A SUBSTITUTE

Several years ago I needed to find a coffee “substitute.” Caffeine was causing me various issues and I needed to reduce my intake of it. So, I started looking for something that could “take it’s place.”

I found Postum! I enjoyed that drink sooo much, well, that is until it disappeared off the shelves. In every way Postum made me feel like I was having a good cup of coffee. Its texture, taste, and aroma all made me feel like I wasn’t missing anything by not actually drinking coffee. It was great while it lasted!

Part of the salvific work of Jesus in being our sin-bearer, was that of being our substitute. A SUBSTITUTE is one that takes the place of another. That is what Jesus became for us!

Unlike Postum which only satisfies temporarily, The substitutionary work of Jesus Christ brings results that satisfy eternally.

Because of Jesus believer’s have “become dead to sin and alive to righteousness” (1Peter 2:24). God is NOW for us and not against us (Romans 8:31). These are only two of many benefits believers receive when they trust Him as their substitute!

No one else can be such a substitute for us. God had placed that work on Christ alone. Jesus, in all ways, met and settled, for all time, the charges God had against sinners. Because Of Jesus we can have peace with God!

Friend, you don’t have to pay the debt you owe for your sins. Jesus paid it for you! Turn to Him in repentant faith and you will find His forgiveness.

LIFE APPLICATION

Mark 8:22-26

BRIEF INTRO: 

The correct application of knowledge in our lives is essential. Our days are filled with many issues, challenges, and temptations that require a certain level of wisdom to work through in a healthy, God-honoring way. 

In our study, we have witnessed the disciple’s “lack” of understanding of who Jesus truly was. We observed some “mountain top” moments in their lives, such as their success in ministry when Jesus sent them out to “preach and have authority to cast out demons” (3:14) and when Peter walked on water (Mark 6:45-51; Matthew 14:29). 

And we will hear Peter’s amazing confession of Jesus as the Messiah in our next study (Mark 8:29). But along with these moments, we witness many others that are not so positive! We constantly observe their lack of comprehension relating to spiritual truths (Mark 4:13; 6:52; 7:17,18; 8:1-5, 15-21).

These men seem to take one step forward, only to take two steps backward a little later. Can you relate to them? I sure can. Their understanding of spiritual things is gradual, not immediate. Their ability to get past previously held presuppositions is limited, so they desperately need Jesus to come alongside them and patiently teach them about the kingdom and its King, King Jesus! And this is what Jesus does. So far in our study of Mark, we have observed the fantastic patience of Jesus with these men that He called unto Himself. The patience of Jesus! That, dear reader, is something to be thankful about. 

22 And they *came to Bethsaida. And some people *brought a man who was blind to [a]Jesus and *begged Him to touch him.23 Taking the man who was blind by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting in his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he [b]looked up and said, “I see people, for I see them like trees, walking around.” 25 Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. 26 And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

FOCUS ONE: Do you see anything?

The two-step method of healing the blind man seems odd, as Jesus’ healings are usually instantaneous. We must never forget that Jesus, as God in the flesh, still maintains His sovereign choice to heal according to His timing. But along with that, we can also understand that it would be very reasonable for Him to use this miracle of healing as another teaching moment for His disciples. (assuming He took some with Him outside cr. 5:37). 

Our previous study ended with Jesus asking the disciples, “Do you not yet understand” (8: 17,21), and in the account that follows what we are discussing in this post, Jesus asks the disciples who they think He is, and Peter expresses boldly that He is the Christ (8:29).

We can see a bit of similarity in Marks writing between the disciples and this blind man. The blind man is like the disciples; at first, he sees only dimly, then when Jesus again puts His hands on the man’s eyes, he sees everything clearly! 

“1The disciples still have much to learn about Jesus after the disclosure at Caesarea Philippi. The difference between Jesus’ self-disclosure to His disciples before the healing of the blind man (vv. 15-21) and afterward at Caesarea Philippi (vv. 27-30) is as great as the two seeings of the blind man who is healed in stages.”

The similarities in the account regarding “seeing” or understanding are apparent. From all we read leading up to this point, we notice that the disciple’s spiritual eyesight is gradually being healed. These few verses about this man’s healing seem to serve as a bridge between Jesus’ “Do you not yet understand?” and Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah! Which then is followed by Jesus foretelling His coming death and resurrection!

