Part 7 in our study of the Gospel of Mark covers chapter 8. This time we’ll see the feeding of 4,000 and compare it to the earlier feeding of 5,000, a different event. We’ll also discover why, on only one occasion, the Lord had to make two attempts to heal a blind man. And we’ll learn that some actions, while well intended and of pure motives, can actually be the work of Satan.
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So this time we’re in the study of Mark and it’s chapter 8 now. The Gospel According to Mark.
Mark 8:1 says:
During those days another large crowd gathered.
Those days being the days when Jesus was going around the countryside preaching the Good News.
Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
And that certainly is true. We know from our previous studies that they were coming from all over the countryside, some of them had walked two or three days just to get to where He was, and then they stayed with Him for all that time. In those days, you know there wasn’t a 7-Eleven on every corner, there were no Starbucks, nothing like that where you could stop and get a snack. I mean you were supposed to take care of that for yourself, and so there was nothing there.
On verse 4:
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
Now this is an interesting question, because a little while back they had fed 5,000 people, hadn’t they? And where did they get the bread for that one? And so, either this is a rhetorical question where Jesus was being told by His disciples, You fed them before, feed them again. Or they haven’t understood it yet. We’ll find out which is which as we go along here.
Verse 5, Jesus said:
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
Okay, so this is different now from the Feeding of the 5,000—that’s going to become clear to us, and you notice the numbers are different, the location is different, everything about this is different. But the two miracles are meant to be seen side-by-side.
In the Feeding of the 5,000, we had a significant number, which is the number five, which is the number that’s associated in the Scripture with grace. Five is the number of grace.
I don’t know if you’ve ever done any studies on numbers in Scripture, but there are books written on this, and there’s a fascinating study you can get into on the use of numbers in Scripture. And it’s not that people manipulate the numbers to fit the meaning, because the meanings of these numbers weren’t discovered until many years later.
It’s that the Lord organized things in such a way that certain numbers of people were present, or certain number of things happened, or certain number of events took place. And by looking at the number that’s involved and knowing what the significance of particular numbers are, you can get more insight.
There’s a whole book that you can get into on this called “Numbers in Scripture” and it’s written by E. W. Bullinger. It’s a great book; if you’re led to this kind of a study, I would recommend you start there. You can read the book online, and you can follow his teachings on this, E.W. Bullinger. Some of his other works I’m not quite so fond of, but I really like the study he’s done on numbers.
We’ll just go through a few of these quickly and give you the idea.
In Deuteronomy 6:5, the Lord said:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
All right? So, the number one stands for God.
Again in Deuteronomy it says:
A thing will be established on the testimony of two witnesses.
So, two is the number of witness. If you see the same story being told by two different people, that tells you that the Lord is emphasizing the fact that this is a true story, because He’s got two witnesses telling the same story.
The number of the Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
The number of the Earth. Because on the fourth day of creation, the Earth was formed. You know, it had the land and the sea, and everything was done that pertains to the Earth itself on the fourth day. (On the fifth day, you got the fish and the birds and the animals; the sixth day you got man; the seventh day He rested.) But on day four, the creation itself, the Earth, was finished. So four is the number of the Earth, so keep that in mind, because we’re feeding how many people here? Four thousand.
The number of grace.
The number of man, because on the sixth day, man came along. And of course, you put six (the number of man), and you add one (the number of God), and you have seven.
The number of divine completion.
The Antichrist’s number is 666. He’s one short, isn’t he? And that one is God. Man without God is short; there are lots of things you could say about man, but we can leave that one at that point.
So seven is the number of divine completion. On the seventh day, the Lord rested because everything was finished.
Eight is the number that comes after seven, and that makes eight the number of the new beginning. Eight is the number of the new beginning.
Nine is the number of spiritual gifts there are in 1 Corinthians 12, so nine has been associated with the Holy Spirit.
It took ten families to start a synagogue, so ten is considered the number of completion from an Earthly perspective.
