of the Manichees. But the word of God is none the less positive and perfectly plain about it. And Christian men would do well to search the Scriptures, and spare their reproaches, lest haply they be found to fight against God.
*"Asked them": so Edd., with BCpmDLΔ. "Saith to them": as ACcorrN, etc., 1, 33, 69, Amiat. Goth. Arm. AEth.
Such, then, was the wide scope, answering to Peter's high confession, in Matthew. The Spirit of God in Mark merely records a. part of that confession, and as He designedly leaves out the most peculiar portion of it ("the Son of the living God"), so we have only, and with equal design, our Lord's answer in part. His being the Son of the living God, though owned, we have seen, was not, and could not be, set forth freely and fully until our Lord, by dying and rising again, put the seal, as it were, to this grand truth; and hence the Apostle Paul was the great witness of it. The first testimony that he renders in the synagogue after his conversion is, according to Acts 9:20, that Christ "is [not only made Lord, but] the Son of God." Accordingly, also, he brings out the calling, and nature, and hopes of the Church of God in a way beyond all the others.
Mark 8:31 - Mark 9:1.
Matthew 16:21-28; Luke 9:22-27.
But I would call your attention to the fact that, though here Peter only says, "Thou art the Christ," our Lord charges them that they should tell no man this thing. This He does in all the three Synoptic Gospels. It is a point of instruction much to be heeded. For, first, He had asked them, "Who say ye that I am?" Then, after He had heard the confession of His person from Peter, He binds them to tell none about it. How comes this? It was too late. Full proofs had been vouchsafed. The time was past for presenting Him longer as the Jewish Messiah83. It had been fully told the people; and who did they say He was? But now another thing is not before Him alone, but also set before the disciples - His friends. He is going away; He falls, therefore, back upon another glory that belongs to Him. Rejected as "David's Son," He is owned by faith as "the Son of the living God"; but He is also "the Son of man." He was about to be humbled even unto death, and this could only be in His human nature; even He shall once more return to earth, as the Son of man, in His glory (cf. verse 31 with verse 38) "He charged them that they should tell no man about Him. 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 of the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise. again." Thus He drops the title of "Christ," and insists upon His place as Son of man as the suffering One first, and this from the heads of Israel. He should be killed, and after three days rise again. "And He spoke the saying openly." He forbids them to make known His being the Messiah: that testimony was closed now. There was no good in talking about it; the Jews had refused Him, and would definitely, as the Messiah. He had given them every possible form and degree of testimony, and the effect was that they rejected Him, more especially their religious leaders, more and more bitterly and unbelievingly. The consequence would be His death, as He shows His disciples openly. As Son of man He was going to suffer, and as Son of man to be raised the third day, the real condition of His glory by-and-by. Accordingly, we shall find at the end of the chapter the coming again of the Son of man in glory, with His holy angels, when despisers and all unbelievers shall be made the objects of His shame: just recompense of being ashamed of Him and His words before He thus comes.
But there is another thing of vast moment to notice before we close. We have not only a proof of what man is, in the Jews, the most favoured of men; in the elders, and priests, and scribes, who only become the most active in the scorn and refusal of the Son of man; but His disciples relish not His shame. "And Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him. But He, turning round, and seeing His disciples, rebuked Peter, saying,* Get away behind Me, Satan, for thy mind is not on the things that are of God, but on the things that are of men." What a solemn lesson, that the Lord should find it needful, at such a time, when, as Matthew shows, He pronounces Simon blessed, and puts special honour on him, to rebuke him thus sternly! How worthless is the fleshly mind even in the chief of the twelve Apostles! In rebuking Peter, because of his carnal dislike of the cross of Christ, He could say, "Get away behind me, Satan," because it was flesh's unbelief, selfishness, and presumption, and not the less because veiled under a pious form. He never said to a saint, Get thee hence, as He said to the devil when he arrogated the worship due to God (cf. Matthew 4:10).† What was it that so roused our Lord? The very snare to which we are all so exposed - the desire of saving self, the preference of an easy path to the cross. Is it not true that we naturally like to escape trial, shame, and rejection; that we shrink from the suffering which doing God's will, if in such a world as this, must ever entail; that we prefer to have a quiet, respectable path in the earth - in short, the best of both worlds? How easily one may be ensnared into this! Peter could not understand why the Messiah should go through all this path of sorrow. Had we been there we might have said or thought yet worse. Peter's remonstrance was not without strong human affection. He heartily loved the Saviour, too. But, unknown to himself, there was the unjudged spirit of the world. He could not bear that their Master should be so dishonoured and so suffer. There was some unbelief of human iniquity. Could the elders, chief priests, and scribes be so wicked, after all? Moreover, there was a want of understanding that there was no other way to deliver man - that this was the only means of glorifying God about man's sin (John 13:31) Suffer the Lord must unto death, and this under God's hand as well as man's. There could be no salvation without it. And God forbid that we should glory save in the cross, whereby the world is crucified to us and we to the world. Let all know this, the people, the crowd, as well as the disciples: so said Jesus. "Whosoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me84. For whosoever shall desire to save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel's85, shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? For what should* a man give in exchange for his soul? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man also be ashamed when He shall come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels86.ff."
