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The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 8

Analysis and Commentary

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Peter Confesses Jesus' Identity Christ

Peter Confesses Jesus' Identity as Christ, the Messiah

The eighth chapter is the center of Mark’s gospel and here a couple important events occur: Peter confesses Jesus’ true nature as the Messiah and Jesus predicts that he will have to suffer and die but will rise again. From this point on everything leads directly to Jesus’ eventual passion and resurrection.

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand (Mark 8:1-9)
At the end of chapter 6, we saw Jesus feeding five thousand men (just men, not women and children) with five loaves and the two fishes. Here Jesus feeds four thousand people (women and children get to eat this time) with seven loaves.

Demands for a Sign from Jesus (Mark 8:10-13)
In this famous passage, Jesus refuses to provide a “sign” to the Pharisees who are “tempting” him. Christians today use this in one of two ways: to argue that the Jews were abandoned because of their unbelief and as a rationale for their failure to produce “signs” themselves (like casting out demons and healing the blind). The question is, however, just what is meant by “signs” in the first place?

Jesus on the Leaven of the Pharisees (Mark 8:14-21)
Throughout the gospels the primary opponents of Jesus have been the Pharisees. They keep challenging him and he keeps rejecting their authority. Here, Jesus contrasts himself with the Pharisees in an explicit manner not usually seen — and he does so with the now-common symbol of bread. In fact, the repeated use of “bread” should by this point alert us to the fact that the previous stories were never about bread at all.

Jesus Heals a Blind Man in Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26)
Here we have yet another man being healed, this time of blindness. Alongside another giving-of-sight story that appears in chapter 8, this frames a series of passages where Jesus gives “insight” to this disciples about his coming passion, death, and resurrection. Readers must remember that the stories in Mark are not arranged haphazardly; they are instead carefully constructed to fulfill both narrative and theological purposes.

Peter’s Confession About Jesus (Mark 8:27-30)
This passage, like the preceding one, is traditionally understood as being about blindness. In the previous verses Jesus is depicted as helping a blind man to see again — not all at once, but gradually so that the man first perceives other people in a distorted manner (“as trees”) and then, finally, as they truly are. That passage is commonly read as an allegory for people’s spiritual awakening and growing to understand who Jesus really is, an issue thought to be made explicit here.

Jesus Foretells His Passion & Death (Mark 8:31-33)
In the previous passage Jesus acknowledges that he is the Messiah, but here we find that Jesus refers to himself again as “Son of man.” If he wanted news of his being Messiah to remain just among them, it would make sense if he used that title when out and about. Here, however, he is alone among his disciples. If he really acknowledges that he is the Messiah and his disciples already know about it, why continue to use a different title?

Jesus’ Instructions on Discipleship: Who Was a Disciple? (Mark 34-38)
After Jesus’ first prediction of his passion, he describes the sort of life he expects his followers to lead in his absence — although at this point he is speaking to many more people than his twelve disciples, so it is unlikely that most of the listeners could be aware of what he means by the phrase “come after me.”

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