Mark 8:27-33 27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
It is hard to comprehend how difficult it would have been to follow Jesus as one of the twelve disciples. It would have been amazing to see the miracles performed and to hear God in the flesh speak perfectly and act perfectly in every way in accordance with the Law of God but how hard it would have been at the same time. For Jesus was revealing the Kingdom of God to mankind in a manner which was previously unknown. He fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies as promised to the nation of Israel but the establishment of a spiritual kingdom on earth was a mystery to everyone. No single person understood what was about to happen through Jesus of Nazareth. Although many were looking for the Christ and had been directed by John the Baptist to follow Jesus, this question that Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” was a much more difficult question to answer now than on those first days after Jesus had been baptized by John and He had entered into public ministry. When Jesus was first revealed, as recorded in Mark 1, very few who saw and heard Him would have doubted that He was the Christ. Everyone was caught up in the excitement. But what kind of Christ; what kind of Saviour, were they looking for? Were they looking for the health and wealth Christ that could heal their illnesses and miraculously provide food? Were they looking for the political Christ who would set them free from the rule of Rome? All the Jews, even the ones who had genuinely been born again by repenting of their sin nature and believing in the Christ who was to come, did not understand this new Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing. And so as Jesus is establishing this perfect Kingdom of God upon earth in which He reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He is continually stretching and expanding His disciples' understanding about who He was and what He was accomplishing. This is what makes Peter’s response at this point, “You are the Christ” so amazing! In spite of the fact that the Kingdom of God under Jesus was new and different and surprising- not what they were expecting, Peter still said, “You are the Christ.”
Jesus had just completed a tour on the outskirts of Israel contrasting the lack of faith in the Jewish religious leaders and the lack of faith among the people in Israel who were already beginning to turn away from Him with the newfound faith of Gentile believers. This was shown with the Gentile woman who begged for the scraps from the table (Mark 7:24-30) and it was shown in the miraculous feeding of the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-10). Jesus heals a deaf man and a blind man and warns them of the yeast of the Pharisees. They were dangerous men proclaiming a false Gospel. But the true Gospel message that Jesus proclaimed and the Kingdom of God that He was establishing was dependent upon a direct relationship to Him. The Kingdom of God would be manifested on earth in and through Jesus Christ as His followers were united to Him and this Kingdom would be established over the whole earth! The Gentiles, the scum of the earth as the Jews saw them (the dogs), would be equal with the Jews in this spiritual Kingdom. No longer would Israel be above the other nations but rather the Church would be established. In the Church Jews and Gentiles would be equal and the Church would be the spiritual representation of this new Kingdom of God established by Jesus Christ.
This would have been very difficult for the disciples to accept. And so Jesus tests His disciples at Caesarea Philippi. This was a place where many pagan gods were worshipped. You can almost sense the angst of the disciples as they were in the midst of such an evil place. Jesus was saying in a sense, “Even here, I came to call people unto Myself. I came to save even these wicked Gentiles and to bring them into My Kingdom and they will be more righteous than the Pharisees that you have been taught to look up to. Who do you say that I am?” In spite of the difficulty in responding, Peter still says, “You are the Christ.”
But Jesus does not leave them here. He has stretched the disciples so far already. Now He goes further. He declares that He, as the Christ, will die by the very men that are supposed to be teaching the people about the Christ. The elders and the chief priests and the scribes do not only fail to recognize Jesus as the Christ but they will kill the Saviour. Jesus will die and He predicts His own death. Not that He might die but that He must suffer many things and die and rise again. Once again the disciples are confused and Peter, the very disciple who confessed Jesus as the Christ now contradicts his revelation by saying that Jesus must not die. How could Jesus of Nazareth be the Christ if He was to die? How could this new spiritual Kingdom of God continue to exist if Jesus was no longer ruling over it? How could God die?