*"Saying": as ADXΓΠ, etc., 1, 33, 69, Old Lat., Syrhcl Goth. Arm. "And says": Edd., with BCLΔ, Memph.
†In Luke 4:8, "Get thee behind Me, for," is a mere interpolation (B.T.).
The verse which opens chapter 9 clearly belongs to the discourse at the end of chapter 8. Our Lord's promise was fulfilled on "the holy mount." Some of those who stood as He spoke were permitted to see "the kingdom of God come in power88." The reference to the siege and destruction of Jerusalem is arbitrary and incongruous. The special form of the promise is worthy of note. In Matthew it is "the Son of man coming in His kingdom"; in Luke it is simply "the kingdom of God." In the former the personal title of the Lord, as the rejected but glorious man, and so coming in His kingdom, is made prominent; in the latter it is the moral character, as usual, of that display which the chosen witnesses were privileged to behold - the kingdom of God, not of man. Mark, on the other hand, was led to speak of the kingdom of God coming in power. The same substantial truth appears in all; each presents it so as to suit the Divine design of the Gospels respectively. In our Gospel the Blessed Lord is ever the administrator in power of God's kingdom, and even here, in giving expression to this promised sample of the kingdom, hides His glory as much as possible, though in truth He could not be hid.
*"Should": so Edd., with BL, Memph. "Shall" is in ACD, all cursives, and Lat.
NOTES ON MARK 8.
76Mark 8:1-9. - Cf, parallel in Matthew. Having had in chapter 6 the record of the feeding of five thousand men, we here meet with the description of another like work of power in behalf of four thousand persons. This time it is not JESUS in the character of Messiah among Israelites as such. The significance of numbers in Scripture is allowed more or less by even German writers (as Ewald); it is illustrated here by the difference between seven baskets as compared with twelve in the previous case, appropriate in a Jewish connection. Chapter 6 sets before us that which was dispensational; in chapter 8 we find the Lord acting as "Creator and Preserver of all mankind." This was seen of old by Hilary amongst others (see Trench).
Modern critics, who never rest on their oars in the quest of novelties, find a "doublet" here. Menzies, amongst British writers, treats the two accounts as only different versions of the same incident. As in most other questions of criticism, our scholars, for the most part, are content to echo the Germans. Wernle ("Sources," p. 66) offers the hypothesis that Mark "was told something of the kind twice over," and will have it that "the similarity of the two accounts is disguised by the interposition of other stories." B. Weiss, adhering to the distinction between them - which it requires only "eyes to see" (see below, note 79) - supposes that there were divergencies in the "Petrine tradition." What a balanced English writer of the first rank says on the subject may be seen by consulting Sanday ("Outlines," p. 123).
77Mark 8:10. - Dalmanutha: mentioned here alone in the Gospels. Its site being unknown, the place is marked conjecturally in Perthes' Gotha map between Capernaum and Magdala.
78Mark 8:14-16. - Wellhausen, in loc., makes the odd confession: "I do not know whether εἰ μὴ ἕνα ἄρτον οὐκ is Greek." It is perfectly good Greek, although of the Hellenistic type. This Semitic scholar is not as much at home in the New Testament Greek as in the Old Testament Hebrew.