The number of confusion. When Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord and killed himself, that left eleven disciples, and they got confused for a little while. They elected a twelfth member who you never hear of again. But pretty soon, God came along with His choice for number twelve, the apostle Paul, and then great things started to happen. Eleven the number of confusion.
The number of government.
And I could go on, you know, and go all the way through to huge numbers, but you get the idea. If you like this concept, you can do some studies; there are special things that happen when you put numbers together. Remember in the Feeding of the 5,000, there were five loaves and two fish. So you got five, the grace of God, two, the number of witness. It equals seven, completion. And you can really get obsessed with this, we’ll try not to do that.
So, what have we got here? We got 4,000, four is the number of the Earth. Now, in the Feeding of the 5,000, we talked about the fact that this was aimed at Israel—it happened in Israel, it happened around Passover, it happened with a Jewish group, if you will.
And in the Feeding of the 5,000 God was showing, through the Lord Jesus, was showing that He was able to take care of Israel, to see to their needs if they would just rely on Him.
In the Feeding of the 4,000 He’s saying that’s true for the whole world, not just for Israel. It’s true for the whole world. How many loaves of bread did they have in this one? Seven, the number of divine completion; seven loaves is all that was necessary.
When they got done, verse 8 says:
The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces
In the Feeding of the 5,000 they had twelve basketfuls, one representing each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Here, they have seven baskets left over; seven again—sufficiency, divine completion. There was enough left over so that everybody gets enough. So, you get the idea?
In both of these miracles, the Lord was showing us that He was capable of following through on His promise in the Sermon on the Mount, that if you will seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, He will take care of your needs.
You remember in that, He said, Don’t worry about what you’re going to eat, don’t worry about what you’re going to wear. Don’t worry about these things, the Lord knows you need these. He says, Your job is to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness. His job is to provide for our needs.
And so that’s something that we are to remember, it’s something that we are to keep in mind, especially in turbulent times—anybody hear of any turbulence in the world lately? Especially in turbulent times, there’s no effective strategy. There’s no way to get through this, there’s no way to beat the system on this, because nobody knows where things are going.
But what the Lord said was, Don’t worry about it, don’t worry. He said, Seek My Kingdom and My righteousness and I will take care of you.
He didn’t say, I may take care of you.
He didn’t say, I’ll help you out; if you get desperate, call Me and if I have anything left I’ll send it along. He didn’t say that. He said you seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, and He will provide these other things, which were food, clothing—what you’re going to wear, what you’re going to eat, what you’re going to drink, and so on.
Alright, so that is the message here of this Feeding of 4,000. But this didn’t apply just to the Jews in Israel, because here we’re talking about Gentile country. Remember, He is way up north, He’s up in an area called the Decapolis. He’s been over into Lebanon (what we know as Lebanon today), He’s come down through the Decapolis, went from the Golan Heights east into areas that we know as Jordan today and Syria, and so He was up there in the north area, Gentile country.
And so in this Feeding of the 4,000 He is saying, Just as I earlier demonstrated My willingness and ability to take care of Israel’s needs, I have the willingness and the ability to take care of all the needs of all the world if you’ll just seek My Kingdom and My righteousness.
So, verse 11:
The Pharisees came
That’s always good, isn’t it?
And they began to question Jesus. And to test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.
You understand, He’s just fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread. 4,000 men, by the way, there were women and children there who weren’t counted; 4,000 men plus women and children. He’s done that with seven loaves of bread and a few fish, and He had a bunch left over—and they want a sign from Heaven!
And you can understand verse 12 when it says:
He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
Now, if you read the same account in Matthew 16, you’ll find that there’s a little more detail involved. And let’s go back there and read that, Matthew 16, because I want you to, first of all, get the extra detail and, secondly, show you why Mark didn’t include it.
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
And here’s how He replied this time. He says:
“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’
And that’s the origin, by the way, of the saying “red sky night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning” because if you see a red sky at night, you’re going to have a clear day tomorrow, for the most part. If you wake up in the morning and see a red sky, that means there’s a lot of cloud overcast and it’s likely to rain. So that’s where that came from.