Do you see how difficult it was to follow Jesus as one of the twelve disciples? Jesus’ ministry to the twelve in person occurred just over three years. How intense would it have been! How amazing but how difficult! Jesus had to die to fully provide the way into the Kingdom of God, not only for the Jew but also for the Gentile. Without the shedding of His blood, there is no way our sins could be covered. Without His death there could be no life. Eternal life could never be achieved apart from Jesus’ death and resurrection for those who truly believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ- the Saviour of mankind.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ? Do you really believe? Or, are you still believing in a false Christ? Is He a saviour of your own imagination or the false teaching of others? Has Jesus turned your understanding upside down in your pursuit of Him or has everything been easy and clear to you? All of us, no matter who we are, have been misled in our understanding of who Jesus really is. All of us, if we are genuinely seeking God with all of our heart, will go through similar struggles as the disciples did in coming to terms with the reality that Jesus is indeed the Christ. To follow Jesus is difficult. It is not easy. He is a treasure to be found and not all will find Him. He continually challenges us in our pursuit of Him. Keep seeking Him!
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 8:11-26 11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
We are all slow to understand spiritual things and the disciples were no different. At this point in Jesus’ public ministry He had performed an amazing miracle of feeding over 4,000 people similar to His earlier miracle where He fed the crowd of over 5,000. This miracle was to show that the Gospel was opened to the nations as the seven large leftover baskets represented the seventy known nations at that time. At the same time Jesus was more directly condemning the teaching of the Pharisees and the religious leaders. The Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing would be very different than what the Jews had expected. No longer would one nation be considered above the rest but individuals from every nation would be brought into this Kingdom as a part of the Church. God still has a special place for the nation of Israel and there will be a great harvest of Jews who repent and believe that Jesus is the Christ before His second coming one day in the future but at this point in Jesus’ ministry He was teaching His disciples to let go of their false beliefs about who they thought He should be and to submit to God’s perfect plan of salvation. Jesus had just healed a deaf man and following this miracle He heals a blind man who at first sees blurry trees. The disciples were themselves struggling with their vision and hearing as what Jesus was teaching them was not what they wanted to hear and challenged a lot of their deep rooted beliefs as Jews.
Each and every one of us generally have deep rooted beliefs that are contrary to the Word of God and His plan of salvation. Often they come from those who are regarded as experts in society or within our own culture. It is easy for us to think that we aren’t that smart- that we don’t have the same education or knowledge that they have and yet unless they have been given their understanding from God it is likely to be flawed. Or perhaps we have been practicing and believing something for so long that we believe that it cannot be false. Or we may have been presented with a false view of Jesus Christ and the Gospel and we can’t see Him for who He really is because of past experiences and deep wounds that we have from someone who claimed to be a Christian but was in fact a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or even in our own church or denomination we have been taught a certain set of beliefs and are conditioned that anything else must be wrong. But no matter who we are, if we are willing to humble ourselves and really examine the Scriptures for what they say we will see what before we could not see, we will hear what before we could not hear, and we will be amazed! We will see everything clearly!
Our ability to see clearly is not dependent upon our education or family or upbringing. It is dependent upon the Word of God and the Holy Spirit who will reveal this to us. All that Jesus was teaching His disciples only increased their reliance upon Him as the only true source of Truth. He alone was their guide. He alone as the Son of God had the authority to correct the previous errors that they had believed based upon the common teaching as given by the Pharisees and scribes who were supposed to be the experts in understanding the Old Testament Law. It is a wonderful characteristic to be willing to be challenged and to examine what you believe. For what you believe will determine who you are. Your views and understanding about God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and salvation will determine how you live. While we must come to stand upon our convictions about what we believe if we are to be born again, we must at the same time be willing to re-examine everything continually. Not that we come to deny our relationship with God through Jesus Christ and deny the foundation of the faith as we ask questions and try to understand but that we recognize that:
Romans 11:33-34 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
How much do you understand about the things of God? Have you been led to a place of true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ or are you still blurry to the very foundation of the faith? Have you been willing to let go of the false teachings that you once believed? Have you been willing to let go to the anger and the bitterness from the hurts and the wounds that you blame God for? Do you see Jesus Christ as your only guide or are you still relying upon the wisdom of man and the so-called experts who do not know Him? These experts, while they may be looked up to and honored among men, may be blind and deaf. Beware of eating the bread of their teaching. Do not fill yourself upon what they say and teach but upon the Words of Jesus Christ. He challenges the heart of every man, no matter who we are. He alone is God and He alone has all knowledge and He continues to speak to us through His Word as we read or listen to the Bible. He does not need to speak to us through an audible voice as He did in the Old Testament. He can speak directly to our spirit through the Word of God. He can speak to you in your inner man and give you a knowledge of Himself that will fill you with peace and love as you come to surrender to Him and to know Him. His message will challenge us as He challenged the disciples but we can come to a place of knowing that we understand; we believe!
