Mark 8:11–26—The yeast of the Pharisees, and the healing of a blind man

11 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came to argue with him. Testing him to see if he was from God, they demanded, “Give us a miraculous sign from heaven to prove yourself.” 12 When he heard this, he sighed deeply and said, “Why do you people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I assure you, I will not give this generation any such sign.” 13 So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake. 14 But the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any food, so there was only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. 15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” 16 They decided he was saying this because they hadn’t brought any bread. 17 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said, “Why are you so worried about having no food? Won’t you ever learn or understand? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 What about the five thousand men I fed with five loaves of bread? How many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?” “Twelve,” they said. 20 “And when I fed the four thousand with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said. 21 “Don’t you understand even yet?” he asked them.22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch and heal the man. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” 24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands over the man’s eyes again. As the man stared intently, his sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”

Points of Interest:

  • ‘he got back into the boat and left them’—Jesus has shaken the dust off of his feet (ch. 6:11) as far as the Pharisees are concerned. If he has done so many signs for the Pharisees without them acknowledging them, he knows that one more will not make the difference. He goes in search of people who will be receptive to him and his teaching.
  • ‘They decided he was saying this because they hadn’t brought any bread’—The disciples have become completely deaf to Jesus’ words. They take the story literally instead of knowing it is a pointer to some other meaning—and rather than asking Jesus, they ask one another what it means. And they come up with the ridiculous interpretation that Jesus doesn’t want them to shop at the same grocery store as the Pharisees. They have had plenty of opportunity to know what Jesus is talking about. If they had eyes to see, they would have seen Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees and known what was going on. If they had ears to hear, they would have understand what Jesus was talking about. If only they would remember the miracle that just happened, they would know that Jesus isn’t talking about bread. The disciples have been with Jesus, but it’s as if they’ve been unable to really notice what has been going on.
  • ‘Why are you so worried about having no food?’—It seems that the main reason that the disciples are having such a hard time understanding what Jesus is saying is that they are still stuck on the question, ‘Are we going to have enough to eat?’ No matter how many times Jesus miraculously provides, the next time things are looking a little short they begin to be anxious again. Each time, they fall into doubt, ‘Will Jesus really be able to take care of us?’ This question of the disciples is indeed a big one. We are constantly tempted to doubt that Jesus is willing and able to care of us. If we don’t believe he will provide for us, it makes it very hard for us to get something new from God. Every day, we need to ask God to give us our daily bread, trusting in him to do it. And the next day, we need to remember that he provided yesterday. Otherwise, we will be doomed to spending much of our lives worrying about whether we have enough.
  • ‘They look like trees walking’—sometimes healing doesn’t come all at once. It’s a process over time. Even Jesus has this occasion where the healing happens in two stages. Two things help the healing to completion: Jesus touches the man again; and the man stares intently. More prayer from Jesus and more faith and effort on the part of the man turn a partial healing into a complete one.
  • ‘he could see everything clearly’—last time the disciples had a hard time understanding Jesus’ words, he immediately gave a deaf man the ability to hear perfectly. This time, Jesus immediately gives a blind man the ability to see clearly. Right now the disciples are deaf and blind, but their situation is still not hopeless. Jesus can return clear sight and perfect hearing to them. It will take his touch, and it will take them ‘staring intently,’ making an extra effort.

Taking it Home:

  • For you: Jesus gives us here a great model for how to pray for healing.
    1. He lays hands on the person and prays.
    2. He stops to ask the person how it is going.
    3. When he finds out that something is happening but it is incomplete, he prays for the healing to be complete.
    4. And he invites the man to be active in his own healing—leaning into what Jesus can give him.
  • For your 6: Pray that your 6 would be able to see, hear, and remember. Ask that Jesus would give them eyes to notice what he is doing, ears to hear his words, and a memory to recall when Jesus does something good for them. Particularly pray that your 6 would not forget when God answers their prayers.
  • For our church: Ask Jesus to make us church that never forgets the baskets of leftovers. May God preserve us from ever falling back on mere survival as our goal.