The passage contains several questions which all revolve around seeing and not seeing, culminating with Jesus asking a blind man if he sees anything.
7:24 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. 25But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27And 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.” 28But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. – Mark 7:24-30
- This woman is a Gentile and probably does not speak Hebrew. She has no claims on the promise made to Israel.
- Matthew 15:22 tells us she addresses Jesus: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me”. “Lord” acknowledges his authority. “Son of David” acknowledges his Messiahship. “Have mercy on me” acknowledges she deserves nothing.
- Every healing we’ve seen to this point in Mark has had a deeper spiritual purpose than just healing. To grant her request without any belief on her part would be to turn his healing into a work of power, instead of works of the Messiah.
- The term Jesus uses for “dogs” is not a racial slur. He uses the diminutive word. His comparison is between beloved children of the house and beloved pets of the house. Many of us treat our pets has a beloved part of the family, but no one elevates their pets above their children.
- What she takes from his response is that both pets and children belong to the Master. There is enough for both.
- Jesus recognizes her response as a statement of faith and grants her request (Matthew 15:28).
- Without recording any response from the disciples, Mark takes us to the next scene where Jesus heals a deaf man, foreshadowing the miraculous obedience that results from hearing the God’s word, as God now fulfills his promise to write his law on our hearts (Mark 7:31-37).
8:1In 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. 3And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6And 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. 7And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. – Mark 8:1-9
- Jesus is back in the region where he healed the Gerasene demoniac.
- Instead of being described as a flock, they are described as a large crowd (8:1), some of who are from far away, suggesting a heterogeneous mix of people.
- They do not gather in 100s or 50s as the Israelites do. Instead they flop on the ground, again suggesting a mixed race (8:6).
- The word used to describe the baskets is not the typical round baskets that Jews carried. These baskets are like mats with handles and were typically used by Gentiles.
- After the first feeding, there were 12 baskets of bread leftover, suggesting that Jesus is inaugurating the Messianic feast for the New Israel with one basket for each tribe. The number 7 indicates the heathen tribes who had inhabited the land before Israel (Deuteronomy 7:1; Act 13:16).
- We see three feasts in Jesus’ ministry: 1) the feeding of the 5000 – a Jewish population; 2) the feeding of the 4000 – a Gentile population. He will close his ministry with yet another feast: the Last Supper for the apostles. Each “feeding” leads to the next.
The context for passage today is the context of the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Messianic feast.
There are three scenes in this passage: 1) Jesus with the Pharisees (8:11-13); 2) Jesus in a boat with his disciples (8:14-21), and 3) Jesus alone with a blind man in Bethsaida (8:22-26).
Mar 8:10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. 11The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12And 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.” 13And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. – Mark 8:10-13
- The Pharisees ironically request a sign from heaven when they refuse to see the signs Jesus performs on earth.
- Jesus refused to perform an act of power to impress the Pharisees because nothing he does will impress them.
- Compare Psalm 19:1-3; Luke 16:19-31.
- Signs signify something. The importance of a sign is what it points to.
8:14Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17And 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? 18Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19When 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.” 21And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” – Mark 8:14-21
- Yeast is the essential ingredient in bread which gives bread its character.
- Yeast in the Bible is often used as a metaphor for the invisible power of sin. Just as yeast mixes into bread and permeates the entire loaf and defines it, a little sin permeates the whole being and defines it; or a little heresy permeates the whole of someone’s teaching and shapes it.
- The 12 baskets of bread were symbolic of the Messianic feast, inviting the tribes of Israel to the table.
- The 7 baskets of bread symbolized the invitation of the 7 gentile tribes to the feast.
- The miracle is that in the one loaf, the bread of life, the Messiah, the Messianic banquet will be served for all Israel and now the Gentiles.
8:22And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23And 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?” 24And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” – Mark 8:22-26
- Jesus rarely heals anyone in stages as this man.
- The blind man is alone with Jesus and the disciples.
- The healing involves intimate personal touch from Jesus, not words as with the Syrophonecian woman.
- This healing is symbolic of the fact that the disciples are beginning to see but they don’t see clearly yet. Their understanding of who Jesus is and what he intends to do is still weak and confused.
- Like the blind man, the disciples are beginning to see but they don’t yet have clarity. Jesus will not give up one them. He will continue to teach them until they see clearly and they know that this man before them is the Messiah who will unite both Jew and Gentile in a salvation by faith.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.