Then He said:
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
He was telling them that the signs are all around them. Just like the signs in the sky that they were using to predict the weather, He was saying, signs that were just as obvious were available to them concerning Him. He’s done all these miracles, He’s performed in the ways the prophets spoke in such a specific manner that it was impossible not to see it. You had to refuse to see it. And this, of course, is what they had done.
So in verse 4:
A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
Now, the sign of the prophet Jonah, right? Earlier He had said, “For just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights,” Speaking of the resurrection.
That would be the sign. In that one—that’s earlier, in Matthew—and there He was saying, If you’re looking for a sign, you’re not going to really know this for sure until after it’s too late to do anything about it.
Here He just says “The sign of Jonah.”In Mark, He doesn’t mention the sign of Jonah because, you remember, Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience—Jonah was one of their prophets; the story of Jonah and the Whale was one of the stories from their history. Mark was writing to Gentiles, he was writing to the Romans, basically, he was writing to the Church in Rome; and they were Gentiles, they didn’t know anything about the prophet Jonah, they didn’t know anything about the belly of the whale, that wouldn’t have been meaningful to them.And so that’s why in Mark it says you’re not going to get a sign.
So that’s the difference there.
Now let’s go over to verse 14:
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
[laughs] I wonder where the seven baskets that they just had went! Anyway they had forgotten to bring, and they’re going back to the other side of the lake, it says in verse 13, did I read you that?
Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
So He’s crossing back over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, this would be over now on the Tiberias side, the western side.
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied.
“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Now, they didn’t answer this question, but again, in Matthew 16:12, it says that:
Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
And the reason they understood that is because He is saying to them, Didn’t we just feed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread? And weren’t there twelve basketful left over? And then didn’t we just feed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread? And weren’t there seven basketfuls of bread?
And then in the King Jack Version it says:
Don’t you understand it’s no problem getting bread? [laughs] I mean, when we need bread we can get bread! Haven’t you seen that? Don’t you understand that? It’s not bread I’m talking about! I’m talking about the false teachings of the Pharisees.
All right, down to verse 12:
They came to Bethsaida,
This is where He had fed the 5,000, so they’re back there now.
And some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”
Now, this is the only place where you’ll see the Lord having to try something twice in order to get it done, and it wasn’t because He lacked the power. It wasn’t because He didn’t have the ability, but there is a reason, and this miracle is designed to show something about how things were going to work.
Let’s turn to Romans 11:25 and I’ll show you what I mean.
Romans 11:25. Paul writing to the Church in Rome says:
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, my brothers
Now in Greek the word mystery meant a revealed secret. So when he uses the word “mystery” he is saying, I’m revealing something that has been secret.
Just like in 1 Corinthians 15 when he said, Listen I tell you a mystery: We’re not all going to die. Some of us are going to go right straight from here to the Kingdom.
He says, “I tell you a mystery.” What he means is, I’m revealing a secret to you that hasn’t been announced before.
This is how we know that Jesus never taught about the Rapture, because Paul said, I’m revealing this to you for the first time now. This was in 50 AD when he wrote the letter to the Corinthians. You look for the teachings by Jesus on the Rapture in Gospels, you won’t find any, because He never spoke of the Rapture. The Rapture was not revealed on Earth until 20 years after the cross.
Otherwise Paul was telling us an untruth when he said he was revealing the secret to us. You understand that? So if you’ve been taught Rapture doctrine based on Matthew 24, the Olivet Discourse, it’s not accurate. Jesus never taught about the Rapture! He never taught about the Rapture, He never spoke about it.
The Rapture was given to Paul to reveal. It was a secret, Paul said, from before the beginning of time. Revealed in these days, he said, for the first time.
