Mark’s Gospel Chapter 8
Bible study notes, originally posted on Facebook in 2010
Jesus continues to be hounded by the masses and unable to escape from his reputation, maybe even unable to escape from his own actions. Most of the miracles are requested or forced, 6.51 (Jesus walking on the sea of Galilee and the storm) may stand out, and is possibly even coincidental. There is no indication what Jesus would do if not constrained, nor much indication of his feelings for those he heals. Logic might suggest that if he could have stopped working miracles he would have done so to avoid stirring up the feelings of the masses. Interestingly, he does feel compassion for the foodless crowd (8.1–3). In the midst of this particular sign the religious leaders come asking for a sign, obviously not recognising anything that has happened before. Jesus states that there will be no sign, presumably a miracle to order, just for them. Again the disciples have no idea what is going on. If the author continues to stress this it indicates deliberateness rather than accuracy. He intends us to see through the disciples’ supposed ignorance so that we can appreciate the plainness of Jesus’ words. This therefore suggests that the sequence of events is contrived ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Have you no inkling yet? Do you still not understand? Are your minds closed? You have eyes: can you not see? You have ears: can you not hear? Have you forgotten?’ (8.17,18). The disciples recite the number of loaves involved but with no understanding, another Gnostic moment. Jesus’ next miracle is a two stage cure (his only one). The account is quite bald, we do not hear what the man does after Jesus sends him on his way. Any more words would be redundant after Jesus’ last speech.
Next, and without either Jesus or the author telling us why, Jesus begins to quiz the disciples about his status. It follows Jesus telling the healed man to keep things to himself and the lack of any response. This must therefore be a turning point in the Gospel. Peter suggests that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is non-committal, enjoining silence once again. He tells the disciples of the fate of the ‘Son of Man’, including his resurrection. He speaks ‘plainly’ and his words are not well received. Jesus rebukes Peter, ‘Out of my sight, Satan! You think as men think, not as God thinks’ (8.33). There is some commonality between ‘Satan’ and human beings. Jesus was trying to encourage the disciples to think like God, hence his questions and his plain speaking. Following this, Jesus (and the author) put the disciples on the same footing as the masses, speaking less than plainly, ‘whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will save it’ (8.35). He mentions the Son of Man again who is associated with ‘the glory of his Father [and] the holy angels’ (8.38).