Outside of the obvious healing of the blind man, there is another object lesson for Jesus’ disciples. Jesus completely transforms people’s lives!

Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. 26 And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

FOCUS TWO: Seeing clearly

The blind man’s life would never be the same again! I can imagine that he would not go through a minute, a day, or even a year, without thinking about the compassion and kindness shown to him on that day from Jesus. But what we don’t want to miss in this object lesson to His disciples is that “transformation” spiritually is also a work done by Jesus: the most critical work.

Do you remember these words from the grand old hymn Amazing grace: “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see?” How did that happen? It happens because of Jesus Christ! Jesus is not only the “way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), but He is also the “light of the world” (John 8:12). Light reveals things previously hidden by darkness. Jesus opens the eyes of sinners to see His truth and experience His wonderful redemption.

Physical transformation is a great gift that we shouldn’t take for granted. How much more so spiritual transformation? The disciples were being transformed in the “renewing of their minds,” but it was not an instantaneous event. It was more like a roller coaster ride at an amusement park! Just as this man received his sight back in stages, so will the disciples grow in understanding and see Jesus for who He truly is!

FOCUS THREE: Go on home

In verse 26, the man was sent home but warned, “Do not even enter the village.” Why such a warning? It appears evident throughout Mark’s writing that the multitudes were not yet ready to “see everything” clearly. This isn’t the only time Jesus gave similar commands to others. He told some not to tell anyone about what He had done for them (Matthew 8:4; Mark 3:12; Luke 5:14). 

“2There were certain points in Jesus’ ministry when He purposely tried to keep the crowds following Him from growing to large. Overly large crowds tended to be more disorderly and sometimes hindered Jesus from His more in depth discipleship and teaching ministry.” 

After sending the healed man away, Jesus and His disciples head to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way, Jesus questions them about who the people say He is, but more directly, Who do you say I am? This is where I believe all the things we have been meditating on are headed.

1 Evangelical Commentary on the Bible

2 Studyandobey.com

JUST NOT GETTING IT!

Mark 8:14-21

BRIEF INTRO: On the heels of the Pharisees testing Jesus and asking for a sign, we find an incident recorded by Mark regarding the disciple’s slowness in understanding spiritual truths that Jesus wanted them to grasp. This is not anything new. We saw this before when Jesus walked on water to their boat after feeding the five thousand (6:45-52). We witnessed it again in (4:13) when they did not understand Christ’s teaching about the seeds being sown. 

In our following study, we will face this issue again, and maybe we might be challenged to examine ourselves to see if we are more like the disciples than we’d like to think when it comes to our understanding of spiritual things.

14 And the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the [a]leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began to discuss 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 comprehend or understand? Do you still have your heart [b]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 you picked up?” They *said to Him, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they *said to Him, “Seven.” 21 And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

FOCUS ONE: Where’s the bread?

14 And the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the [a]leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod.”

This statement by Jesus is the catalyst for the conversation if you can call it that, that ensues after leaving the district of Dalmanutha. In a rush to leave, they forget to bring some bread for their journey. Only one loaf is found in the boat with them, and you have to wonder if it has become time to point fingers at one another!

It appears odd to us as we think of Jesus, sitting in the boat with them, hearing the conversation evolve over who’s fault it is that they have no bread, and then for Him to say, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” We can sympathize with them, can’t we? After all, we would be just as mystified as they were at such a statement. 

Take notice of the exclamation point after the “watch out!” Such a punctuation mark is used to indicate strong feelings or emphasize. It helps us grasp a sense of Christ’s tone and demeanor as He engaged these men in what really can be considered a ridiculous conversation to be having at the moment.

Jesus fed five thousand plus with only five loaves and two fish (6:34-44). A bit later, He repeats the same miracle with four thousand people (8:1-9). The latter most likely only being a few weeks ago. And yet, they worry about eating!

What is leaven? Why does Jesus mention Herod with the Pharisees?

“A small amount of yeast can affect a large amount of bread dough when they are mixed. Yeast was a common Jewish metaphor for an invisible, persuasive influence. It often, as here, connoted a corrupting influence. In this context the yeast referred to a gradual increase of unbelief. This lay behind the Pharisees request for a sign even though their minds were already made up (8:11-12; 3:6). So it was with Herod (6:14-16;Luke 13:3133). This attitude had affected the whole nation of Israel, and He warned His disciple against it.”