And so don’t buy any Rapture discussion that’s based on Matthew 24, or any other version of the Olivet Discourse, you won’t find it. You can see in the teaching, hints of it because you already know that it’s there. But if you didn’t already know about the Rapture, you could read Matthew 24 all day long and never see it, because it’s never mentioned specifically. That’s important, because for many years, doctrines on the Rapture have been based on the Olivet Discourse, and they’re all misinterpretations of Scripture okay?
As a matter of fact Romans 11:25 has a great deal to do with the Rapture of the Church. Let’s see.
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, my brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
And so here’s what Paul is telling us. Israel, because they rejected the Messiah—you know in Luke 19:41, Jesus said:
On this day if you had only known
This was Psalm Sunday, he’s riding into Jerusalem on a donkey he said:
If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The day will come when the enemy will surround your city and it will be torn apart, not one brick left standing on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s visitation to you.”
And so at that point he said, “It’s hidden from your eyes.” What does that mean? It means you’re blinded.
Now Paul is saying that the blinding is partial, you could take that two ways. You can say, “Well, not all the Jewish people were blinded, because there are many Jewish people who became believers.” So you could say that means blinded in part.
It can also be taken to mean partially blinded. There’re a lot of Jewish people who recognize that Jesus was a person out of their history; He existed. The Talmud speaks about Him. The historians of the day speak about Him. The fact that He was there in person, in physical presence, is beyond dispute. But they’re blinded to the fact that He is who He said He was.
Okay, so Israel is blinded in part until when? Until the full number of Gentiles has come in. That’s an interesting phrase; if you were students of the Greek language, right away that would be very, very special to you, because you would understand that the word “full number” was a nautical term, and it described the required number of crewmen necessary for a ship to sail.
Sailing ships in those days were manned by men, right? There weren’t electronics, they didn’t have motors—they had sails. It took a lot of people, a lot of men running around pulling on ropes and working hard. The ship couldn’t sail until they had a full complement, because if there weren’t enough people to pull on the ropes and do all the other things, then the ship could not function.
And so the term “full number” is the term that applies to the required number of crewmen for a ship to set sail. Until the full number of Gentiles has come in. “Come in” was another nautical term that describes the destination of the ship.
How many of you have seen the poster that says “Just my luck! When my ship comes in I’ll be at the airport.” Well, “my ship comes in,” it’s a saying we’ve used in our time too, “my ship’s come in.” What does that mean? It means in the context of the saying, it’s a parable that means I’ve gotten what I want; I got my fortune I got my money I got my this, I got my that. My ship has come in. It has arrived at its destination.
And so, “when the full number has come in,” meant that when the required number of Gentiles had come into the Church, the Church would come in to its destination.
Now what’s the Church’s destination? Heaven. We’re not meant for Earth; we’re in the world, but we’re not of the world. We’re looking for a city whose maker and builder is God, right? The Church is out of place on Earth.
When Paul said that Israel has been hardened in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in, what he’s saying, in our terminology, is, Israel has been blinded in part until the Rapture. And then Israel will have another chance. The Messiah will be made known to them.
Zechariah 12 reminds us of that. Let’s go back and read it, because I want you to get the verse right. Zechariah, written about 400 years before the Lord came the first time. Zechariah 12:10 and 11.
We can just use 10, He says:
And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced,
Who do you suppose that would be? It’s pretty clear isn’t it? They only pierced one.
They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
This will be Israel’s eyes being opened in the chronology of the Book of Zechariah; this happens just before the Second Coming, when their eyes are finally open and they see clearly.
All right, now let’s go back to the healing of this blind man.
Jesus put His hands on him once, and what happened? He didn’t really see clearly, did he? He was still partially blinded. Jesus put His hands on him a second time, and the second time he saw clearly.
What is this a model of? This is a model of Israel. In the First Coming, it didn’t take; They still remained blinded in part. When He comes the second time, then they will see clearly.
This wasn’t a lack of power, it wasn’t a lack of faith, it wasn’t anything you can explain logically. It’s the only miracle where He had to try twice to make it happen. This is done as a model of Israel and how Israel would perceive the Messiah.