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 7:31-37 31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark 8:1-10 1 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry He was expanding His disciples’ understanding of the new Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing. He first makes it known to His disciples how different this Kingdom is as compared to what they had expected. The disciples believed that Jesus was the Christ but they would have been convinced like the majority of the Jews that Jesus came to restore their nation politically. But Jesus didn’t come to release Israel from Roman captivity but to establish a new Kingdom wherein righteousness reigns. He teaches His disciples the spiritual nature of His Kingdom. Next Jesus shows His disciples the false teaching of the religious leaders and that this Kingdom will include the nations. Jesus didn’t come to save Israel but individuals from every tribe and nation. He then contrasts the false faith of the Pharisees with the genuine faith of a Gentile woman (a foreigner) who was willing to receive the scraps from the table if that was necessary to know Jesus Christ. This would have been very confusing for the disciples as the Pharisees were looked up to and the Gentiles were viewed as wicked sinners. Jesus was making known to His disciples that He was indeed the Christ but He wasn’t what they were expecting. They would need to humble themselves before God and be willing to acknowledge that they were wrong in who they thought that He would be. God’s plan of salvation would be a surprise to them and it would take time for them to believe and understand.
As Jesus is stretching their understanding of who He is and God’s plan of salvation and this new Kingdom of God, Jesus heals a deaf person with a speech impediment in rather an amazing way. He puts His fingers into the man’s ears and also touches his tongue after spitting on His hand. Then he speaks in Aramaic, the common language of the people, saying “Be opened.” Why would He do so? This again was done in private to not draw attention.
Who were not speaking the truth to the common people? The Pharisees. They were leading the people astray. And so Jesus would shut the ears of those who thought they knew better and He would open the ears of those who could not hear. He would speak plainly to those who did not understand and in parables to those who thought they could understand. He would open the ears of the weak and the destitute and stop the ears of the proud and the arrogant.
Among those who were deaf and unable to hear were the Gentiles. For thousands of years the nations outside of Israel were on the outside and unable to hear. They did not have the Word of God or understand but now, in this new Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing, they would be included. Jesus makes this known as He miraculously provides for the crowd of 4,000. This miracle was very similar to when He fed the 5,000 but this time His purpose was different. There were 7 large baskets left over representing the 70 known nations upon the earth. Not only was the Gospel message for the 12 tribes of Israel but for all the nations. This new Kingdom of God would span across nations as the Church was established 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead.
But how sad it is that today there continues to be those who claim to be Christians but are just like the Pharisees. They are unwilling to humble themselves before God and they claim to know the way to God but they are deceived. They cannot hear and they speak with a speech impediment while claiming to be the source of truth. Be careful that you are not listening to these false teachers. Unfortunately many people have been led to believe that Christianity is what they teach but this is a false Gospel. They never knew Jesus although they may use Jesus’ name.
But how wonderful it is for those who do not think that they could ever hear. If you are among those who feel as if there is no hope, if you feel like you are the one on the outside, it is to you that Jesus desires to save. Turn to Him with all your heart and He will unstop your ears. He will enable you to speak the unfathomable wonders of God! Even through your mouth the Good News can be spoken clearly. God can glorify Himself through you if you will repent and believe. Jesus can fill you with gladness and joy and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Jesus sighed as He healed the man. His love and compassion for the lost who are willing to turn to Him to be healed is beyond comprehension. If only we will seek His touch we will hear Him!
