Harmony of the Gospels

 Harmony of the Gospels

-AD 29-
Magdala
(45) Disciple’s Lack of Understanding Rebuked: Blind Man Healed
(Jerimiah 5:21) Matthew 16:5-12, Mark 8:14-26

These verses in Matthew and Mark are some of Jesus’ teaching concerning false doctrine.  He compared false doctrine to yeast.  It appears small and insignificant, but it grows secretly and soon saturates everything.

-Matthew-

Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. (Matthew 12:5)

The disciples had gone aboard a ship and then discovered that they had forgotten to bring any food.  Usually, they carried bread along with them, because they were sometimes in desert places, and even when they were not, the bread came in handy. 

Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” (Matthew 12:6)

Jesus cautioned His disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”  He had been speaking with them and found them to be men whom His disciples should avoid.  The disciples were in more danger from these men than from those who were openly hostile to them.  They were on guard against those who challenged them.  But the Pharisees pretended to be devout and pious, and the Sadducees pretended to be free and impartial and searching for the truth.  Both groups were hypocrites, but the disciples were usually unwary in their attitude toward them, so Jesus issued this caution to “take heed and beware.”

The corrupt practices and principles of the Pharisees and Sadducees are compared to leaven; they were bad-tempered, and puffed-up, and spreading, like leaven; and they brought turmoil wherever they went.

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.” (Matthew 12:7)

It is evident from what they thought He meant that they didn’t understand Him.  They thought that Jesus was scolding them, because they were forgetful. 

But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?  Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up?  Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? (Matthew 12:8-10)

He scolds them for having doubts about His ability and willingness to supply them on this occasion.  He calls them “men of little faith.”  Notice, that He doesn’t reprimand them for their forgetfulness, but for their lack of faith. 

He wants them to depend on Him for all they need, and not to worry about it.  This is a lesson for you and me.  We should not worry when we come against difficult situations, for that is an evidence of the weakness of our faith.  Jesus told us what to do with those difficulties.  He said we should ease the burden, by casting all our cares on Him, who careth for us.

It may have been aggravating that they didn’t remember the recent experiences which they had which showed Christ’s power and goodness, in providing bread for them.  Therefore, He asked them, “Do you not yet understand, or remember.”  The prophet Jeremiah said this about Israel’s lack of understanding, “Hear this now, O foolish people, Without understanding, Who have eyes and see not, And who have ears and hear not.” (Jeremiah 5:21)  Christ’s disciples were often blamed for their lack of understanding and their poor memories.  He reminded them of the four thousand that were fed at one time and the five thousand on another occasion and that both times there remaind a great deal of bread left over.  He wants them to know that he can do it again and even more, if necessary.  He is reminding them that the bread that He provided for their bodies was intended to be food for their faith.  Listen to this: when we are bewildered by trouble and doubt, it is probably because we have forgotten the previous experiences of His divine power and goodness.

How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”   Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:11-12)

He scolds them here for misunderstanding the caution that He gave them.  He said, “How is it you do not understand?”  When He said this His disciples were probably ashamed of their failure to understand divine things, especially when they have enjoyed His teaching and company for so long.  They should have been well aware that He often spoke in parables, so they could not take what He said literally in all situations. 

The disciples were able to rectify their mistake, because we read, “Then they understood.”  He did not directly tell them what He meant, but He repeated what He said, so that they would think about the leaven and by comparing this to other things He had said, they arrived at the meaning and could understand it.  Although Christ didn’t tell them in simple words, they are now aware that by the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees that He meant their doctrine.  He declared that their doctrine was not only corrupt and vicious, but that it was likely to invade the minds of men and saturate it like leaven.  The apostle Paul used the illustration of leaven in Galatians 5:9, where he wrote, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  Then he said the only remedy is to remove it.  He wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, “Your glorying is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”   These religious rulers were powerful and held in high regard by the people, so the danger of infection by their ideas was great.  Today, we think of atheism and religion as the leaven of the Sadducees and popery to be the leaven of the Pharisees; and Christians must stand guard against both.


-Mark-

Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat.  Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  (Mark 8:14-15)

“Take heed, beware,” literally means, “Continue to take heed, keep watching,” which is present tense; He is saying that now they must beware. 

Leaven, or yeast, is a substance which ferments in order to produce its effect.  It spreads through every fiber of the dough.  This diffusion illustrates an evil quality of false teachers, who Jesus names as the Pharisees and Herod.  Herod is believed to belong to the Sadducee sect, so this would agree with what Matthew said in Matthew 16:6.  The common denominator between the Pharisees and Sadducees would be their attachment to a false religion.  Leaven, as Jesus uses it here, represents the evil of the Pharisees who refused to accept God’s Son by faith, while they alleged to uphold God and His Word.  Jesus is telling the disciples by way of this parable that their greatest danger would not come from God-haters or atheists, but from professing God-lovers, who were determined to work out their own religion.

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”  (Mark 8:16)

They thought that Jesus was upset with them for not being prepared for the journey.  They didn’t bring any bread, so now they would go hungry and their Master also.  But they had made a wrong assumption, and Jesus’ remarks make that clear.

But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened?  Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.”   “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.”  So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”  (Mark 8:17-21)

It’s clear that they remembered the miraculous feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand, because they could tell Him on both occasions, how many baskets of bread were left over after they were filled.  That’s why He asked, “How is it you do not understand?”  His concern was for their lack of understanding; that they were not confident that He would provide for them again, if necessary.  We should also remember what God has done for us in the past, when we have a need.  Those experiences show His power and goodness and if we forget we should scold ourselves as Christ did His disciples when He said, “How is it you do not understand?”

Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. (Mark 8:22)

Mark is the only writer to record this event.

Bethsaida was a costal city on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and it was there that a certain party led a blind man to see Jesus.  His friends showed their faith, because they believed that Jesus could heal this man with his touch. 

So 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 on him, He asked him if he saw anything. (Mark 8:23)

Jesus didn’t ask his friends to take him; instead he took the man by the hand and led him, himself.  He led him out of the town.  He intended to rebuke Bethsaida, so it may have been that He didn’t feel that the city was worthy to have such a miracle take place within its walls. 

We can observe with this miracle that Christ used a sign; “He spit on his eyes and put His hands on him.”  He could have cured him the same way He had cured others, with a word; but He did this to assist his faith, which was very weak.  He asked the man if he saw anything:

And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” (Mark 8:24)

He couldn’t tell the difference between men and trees, except they appeared to move.  That would indicate that his vision was improved, but still quite blurry. 

Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. (Mark 8:25)

This miracle in unique, because unlike most of Jesus’ supernatural acts which occurred in a single act or touch, this healing miracle took place in stages; “He put His hands on his eyes again,” in order to bestow perfect vision.

Then He sent him away to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.” (Mark 8:26)

Jesus wanted as little publicity as possible, so he told the man not to tell anyone; but also notice that before he healed him that according to verse 23 that He led the blind man outside of town.  Bethsaida was under judgment and Jesus had said these harsh words to the people who lived there: “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.   But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11:21-24)  Bethsaida was under judgment so Jesus took him outside of the city and told him to never go back.  He did not forbid him to tell others, but He did tell him not to tell anybody in the town.  They had seen so many miracles, but when they saw Christ lead the man out of the city they didn’t have enough curiosity to follow, so He would not allow them the privilege of knowing this miracle.  Let’s remember this lesson when anyone’s eyes have been opened to Jesus; be careful where you send them.

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