First Coming, partially. Second Coming, completely healed of their blindness. You got it?
Now, I want you to understand that there’s a reason also He took them outside the village. The village here (or in some translations it’s “outside the camp”), outside the camp means out of the community. When it says “when He took them outside the village,” He was taking them out of Judaism, and He was telling them when He got His clear hearing, don’t go back into it.
Got the point? Because you see, what does the writer of Hebrews say in chapter 10? These things were just a shadow of the good things that were to come. The sacrifices, the offerings that were the Jewish Levitical system, was just a shadow of the good things that were coming. They have been fulfilled in Christ; He’s the fulfillment of that.
So Judaism gives you the shadow, the type, the model; Christianity gives you the fulfillment, the clarity. That’s why you got to have both halves of the book; that’s why you got to read the whole thing from Genesis to Revelation. In the Old Testament, you get the shadow, the model. In the New Testament, you get the reality. And you see how the reality is a clear version of the shadow that you saw before.
All right, so I got a letter from a woman the other day who said, “I’m so disappointed, all these signs that pointed to the Rapture happening on Rosh Hashanah, and now Rosh Hashanah has come and gone and no Rapture. What do we look forward to now?”
And in my answer I said, “You were misled by well-intentioned, but misinformed people. Because,” I said, “there isn’t a single sign in the Bible anywhere that points to the Rosh Hashanah or any other day for the Rapture, because there is no planned day for the Rapture.”
That’s why it can’t be known in advance, because the Rapture is a number-significant event, not a date-significant event. Romans 11:25 tells us that the Rapture will come when the full number of Gentiles has come in, not when a certain date arrives, especially not a Jewish feast date. The Rapture will come when the full number of Gentiles has come in.
Acts 15:13-18 confirm that. When James tells the assembled leaders of the Church, at first the Lord was taking from among the Gentiles a people for His own namesake, and after that He would return and rebuild David’s fallen tabernacle.
Here’s the sequence then, James was saying this, he said this in 50 AD. He said: The Lord is going now to take from among the Gentiles a people for His own namesake. To take from among the Gentiles a people for His own namesake and after that He’ll come back and rebuild David’s fallen tabernacle.
So the chronology of events was established; Israel was being put aside. The Lord’s focus was going to be on the Church. And when He had finished doing that, then He was going to come back and finish His work with Israel. It’s symbolized in this miracle.
And the fact that it took the Lord twice to make the man see is the signal that it represented something, that He was doing this on purpose, He didn’t have to try twice to make it work. He did this purposely to show us the sign that the First Coming would not result in the opening of Israel’s eyes completely, it wouldn’t happen until the Second Coming.
Now, the Rapture of the Church could happen on a Jewish feast day, but there’s no greater probability that it will than there is that it will happen on any other day. Because the Rapture of the Church can happen on any day, and will happen on the day that the full number of Gentiles has come in. Got it?
So don’t be discouraged if you were taught that because of certain solar eclipses and lunar eclipses, and all these other things that were going to happen seven years from now, that the Rapture had to happen this past week. Don’t be concerned about that; don’t let that trouble you. It was just some well-intentioned people who hadn’t done their homework, and got everybody all stirred up again with something that turned out not to be true.
How many times is this going to have to happen to us before we understand that it’s not a day we’re looking for? It’s a number. Now nobody knows what the number is except for God. But you know what the good news is about that? You want the Rapture to happen sooner? Go out and start converting people, and when you hit the last one we’re all gone!
All right, a little more?
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi.
This is up north again, north of the Galilee. Caesarea Philippi is a popular place on the bus tour of Israel today; there’s a stone sitting beside a beautiful restored amphitheater that looks right out over the Mediterranean Sea. There’s a stone outside in the courtyard that has Pontius Pilate’s name inscribed in it, so this gives you confirmation. Caesarea Philippi was a favorite place of his; He stayed there when he was in Israel a lot. And that’s where they are—Caesarea Philippi.
On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
Because His time had not yet come.
