THE GOSPEL OF MARK
Lesson 6: Chapters 8:1-9:8
The Second Miracle Feeding and Conclusion of St.
Part III: The Mystery Begins to be Unveiled
Holy Father of Everlasting Goodness,
Be close to us and hear the prayers of all who praise You, forgiving our sins and restoring us to life through Your gift of the Eucharist. It is in the miracle feeding of the Eucharist that You guide us and nourish our souls on our journey to salvation, keeping us safe in the visible demonstration of Your Son's love for all His faithful disciples. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of St. Mark's account of Jesus' second miracle feeding that will reach its climax in the third miracle feeding of the Most Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
A name is a
designation that sums up and describes the particular character of the one
named....For when the character of "Abram" was changed, he was called "Abraham."
So when "Simon" was changed, he was called "Peter." And when "Saul" stopped
persecuting Christ, he was named "Paul." In the case of God, however, whose
character is eternally unchangeable and always remains unaltered, there is
always a single name. It is that spoken of him in Exodus: "I Am."
Origen, On Prayer, 24.2
In the miracle of walking on the sea (Mk 6:45-52), Jesus revealed His true identity in a veiled way to His disciples when He called out to them, using the Divine Name, "Ego Ami," "I AM" (Mk 6:50), but they were still too bound to earthly realities to understand the spiritual significance of His declaration. In this lesson, Jesus challenges their understanding of His true identity with a second feeding miracle in the continuation of the "bread narrative" of Mark's Gospel (see previous lesson and handout).
Jesus' earlier miracle of feeding the more than five thousand would have recalled for His disciples and the Jewish crowd other feeding miracles of God's holy prophets recorded in Sacred Scripture:
The prophet Elisha was the successor of the prophet Elijah in the same way Jesus was the successor of John the Baptist. Elisha was also a greater prophet than Elijah, receiving a double portion of Elijah's spirit (2 Kng 2:9-14). He was therefore able to perform double the miracles of Elijah. Notice that while Elijah performed one feeding miracle that Elisha performed two. In the same way, Jesus was greater than St. John the Baptist, who came to minister in the spirit of Elijah (Lk 1:17).
Question: Compare Elisha and Jesus with Elijah and John the
Baptist. Compare Elisha's and Jesus' feeding miracles of the multiplication of
the loaves in 2 Kings 4:42-44 and Mark 6:34-44. Note that in John 6:9 we are
told the bread provided for Jesus' feeding miracle was also made of barley.
|Elisha's Feeding Miracle (2 Kng 4:42-44)||Jesus' Feeding Miracle (Mk 6:34-44)|
|Elisha was greater than the prophet he succeeded (Elijah).||Jesus was greater than the prophet He succeeded (John the Baptist who came in the spirit of Elijah).|
|In Elisha's miracle there was only a small amount of food (20 loaves of barley bread).||In Jesus' miracle there was only a small amount of food (5 loaves of barley bread and 2 fishes).|
|Elisha's servants protested that there was not enough food to feed so many men.||Jesus' disciples protested that there was not enough food to feed so many men.|
|The small amount of food became enough to feed 100 men.||The small amount of food became enough to feed 5 thousand men.|
|There was food left over.||There was food left over.|
In Mark 7:31, Jesus left the Gentile region of Tyre and Sidon after responding to the faith confession of a Gentile woman by fulfilling her petition to heal her child (Mk 7:24-30). Jesus then moved east across the Galilee into the Gentile region of the Decapolis for the second time (Mk 5:20; 7:31) where He healed a deaf man (Mk 7:31-37). Matthew does not identify the location of the second miracle feeding, but Mark seems to suggest that it took place soon after the healing of the deaf man in the Gentile region of the Decapolis by the statement "In those days," meaning the days associated with the previous healing.
The key word in the events of Mark's second part of the "bread narrative" in 8:1 to 8:26 continues to be the word artos, which is translated as either "bread," "loaves," or "meal" in English translations. The word artos appears 17 times (Mk 6:36, 37, 38, 41 twice, 52; 7:2, 5, 27; 8:4, 5, 6, 14 twice, 16, 17, and 19). St. Mark has carefully chosen to use this word repeatedly to demonstrate the unveiling of the mystery of Jesus centering on the theme of "bread." It is a revelation that will reach its climax at the Last Supper.
In this second half of the "bread narrative" there is a
repeat of the pattern of events that started in 6:34. Jesus will miraculously
feed a multitude with a few loaves of bread and fish. The miracle is followed
by a crossing of the Sea of Galilee, a conflict with the religious leaders, a
healing and will climax in a confession of faith. In both parts of the bread
narrative, Jesus heals a deaf man and a blind man, symbolizing the warning He
gave when He quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10 (Mk 4:12) as He continues to spiritually
open the deaf ears and the blind eyes of His disciples and others so they will
one day be able to understand the mystery of the Kingdom He has come to
proclaim. Parts E and D are reversed from the first half of the "bread
narrative" (see last week's handout).
