Mark 8
Benson Commentary
In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,
Mark 8:1-4. In those days, the multitude being very great — The multitude mentioned Matthew 15:30; and having nothing to eat — They had, as on a former occasion, consumed all the provision they had brought with them; Jesus said — I have compassion, Greek, σπλαγχνιζομαι, my bowels yearn, or, are moved, toward the multitude — Who thus flock eagerly about me, and express such zeal in their attendance, as to expose themselves thereby to many inconveniences and hardships. It is pleasing to observe the strong compassion which our blessed Lord continually discovered in all his actions toward mankind. Because they have now been with me three days — It is probable that the multitude, intent on hearing Christ and seeing his miracles, had lodged two nights together in the fields, as the season of the year was pleasant, this event happening quickly after the passover; and besides, the great number of the cures which had been wrought but just before, might animate them to continue with him, concluding, perhaps, that the miraculous power of Christ, which was displayed in so many glorious instances around them, would either preserve their health from being endangered by the large dews which fell in the night, or restore them from any disorder they might contract by their eagerness to attend on his ministry. If I send them away fasting, they will faint, &c. — Our Lord by his power could as easily have preserved them from fainting without food, as have created food by multiplying the loaves and fishes for their support, but he chose to take the latter method. For divers of them came from far — This our Lord knew, and he knew also that they were but ill furnished for procuring provisions, or accommodations abroad, for themselves. His disciples answered, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread, &c. — The disciples, it seems, did not reflect on the miracle which Christ had lately wrought for the relief of the five thousand, or they did not imagine he would repeat such a miracle; or perhaps they thought that Christ proposed to feed this great multitude in the natural way, and, therefore, thus intimated their surprise that he should think of doing a thing so impracticable. Jesus did not reprove them for their forgetfulness of what he had so lately done, or for their wrong notions, but meekly asked what meat they had, and upon their telling him, he ordered it to be brought, and out of seven loaves and a few little fishes made a second dinner for an immense multitude by a miracle, few or none of them having been present at the former dinner. They seem to have been mostly such as followed Jesus from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and the neighbouring heathen country; hence they are said, on seeing his miracles, to have glorified the God of Israel. This dinner was in all respects like the first, except in the number of loaves and fishes of which it was made, the number of persons who were present at it, and the number of baskets that were filled with the fragments that remained. “One cannot but remark,” says Dr. Macknight, “with what wisdom Jesus chose to be so much in deserts during this period of his ministry. He was resolved, in the discharge of the duties of it, to make as little noise as possible, to avoid crowds, and to be followed only by such as had dispositions proper for profiting by his instructions. And, to say the truth, not a great many others would accompany him into solitudes, where they were to sustain the inconveniences of hunger, and the weather, for several days together. As the multitude on this and the like occasions remained long with Jesus, doubtless his doctrine distilled upon them all the while like dew, and as the small rain upon the tender herb. If so, what satisfaction and edification should we find in the divine discourses which he then delivered, were we in possession of them! The refreshment we receive from such of them as the inspired writers have preserved, raises an ardent desire of the rest. At the same time it must be acknowledged, that we are blessed with as much of Christ’s doctrine as is fully sufficient to all the purposes of salvation.”

I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat:
And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.
And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?
And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.
And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.
Mark 8:6-9. He commanded the people to sit down — The evangelists having, in the account of the former dinner, described the manner in which the multitude was set down, thought it needless on this occasion to say any thing of that particular, probably because they were ranged as before, in companies by hundreds and fifties. And he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks — He gave thanks for the fishes separately, and distributed them separately. So they did eat — Matthew, they did all eat, and were filled; were abundantly satisfied. And they took up of the broken meat, &c. — Which Jesus ordered them to gather up, that he might thus convince them, in the strongest manner, of the greatness of the miracle; and teach them also, at the same time, to use a prudent frugality in the midst of plenty. This miracle, and also the former of the same kind, recorded Mark 6:40, &c., were intended to demonstrate, that Christ was the true bread which cometh down from heaven; for he who was almighty to create bread without means to support natural life, could not want power to create bread without means to support spiritual life. And this heavenly bread we stand so much in need of every moment, that we ought to be always praying, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.”