“Who do people say I am?”
“Some say John the Baptist.”
This was Herod, his doing. Herod believed that he was tricked into executing John the Baptist by his wife and her daughter, and it bothered him because as crazy as he was, he enjoyed listening to John teach him.
But John had a problem with Herod, and that is the fact that he had married his brother’s wife, and secondarily, she was also the niece of both of them, and so this is where the show “All In The Family” came from. [laughing]
And so, John had a problem with this, and this is what angered Herodias, Herod’s wife, and it’s what caused her to become so inflamed that she manipulated basically, she and her daughter manipulated him into executing John. He always felt bad about that, and he had a premonition and he was going to get him for what he had done to him.That’s why he’s John the Baptist, he thinks.
“Others say Elijah.”
Elijah was expected because of a prophecy in Malachi, the very last verse of the Old Testament. Malachi 4:5 I think it is.
Malachi 4:5 said:
See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Now we could go into another big study on this, but basically, we’re going to find out in our next study that Jesus will make the claim that, had the people accepted Him as such, John the Baptist would have fulfilled this prophecy of Elijah. And then everything would have accelerated quickly from the First Coming to the Second Coming, and the whole Church age would not exist.
But the people did not accept John, just as they later did not accept Jesus. And so for that reason the “or else” clause of Malachi 4:5 kicked in when it says: “Or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” And that’s really what happened. John the Baptist came, and as the Angel Gabriel told his father Zechariah, “He will minister in the power and spirit of Elijah.” And so it was designed that he would be the fulfillment of that prophecy.
But there was a conditional clause that either he would do that, or, the land would be cursed. And it was really, as we see it from hindsight, it was up to the people. If they accepted him they would be, if they rejected him the land would be cursed. And of course that’s what happened; the land was cursed, and for 2,000 years there was no Israel. So that’s where the Elijah one comes from.
“And still others, one of the prophets.”
And this comes, I believe, from Deuteronomy 18:15 where the Lord promised to send a prophet like Moses to explain the law to the people, and I believe that that’s what being referred to here.
That’s also I think what’s being referred to in the Book of John, the Gospel of John, when the leaders of the temple came to John the Baptist and asked him if he was the Messiah.
“Are you Elijah?”
He said, “No.” Because, I believe he knew they weren’t going to accept him.
And they said: “Well, are you that prophet?” They are talking about this prophet from Deuteronomy 18:15, a prophet of Moses he’s called—and they expected him as well.
And so they were expecting Elijah, they were expecting the prophet, and that’s why they say, People think you’re one of these people. Some people think you’re one, some people think you’re another.
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
In the Matthew version again, it says:
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Which would not have meant anything to a pagan audience of the day, but it meant a lot to the Jewish people, and so that’s why it’s in Matthew’s version of this and not in Mark’s.
And Jesus told them not to tell anybody, because it was not time yet for this to be public knowledge.
He then began to teach them
Now He’s going to explain to them why they shouldn’t say anything yet.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Good old Peter!
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Now what He meant by that is, Peter, you’re responding to your feelings here.
He is saying, I know that you and I are friends; I know that you have this need to protect Me, and therefore, I understand where you are coming from. That you’re saying you’re going to prevent this from happening but, that puts you in Satan’s camp because this is not going to happen according to the ways of man, this is going to happen according to the plan of God.
And He said, What you need to understand is I’m teaching you the plan of God. This is not My opinion, this is not My idea, this is God’s plan and this has to unfold in this manner.
Look at Matthew 26:53, it’s in the Garden of Gethsemane, it’s on the night that Jesus was arrested. Peter made good on his promise, a whole passel of soldiers had come out from the temple to arrest Jesus, and Peter jumped between the Lord and the soldiers, whipped out his sword, and went after them and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
So, once again He is saying to Peter, No, it’s not going to happen like this. First of all, I don’t need you to save Me; I have troops waiting, I just put in the call and they’ll be here.
