Mark 7 begins with the Pharisees noticing that Jesus and His disciples ate their food with unclean hands and sought to call Him out on these charges. Jesus points to Isaiah, saying “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” He then goes on to point out their incredible hypocrisy. Summoning a crowd, he turns this into a teaching moment, saying that there is nothing that can go into a person’s body that would defile them; rather, it is what comes from a person’s heart that defiles them.
Jesus then goes on to heal a Syrophoenician woman’s daughter who had a demon, followed by the healing of a deaf man. Chapter 8 begins with the feeding of four thousand, which again Jesus uses as a teachable moment for his disciples, showing compassion and acting with power on behalf of those who were hungry and far from home. He and His disciples depart to Dalmanutha where Jesus found a group of Pharisees sought to test Him by asking for a sign. With a heavy sigh Jesus tells them that “… no sign will be given to this generation.” They hop back in a boat and go to the other side of the sea.
On the way, Jesus tells His disciples to “watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” The disciples start talking amongst themselves, having clearly missed the point of what their master said, and instead worrying about not having brought any bread, as if Jesus didn’t just feed four thousand people with only a few loaves! Another teachable moment follows when Jesus pointed that out to them.
In Bethsaida, Jesus heals a blind man, and in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, Peter responds to Jesus’ question of who the disciples think Jesus is. Peter says that Jesus is the Christ (an amazing realization) yet immediately messes it up by objecting Jesus’ plain words that He must suffer and die and rise again to life.
Jesus rebukes him and, once again calling the crowd to Him, makes it a teachable moment, saying “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me …”
Jesus was clearly a man of extreme patience, and in these chapters, you see what He was dealing with! The Pharisees trying to catch Him in some trap or another then demanding signs to prove Himself, crowds that would constantly be following Him around, disciples that just don’t seem to get it, and when they do they get something right it lasts for only a moment! Combine this with the heat of the area in which this all took place, anyone would be forgiven for getting a little cranky now and again. But this isn’t what Jesus does. Yes, He sighs and grows exasperated, but only with those who really ought to know better. With everyone else He gathers them in to hear His words, feeds and heals them, and has the utmost patience.
I think the Gospel of Mark slips a little humor in here at the disciple’s expense, especially in 8:14-21. Imagine being around Jesus, having just seen Him feed four thousand people, sailing across to some unknown destination. The thrill of so massive a miracle still surging in your heart as you peer deeper into the hidden truths of the Kingdom of Heaven. He turns to His disciples and tells them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and instead of looking for a deeper meaning (He was always speaking in parables), the disciples start side-eyeing each other as they try to quietly work out whose job it was to bring some bread! Just picture the sigh that Jesus would have given as He listens to their hushed discussion as Peter and Andrew bicker about who screwed up. Or picture the joy Jesus would have felt in the confession of Peter as he acknowledges Him as the Christ, followed by the tsk of disappointment as Peter confidently refused to let Jesus go to the cross, earning him a harsh rebuke.
Yes, in everything Jesus was patient with those around Him and always turned His circumstances into an opportunity to tell others about the way God and His kingdom operate.
Application and Question:
How long have you been following Christ? How often do you read God’s word? The reason I ask is so that we can all check ourselves and see, when held up to Scripture, if there are any major discrepancies in our understanding and walking out of our relationship with Christ. Christ is patient, oh so patient, and though we are sinners until we are taken home, we can always strive to be and understand better so as not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).
Many people followed Jesus around, He was never short of a crowd. Yet only a small handful were actually there for Him and who He was and is. Most followed for healing, for relief, for food, a sign, an argument, a debate, or even good moral teaching. Yet so few stuck by His side for who He was and the joy of knowing the truth about God. Even one those who did stick around denied Him in His greatest hour of need. Let us not grow arrogant or prideful in our walk with Christ, thinking we know it all after so many years of being a Christian. No matter what our experience or title or social status, Jesus has infinitely more to teach us, so let us make good on His patience and always be eager to humble ourselves and listen when we find ourselves in a teachable moment.
Thank you Lord for being long-suffering for our sake, and for desiring that none should perish. Thank you for loving us and running to us when we were still a long way off, and for making peace between us and God when we were still sinners. Thank you for your immeasurable patience as we stray this way and that on the narrow path that leads to life. Please keep our hearts soft and our eyes open when you teach us your ways that we may make the best of our time here on earth and be a bright and shining city on a hill for as long as you will. Amen!
P.s., crank the music!
Song: Spirit Lead Me - Influence Music & Michael Keterer
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.