Jesus’ rebuke will be our next focus point. We see it expressed in five penetrating questions that showed their continual lack of understanding.

16 And they began to discuss 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 comprehend or understand? Do you still have your heart [b]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 you picked up?” They *said to Him, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they *said to Him, “Seven.” 21

FOCUS TWO: Penetrating questions

Christ’s rebuke is not spoken in anger but compassionately because He understands that they are slow to grasp the spiritual realities He seeks to teach them. Over and over again, these men are stuck in the physical and can’t comprehend the spiritual aspects of Christ’s teachings. “Leaven” leads them to think of bread when Jesus wants them to understand the pervasive influence of misunderstanding and dull insensitive hearts!

Jesus doesn’t repeat His previous teachings. Instead, He asks several penetrating questions. Why would He do that? It appears He does it to get them to think critically and come to the correct answer by applying the truths learned. 

The questions are penetrating and direct their minds toward recent events in which Jesus revealed in various ways, very clearly, who He was. 

 “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread?” 

“Do you not yet comprehend or understand?”

 “Do you still have your heart [b]hardened?”

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 you picked up? They *said to Him, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they *said to Him, “Seven.” 

Jesus exhibits excellent patience with these men. His example is one from which we can learn if we have “ears to hear and eyes to see.” 

  1. People don’t always “get it” the first time they hear or experience something, so repetition is essential.
  2. Patience is essential and will be the catalyst for healthy learning.
  3. Asking insightful questions rather than “feeding” the answers will produce in the students critical thinking skills that will help them prosper.
  4. We are just like them! Let’s be thankful for His patience towards us.

Did you notice that Jesus Reminds them of the two incidents of feeding many people with bread? Why does he do that? Because in both instances, He revealed His deity and authority over all things. He had shown He was the promised Messiah, and they didn’t understand the importance ad significance of those miracles!

Interestingly, They only answered the question of how many baskets they picked up! Maybe that’s because Jesus just fired them off, one after another. Perhaps they were to ashamed to reply? Maybe they were still trying to figure out what he was talking about! In any case, they only answer regarding the number of baskets they picked up; they got that down pat.

21 And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

FOCUS THREE: The sound of silence

This last question is a piercing one, and no answer is recorded! After all, I taught you and explained to you; after all of the miracles I have done in your presence, do you still not understand who I am? Rather than experiencing overflowing faith, they seem to be swimming in a sea of doubts? I can only imagine how grievous this must have been to the heart of Jesus. The text moves on to Bethsaida, leaving the reader to ponder what happened after that question was asked.

In Bethsaida, Jesus heals a blind man. Another miracle. Another revelation of His deity. Jesus does not let the issue go. As we will see, all of this leads to a critical discussion with His disciples.

NOT ALONE

If I were to walk alone
Without you as my guide,
I wonder just how far I’d get
Before I’d lose my stride.

I can’t imagine trying that,
Even thinking it’d be wise;
For such a test of mind and heart
Would surely be my demise.

Who’s counsel would I walk in
If it did not come from you?
What wisdom could I gain
And be sure that it is true?

But you O Lord are my shield
The One that sustains me,
Certainly to you I yield
My heart eternally.

My soul rejoices in you O Lord,
Your Spirit is my guide;
No longer must I walk alone
When by faith in you I abide

Written by: Larry Stump Jr.

A SIGN FROM HEAVEN

Mark 8:10-13. Cr. Matthew 16:1-4

BRIEF INTRO: It should appear odd that the Pharisees would be asking for a sign, an “attesting miracle,” to validate who Jesus says He is. When we survey the gospel accounts up to this point, we are quickly inundated with many situations in which Jesus performed miracles. He cast out demons (1:23-27), healed Simon’s mother-in-law from fever (1:29-31), and healed many who were sick from various illnesses (1:34). He healed lepers, paralytics, and a man with withered hands, a woman with a bleeding issue (5:25-34), and many others. He even fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish! Who else but God the Messiah can do such wonders?

And yet, as often as we see the Pharisees in the gospel accounts, gathering together to test Him, observe Him, and even debate Him, with full knowledge of what He has done for the people, we still find them “seeking a sign.”

Do you need some sign before you trust in Jesus?

11 And the Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, demanding from Him a [a]sign from heaven, [b]to test Him.

FOCUS ONE: The problem with the Pharisees

Who were they anyway?