Twelve legions, by the way, is 72,000 which would have been sufficient for the troop of Roman soldiers that came.
He says, I can have them anytime I want them, I can bring them here right now, but how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it has to happen this way? If I did that, I can get Myself off the hook anytime I want to, but if I did, it wouldn’t be God’s plan, it would be something else.
And so He’s saying, Put your sword away, this has to happen in this way for God’s promise to be fulfilled.
So when we are faced with some important issues, we will have, always, two alternatives. We will have, what I’ll call the way of the flesh and the way of the spirit. And rarely will the two be the same, because as Paul said in Romans again that the spirit and flesh are always opposed to one another; they are always contending. And this is what was happening here, Peter was representing the way of the flesh—well-intentioned, and from our perspective, a very honorable and noble and courageous thing to do. But from the Lord’s perspective, he was on the wrong side of the fight, he had put himself on Satan’s side.
So often that happens. I’ll tell you, I don’t know how your life has been but for me it’s always been like this.
Whenever I respond to something in accordance with my feelings, it’s almost always wrong. Feelings are never, for me at least—you’ll have to make this judgment for yourself—feelings are never a good indicator of behavior for me.
Most of the things that I do in obedience to the Lord are contrary to my feelings. In fact, there’s a Biblical—well it’s not Biblical, is it? There’s a theological, let’s call it, phrase that some teachers use called “making contrary-to-feelings choices.” You have the right to do that, you have the power to do that, you have the option of doing that because you’ve been given the freedom to choose any response you want to any circumstance that confronts you. Only Christians have this, non-Christians can only respond according to the ways of mankind, and that’s why they say, If it feels good do it; it feels so right, I should do it.
But Christians have an option, we can go the way of the flesh, or we can go the way of the spirit. We can choose that. The Holy Spirit is not going to make us do anything, but the Holy Spirit will counsel us and he’ll say, Now wait a minute now Jack, this is the way I think God wants us to go. Now I know you don’t feel that way, but this is really the way God wants us to go. It’s your choice, you can go either way. You have that right. But here’s the way God would like you to go.
It’s the same with all of us, contrary to feelings, choices.
Another way to put them is faith choices, right? We go in faith. My position in this time of financial uncertainty is we all ought to increase our giving substantially. The natural way, the natural tendency is to hang onto what we have, because we don’t know who’s going to get it, if we don’t watch it. And so we try to horde, and get our arms around everything, and we grab onto it for all it’s worth. But the Lord says, Don’t worry about your treasure here, get some treasure up there.
Up there there’s no depreciation you know! [laughs] Up there currency doesn’t get revalued. There are no losses up there, you don’t wake up some morning and find out somebody you don’t even know made a decision that just caused you several thousand dollars. That doesn’t happen up there. Things don’t rust, they don’t mildew, moths don’t break in, thieves don’t steal them.
Only one thing happens up there, they appreciate; they always appreciate. And so my view is, if your retirement funds are disappearing, you give it away while you still have it! At least you’ll feel good! [laughs] If you just sit there and watch it disappear, you’re just going to feel bad. But you see, one is the way of the flesh, one is the way of the spirit.
We were promised we wouldn’t have to worry about anything, if we would just seek His Kingdom and His righteousness. We were promised that if we stop storing up treasure on Earth, and started storing up treasure in Heaven, that we’d be investing in our eternity, not in the few months or years that are left here. It’s counter intuitive, isn’t it?
I don’t have very much so I better give it away.
The natural tendency is, I don’t have very much. I better hang onto it tight.
The spiritual way is, Give it away. Because with the measure you use in giving, He will use that same measure in giving back to you in blessings.
And so, Peter was well-intentioned, he had the Lord’s best interest at heart, it was a very courageous, a very brave thing for him to do, but it was Satan’s plan, not God’s.
We’re supposed to learn that from things like this; we’re supposed to learn that we walk by faith, not by sight. Paul said, “Don’t focus on the things that you can see, because they’re just temporary. Focus on the things you can’t see because they are eternal.”
