I am so excited about being able to teach this chapter of Scripture this coming Monday to my preschool teachers. We have already walked through 7 chapters of the Gospel of Mark. It has been life changing to experience the life and ministry of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I just think that it is so neat for people who have been in church for most of their lives jump into the Gospel passages and study them inductively for the first time. If you know me, you know that I love to study and teach the Bible inductively. I believe it is the Biblical way. We see the idea of questions being asked by the teacher and students responding to those questions with the Biblical text. The best example is the Apostle Paul. In his epistles, he asks questions and then anticipates the answer, or, he gives the Biblical answer and then anticipates your next question based on the previous, Biblical answer. We also see this method used by him in Acts. The verb “to reason” from the Scriptures is used 10 different times in Acts. In order to understand this concept, we must understand the meaning of the verb “to reason” as used in the Biblical text. It means to converse in the form of question and answer. The teacher asks the questions and the students respond with answers from the text. This is not a lecture or a sermon. This is not an argument over the meaning of words and phrases. This is a form of inductive Bible study, a method that means “going into the text to find the answers”. This method places the speaker and the audience under the authority of the text. Now that we chased that little rabbit, let’s move our attention back to Mark 8 and see what we can discover. But, before we begin, if you have not been following the series, you can read the previous lessons here:
- Jesus: Experiencing His Life and Ministry
- Jesus the Rescuing Teacher
- The unpardonable sin
- The parable of the sower and the seed
- Failing Faith needs a Faithful Friend
- Jesus serves individuals
- Discipleship according to Jesus
- Genuine faith honors Scripture over Religious Traditions
I. Clearly manifested signs
There are two clear signs manifested in Mark 8. The first sign is the feeding of the 4,000. The second clearly manifested sign was the healing of the blind man. In our previous lessons in Mark, we learned that every time Jesus performed a miracle or showed a sign to the people, it was done to get their attention so that He could teach them spiritual truths. We learned in Mark 1 that Jesus’ message to the people was as follows:
- the time is now
- the kingdom of heaven is available
- receive forgiveness/release
- receive peace
- follow Jesus
- learn to make disciples
Jesus fed the people because He felt compassion on them. They had been with Him for 3 days and He had been teaching nonstop about the kingdom of heaven. They were physically exhausted and in need of food. The word compassion means “to suffer with”. In other words, Jesus felt for them and with them. He had pity on them. He was probably even more exhausted than they were because He was the One who had been doing all of the teaching. Not only was Jesus interested in their spiritual well being, He was also interested in their physical well being. In this case, Jesus had compassion on the crowd. In the second sign, Jesus had compassion for the individual. Jesus healed a blind man. Again, although the text does not tell us that Jesus had a spiritual discussion with this man, we know from the previous chapters, when Jesus met a physical need, He always preached the Gospel. The outline can be seen above.
II. The Pharisees’ teaching
Jesus warns the disciples to avoid the teaching of the Pharisees. They came to Jesus and demanded to see a sign, presumably so that they would believe. We know that this was a lie because earlier in Mark, Jesus accused them of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. They saw a clear sign from Jesus, unable to deny that it was the work of God and they attributed that sign to Satan. Jesus cast out a demon by the power of God. The Pharisees saw the sign and instead of believing, they accused Jesus of being demonically possessed. The teaching of the Pharisees is hypocritical. They say things that they feel that the listener wants to hear, although, inwardly, they have hidden motives in doing what they do. They are not asking questions seeking answers. They are asking questions to trap or to set someone up so that they can use the answer against the person. In other words, their teaching is based on deceit and it teaches the audience to live deceptive lives. The teaching of the Pharisees lacks faith. They see things with their eyes but they do not believe. They choose not to believe. Their teaching focuses on the physical things of this world and is void of the spiritual. They deny Jesus as being the Messiah. They do this before men. They are outside of the kingdom of heaven and they keep others from entering the kingdom of heaven. The Pharisees’ teaching is not much different from the teachings of Herod. The Pharisees were just better at covering up their sinful life. The followers of the teaching of Herod lived openly sexually immoral lives. Both of these teachings destroyed people and that is why Jesus tells them to stay away from what they teach. The Pharisees taught a form of godliness but denied the power of God. They were far from God. In order to keep from falling into the teachings of the Pharisees and Herod, the disciples needed to follow the teachings of Jesus.
III. Jesus’ teaching
In Mark 8, Jesus outlines two teachings that anyone who wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven needed to follow. First, they needed to confess Jesus before men. The verb “to confess” means to agree with whomever you are confessing. The confession is given by Peter. Before we look at Peter’s confession, let’s take a moment to clarify who Jesus is not, based on the question that He asks the disciples and the answers that they give back to Him. Jesus is not just another religious figure in the long line of religious figures among the people of Israel. Jesus is not just a simple prophet. He is not just a great teacher. Although Jesus is a religious figure, a prophet, and an amazing teacher, He is much, much more than that. Many people will agree with you if you say Jesus is a great religious figure. They will also agree with you if you call Jesus a great teacher or a great prophet. The story changes when you say that Jesus is God, the Promised God who would come to this earth to save people from their sins. Many, many of those same people who agreed with the previous statements will not and cannot accept this statement. This is exactly what Peter said when he said that Jesus is the Christ. The word Christ is a title. In the Hebrew language, the title is Messiah. Jesus claimed to be the Promised God who would come to the earth to rescue His creation. Entrance into the kingdom of heaven depends on this confession. We must confess that Jesus is God. The second teaching that we see Jesus give to us in this text is that we must put our confession into action by choosing to follow Him, to trust Him, to accept Him. How do we accept Christ based on this passage? We deny ourselves. This is the essence of repentance. I am going the wrong way and Jesus changes my mind. I simply stop. The next is to take up the cross. This means that I accept the path in life that Jesus sets before me for the rest of my life. The path that He sets before me is to follow Him. If we choose to do this, we will lose our lives but we will gain eternal life. If we reject this to save our lives, we may gain the whole world, but, we will ultimately forfeit our souls.
Are you following the teachings of the Pharisees or are you following the teachings of Jesus Christ? Have you confessed Jesus before men by denying yourself, taking up your cross, and choosing to follow Jesus? Could you be in a church your entire life and follow the teachings of the Pharisees? This is the difference between eternal life and eternal condemnation. If you have never answered the call to follow Jesus as His disciple, please do not wait. If you are in a church and are not being taught to follow Jesus in the process of discipleship, as Jesus says, avoid the teaching of the Pharisees. May the Lord help us listen and understand His great calling for us to follow Him!