Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,VIII.
(1) In those days.—See Notes on Matthew 15:32-38
And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.(3) For divers of them.—Better, and some of them are (or, are come) from afar. The words are given as spoken by our Lord, and are in the perfect tense.
And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?(4) Satisfy.—The verb is the same as the “filled” of Mark 7:27.
Here in the wilderness.—The word here, as in Matthew 15:33, is not the one usually employed, and is abstract, not concrete, in its form, suggesting the idea, i.e., of “loneliness;” and through that, of a lonely place. It is used in a like sense in 2Corinthians 11:26; Hebrews 11:38. Like many other abstract words, it seems to have tended to a concrete meaning; but there is always an appreciable shade of difference.
And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.(6) To sit down.—The Greek word implies the usual Eastern position of reclining, rather than our sitting.
So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.(8) Broken meat.—Better, fragments.
Seven baskets.—See Note on Matthew 15:37.
And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.(10) He entered into a ship.—Better, the ship, or boat.
Dalmanutha.—St. Mark’s use of the word, instead of the Magdala or “Magada” of St. Matthew, may be noted as an instance of his independence. It is mentioned by no other writer. On its probable site, see Note on Matthew 15:39.
And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.(11-12) And the Pharisees came forth.—See Notes on Matthew 16:1-4. St. Mark, it may be noted, docs not mention the presence of the Pharisees, and gives only part of our Lord’s answer. On the other and, he characteristically describes the “sighing deeply in spirit” in Mark 8:12, which St. Matthew does not give.
And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.(12) There shall no sign be given.—We note the omission of “the sign of the prophet Jonas,” as given in Matthew 16:4.
And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.(13-21) See Notes on Matthew 16:4-12.
Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.(14) Now the disciples.—Better, and the disciples, in close connection with the preceding verse, and not as the beginning of a new section.
More than one loaf.—Another detail peculiar to St. Mark.
And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.(15) He charged them.—The verb is in the imperfect tense, and implies that the command was more than once repeated. Hence they, too, “were reasoning,” more than once, what was the meaning of the precept on which so much stress was laid.
The leaven of Herod.—The words imply the presence among the questioners of Mark 8:11 of others besides the Pharisees. On the connection between the “leaven of Herod” and that of “the Sadducees” in Matthew 16:6, see Note on that verse.
And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?(17) Have ye your heart yet hardened?—The question is peculiar to St. Mark, as are also the two first questions in Mark 8:18. The expression of indignant astonishment is characteristically more vivid and emphatic in St. Mark’s report.
When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.(19-20) How many baskets . . .?—The words for “baskets” are, as has been said, different in the two verses. (See Note on Matthew 15:37.)
And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.(22) And he cometh to Bethsaida.—This miracle also is recorded by St. Mark only. Judging by the localities named previously, Dalmanutha (Mark 8:10), the passage across the lake (Mark 8:13), and afterwards “the villages of Cæsarea Philippi (Mark 8:27), it is probable that this was the Bethsaida on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.(23) He took the blind man by the hand.—We note in the act the same considerate adaptation of the method of healing to the man’s infirmities as in the case of the deaf man in Mark 7:33. As far as the first three Gospels are concerned, these are the two instances of the “spitting” here recorded, but it is one of the links that connect St. Mark with the fourth Gospel (John 9:6).
If he saw ought.—The better MSS. give the very words, “Dost thou see ought?”
And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.(24) I see men as trees, walking.—The better MSS. give two words expressing different forms of perception, “I behold men, for I see them walking as trees.” His sight was not yet clear, but he interpreted what it told him rightly. The naturalness of this description of the first impression of the restored sense strikes every reader. From the point of view which looks on our Lord’s miracles as having a symbolic character, and being, as it were, acted parables, we may see in it that which represents an analogous stage in the spiritual growth of men, when truths for which before they had no faculty of vision are seen for the first time, but are not as yet apprehended in their full or definite proportions. They need a second touch of the Divine Hand, the passing away of another film of ignorance or prejudice, and then they too see all things clearly.
After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.(25) Every man.—The better MSS. give “all things.” Clearly.—This is probably the right rendering of the true reading; but the received text gives a word which implies that he was far, as well as clear, sighted.
And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.(26) Neither go into the town.—As in other works of healing, so in this, our Lord seems to have prescribed quietude after, as well as before, the miracle, as a spiritual discipline—partly, we may believe, because the work that had been done called for prayer for the right use of the new, or the restored, power; partly (as in Matthew 12:16), because He would not seem Himself to court the fame of publicity. Following the line of thought taken in the Note on Mark 8:24, we may extend the application to the work of spiritual illumination. Here also it is not good that the first clear apprehension of spiritual truths should be followed by the hasty utterances of the excitement of the new-born life.
And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?(27-29) See Notes on Matthew 16:13-16.
The towns of Cæsarea Philippi.—Better, villages.
He asked his disciples.—The tense of the Greek verb implies that it was not a single question only, but a continued and, as it were, searching inquiry. The time was come to test the faith of the disciples thoroughly.
And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.(30) And he charged them.—On the assumption of a connection between the writer of this Gospel and St. Peter (see Introduction), the omission of the promise to the latter, recorded so fully by St. Matthew, may fairly be regarded as an evidence of the humility of the Apostle, who shrank from what might seem to savour of self-assertion.
And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.(31-33) And he began to teach them.—See Notes on Matthew 16:21-23. The points peculiar to St. Mark are, (1) that our Lord “spake that saying openly”—the absence of any reticence in this announcement of apparent failure was what startled the disciples; and (2) the graphic touch that as He rebuked Peter, He turned and looked, not on that Apostle only, but on the whole company of the disciples.
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.(34-38) And when he had called the people.—See Notes on Matthew 16:24-28. The “calling the people,” or better, the multitude, to hear what involved the apparent failure of His mission announced in the preceding verses is an addition to St. Matthew’s narrative. It is confirmed by St. Luke’s “He said unto all” (Luke 9:23).
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.(35) And the gospel’s.—In St. Matthew we find simply “for Me.” The addition is significant, as showing that though our Lord demanded in the first instance entire personal devotion, it was for Himself as identified with the cause of the good news from God of which He had borne witness, and of which He was to be the martyr (John 18:37).
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?(36, 37) His own soul.—Better, life in both verses. The word “lose” is not the same as in Mark 8:35, and had, perhaps, better be rendered forfeit, as implying, what the other word does not necessarily imply, the idea of a penalty.
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.(38) Whosoever therefore.—Here St. Mark differs from St. Matthew, who omits these words, and agrees, though not quite verbally, with St. Luke. It is obvious that general as the words are, they had a special bearing on those who, like Peter, and probably the other disciples, had shown that they were “ashamed” of the words which had just been spoken.
This adulterous and sinful generation.—The words are not found in St. Luke’s report, but they agree with language which our Lord had used before (Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4). Their force here lies in the contrast drawn between those from whose frown or scorn the disciples were now shrinking, and the bright hosts in whose presence the faithless should be put to shame when the Son of Man should come in His glory. They were to look on this picture and on that, and ask themselves which ordeal was the most terrible.