“Contrary to hope, in hope believed” Romans 4:18


I. Power, Revelation, and Dullness of Heart- Chapter 8

A. (8:1-10) – Jesus fed 4000 with seven loaves of bread and “a few small fish.” Seven baskets of remnants of the food were left over and gathered. He left Decapolis and went to Dalmanutha by boat.

B. (Verse 11-13) Pharisees demand some sign that will satisfy them that all the talk about him and the impressions people have should be approved. Jesus refused to satisfy them for a special display; they should be able to draw a right conclusion from what already has been done and said. Again, he left by boat and went to Bethsaida.

C. (Verses 14-21) He warned his disciples against the “leaven” of the Pharisees and of Herod. The one was a warning against religious tyranny and hypocrisy and the other against political deceitfulness. They completely misunderstood the reference to “leaven.” Jesus was not concerned about physical provision; he had demonstrated that they need never fear about that. What they should be keenly aware of was spiritual blindness, hypocrisy, treachery, and manipulation. Though their failure to understand was not driven by hatred, nevertheless, they should be alarmed at their own dullness. This spiritual fogginess would show itself immediately.

D. Jesus healed a blind man, this time using two touches, one to restore sight and the second to make his sight clear. He sent the man home with instruction not to enter the village. Like the disciples, his first sight was only impressionistic; clarity would come with a further manifestation of divine power.

E. Jesus asked two questions about his own identity.

  1. Who do people say I am? People tied him into a powerful prophetic tradition, including John the Baptist. The popularity of Jesus caused great concern for the Pharisees, and the scribes, as well as the Sadducees, for his teaching had great impact and he was not a devotee of any of these religious, or political, groups. Among their fears was that he might be stirring up a messianic fervor that would result in a political uprising and consequent brutal repression (Mark 3:5; John 11:47-50).
  2. Who do you say I am? Peter confessed, “You are the Christ.” From Matthew 16, we know that Jesus attributed this correct insight to the Father’s revelatory operation in Peter. Confessing Jesus as a mere prophet would not do. He was in a different category entirely; he was “Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote.”Peter’s confession mirrored that given by Andrew (“We have found the Messiah”) and Philip. (John 1:41, 45). So, the so-called messianic secret that lay behind Jesus’ stated prohibition that people not disclose their healing (5:43) or demons reveal his identity (Mark 1:25, 34), was not in any sense a personal denial or ignorance of his being the Messiah, for this had been concluded and claimed from the earliest days of his ministry. It was implicit in his baptism by John the Baptist, his calling of Andrew and Philip, and his conversation with the woman of Samaria (John 4:26). Also his consistent pattern of commending the faith of those who were healed in the gospel of Mark shows his personal consciousness of his messiahship (Mark 2:5; 5:19, 34, 36)

F. (Verses 31-33) – Jesus began to speak to them about his eventual death and resurrection. He spoke “plainly.” The purpose of his coming transcended the immediate national interests of Israel and were, rather, in pursuit of redemption from sin and the defeat of death. Peter, perhaps confident now of his understanding, began to contradict the narrative of Jesus. In this Jesus saw the serpentine lie again being set forth, “You shall not surely die.” The original sin was prompted by the deceit that God was so full of mercy that he would not exact justice.

G. (Verse 34-38) He issued a call, not for political freedom and victory over oppression, but for a willingness to die in the cause of the gospel, the very cause that Jesus the Messiah had taken on himself. He ended this call with the assurance that a time would come when he would indeed come in glory and power (“in the glory of his Father with the holy angels”), but this coming was not that time. He did, however, say that even now some would be allowed to see a portion of that glory and power of the Kingdom of God (9:1).


II. (9:2-13) Transfiguration: Uncreated brightness and spiritual darkness – Mark’s arrangement of events indicates that Jesus was referring to this manifestation of glory in the company of Moses and Elijah.

A. These represent the Law and the Prophets which speak of Christ (Luke 24:25-27). Their appearance with Jesus showed that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the glory of the kingdom of God as prophesied; he is the fulfillment of all that Scripture had said.

B. Also, Moses was buried by God himself and Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind surrounded by chariots of fire and horses sent from heaven. This shows that death, burial, and eventual ascension are in the hands of God and that Christ’s burial, resurrection, and ascension would be done in the power and purpose of God.

C. The light of radiance and exceeding whiteness, showed that the God who revealed himself to Moses in visible glory (Exodus 33, 34) was present in the person of Christ himself.