Part II of Mark's "Bread Narrative":
2A. Feeding of the four thousand (Mk 8:1-10)
2B. Crossing of the Sea of Galilee toward Dalmanutha (Mk 8:10)
2C. Conflict with the Pharisees (Mk 8:11-13)
2E. Healing of the blind man (Mk 8:22-26)
2D. Peter's confession of faith (Mk 8:27-30)
Earliest recorded Eucharistic Prayer: Concerning
the broken bread: "We give Thee thanks, Our Father, for the life and knowledge
which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy Servant. To Thee be the
glory for evermore. As this broken bread was scattered over the mountain and
then, when gathered, became one, so may Thy Church be gathered from the ends of
the earth into Thy Kingdom."
The Eucharistic prayer from the Didache [Teaching of the Twelve Apostles], 9:3-4, written not earlier than 49/50 but not later than 120 AD
And to the
foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name
of the LORD, and becoming his servants; all who keep the Sabbath free from
profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and
make joyful in my house of prayer; their holocausts and sacrifices will be
acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all
peoples. Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel: Others
will I gather to him besides those already gathered.
Isaiah 56:6-7 (Jesus will quote Is 56:7c when He cleanses the Jerusalem Temple)
Please notice St. Mark's repeated reference to "bread" [artos in the Greek] in the text in this second half of the "Bread Narrative" (see Mk 8:4, 5, 6, 14 twice, 16, 17, and 19). Jesus has returned from the Gentile region of Tyre and Sidon and has traveled by way of the Sea of Galilee to the Gentile district of the Decapolis on the eastern side of the lake (Mk 7:31). While still in that region and "in those days," Jesus offers His second miracle feeding, but this time the miracle takes place in Gentile territory.
Mark 8:1-10 ~The Second Miracle Feeding of the Four Thousand
1 In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, he summoned the disciples and said, 2 "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance." 4 His disciples answered him, "Where can anyone get enough bread [artos] to satisfy them here in this deserted place?" 5 Still he asked them, "How many loaves [artos] do you have?" "Seven," they replied. 6 He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves [artos] he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd. 7 They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also. 8 They ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets. 9 There were about four thousand people*. 10 He dismissed them and [immediately] got into the boat with his disciples and came to the region of Dalmanutha.
* The word "people" is not in the Greek text which only reads and those eating about four thousand (IBGE, vol. IV, page 117), but since the count is for all those eating and Mark does not specify "men," the whole crowd of "people" rather than only men is understood.
The feeding miracle of the five thousand (not counting women and
children) is retold in all four Gospels (Mk 14:13-21; Mk 6:31-34; Lk 9:10-17;
Jn 6:1-13). However, o nly the
Gospels of Matthew and Mark present both miracle feedings of the five thousand
and the four thousand.
Question: How many days did the crowd stay with Jesus in the miracle feeding of the four thousand?
Answer: The crowd stayed Jesus three days.
In the symbolic significance of numbers in Scripture, three is a number of importance, completion and fulfillment, especially signifying an important event in salvation history. Between His death and resurrection, Jesus will rest in the tomb for three days from Friday to Sunday as the ancients counted.
We are told that the second miracle feeding took place in "a deserted place" like the feeding of the five thousand (Mk 6:35; 8:33). The mention of the location of Jesus' teaching being in a "deserted place" or "wilderness" brings to mind the Old Testament miracle feeding of the manna in the wilderness. Since the site of both miracle feedings is in a deserted place like the Israelites in the wilderness miracle feedings, it may be an allusion to Jesus as the new Moses, feeding His people and leading them out of the "wilderness" of sin into the blessings of His Kingdom. It is something the people certainly thought of when they encountered Jesus the day after the first miracle feeding in St. John's Gospel and asked Him to make manna come down from heaven like Moses (Jn 6:30-31).
8 They ate and were
satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets. 9 There were about four thousand people.
This time we are not told the count only included men and the seven baskets are not the smaller baskets in which one might keep food for a journey [kophinos] in the first miracle feeding but large, hamper sized baskets [spuris].
Question: What are some of the differences between the first two
The second miracle feeding is very much like the first except for the location, which is significantly in Gentile territory, and the crowd was certainly of mixed Jewish and Gentile peoples. It is significant that the number of days the people were with Him is three days, and we are told that there are seven loaves of bread but the number of fish is not given. We are also told that again the people ate their fill; seven baskets were left over and collected by the disciples. This time the Greek word is for very large baskets. It is the same word that is used for the basket St. Paul hid in when he escaped from Damascus (Acts 9:25). Another difference is that there are two blessings of the food in the second miracle feeding (see Mk 8:6 and 7). The pronouncement of the blessing over the bread is the typical Jewish practice, but the unusual second blessing of the fish may have been intended to teach the Gentiles who are present about thanking God for their daily food.
Some of the Gentiles who were present when Jesus healed the daughter of the Canaanite woman may have followed Him back into the territory of the Decapolis. If so, the numbers seven and four may symbolize the coming of the Gentile nations. Four, as in the four thousand, is the symbolic number of the four corners of the earth and its peoples, while seven Gentile peoples were said to inhabit Canaan: When the LORD, your God brings you into the land which you are to enter and occupy, and dislodges great nations before you: the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites; seven nations more numerous and powerful than you ... (Dt 7:1; see the document "Significance of Numbers in Scripture"). It has been common since the time of St. Augustine (354-430) to assign the first feeding to the nourishment of Israel and the second to the promised inclusion of the Gentile peoples (William Lane, The Gospel of Mark, page 274).
