Mark 8: The Highs and Lows of Discipleship

The kids could always tell when I was upset with them. “Mom, are you mad?”


“No!” I asserted, gripping the steering wheel and  slamming my foot down on the gas pedal. Flooring the accelerator was always a dead give away. So was ballistic questioning.

David, why didn’t you turn your homework in again? What were you thinking? How many zeros do you want?  Do you really believe your teacher is an idiot? Do you want to go to college? And you say you want to go to med school? How do you expect to do that if you flunk out of high school?!

Of course, I didn’t give him a chance to answer any of those questions. I didn’t even take a breath. Those questions weren’t actually questions, they were expressions of my exasperation. I guess I expected better of my children.

Discipleship lows and highs

I’m sure my anger was sinful, but I’m comforted that Jesus got exasperated, too. Seven questions without a pause? That’s how Jesus speaks to his disciples as they’re crossing the lake. He has just finished feeding an enormous crowd for the second time. The numbers are different, but the miracle is the same. He expected his disciples to remember, ponder, and apply. His exasperation was a righteous response to their cluelessness, which was a failure of faith.

What was it they were supposed to understand? That’s one of our questions this week.

Later in the chapter Jesus has another intimate conversation with his disciples. This time they give the right answer, articulated outloud by Peter. Matthew 16:17 records the blessings that spill out of Jesus’ mouth in response, one right after another, much like the questions had before.

Both of these conversations show us something about the disciples–they had their highs and lows–but also about Jesus. Jesus wasn’t a teaching-and-miracle-working machine. He wasn’t aloof, emotionally uninvolved. He related to his disciples with full humanity. He didn’t just affect them, he was affected by them.  How does this fact affect our relationship with him?

Turning toward the cross

The disciples’ understanding of Jesus’ true identity opens the door for him to begin telling them about his true mission. At this point in the narrative, Jesus changes his teaching. He begins to talk about the necessity of the cross.  How appropriate that we’re reading this chapter the week before Palm Sunday. This is a great opportunity for each of us to reflect personally on the necessity of the cross for our salvation, as well as what it means to walk in the way of the cross as his disciple.

Day 1: Context — Reread Mark 7:31-37 and Matthew 15:29-31. Then read Mark 8:1-10.

  1. What region was Jesus in as we head into Mark 8? (This region was mostly Gentile).
  2. What does Matthew say in general about this scene?
  3. What detailed incident does Mark give?
  4. What else does Jesus do for the crowd (Mark 8)? Why?

Day 2: Observation — Read Mark 8 as 2 miracles and 3 conversations.

  1. How was the feeding of the 4000 different from the feeding of the 5000? How was it similar?
  2. What two conversations occurred after this miracle? What motivated the Pharisees’ question? What emotion accompanied Jesus’ response?
  3. What was on Jesus’ mind in the boat? What was on the disciples’ mind? What does he want them to understand in 8:21?
  4. How does Jesus heal the blind man? How would his actions have been felt by a man who couldn’t see?
  5. What question does Jesus ask his disciples in the last scene? What teaching does he then give them? What teaching does he give the crowd?

Day 3: Meaning — Read Mark 8 as a story leading to the climax of Peter’s confession.

  1. Why do you think Jesus repeated the feeding of a crowd? What were the disciples supposed to understand about him? About the Gentile crowd?
  2. Why did the conversation with the Pharisees prompt Jesus to caution the disciples? What was he warning them of?
  3. What were the disciples worrying about? Why didn’t they need to worry about that? What was that worry distracting them from?
  4. How is the healing of the blind man a commentary on the understanding of the disciples?
  5. What did Peter see clearly? What did he miss completely? How did Jesus’ words to the crowd address Peter personally?

Day 4: Application — Read Mark 8 as a personal meditation on the necessity of Christ’s death and his call to you to follow him.

  1. Reflect on your conversion. Why did Jesus have to die for you? How were you trying to save yourself? Rejoice in your Savior!
  2. Reflect on his call to you to follow him. What have you given up? What have you already gained? What do you have to look forward to? Rejoice in your call!

This is a deep chapter. Use it as you have time to prepare for Easter week.




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