D. Again the dullness of the disciples to the meaning of the events that surrounded Jesus came from the words of Peter who recommended building three tabernacles to celebrate the presence of Moses and Elijah along with Jesus. Immediately his undiscerning forwardness was reprimanded from heaven by a cloud and a voice giving the true glory of the situation: “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him.” Infinitely more worthy than either Moses or Elijah or both combined, Jesus alone is worthy of worship. Jesus alone brings in the kingdom of God with power.

E. (Verse 9-13) – As they descended from the mountain, Jesus again refers to his death and resurrection giving another occasion for a perplexing discussion among the disciples concerning its meaning. Probably prompted by their just having seen Elijah, they asked Jesus about the prophecy that Elijah must come before the appearance of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5, 6). He sought to open their understanding about the necessity of rejection, leading to death both for the Messiah and for the forerunner Elijah. It already had been accomplished for Elijah, John the Baptist, and would without fail happen also to him. James Brooks points out the striking parallel between the wife of Ahab, Jezebel’s, threats against Elijah and her promise to kill him and the death of John the Baptist at the hands of the wife of Herod.


III. Jesus manifests power over a particularly powerful kind of demon (Verses 14-29)

A. Perplexed disciples were unable to cast out the demon (14-18).

  1. The disciples had entered into an argument with some scribes. We are not sure of the nature of this argument other than a challenge the scribes might have presented to the disciples when they were unable to cast out the demon. Perhaps they were confused about this in light of the power granted them in their recent preaching tour (6:13). The scribes found an opportunity in this to claim that Jesus was only a fraud.
  2. The father described the condition of his son. He gave four symptoms: He is slammed down, foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes into a catatonic state.
  3. The father brought his son to Jesus, who was away on a “high mountain,” and in his absence asked the disciples to cast out the demon. When they could not, this led to confusion on their part, distress on the part of the father, and probably chiding from the scribes.
  4. Jesus looked at all of them with an amazed incredulity. How could all the people gathered there still be without understanding about the role of the messiah and that he was indeed the one who had come to overthrow Satan and his kingdom? He alone could rescue fallen man from his bondage to the curse of sin and the dominion of the prince of the power of the air. When he uttered the words, therefore, about the “unbelieving generation” he did not exclude any of those around: the disciples for thinking they retained an authority in the spiritual realm that only Christ could grant them, the father for asking the disciples to cast out the demon as if they possessed the same authority, and the scribes for their constant refrain of doubt and challenge.

B. (Verse 19-24) – A challenge to the faith of the father. Upon Jesus’ command, the father brought the son to Jesus.

  1. When the boy came to Jesus the demon immediately began to dominate him with extreme physical manifestation. He threw him to the ground in a convulsive state, caused him to roll around, while foaming at the mouth.
  2. This had been happening since childhood and the attempt was to bring him to a point of death by throwing him into the fire to burn to death or into the water to drown. The father was desperate and asked Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
  3. Seizing on the words, “If you can do anything,“ Jesus tested the father’s faith. Did he or did he not believe that Jesus had authority and power to cast out this evil afflicting spirit from his son? Was this a move of desperation only, or was it in a genuine faith that Christ only had this kind of goodness and authority?
  4. The father clearly saw the importance and pertinence of Jesus’ challenge. He knew that he had come to Jesus with genuine confidence in his ability to help his son even in the face of such a radical force of evil. At the same time, his desperation had led him to impatience and an effort to seek help from the disciples instead of Jesus. Perhaps also he wondered if the case were so severe that his son was beyond help. So the answer, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
  5. The emphasis here on faith highlights the unique place that faith has in uniting the sinner to Christ for the benefits wrought by him in redemption. It is no exaggeration to say that “All things are possible to him who believes.” This does not point to the degree of faith as the thing that accomplishes all things, but the purpose and redemptive work of Christ that opens the windows of heaven and gives all possible blessings of heaven and eternity to the saved sinner. By faith, we access “All spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus;” all things are ours, for “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17, 18). In this life too, “God works all things together for good to those who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

C. (Verses 25-29) – Jesus overwhelms the most potent forces of evil.

  1. To keep that growing spectacle from becoming larger, Jesus quickly rebuked the unclean spirit commanding him to leave and never to return to the boy.
  2. The exorcism had such a powerful physical impact that the boy lay on the ground like a corpse. The crowd thought he was dead.
  3. Jesus, in control of all of it from the start, lifted the boy by the hand. In one sense, the boy indeed was dead and subject to all the horrors described in Ephesians 2:1, 2 – “And you he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” Jesus had given the boy new life, free from the obvious terrors of demonic control and, in light of the father’s confession, probably a new birth into true spiritual life.
  4. The disciples, quizzical as to their inability to cast out the demon, learned that not all demons are the same. This kind comes out only by prayer, but Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit. By this Jesus again indicated that his power in the realm of spiritual reality is immediate.
Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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