LINK: Mark 8
The chapter starts off with the feeding of the 4000. Though people often confuse them or combine them into one event, this is a different event from the feeding of the 5000. While the 5000 were primarily Jews, the 4000 were in a Gentile area, so it would have been mostly Gentiles who experienced this miracle of Jesus. After the 4000 had eaten, there were seven large baskets of food left over. This basket is one that's large enough for a man to fit in. In fact, a basket like this was used to lower Paul down over the city wall of Damascus (Acts 9:25). Now that's a lot of leftovers!
Then the Pharisees asked Jesus for a special sign from heaven. They weren't satisfied with all the miracles they had seen, they wanted something like fire or lightning to strike at his command. Jesus knew their hearts were hard and refused to do a demonstration that they wouldn't believe anyway.
Jesus warned the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Leaven represents sin, and Jesus was referring to the hypocritical teaching of the religious leaders. We would do well to beware of hypocrisy today as well.
The disciples were concerned that they hadn't brought enough bread with them on the boat, since they had only one loaf. Jesus "scolded" them and reminded them that he had recently provided bread for a crowd of 5000+ and then another crowd of 4000. Did they seriously need to be concerned about having enough food?
Then, at Bethsaida, a blind man was brought to him for healing. For some reason -- we don't really know why -- Jesus chose to heal him in stages. He did completely restore the man's vision and sent him on his way.
As Jesus walked with his disciples, he asked them what the popular opinion was of himself. There were many views on who Jesus was -- John, Elijah, another prophet. "But who do you say that I am?" he asked the disciples. Peter spoke up and declared him to be the Christ.
Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he would soon suffer in the hands of the religious leaders and be killed. But he would rise again after three days. This was his mission. He had come to earth to die. This was not the news the disciples were expecting. They wanted Jesus to usher in his political kingdom and overthrow Rome. Peter took him aside to question the plan. Jesus rebuked Peter as following Satan's plans rather than God's interests. That was a very strong rebuke! Apparently, Satan was using Peter to try to persuade Jesus to avoid the cross.
Jesus told all who followed him at that time that they must choose whether they would truly follow him. It would cost them everything to be his disciple. They would have their own crosses to carry, but in the end, it would be worth it. The salvation of their souls would be more valuable than owning the entire world, for it's the soul that continues on through eternity. The riches of this world are temporary. The eternal state of the soul is of much more importance!
Jesus was warning his followers that it could cost them their lives to follow him. And for many of them, it did cost them their lives. Where I sit today, this isn't a very real threat, but there are many places around the world today where this is very true. (And there's no guarantee it won't be true for me at some point.) Although I don't risk death by being a believer, in our society it's a social risk to speak the name of Jesus boldly. I must learn not to fear man's ridicule or be ashamed of Jesus and his words. My eternal life is so much more important than anything that could happen to me on this earth!
Lord, you are the true source of life. May I lose my life entirely to you and learn to trust you with it. In the name of Jesus, amen.