79Mark 8:19 f. - The baskets in the earlier miracle were κόφινοι (hand-baskets); in the second, σπυρίδες (hampers). This closely accurate distinction has been often remarked, as by E. J. Holtzmann ("Manual Commentary," p. 191). Some have supposed that it militates against the theory of essentially oral tradition (Burkitt, p. 35).
80Mark 8:23. - Why "out of the village"? Trench answers, that the man might be more receptive of deep and lasting impressions ("Miracles," p. 376). For Bethsaida being the place, Greenleaf compares Matthew 11:21.
81Mark 8:27-30. - Cf., of course, parallels in Matt. 16 and Luke 9. This passage has been somewhat anticipated in note 30.
82Mark 8:29. - The literature now most in vogue ignores the impressions which must have been left on those disciples who had come to Christ in the first instance through John, by his testimony to Messiah (John 1:34-51). Difference of judgment as to the historical value of the fourth Gospel becomes vital. How is one to understand their alacrity in Mark 1:16-20, which implies belief in some human testimony, but for John's narrative? That belief has now ripened into conviction, issuing in confession, which is Divine (Schlottmann, p. 111).
Martineau (most original of the English school) held that the Lord never Himself claimed to be Messiah; that it was "a position made for Him and palmed upon Him by His followers" ("Seat of Authority," p. 331 f.). Réville calls this "proving too much" (ii. 185). Harnack has sense enough to abstain from this negation ("What is Christianity?" p. 133); for the Berlin professor the entry into Jerusalem is decisive.
83Mark 8:30. - Another novelty, for which the author, however, has not succeeded in gaining much acceptance, is that of Wrede ("The Messiah Secret," p. 114), that the Lord kept secret His Messianic claim as long as He was upon earth; that it began to be realised only after His resurrection (Acts 2:30). As to this, any able to use it might consult the book of J. Weiss (p. 45).
The sceptical fads do not stop there. H. J. Holtzmann (on Mark 2:18) finds another "I" besides "the proper I," because the Lord uses the third person. So Wellhausen (Introduction, p. 97). It is easy to understand the changed form of speech in the light of the transition from "the Christ" to the "Son of man," especially as Sufferer (Mark 9:31, Mark 10:33), explained in these Lectures. Cf. those on Matthew, pp. 352, 443.
84Mark 8:34. - Adeney well notes on εἴ τις θέλει, κ.τ.λ., that the renunciation Christ looks for is not merely that of a besetting sin, but of self.
85Mark 8:35. - "For My sake and the Gospel's" (Cf. Mark 10:29). It is only in this Gospel we find the words italicised. They illustrate Mark's point of view, in which service is dominant. Not entering into this, Carpenter (p. 186) and Wellhausen can only suggest the influence of Pauline ideas on the form ultimately taken by Marks Gospel. The temptation to assimilate the other accounts seems not to have asserted itself in respect of these words. - As to alleged absence of claims of the SON from the Synoptic Gospels, see Mason, Cambridge Essays, p. 443.
86Mark 8:38. - Farrar shows from this that "Son of man" was not a synonym of "Messiah" ("Life of Christ," p. 333). But he seems not to have apprehended its full significance.
87 Ibid. - None of Christ's disciples are to be ashamed of His words - e.g., in Mark 9:48, Mark 13:32. All are exhorted by one of His Apostles to "contend earnestly for the faith" (Judges 1:3), without regard to such restraint as suggested by Bishop Moorhouse's "self-appointed champions of the faith" ("The Teaching of Christ"). Those so criticized may take courage from 1 Corinthians 16:15: ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς ("consecrated themselves"). Some of the official leaders act a very unworthy part at the present day.
As to exaltation of the Son of man, cf. 13: 26, 14: 62.
I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat:
And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.
And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?
And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.
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.
And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.
So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.
And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.
And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.
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.
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.
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?
And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.
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.
And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.
After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.
And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.
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?
And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.
And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.
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.
And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
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.
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.
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.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
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.