You see this world is not the real world. I got news for you, it’s the next one that’s the real one. This world is transitory. This world’s falling apart, this world’s not long for this world! [laughs]
It’s the next world we ought to be concerned about, it’s that one that we need to be focused on. And so, Peter’s actions here are justifiable according to man, but they were the way of the flesh; they had nothing to do with God’s plan.
He called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
This is the first reference to the cross, by the way. There’s a principle in theology called the “principle of first mention.” Whenever something is mentioned for the first time, you’ll find very big theology around it, and this certainly is one of those. And too bad it’s been misinterpreted. You don’t have to go be crucified, what He’s saying is, Stop walking by sight, and start walking by faith. Don’t design the life you want for yourself, work to live the life He designed for you.
He said in verse 35:
For whoever wants to save his life is going to lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Again He’s not talking martyrdom here; He’s talking about our decision to put aside our Earthly desires, our desires of the flesh, and instead walk in faith by the spirit. That’s what He means by that.
You can’t help yourself by dying; you can’t die for your own sins. He did that for you, and when He did He bought you, He purchased you. Now you are not your own, you are His.
And so now it’s not the Earthly man-centered egocentric life that the world tells you to have that should be important to you, now it’s the life that He desires for you that should be important to you. And the tradeoff is great because He said if you’ll just seek that He’ll take care of everything you need.
Psalm 37:4 says:
If you delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Now how’s that for a deal? And He is bigger than this you know, He’s bigger than this crisis; this is the biggest crisis in 100 years—He’s bigger. You don’t have to worry about what’s going on outside around you today. You can’t do anything about it anyway, so when you see something you can’t do anything about, you’re not supposed to worry about that because that’s wasting a whole lot of energy for no good.
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for their soul?
Suppose you did get the whole world, you couldn’t trade that for eternity. The richest man in the world does not have enough to purchase his place in the Kingdom. The poorest man in the world walks in for free.
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
“If you’re not willing,” He said, “to accept the gift of grace that I’ve offered you, if you think that makes you look like less or a person in the world’s eyes, you’re ashamed of the Gospel, then you can expect Me to be ashamed of you.” And He said to them, this is Mark 9:1, which really belongs in 8. The chapter breaks are not inspired, and sometimes they’re in the wrong places.
And he said to them,
This is at the end of the conversation
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
He’s talking about the Transfiguration, which is what’s going to happen next, and we’ll get into that in our next session. And so in this chapter He’s given us some interesting models here, He’s given us the model of the Feeding of the 4,000, and He’s applied this now to mankind in general; it’s not just for Israel.
He’s given us the healing of the blind man in Bethesda, showing that it was going to take two attempts before the blinders really came off Israel and before they could see clearly; and He’s given us this story about the way of the flesh versus the way of the spirit to demonstrate to us how different they are.
And these are things for all of us to consider in the way we live our lives. You see, if He had gone the way of the flesh, He would have called His 72,000 angels. They would have wiped out the soldiers that had come to arrest Him—they would have wiped out all the Roman soldiers in Israel. They would have restored Israel’s autonomy as a nation, they would have restored autonomous rule to the king which would have been Him because He’s the one who rescued them. He could have been sitting on the throne, He could have had the adulation of all the people in Israel, He could have had the Roman emperors bowing down before Him and asking Him, What is it you want? What is it you want, we’ll do anything!
He could have had all that the world has to offer if He’d done that, and He could have done that. But had He done that, where would you be? And so He didn’t come for His rights, I mean He is the king of the universe after all, He has a right to do all of this, didn’t He? He not only had the power to do it, He had the right to do it.
But He didn’t come for His rights, He came for your wrongs. And because He did, now you will sit on the throne with Him. And so He’s got some pretty good grounds for asking you to put aside the way of the flesh; walk by faith. Put your trust in Him, let Him show you the way to go.
Okay, that’s the end of chapter 8, the end of our study tonight. I will take any questions that you have and then we’ll go from there.