This interpretation is consistent with Mark's interest in the apostolic mission to the Gentiles with Jews and Gentiles sitting down to a meal together in fellowship; it is an event which prefigures Jesus' intention for His Church. The Messianic blessings intended to reach the Gentile nations of the earth, as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah (e.g., Is 56:1-7; 66:18), include those seven peoples who were listed as being dispossessed of the land in the conquest of Canaan (Dt 7:1; Josh 3:10; 24:11). This extension of the covenant can be seen as being symbolized by the granting of the request of the Gentile woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon in Mark 7:24-30. In Matthew's Gospel she is identified as a Canaanite (Mt 15:22); she is from the people who were dispossessed of the "Promised Land" but who will be invited to become members of the new Israel of the universal Church (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew, pages 199-200).
Question: According to the Gospels, how many miracle feedings
will Jesus make during His three year ministry?
Answer: The significant number of 3 miracle feedings:
The feeding miracle of the four thousand, like the earlier feeding miracle, is not a Eucharistic miracle but instead points to the Eucharist that is the third and last miracle feeding. It was not a sacred feast as in the eating of the Passover sacrifice at the Last Supper on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread prior to Jesus offering Himself in the bread and wine. The miracle multiplication of the loaves and fishes prefigures the feeding the Eucharist to the faithful of the world and the promise of the eschatological banquet after the "final harvest" at the end of time (Is 25:6; 62:8-9; 65:13-14; Jer 31:12-14; Ez 44:16; Rev 19:7-9).
Early Christians saw the link depicting the miracles of the bread and fish as symbols of the Eucharist in the earliest examples of Christian art in the Roman catacombs. It will be in the repeating of the blessing and the breaking of the bread, as Jesus did in the feeding miracles and at the Last Supper, that His disciples will recognize Him after His Resurrection in Luke 24:30-31: And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.
The Catechism interprets Jesus' miracle feedings of the five thousand and the four thousand: "The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributed the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus' glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father's kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ" (CCC 1335).
After the second miracle feeding that took place in the Gentile territory of the Decapolis, Jesus "immediately" got into the boat and left for the region of Dalmanutha (Mk 8:10). The name of this region only appears once here in Mark 8:10 and nowhere else in the Bible or in secular literature. It was apparently a region located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee since the reading in the parallel text in Matthew 15:39 concerns Jesus' ministry near the town of "Magdala/Magadan."(1)
Mark 8:11-13 ~ The Pharisees Demand a Sign
11 The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." 13 Then he left them, got into the boat and again, went off to the other shore.
The argument with the Pharisees may be a continuation of the controversy in 3:22-30. The concept of a "sign" is found in the Old Testament and in Jewish literature. A "sign" signifies that which guarantees the truthfulness of a statement or action that is approved by God (see for example 1 Sam 2:34-36 and Is 7:14). Recognition that a sign from heaven is demanded as evidence of Jesus' trustworthiness sheds light on this verse. The Pharisees regard Jesus' miracles as ambiguous actions whose legitimacy must be confirmed by "a sign from heaven" to verify His authority, which is what they now demand. Their "testing," mentioned in verse 11 refers to the Biblical provision of testing to determine if a prophet has been sent by God (see Dt 13:2-6 and 18:18-22).
12 He sighed from the
depth of his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign?
The word "sighed" in verse 12 (Greek = anastenazo) is not the same word that was in 7:34 (Greek = stenazo) but the words are related and mean to "sigh or groan deeply." Jesus is grieved at the lack of faith of "this generation." He has already given many signs of authority in His healing of the sick, healing the physically disabled, in casting out demons, and even in raising the dead that the prophets prophesied were to be the "signs" of the Messiah (Is 26:19; 35:5-6). He sighs deeply because He knows that no matter what "sign" He gives that His opponents will still refuse to believe. Their whole purpose in this confrontation is to discredit Jesus with the people. The Pharisees have already made up their minds as to the origin of Jesus' miracles.
Question: What did they decide about Jesus' mighty deeds? See
Answer: They have pronounced that Jesus does mighty deeds through the power of Satan.
12b Amen, I say to you,
no sign will be given to this generation."
He emphatically refuses them a "sign" (using the Hebrew word "amen") at this point in His ministry but, according to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells them later that He will give them only one "sign" which He calls the "sign of Jonah." Jonah was a prophet from the Galilee who was entombed in the belly of a great fish for three days before he was "resurrected" to complete his mission (Jon 2:1, 11) and to whom Jesus will compare Himself six times in five verses (see Mt 12:39, 40, 41 twice; 16:4, 17; also see The Importance of Jonah in the Gospels.htm). The "sign of Jonah" that He promises with be His death and resurrection.
Mark 8:14-21 ~ The Leaven of the Pharisees and the Disciples' lack
14 They had forgotten to bring bread [artos], and they had only one loaf [artos] with them in the boat. 15 He enjoined them, "Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 16 They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread [artos]. 17 When he became aware of this he said to them, "Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread [artos]? 18 Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets [kophinos = small baskets] full of fragments you picked up?" They answered him, "Twelve." 20 When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets [spuris =large baskets] of fragments did you pick up?" They answered him, "Seven." 21 He said to them, "do you not understand?"