And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.
So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.
And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.
And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.
Mark 8:10-13. He entered into a ship, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha — Matthew says that, having fed the multitude, he took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala: but the evangelists may easily be reconciled, by supposing that Dalmanutha was a city and territory within the district of Magdala. The Pharisees came forth and began to question with him — The Pharisees, having heard of the second miraculous dinner, and fearing that the whole common people would acknowledge him for the Messiah, resolved to confute his pretensions fully and publicly. For this purpose, they came forth with the Sadducees, (see Matthew 16:1,) who, though the opposites and rivals of the Pharisees in all other matters, joined them in their design of oppressing Jesus, and, along with them, demanded of him a sign from heaven, tempting, that is, trying him. See note on Matthew 16:1. Some think the Jews, “understanding the prophecy, Daniel 7:13, literally, expected the Messiah would make his first public appearance in the clouds of heaven, and take unto himself glory and a temporal kingdom:” and that, therefore, “when the Pharisees desired Jesus to show them a sign from heaven, they certainly meant that he should demonstrate himself to be the Messiah, by coming in a visible and miraculous manner from heaven with great pomp, and by wresting the kingdom out of the hands of the Romans.” These hypocrites craftily feigned an inclination to believe, if he could but give them sufficient evidence of his divine mission. However, their true design was, that by his failing to give the proof which they required, he should expose himself to general blame. And he sighed deeply in his spirit — Feeling the bitterest grief on account of the incorrigibleness of their disposition. And said, Why doth this generation seek after a sign — When so many signs, so many incontrovertible proofs of my mission from God have been already given, and continue to be given daily? Verily there shall no sign be given — None such as they seek; to this generation — See note on Matthew 16:3-4. The original expression here, ει δοθησεται σημειον, if a sign shall be given, is an elliptical form of an oath, as is evident from Hebrews 3:11. In ordinary cases, it may be supplied out of the ancient forms of swearing, thus: God do so to me, and more also, if a sign shall be given. But, in the mouth of God, such an oath must be supplied thus: Let me not be true, if they shall enter into my rest; if a sign shall be given, &c. Or, as in Ezekiel 14:16, ζω εγω, ει υιοι, θυγατερες σωθησονται, I live not, if sons or daughters be delivered.

And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.
And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.
And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.
Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.
Mark 8:14-21. The disciples had forgotten to take bread, &c. — For an explanation of this paragraph, see note on Matthew 16:5-12. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod — By the leaven of Herod the doctrine of the Sadducees is intended, which was, in almost every point, in direct opposition to that of the Pharisees. Of the two sects, see the note on Matthew 3:7. And they reasoned among themselves — They talked privately among themselves about the meaning of their Master’s exhortation, and agreed that it was a reproof for their neglecting to take bread along with them. When Jesus knew it — Which he did immediately, for the thoughts of their minds, as well as the words of their tongues, were all observed by him; he saith, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? Why should your neglecting to take bread with you make you put such an interpretation upon my words? Perceive ye not yet, &c. — After having been so long with me, are ye still ignorant of my power and goodness? Have ye your heart yet hardened? Is no abiding impression made yet upon your minds by the many and great miracles I have performed, and the many discourses which you have heard me deliver? Having eyes, see ye not, &c. — As if he had said, My miracles being all the objects of your senses, no extraordinary degree of capacity was requisite to enable you to judge of them. How came it then, that, having the senses of sight and hearing entire, you were not struck with the two miracles of the loaves and fishes, so as to remember them, and derive instruction from them? Our Lord here, it must be observed, affirms of all the apostles, (for the question is equivalent to an affirmation,) that their hearts were hardened: that, having eyes they saw not, having ears they heard not; that they did not consider, neither understand; the very same expressions that occur in the xiiith of Matthew. And yet it is certain that they were not judicially hardened. Therefore all these strong expressions do not necessarily import any thing more than the present want of spiritual understanding.