“After the Babylonian exile, the Pharisees organized with the express purpose of ensuring that the people of God would no longer stray away from the divine precepts. In an effort to do so, they became expert exegetes and interpreters of scripture. They painstakingly studied the law of God and created a sort of oral commentary on the law, which evolved over time and later was produced in a written form known today as the Mishnah. The parts of the Mishnah directly related to commandments or legal requirements of the law were known as halacha, which means walking through the law.”

“By New Testament times, the Pharisees had reached the height of their influence. They were well-respected by the common people because of their commitment to piety and dogged loyalty to the nation of Israel. They were bitter rivals of the Sadducees, a similar group that was made of mostly upper-class Jews, though with more liberal political views. The Pharisees, whose name in the original language signifies a literal separation from that which would defile, were the opposite of the Sadducees, who were highly motivated by any relationship or arrangement which would advance their political or economic aims. The Pharisees were deeply committed to doctrinal and personal purity. While the Pharisees did consider Sadducees to be compromising backsliders, we do see them leaguing together to entrap Jesus (see Mt. 22:15-16,22-23,34).”

So, they didn’t start badly, but over the years, the motivations of many of them changed. Their influence over the people was of paramount importance to them. Jesus called them out over this very thing in Matthew 23:6-7. “It seemed as though their primary qualm with Jesus was that He was detracting from their influence and thus diminishing the ability to maintain control of the hearts and minds of the people.” 

Some problems we notice regarding the Pharisees:

  1. They had an incorrect view of authority (7:6)
  2. They failed to acknowledge the inconsistencies in their hearts
  3. They were self-consumed and self-absorbed (Matthew 23:1-36)
  4. They were hypocrites (Matthew 23)

In our text, we find Jesus and His disciples had just entered the district of Dalmanutha and were immediately harassed by the Pharisees from that region. Where is Dalmanutha?

“(1) A place on the west of the Sea of Galilee, mentioned only in  Mark 8:10 . In the parallel passage, it is said that Christ came “into the borders of Magdala” ( Matthew 15:39 ). It is plain, then, that Dalmanutha was near Magdala, which was probably the Greek name of one of the many Migdols (i.e., watch-towers) on the western side of the lake of Gennesaret. It has been identified in the ruins of a village about a mile from Magdala, in the little open valley of ‘Ain-el-Barideh, “the cold fountain,” called el-Mejdel, possibly the “Migdal-el” of Joshua 19:

In this place, we read Christ’s response to them regarding their request for a sign.

12 Sighing deeply in His spirit, He *said, “Why does this generation demand a [a]sign? Truly I say to you, [b]no [c]sign will be given to this generation!”

FOCUS TWO: Why a sign?

The Pharisees already had many attesting miracles (signs) that revealed the deity of Jesus. It wasn’t that they needed clarification of anything. No, it is evident in these few recorded words of Mark that they were there to “test” Him and did so while “arguing” with Him (8:12).

Those words: “sighed deeply in His spirit,” reveal the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ! They express how deeply affected He was by their “wickedness” and “hypocrisy.” It appears that their “obstinate unbelief” is the issue underlying His refusal to give them a sign of their asking. So, no sign at their request, in such unbelief, will be given to them, BUT Jesus will provide “one” sign of His choosing! Matthew 16:1-4 records Christ’s words regarding the sign He will provide: the sign of Jonah! It was NOT what they asked for and would NOT be given because they asked for it.

Now the question should arise: Is it always wrong to seek a sign? I guess the answer to that would be yes AND no! Confusing? Let’s focus on that answer for just a bit.

In our day and age, the definition of terms is very critical. While one person may understand a word to mean one thing, others may define it differently. So, we need to be careful here. There seem to be three different possible meanings being used when the word “signs” is used.

“2The first category for “signs” is biblical but should NOT be sought after by Christians. The second category for “signs” is biblical and should be sought after by Christian’s. And the third category for “signs” is not biblical and thus should not be sought after by Christians.”

The first category of “signs” is what I would label as “signs and wonders.”

In the Bible, there is clear evidence that at certain times in history, God has chosen to create “signs and wonders” to send a message, warnings, or to mark the fulfillment of a promise. 