[...] = literal Greek translation, IBGE, vol. IV, page 118.
Again in verse 18 Jesus makes a reference to the prophecy in Isaiah 6:9-10; He has repeatedly been urging His Apostles, disciples and the people to "see and hear" and to therefore "understand" His words and deeds (e.g., Mk 4:3, 9, 18, 20, 23, 24; 7:16 [omitted in some texts]; 8:18). In this exchange with His Apostles, which follows Jesus' discussion with the Pharisees who demanded a sign of Jesus' divine authority, Jesus begins with a warning concerning the "leaven/yeast" of the Pharisees and Herodians. You will recall that it is the Pharisees and Herodians who are planning Jesus' death (Mk 3:6). "Leaven/yeast" in the Bible is sometimes a symbol for sin, hence the complete absence of yeast in the "camp of God" (Jerusalem) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 13:3-10; Lev 23:6-8; Dt 16:8).
Question: When the Apostles fail to comprehend His warning, He
asks them a series of how many questions? List the questions and which
question is a reference to Isaiah 6:9-10.
Answer: There are six or seven questions depending how one divides the text:
Part of the answer to this riddle lays in the Scripture passages concerning "hard hearts" and Jesus' reference to Scripture in question #4 that He quoted to them in Mark 4:12. Those who were condemned for their "hard hearts" in the Old Testament were the people of the Exodus generation who had witnessed so many mighty miracles of God. No two generations had witnessed so many miracles of God as the Exodus generation and Jesus' generation. Jesus' question in verse 18 is not only a reference to Isaiah 6:9-10 that was quoted by Jesus in 4:12, but it is also the quote from a phrase found in Jeremiah 5:21 and Ezekiel 12:2. All three prophets were commissioned by God to warn the covenant people of God's impending divine judgment.
Isaiah was to warn Israel and Judah in the 8th century BC and Jeremiah and Ezekiel were sent to warn Judah of its impending destruction in the 6th century BC. God was patient, but His patience came to an end in the face of repeated failures to be obedient to God's commandments in keeping His covenant and abuses of the poor and disadvantaged who were oppressed. The judgment was for failing to show mercy and failing to live according to their covenant obligations under the Sinai Covenant (see the passages below, underlining added):
19 when I broke the five
loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets [kophinos] full of
fragments you picked up?" They answered him, "Twelve." 20 When I broke the seven loaves for the
four thousand, how many full baskets [spuris] of fragments did you pick up?"
They answered him, "Seven." 21 He
said to them, "do you not understand?"
But is there a connection to the leaven/ sin of the Pharisees and Herodians specifically and why does Jesus ask the disciples if they remember the amount of leftover food from the two miracle feedings, using the two different words for the size of the baskets in each feeding?
Jesus will take on the Pharisees on His last teaching day in Jerusalem in Matthew 23:13-36, calling down seven curse judgments on them for placing a heavy burden on the people while they refused to acknowledge their own sins. The Pharisees were the most influential religious force in the 1st century AD. They controlled the Sanhedrin and the Temple liturgy (Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, pgs. 264-67), while the Greek culture Herodians, most of whom were Gentiles, represented the civil authority. Also, Herod Antipas was not considered a Jew because his parents were not Jews.
In the rites of Temple worship, twelve loaves of unleavened bread, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, were placed on a table in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary every Sabbath and remained in place until the next Sabbath when the chief priests ate the week old loaves (Lev 24:5-9). Two lengthy documents which Bible scholars call the "Temple Scroll" (dated to the second half of the 2nd century BC) were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls that mentioned the Temple ritual in the Second Temple period in which twelve baskets of bread were to be offered and burnt on the altar by the chief priests for the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost (11Q19-21; Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996, pgs. 461-64).
Question: How were the 12 baskets full of pieces of bread in the
miraculous feeding of the five thousand connected to the Pharisees? Remember
12 is the number of Israel, representing the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel who were
the 12 physical fathers of the Old Covenant Church of Israel.
Answer: Perhaps Jesus is telling His Apostles to not be concerned with separating from the Pharisees who controlled the Temple and religious worship to include the 12 loaves of the "bread of the Presence" of God in the Holy Place or the 12 baskets of bread offered in the pilgrim feast of Weeks/Pentecost.
In the feeding of the five thousand Jesus, the new Moses, provided not just 12 loaves as God told Moses to provide perpetually in the liturgy of worship (Lev 24:1, 5-9). That offering symbolized God feeding the 12 tribes the bread from heaven in the wilderness journey, and it also foreshadowed the greater Presence of God in the New Covenant liturgy of worship in the miracle feeding of the Eucharist. The 12 baskets of bread collected by the Apostles signals a new Covenant hierarchy of those who will become the twelve spiritual fathers of the new Israel of the New Covenant Church and a new liturgy to be inaugurated on the new Feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit will come to fill and indwell the New Covenant Church (Acts 2). And so in His role as the Messiah, fulfilling all the holy offices as God's prophet, Davidic king, and High Priest, Jesus will provide in abundance all the consecrated bread that the covenant people will need on their journey of faith and in the liturgy of worship. He will also provide for the Gentiles, like the Greek culture Herodians, symbolized by the seven large baskets of food that was left over from the feeding miracle to the four thousand in Gentile territory. Jesus will offer salvation to them as well so that His house, the Church, will become a place of prayer for all peoples in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah (Is 56:7).
