Mark 8:22-38

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

August 9, 2012)


The last part of Mark 8 contains three major movements:

·         Verses 22-26 – A miraculous healing

·         Verses 27-30 – An amazing confession

·         Verses 31-38 – A difficult teaching


A Miraculous Healing (Verses 22-26)

This is only one of two miracles, the other being in Mark 7:31-37, that are unique to the Gospel of Mark.  It is also the only miracle of Jesus recorded in the New Testament that is gradual in nature, taking place in two steps.  Sight in the Scripture is often a metaphor for spiritual understanding.  The occurrence of this miracle just after Jesus’ rebuke of the disciples for their lack of understanding and just before Peter’s great confession about Him is an indication that this event had as much to do with the disciples as with the man who was healed.


The following notes are from Bob Utley’s excellent study guide:  The Gospel According to Peter:  Mark and I & II Peter:

8:22 “a blind man” One of Isaiah’s prophecies about the Messiah was that He would bring sight to the blind (cf. Isa. 29:18–35:5; 42:7, 16, 18, 19).

Physical blindness is an OT metaphor for spiritual blindness (cf. Isa. 56:10; 59:10). This same play on physical and spiritual blindness is graphically seen in John 9. This is obviously related to the disciples’ blindness in 8:15, 18.

8:23 “brought him out of the village” This was for the purpose of putting the man at ease and keeping the healing a secret (cf. 7:33; 8:26).

“spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him” These were both cultural ways of healing, one physical and one spiritual. It was meant to build the man’s faith. See Special Topic: Laying On of Hands at 7:32.

8:24 “ ‘I see men, for I see them like trees’ ” Jesus was not limited in power, but was working with this man’s faith. This is the only partial healing or healing in stages that is recorded in the Gospels.

8:25 This verse starts with Jesus laying hands on the man’s eyes. Then the action switches to the man (cf. NJB). He must focus and look intently (cf. Matt. 7:5). When he cooperates, his sight immediately is restored.

8:26 This refers to Mark’s repeated references to Jesus emphatically telling people He healed not to broadcast their healing. The Textus Receptus (i.e. KJV or NKJV) even adds a phrase making this more specific. Jesus did not want to be known as a healer. He used healing to show the mercy of God, build the disciples’ faith, and confirm His teaching ministry.[1]


Blindness was an all too common occurrence in the ancient middle east...due to the fact that people didn't know the importance of protecting their eyes from the intense glare of the sun in that arid region and also due to fact knew very little about hygiene...a number of biblical commentators point out wasn't unusual to see person in that culture with diseased eyes crusted over and with flies making their home in the eye sockets...don't share that to sicken or shock you, but to emphasize a blind person in ancient days was often a repulsive sight...people would naturally withdraw from them...


And that’s a reminder of how we look, in our sin and rebellion, to God.  As Paul says in Romans, our righteousness is like filthy rags in God’s site.  But this event is a graphic reminder of how God chooses to relate to us in our spiritual blindness.


Notice what the first part of v.23 says..."And taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village..." ...can't you just see the compassion in that simple act...a man that others were probably afraid to touch, Jesus takes by the hand...and it wasn't just brief handshake...he held man's hand and gently guided him away from the village so he wouldn't become a public spectacle...picture of Jesus gently leading this blind man is picture of how He desires relate to us and how He desires that we relate to each other...


And Jesus’ patience in walking this man through the steps of the healing process is a picture of His patience with us in our journey from spiritual immaturity toward spiritual maturity.


Last weekend had two of grandchildren with us.  Our grandson was acting like a six year old when I wanted for him to act like an adult.  Must confess I became very upset and somewhat impatient with him.  As I got a little further away from that incident, couldn’t help but think that I’m glad God doesn’t relate to me in that way!  Thankfully, we have, in Jesus, a patient Lord!


This event reminds me that God has great patience with us...when we mess up...when we don't get it right...we when stumble and fall...when we get our priorities confused as we often do, Jesus doesn't give up on us...He doesn't write us off...with unending patience He keeps encouraging us, He keeps holding our hand, and He keeps leading until we do get it right...



An Amazing Confession (Verses 27-30)

This event is a watershed event in the Gospel of Mark. The miracle stories that affirm the power, authority, and deity of Jesus cease. From this point on the emphasis is the crucifixion. Mark’s Gospel changes from a focus on who He is to His great redemptive act (i.e. what He did).[2]

Surprising, that since Mark is the Gospel as told by Peter and since Peter is the central character in this exchange with Jesus, that there is not more detail in this account.  Actually, Matthew’s account of this event (see Matthew 16:13-20) provides more details.


I want to make several general observations about his event:

·         The location of this event is particularly interesting.  Caesarea Philippi was a great center of pagan was about a two days journey north of the Sea of Galilee…it is a beautiful area at the base of Mt. Hermon and was known as a place of retreat, worship, and reflection…in this area the three dominate pagan religions of the first century world converged...

o   Caesarea Philippi was actually a part of ancient Syria...the Syrians worshiped Baal, the god of fertility...temples to Baal dotted the countryside much like churches dot the countryside in our part of the world...

o   Just outside Caesarea Philippi is a steep solid rock cliff... in the face of the cliff is a cavern with a very large opening ...Greek mythology says that cavern was the birthplace of Pan, the Greek god of nature...along the face the cliff near the large cavern you can see little altars carved out by ancient people where they would place their offerings to Pan...

o   Caesarea Philippi was a Roman city, which is obvious from its name...the Romans considered Caesar to be god... in Caesarea Philippi was a great, white marble temple dedicated to Caesar…

Interestingly, Jesus took His disciples into the very heart of pagan culture to make their confession about Him.  Important lesson in that for us...we live in world with conflicting opinions about the essence, the heart, the most important thing in life...while people in our culture may not worship Baal or Pan or Caesar, many of us do worship at the altars of money or education or beauty or power or prestige... and in midst of world like that, we are called to confess that Jesus is the Christ...