An example of this would be in Luke 2:8-15, when an angel appeared to the shepherds and announced the supernatural birth of Jesus. Luke 2:12 states, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

“While these types of “signs” are clearly biblical, these are not the type of signs a Christian should look for to hear from God on a daily basis. Signs and wonders are rare and will not be performed by God whenever we want him to do them. God chooses to use these types of signs for special purposes and reasons. We should not ask God to speak to us through signs like this whenever we want to know his will for our lives. These types of signs and wonders are something God will choose to do when he wants to, but this is not something we should seek after.”

The second category of “signs” is what I would label as “evidence for what God wants you to do in your life.

“Unlike “signs and wonders,” this second type of “sign” is the kind I believe Christians should always be looking for so that they can fulfill God’s specific will for their life. The process of seeing these signs is less about asking God to send them to us and more about properly interpreting the signs God is already sending to us. God is always telling us what he wants us to do in life, and we need to properly interpret these “signs” so we are doing what God wants.”

“When certain things are happening in your heart and in your life, we need to interpret these things through a biblical lens. When I use the word “signs” in my videos and articles, I’m referring to this process of interpreting events through applying the Bible. If “________” happens, this is a sign you should apply “_________” biblical principle. Just like a doctor who looks at the patient and examines what symptoms are present before giving medicine, we need to look at the “signs” in life that would lead us to apply the correct biblical wisdom.”

For example, if you are a man and asked God, “Lord, do you want me to ask Ashley out on a date?”, it would not be biblical to ask God to give you a vision to tell you what to do. But, it would be biblical to look for evidence in your life and interactions with Ashley to help you rightly apply the word of God. So if you are talking with Ashley and it comes out that she is not a Christian like you thought she was, this would be a “sign” that God does not want you to date her because 2 Corinthians 6:14 states that God does not want his people unequally yoked.

Because our goal here is to apply biblical wisdom rightly, this is why we can use the language, “God wants you to do this” or “God wants you to do that.” The Bible is God’s word; therefore, when we rightly apply the Bible to our lives, we know we are doing what God wants us to do in our lives.

The third category of “signs” is what I refer to as “horoscopes and superstitions.” 

“When someone is using the word “sign” in this sense, they are attaching unrelated meaning to random events and situations in life.”

“For example, if a man was asking, “Lord, do you want me to date Ashely?” and then he instantly saw five grey cats walk in front of him, and he then interpreted this as a sign that God does want him to date Ashley, this would be unbiblical. Why? Because those five grey cats have nothing to do with healthy relationship principles found in the Bible. 

If this man prayed that prayer and then at church that night, he and Ashly have a great conversation together, and they get time to serve with one another, and it seems like they both are prepared to start a godly relationship – then that could be interpreted as a sign that God is telling him to move forward with her. But when we try to attach our meanings to random things in life, we are playing God and just making things up in our heads. This is not what God wants for us.”

“Or if a woman was asking God if she should breakup with her boyfriend and then on her way to work she literally got stopped at every red traffic light possible, and then she interpreted this as a sign that God was telling her to breakup with him, this would not be biblical because red traffic lights don’t mean anything biblically or relationally. However, if on her way to work she sees her boyfriend kissing another woman, clearly that would be a sign she needs to breakup with him because this man is not showing the character of a faithful man that the Bible requires for husbands.”

God speaks clearly through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit’s impressions on our hearts, and through the circumstances in our lives. God will help us rightly interpret the “signs” in our lives by showing us how to rightly apply biblical wisdom to the situations and relationships we experience in our lives.”

I trust these examples from a website on applying God’s word will help us better understand the importance of correctly defining terms and biblically applying scripture.

13 And leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side.

FOCUS THREE: Approaching Jesus

One other thing that stands out in this portion of scripture, at least to me, is the question of how we approach Jesus? To simply state it, there are only two ways to approach Jesus:

  1. Incorrectly (irreverent, argumentative, hypocritically) 10:2; 11:18
  2. Correctly (humbly, repentant, sincerely) 7:27-30; 5:21-24; 35-43

I encourage you to read the scriptures cited above for yourself because in them, you will see a stark contrast in the heart and behavior of each person represented. 

Once again, we read that Jesus leaves to go “to the other side” with His disciples. We see this many times leading up to our text today:

Mark 4:35

5:21

6:32

6:45

8:10

8:13 seems to be the last time

In verse twenty-two we find their destination: Bethsaida!

  1. (1) The Growth network (internet site)
  2. (2) Applying God’s word (internet site).