Question: How was Jesus' encounter with the Gentile woman in
Mark 7:24-30, their conversation and her profession of faith a prelude to the
offering of bread to the Gentiles in the feeding of the four thousand when she
said: "Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children's scraps." Remember
that Gentiles were referred to as "dogs" by the Jews referring to their
"unclean" status. What does this tell us about the dimensions of the New
Covenant Kingdom? See Is 66:18; Rom 1:16 and Gal 2:28.
ANswer: Jesus' conversation and praise of the Gentile woman in Mark 7:24-30 already established that Israel's leftover bread will be given to the Gentiles who have faith. Together, these events point to the universal dimension of the New Covenant Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy that all peoples will worship in God's house.
The Jews who took part in the feeding miracle certainly understood it as a miracle similar to the feeding miracles in the Exodus journey (Jn 6:14, 30-31). The Gospel writers understood the miracle was meant to prefigure the feeding miracle in the Eucharist (see Jn 6:22-65) as well as the promise of the coming eschatological banquet in which all righteous peoples of the earth (Jews and Gentiles) will be welcomed in the heavenly Kingdom, recalling the promises of the prophets like Isaiah: On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken (Is 26:6-8).
Mark 8:22-26 ~ The Blind Man of Bethsaida
22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, they brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, "Do you see anything?" 24 Looking up he replied, "I see people looking like trees and walking." 25 Then he laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. 26 Then he sent him home and said, "Do not even go into the village."
The village of Bethsaida ("house or place of fishing") was located at the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee. It was the original hometown of Simon-Peter, his brother Andrew prior to moving to Capernaum, and it was the hometown of the Apostle Philip (Jn 1:44; 12:21). In the healing of the blind man, Jesus is demonstrating His command that the people should "hear" and "see" so they can "understand" as He did in the healing of the deaf man in Mark 7:31-37 after the earlier feeding miracle. Once again, as in the healing of the blind man, the healing occurs as part of a process.
Question: What is the process Jesus uses in His
healing of the blind man?
Like the deaf man, Jesus took this man off away from the crowd, and He uses His spit in the healing process. In the first part of the healing the man sees unclearly but he knows what he sees are people so he may have had sight at one time. When the man is healed, like the deaf man, Jesus instructs him to tell no one. A comparison can be made between the blind man and the disciples and the other people who have witnessed Jesus' miracles. The blind man, like the disciples and the people, does not see clearly at first but after another infusion of God's grace, his faith allows him to see clearly. His healing prefigures the gradual enlightenment of the disciples concerning Jesus' true identity and the "seeing clearly" that will be expressed in St. Peter's profession of faith.
26 Then he sent
him home and said, "Do not even go into the village."
As is His practice with the Jews, Jesus discourages the man from sharing the news of his miracle healing.
Part III The Mystery Begins to be Unveiled
8:27-33 ~ Peter's Profession of Faith and the First
Prophecy of the Passion
27 Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" 28 They said in reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets." 29 And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Messiah." 30 Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
This event is not only the climax of the "Bread Narrative" but it is the turning point in Mark's account of Jesus' public ministry as Peter gives his profession of faith that Jesus is the promised Davidic Messiah. Caesarea Philippi was a collection of four villages that Herod Philip (another of Herod the Great's sons) rebuilt into a large Hellenistic city, naming it after the Roman emperor and adding his own name. Evidently Jesus' gathering with His disciples took place on the outskirts of the city. In the age of the United Monarchy and later in the time of the nation of the Northern Kingdom, this region was the within the tribal lands of Dan and was the northernmost territory of the Promised Land. Jesus has come to reclaim what belonged to Israel but was lost just as He has reclaimed the Galilee.
Peter's declaration is not as profound in Mark's Gospel as it is in Matthew's Gospel where Peter proclaims: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God," and for this confession of faith receives the "keys" of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth (Mt 16:16-19). Peter's profession of faith is the climax of Mark's "Bread Narrative" and the beginning of the unveiling of the "mystery" of Jesus' true identity.
Mark 8:31-33 ~ The First Prediction of the Passion
31 He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. 32 He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 At this he turned around and, looking at the disciples, rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
Now that the disciples understand He is the Messiah, Jesus reveals His coming suffering, rejection, death and resurrection, but they cannot comprehend that with His divine power that He would let such a thing happen to Him. This is the first of three predictions that Jesus gives concerning His Passion (also see Mk 9:30-32 and 10:32-34). In sharing this secret with the disciples, Jesus is correcting the common misperception that the Messiah is coming in triumph and glory to vanquish Israel's enemies and to re-establish the Davidic kingdom on earth just as it had been in the past in the glory days of kings David and Solomon. Jesus' revelation of His suffering and death in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecies of the Suffering Servant (Is 52:13-53:12) marks a new phase in Jesus' ministry, as Mark introduces the revelation of Jesus' Passion with the phrase "He began to teach them ..." (verse 31).