·         Many biblical scholars point to this event as the beginning of the the parallel passage in Matthew, Jesus said that on the confession "Thou art the Christ" that  He would build His church...and that is the first use of the word church in the New Testament... 

·         The word Christ is not a name for Jesus, but a you may know, Christ is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew word Messiah which means "anointed one" calling Jesus "the Christ" the disciples were saying Jesus is the One for whom Israel had been waiting...the popular conception among the Jews is that the Christ would be a superhuman leader who would gather God's people, make Jerusalem the center of world power, and establish the perfect reign of God upon the other words, they were expecting Jesus to establish a political, military kingdom...

·         It was for that reason Jesus instructed them in v.30 "to tell no one about Him."...while they were correct in identifying Him as the Messiah, did not yet understand that He came to establish not a political kingdom in the world but a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of people...

You'll notice Jesus asked the disciples two questions in this passage...first, in v. 27 He asked "Who do people say that I am?"...suspect they discussed that question at length on the two day journey to Caesarea Philippi...but when they arrived at the place Jesus wanted to take them, asked a second, far more important question...NASB translates the question in v.29 "But who do you say that I am?"...not really a strong enough translation of the person translates the question in v.29 this way:  "You--what do you  think of Me?"  That is a reminder that ultimately, Christianity is very boils down to the question of "What do I say about Jesus?" and "How will I respond to Him?"  One writer put it this way:  "A [person] might know every verdict that has ever been passed on Jesus; he might know every Christology that the mind of man has ever thought out; he might be able to give a competent summary of the teaching about Jesus of every great thinker and theologian -- and still not be a Christian.  Christianity never consists in knowing about Jesus; it always consists in knowing Jesus.  Jesus Christ demands a personal verdict...He asks every [person]: 'You--what do you think of me?'" [William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew]


A Difficult Teaching (Verses 31-38)

In previous paragraph the disciples correctly identify Jesus as the long awaited Messiah... as the One God had promised generations before to send to soon as they made that identification, Jesus began to explain to them kind of Messiah would be...three times, once in Mark 8, 9, and 10 Jesus told them He would suffer and die...


That concept was so alien to them, so different from their expectations of what the Messiah would do, they refused to believe matter of fact, Peter took Jesus aside and actually rebuked Him for saying such a thing!...and some of harshest words Jesus ever spoke were in response to verse 33 Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind Me Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”   


And then He dropped a real bombshell on them...said, "Not only am I going to suffer and die, but if you're going to be my followers you must be willing to do the same."...listen to what He told them in v.34 - "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." 

he must deny himself” This implies “to deny,” “to disown,” “to renounce,” or “to disregard” (cf. Matt. 16:24; 20:35, 75; Mark 8:34; 14:30, 32, 72; Luke 9:23; 12:9; 23:34, 61; John 13:38).  This is not denying “things” to oneself.  It is saying no to self and yes to God!

 “take up his cross” This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. This phrase “take up your cross” referred to a condemned criminal having to carry his own crossbar to the place of crucifixion. This was a cultural metaphor for a painful, shameful death. In this context it refers to “death to our old sin nature.” The gospel is a radical call for once-and-for-all followship/discipleship (cf. Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Luke 9:23; 14:27; 17:33; John 12:25). As Jesus laid down His life for others, so we must follow His example (cf. II Cor. 5:14–15; Gal. 2:20; I John 3:16).

“and follow Me” This is PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. This is the language of rabbinical discipleship. Christianity is a decisive choice followed by continual discipleship (cf. Matt. 28:19–20; Eph. 2:8–10).[3]


The implication of that statement to the disciples was quite clear... didn't spiritualize what Jesus saying as we often do when refer to some burden or hardship as "our cross to bear"...understood these words very them cross meant one and only one thing -- death! was an instrument of execution and nothing else...knew Jesus saying, "If you're going to be my follower you must so thoroughly identify with me that you are willing to go anywhere I go, even to the cross."


And, ironically, when we fail to make that kind of commitment, we set in motion the process which ultimately will result in our separation from God and the loss of anything worthwhile or valuable about our lives...what Jesus meant in verse 35 when said, "For whoever wishes to shave his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?"


Look at verse38..."For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."...when first began study passage in depth, almost seemed out of place...on surface seems be almost direct contradiction of last verse of paragraph at which looked last week where Jesus "warned them to tell no one about Him."  But when look at this statement in larger context of this part of Mark, makes perfect sense...when they found the courage to verbalize what they had been thinking and hoping and praying inwardly --that Jesus was the Messiah and when He didn't rebuke them for saying that but affirmed their opinion they were excited...couldn't wait to tell others who He was because they thought the long awaited rebellion against Rome with God's special military/political leader in charge was about to begin...but when they discovered He wasn't going to be that kind of Messiah, but that He was going to suffer and die in Jerusalem, their enthusiasm for telling others about Him vanished.  Jesus reminds them in this verse that if they are really His followers, they will not be ashamed of Him or His teaching... instead, they will proclaim Him to the world.

[1] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (93–94). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[2] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (94). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[3] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (96). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.