And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.
And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?
Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?
When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.
And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.
And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?
And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.
Mark 8:22-26. And he cometh to Bethsaida — Where he had done many mighty works, without their producing the desired effect, the people remaining in impenitence and unbelief, Matthew 11:21. The following miracle, it may be observed, is recorded by Mark only; a plain proof that he is not to be considered as a mere abridger of Matthew. And they bring him a blind man, and besought him to touch him — Here appears the faith of those that brought him; they doubted not but one touch of Christ’s hand would restore his sight; but the man himself did not show that earnest desire for, or expectation of, a cure, that many others did. He took and led him out of the town — Declaring hereby, that those of Bethsaida, who had seen so many miracles in vain, were unworthy to behold this: for had our Lord herein only designed privacy, he might have led him into a house, or into an inner chamber, and have cured him there. And when he had spit on his eyes, &c. — Our Lord could have cured this man, as he did some others, with a word’s speaking, but he was pleased thus to use signs, as he did on some other occasions, probably with a view to assist the man’s faith, which it seems was very weak; it was evident, however, that the signs which he used had no natural tendency to effect a cure, nor indeed had any of the signs which our Lord ever used on such occasions: He asked him if he saw aught, &c. — Jesus did not, as on other occasions of a like nature, impart the faculty of sight to this blind man all at once, but by degrees: for the man at first saw things obscurely, and could not distinguish men from trees, otherwise than that he could discern them to move. His expression may be easily accounted for, on supposition that he was not born blind, but had lost his sight by some accident; for if that was the case, he might have retained the idea both of men and trees. By a second imposition of Christ’s hands he received a clear sight of every object in view. Our Lord’s intention in this might be to make it evident that in his cures he was not confined to one method of operation, but could dispense them in what manner he pleased. In the mean time, though the cure was performed by degrees, it was accomplished in so small a space of time, as to make it evident that it was not produced by any natural efficacy of our Lord’s spittle or touch, but merely by the exertion of his miraculous power. Christ perhaps intended, by restoring the man’s sight gradually, to signify in what way those who are by nature spiritually blind, are generally healed by his grace. At first, their knowledge of divine things is indistinct, obscure, and confused; they see men as trees walking; but afterward, by a second or third imposition of the Saviour’s hands, a further degree of spiritual discernment is communicated, and they see all things clearly. Their light, like that of the morning, shines more and more unto the perfect day. Let us, then, inquire if we have any sight of, or acquaintance with, those things of which faith is the evidence; and if, through grace, we have any true knowledge of them, we may hope that it will increase more and more, till we are fully translated out of our natural darkness of ignorance and folly, into the marvellous light of truth and wisdom. And he sent him away, saying, Neither go into the town — Where probably some who had seen Christ lead him out of the town, were expecting to see him return; but who, having been eye-witnesses of so many miracles, had not so much as the curiosity to follow him. Such therefore were not to be gratified with the sight of him when he was cured, that would not show so much respect to Christ as to go a step out of the town to see the cure wrought. Nor tell it to any in the town — Christ does not forbid him to tell it to others, but he must not tell it to any of the inhabitants of Bethsaida. Observe, reader, the slighting of Christ’s favours is forfeiting them; and he will make those know the worth of their privileges by the want of them, that would not know them otherwise. Bethsaida, in the day of her visitation, would not know the things that belonged to her peace, and therefore they are now hid from her eyes.

And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.
And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.
After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.
And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.
And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?
Mark 8:27-30. And Jesus went into the towns of Cesarea Philippi — These verses are explained at large in the notes on Matthew 16:13-20. He charged them that they should tell no man of him — He enjoined on them silence for the present, 1st, That he might not encourage the people to set him up for a temporal king; 2d, That he might not provoke the scribes and Pharisees to destroy him before the time, and, 3d, That he might not forestall the brighter evidence which was to be given of his divine character after his resurrection.

And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.
And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.
And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Mark 8:31-33. And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer — The disciples being now convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and having made confession of him as such, they were prepared to receive this further and equally important discovery, which they could not have borne before, without being so offended as to forsake him; and which, perhaps, they could hardly have borne now, had they thoroughly understood, and fully believed, Christ’s words; for they certainly still expected that he would assume external pomp and power, and restore the kingdom of Israel, an expectation which they held fast, even till the day of his ascension into heaven. And he spake that saying openly Παρρησια, plainly, namely to the apostles. Our Lord frequently after this repeated the prediction of his sufferings; for instance, Matthew 17:22; Matthew 20:18; Matthew 26:2; Luke 22:15. But it is remarkable that on none of those occasions was the prophecy delivered to any but the twelve, and a few select women, one instance excepted, namely, Luke 17:25, when it was expressed in terms somewhat obscure. The multitude of the disciples were never let into the secret, because it might have made them desert Christ, as they had not, like the apostles, raised expectations of particular preferments in his kingdom, to bias their understandings, and hinder them from perceiving the meaning of the prediction. It is true, he foretold his resurrection from the dead more publicly; for oftener than once he appealed to it as the principal proof of his mission, even in the presence of the priests, as is evident from their mentioning it to Pilate, Matthew 27:63. It seems the priests had often been our Lord’s hearers. See the notes on Matthew 16:21-23.

And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Mark 8:34-38. When he had called the people unto him — To hear a truth of the last importance, and one that equally concerned them all; whosoever will come after me — And be a disciple of mine, entitled to all the privileges and blessings which belong to my disciples in this world and the next; let him deny himself — His own will, in all things, great and small, however pleasing, and that continually; and take up his cross — Embrace the will of God, however painful, daily, hourly, continually. Thus only can he follow me in holiness to glory. See on Matthew 16:24-26. Whosoever shall be ashamed of me — Poor, despised, and a man of sorrows though I am; and of my words — That is, of avowing by word and action whatever I have said, particularly this my precept of self-denial, and taking up the daily cross: and whosoever is not heartily willing to sustain the scoffs of a wicked world, to which the profession and practice of my religion may expose him; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, &c. — He shall be ashamed to acknowledge one for his disciple who has acted in a manner so unlike his Master, and so unworthy of his religion. See on Matthew 10:32-33.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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