The reference to the "three days" in verse 31 may be meant to recall Hosea's prophecy: In their affliction, they shall look for me: "Come, let us return to the LORD, for it is he who has rent, but he will heal us; he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds. He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence" (Hos 6:1-2). ). In the prediction of His suffering and death, Jesus identifies Himself not as a victorious David but as the Suffering Servant of the prophecies of the prophet Isaiah (Is 53-54).
Question: Why does Peter resist what Jesus has told the
disciples about His suffering and death, and why does Jesus rebuke him so
harshly in front of the others? Hint: As far as the elders and other religious
leaders are concerned, Peter may be thinking of the fate of others who have
unsuccessfully opposed God's plan in favor of their own (see Lev 10:1-2).
Answer: Peter now understands that Jesus is the divine Messiah. He is God Himself come to gather His scattered people and fulfill the prophecy of Ezekiel chapter 34. Peter knows the Temple hierarchy has no power over the Christ, and so he cannot comprehend why Jesus would allow Himself to be killed by those in authority over the Church of the Sinai Covenant when He could simply consume them in holy fire like the rebellious priestly sons of Aaron. Jesus rebukes Peter publically as an object lesson to the others because Peter has voiced opposition to God's plan when he should be humbly accepting God's plan and assisting Jesus in His mission.
Jesus gives Peter the same rebuke that He gave Satan in Matthew 4:10. The Hebrew word satan means adversary. Whenever one stands as an adversary to God's plan for man's salvation, that person is indeed acting as Satan in human form. Notice the increased use of the title "Son of Man" in Mark's narrative from this point forward.
Mark 8:34-9:1 ~ The Conditions of Discipleship
34 He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it. 36 What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? 37 What could one give in exchange for his life? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." 9:1 He also said to them, "Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power."
This is the first mention of the cross in Mark's Gospel. Jesus uses
the image of a cross, a Roman instrument of death in the execution of
criminals, as a shocking metaphor for the obedience of discipleship.
Question: What three verbs does Jesus use in the three commands He gives the disciples in His instruction on the conditions of true discipleship in Mark 8:34?
Answer: He tells them to:
Question: What did Jesus mean by the commands in His definition of the conditions of true discipleship in Mark 8:34-38? Answer: He says that true discipleship is based on:
Question: What is Jesus' condition for true discipleship? What
is the irony and what is the reward?
Answer: It means completely identifying with Christ's message by disowning one's self interest to the point of being willing to die for Jesus. The irony is the promise that whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ will live. His/her life will be eternal in God's heavenly Kingdom.
Question: According to Jesus' statement, who will
face divine judgment and destruction and who will experience the fullness of
Answer: One who defines "life" as merely self-centered earthly existence and lives in denial of Christ ends his life in destruction, but when a life is lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, that person arrives at fullness of life.
38 Whoever is
ashamed of me and my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of
Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy
In Matthew 10:32-33 Jesus said: "Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father." God the Father has given God the Son the authority to judge the living and the dead (Jn 5:22-29). At the appointed time of judgment, at the Parousia when Christ returns glory in the company of the holy angels, Jesus will reward the righteous who acknowledged Him on earth by with the gift of eternal life (Rom 2:7), and He will punish those who are ashamed of Him and have rejected Him with eternal fire (Mt 25:31, 41-46; 2 Tim 2:11-13; CCC 678-79).
9:1 He also said
to them, "Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste
death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power."
Verse 38 is a prophecy of the return of Christ (the Parousia) after His Ascension and prior to the Last Judgment. But in 9:1 Jesus says that there are those standing in His presence who will witness the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. Jesus promises to inaugurate his kingdom within the lifetime of the Apostles (Mk 1:15). The coming in His glory and the coming of His Kingdom are two different events.
Question: What is "the Kingdom of God in 9:1? See Mt 13:38 and 41.
Answer: According to the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat, the earthly Kingdom of the Son of Man is the world and the Church is the place where His kingdom is manifested.
Jesus' sovereignty over the world will be established in His glorious Resurrection when He has defeated sin and death. His sovereignty over the world precedes His Second Coming in glory in the event of the Parousia. Those who will live to see the Son of Man "coming in His Father's glory" are those who will live to see His glorious Resurrection and Ascension. Notice this is the first time Jesus has referred to God as "His Father."
Those who will live to see the Son of Man "coming in His Kingdom" are those who will live to see His glorious Resurrection and Ascension. The phrase the Son of Man coming in his kingdom is a reference to the vision of the future Ascension witnessed by the prophet Daniel: I saw One like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:13-14). Jesus will refer this passage at His trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin in a revelation to the religious authorities of His true identity (Mt 26:64; Mk 14:61-64).
Chapter 9:2-8 ~ Christ Revealed in His Glory
Leaving out of
their calculation the day on which Jesus spoke these words, and the day on which
he exhibited that memorable spectacle on the mount, they have regarded simply
the intermediate days, and have used the expression, "after six day." But
Luke, reckoning in the extreme day at either end, that is to say, the first day
and the last day, has made it "after eight days," in accordance with that mode
of speech in which the part is put for the whole.
St. Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels, 2.5
(Commenting on why Matthew and Mark write it was "after six days" when Jesus and His disciples reached the mountain as opposed to Luke who writes "About eight days after he said this" concerning Jesus' discourse on discipleship).