Isaiah 35:5-6 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
Isaiah 35:10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 7:24-30 24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
At the age of 30 years old, about 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth entered into public ministry following His baptism and manifested the Kingdom of God upon earth. He was establishing a new kingdom that was unique and different from the nation of Israel that God had established through Abraham thousands of years earlier. The Son of God became flesh and entered into creation during a time in which the people of Israel were being led astray from a proper understanding of the Word of God (the Old Testament scriptures) by the Pharisees and the scribes who were the only people in Israel who could still read the scriptures in the original Hebrew language. They had all kinds of extra regulations on top of the 613 Old Testament laws that the nation of Israel was to follow but their man made laws actually contradicted what God had intended. The Jews naturally thought that they were better than all the other nations as eternal salvation could only be known through the teachings that God had given them but the Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing would be composed of individuals from all nations. At this point in Jesus’ ministry (as recorded in Mark 7), He has taught His disciples the basic fundamental principles of His new Kingdom and sternly rebuked the false teachers. He is now establishing that the Gentile nations would be a part of this Kingdom and further rebuking the self-righteous Jews by showing the genuine faith of Gentile believers in contrast to their own.
Jesus travels to the region of Tyre and Sidon in secret with His disciples but obviously His fame had reached here as well. A Gentile woman begged Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter. Jesus’ response seems rather harsh. He seems to call her a dog. Why would he do this? Dogs were vermin and not regarded as we view them in our culture. They were not liked. And the Gentiles (the foreign nations) were considered by the Jews as dogs as all kinds of evil was practiced by them. Romans 1:26-32 describes the evil acts performed by the Gentiles.
Romans 1:29-31 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
But these evil acts were actually no different than what was in the heart of the unbelieving Jews as Jesus had just explained previously to the Pharisees and the scribes:
Mark 7:21-23 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
How would you respond when confronted with the reality that your upbringing was not a good one? We don’t choose what home we are raised in. Often we don’t fully comprehend whether our upbringing was a good one or not until we are much older. It is as our world expands and we learn from others and compare to our own that we get more perspective. It can be very difficult and painful to acknowledge that you were not raised as well as others let alone how God intended. It was a great privilege to be raised as a Jew as the laws that they followed most clearly reflected God’s desires as compared to all of the other nations. This Gentile woman understood and believed that she was a dog compared to the children (the Jews). What Jesus said to her, while it may have seemed to be offensive was in fact the truth.
How shocking was her response! The disciples must have been amazed. They had been taught growing up to look up to the Pharisees and scribes as men of great faith but Jesus now had exposed them to be hypocrites and rather it was this Gentile woman who showed great faith. And we know that the disciples had judged her wrongly. In the parallel account recorded in Matthew 15:22-23 the disciples begged Jesus to send her away. They had previously cast out demons among the Jews when Jesus had sent them out (Mark 6:7-13). Why did they not want to help her? Because she was a Gentile and they assumed she was living a wicked life.
The woman responded to Jesus by saying that even the dogs eat the children’s crumbs as they spill food from the table. She recognized Jesus as the Christ. She knew He could save her daughter. Even though she was a Gentile, even though she did not have a godly upbringing and had probably lived a wicked life in her past, she knew that Jesus was the only means of her salvation. She was looking for the Christ. She recognized Jesus for who He really was. She put her faith in Him and was willing to humble herself before Him no matter the cost. Her faith was desperate and persistent. She did not care if she offended the disciples. She needed Jesus and would know Him no matter what! She would not be denied in her pursuit of Jesus.
How does Jesus respond? Without even seeing her daughter, He casts the demon out. From a distance Jesus sets her free. He acknowledges the mother’s desperate faith and blesses her. She would be a part of His new Kingdom. Her home would not be as she was raised. Perhaps her daughter was demon possessed because of the past practices of her parents in their worship of a false god. But now this mother would raise her daughter in a godly home. She would teach her daughter to know Jesus Christ. She would live according to God’s commands as recorded in the Bible. The hardship that she had suffered would be replaced with joy and peace and love in knowing God and Jesus Christ who would later die for her sins.
Do you understand that Jesus is seeking those who are like this woman to be in His Kingdom: persistent, desperate, humble. He is seeking those who are willing to submit to Him and to recognize that Jesus is the only means of their salvation. It matters not how you were raised or how evil your heart once was. God wants you to seek Him with all your heart and He will regenerate it. He will make it new and pure and holy. It matters not that others judge you and condemn you. Seek Him with desperation! Jesus came to this earth to save you! He loves you!
Pastor Murray Hack