Mark 9:2-8 ~ The Transfiguration of the Christ
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. 4 Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." 6 He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. 7 Then a cloud came casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." 8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
This experience with the divine is the revelation of the
Kingdom for three of the Apostles.
The same experience is recorded in Matthew 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36. The disciples and Apostles must have been frightened and discouraged after Jesus' prediction of His death. To give them a vision to grasp in their darkest hour when the prediction of His death is fulfilled, Jesus took three Apostles, Peter, James and John Zebedee, up a "high mountain" to let them witness a manifestation of His glory that confirms He is the Son of God and that He will come in glory when all has been fulfilled.
This is not a demonstration of favoritism. God does not have
"favorites." It is instead a demonstration of hierarchy in the future
administration of Christ's kingdom.
Question: When were these three Apostles taken apart from the others to witness a miracle earlier? When will they be taken aside again? See Mk 5:37 and 14:33
Answer: They witnessed the raising of the dead of the synagogue official's daughter. They will also be taken aside when Jesus faces His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Question: What significance can be attached to the location of
this experience on a mountain? See Gen 22:2, 11; Ex 19:16-20; 1 Kng 18:19-39;
19:11-18; 1 Chr 21:15-17; 2 Chr 3:1; and Mt 5:1-2.
Answer: Mighty works/revelations of God often took place on mountains, including the Theophany of God on Mt. Sinai.
As the new Moses, Jesus ascends the mountain; He does this not to find a revelation of God but to give a revelation of God the Son to His three Apostles. This narrative is one of the few outside of the Passion narrative in Mark’s Gospel that contains a chronological tie. Verse 2 discloses that it was "after six days" that Jesus led the three Apostles up "a high mountain." Some of the Fathers of the Church interpret the "after six days" to suggest they ascended the mountain on the seventh day, like Moses in Exodus (Ex 24:15-16). However, St. Augustine and others taught that the other Gospels left out of their calculation the day on which Peter gave his confession of faith and Jesus spoke the words concerning His kingdom in 9:1 and the day on which they ascended the mountain, suggesting that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark have simply counted the intermediate days between these two events and therefore used the expression "after six days." St. Augustine and others believed it was on the seventh day after they arrived and the eighth day after they set out that they ascended in agreement with Luke's Gospel: Leaving out of their calculation the day on which Jesus spoke these words, and the day on which he exhibited that memorable spectacle on the mount, they have regarded simply the intermediate days, and have used the expression, "after six day." But Luke, reckoning in the extreme day at either end, that is to say, the first day and the last day, has made it "after eight days," in accordance with that mode of speech in which the part is put for the whole (St. Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels, 2.5).
There are two traditions identifying the mountain. One tradition names Mt. Hermon near Caesarea Philippi, but the more popular tradition names Mt. Tabor, an isolated mountain about eight day's journey for a religious Jew (a religious Jew could not travel on the Sabbath) from Caesarea Philippi, west of the Sea of Galilee in the northeast portion of the Plain of Esdraelon that rises to a height of 1,843 feet. Mt. Tabor has been celebrated as the site of the Transfiguration since the 4th century AD.
2b And he was transfigured
before them, 3 and his clothes
became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
In Greek the word "transfigured" is metamorphoo from which we get the word metamorphosis. Mark records ... and his clothes became dazzling white, such as not fuller on earth could bleach them. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke add that Jesus' face changed and became radiant like the sun (Mt 17:21; Lk 9:29).
Question: This phenomenon of the changed face recalls the description of what prophet in the Old Testament? What does the whiteness of His garment recall from a vision of the prophet Daniel? See Ex 34:29-35 and Dan 10:5-6.
Answer: The description of Jesus radiant face recalls Moses' radiant face after being in the presence of God. Jesus' radiant appearance and His white garment also recalls Daniel's visit by the "man" probably the pre-Incarnate Christ dressed in linen with a belt of fine gold around his waist, whose "body was like chrysolite, his face shone like lightening, his eyes were like fiery torches, his arms and feet looked like burnished bronze, and his voice sounded like the roar of a multitude (Dan 10:5-6).
4 Then Elijah appeared to them
along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.
Question: What do Moses and Elijah represent for the covenant people?
Answer: They represent the Law and the prophets.
In St. Luke's account of the Transfiguration, he tells us that Moses and Elijah appeared in glory and discussed with Jesus the coming hour of His "exodus," meaning His departure, "from Jerusalem," refering to His Passion (Lk 9:30-31). The disciples and Apostles knew Jesus in His human form, but in the encounter on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus revealed Himself in His divine glory. In the epiphany on the Mount of Transfiguration, the three Apostles witnessed the coming together of the Old and New Covenants with Christ as the beginning and the end of divine revelation. The Old Covenant Church was represented by Moses and Elijah who embodied the law and the prophets of the old Israel, and the New Covenant was represented by Peter, James, and John who embodied the hierarchy of the new Israel, the Church of the people of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. It was a vision of the supernatural the Apostles would need to strengthen themselves and their brother Apostles in the covenant ordeal they were to face in the climax of the final year of Jesus' ministry.
5 Then Peter said to Jesus in
reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for
you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." 6
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
St. Peter addresses Jesus as "teacher" and makes a request that seems bizarre unless one takes into consideration the seven holy feast days of the Old Covenant. Notice that Jesus does not rebuke Peter. John's Gospel does not mention the Transfiguration. St. John rarely repeats what has been sufficiently covered in the Synoptic Gospels, but he does mention in the second year of Jesus' ministry that He went to Jerusalem for the pilgrim feast of Sukkoth, known in English as the Feast of Booths/Shelters or Tabernacles (Jn 7:1-2, 10). The covenant obligations for the festival are given in Lev 23:33-43. In verse 42 God commanded: During this week every native Israelite among you shall dwell in booths, that your descendants may realize that, when I led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, I made them dwell in booths, I, the LORD am your God."
If it was indeed near the time for the pilgrim feast of Booths, Peter's
suggestion about making booths/tents on the mountain is reasonable.
Question: If this is the case, what has Peter realized? It is significant that Jesus does not rebuke Peter as He often does when Peter is wrong in his thinking.
Answer: Peter has realized that the old covenant order is no longer binding and it is not necessary to go to the Jerusalem Temple to worship God when they can worship God the Son on the mountain.
If this is why Peter made the suggestion about building booths, then the event of the Transfiguration took place near the time of the festival of Booths/Tabernacles in the early fall. Daniel Harrington suggests the six days in verse 1 may refer to the six days (as the ancients counted) between Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement, beginning on the 10th , and the beginning of the Feast of Booths on the 15th of Tishri; see Lev 23:27, 33 (Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew, page 253). However, if it is already the beginning of the festival of Booths, then Jesus and the disciples should have been in Jerusalem and were in violation of the Law concerning the pilgrim feasts (Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:5-17; 2 Chr 8:13). Jesus said not one part of the Law would be rejected until "all things have taken place," meaning His death and resurrection (Mt 5:17-18), and St. John tells us that Jesus did travel to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths in the second year of His ministry (Jn chapters 7-8).
7 Then a cloud came casting a
shadow [episkiazo] over them; then from the cloud came a voice, "This is my
beloved Son. Listen to him."
A cloud is a frequent vehicle for the manifestation of God's presence in Scripture (see Ex 16:10; 19:9; 24:15-1; 33:9, 34:5; 2; 40:34; Dan 7:13; Mac 2:8; Acts 1:9; Rev 11:12; 14:14).
Question: When in the past has the presence of God the Holy Spirit been manifested in a cloud? Give three or four examples.
The Greek word for the shadow of the cloud cast over them is episkiazo. It is the same word found in the account of the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Virgin Mary in the Incarnation (Lk 1:35), and it is the same word that is used in the Greek translation of Exodus when God's Spirit overshadowed the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 40:34).
The voice from heaven is the same voice that was heard when
Jesus was baptized (Mk 3:11).
Question: How is the Most Holy Trinity manifested in this event?
Answer: God the Father's voice is heard from heaven, God the Son is present in His glory, and God the Holy Spirit is represented by the overshadowing cloud.
Question: How is this significant event in which Jesus is
"transfigured" tied both in time and meaning to the event of Peter's confession
of the Christ and the prediction of His coming Passion? What is the message of
the Divine Voice the Apostles hear from heaven?
Answer: The pronouncement of the Divine Voice, "this is my beloved Son," is confirmation of Peter's confession of Jesus as Messiah (Mk 8:28) and "listen to Him" is a warning to listen to Jesus' announcement of His coming Passion and to cooperate in His mission.
The command of the Divine Voice of God from heaven, "Listen to Him," is also a confirmation that Jesus is the prophet like Moses that God promised the covenant people in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. That prophecy ends with a promise and a command: I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command. If any man will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it (Dt 18:18-19 NJB).
8 Suddenly, looking around,
they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
Like the children of Israel who heard the voice of God in the Theophany at Sinai (Ex 20:18) and like the prophet Daniel who experienced a divine apparition (Dan 9:15-18; 10:7-9), the three Apostles are amazed at what they experienced. "At that time" (Lk 9:36b; Mk 9:9-10) they did not tell anyone about their experience, but later they not only spoke of it but wrote about it. Peter wrote about the Transfiguration in a letter to the universal Church: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him for the majestic glory, "This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain (2 Pt 1:16-18).
Question for reflection or group discussion:
How have you demonstrated your willingness to walk the path of true discipleship in your journey of faith? What have you done or what haven't you done to meet the goals to deny, to take, and to follow?
1. Some Bible scholars have suggested that in Aramaic dal manutha may mean "belonging to [the region of] Manutha", which could be another name for "Magdala" (Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, page 4, "Dalmanutha"). Magdala/Magadan is believed to be the hometown of Jesus' disciple Mary of Magdala/Mary Magdalene (Mt 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mk 15:40, 47; 16:9; Lk 8:2; 24:10; Jn 19:25; 20:1, 11, 16, 18).
2. Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 7.6.7: It says "about eight days after these words, he took those three alone and led them onto the mountain." Why is it that he says "eight days after these words"? He that hears the words of Christ and believes will see the glory of Christ at the time of the resurrection. The resurrection happened on the eighth day ..." By which Ambrose means Christ was raised on the day after the seventh day Sabbath.
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