Brad Libolt speaking on Mark 8:11-21. He spoke of how the disciples were just as blind as the Pharisees,even though Jesus had given them many signs as to who he is. Brad explains that this is because faith is a gift from God.
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
- We have seen Jesus interact with the Pharisees on a number of occasions, and here they are again. They come and they start to argue with Jesus, and they want a sign to test him. They ask for a sign that would prove Jesus is the Messiah. Some kind of sign that would be proof of his authority.
- But Jesus isn’t cool with this question. He sighs deeply in his spirit and asks them why they seek a sign. Then says that no sign will be given to this generation. In other words, you guys have seen and heard all the signs you should need. What else do you want? No more signs will be given to you.
- And this next line is very significant, it says he left them, got into the boat, and went to the other side. Now on one hand this is quite simple, Jesus left them physically, left the place they were at, but on the other hand this is a bigger separation than just a physical one. This statement marks Jesus’ leaving of the Pharisees all together. No more signs will be given to them, and he is done with them. He is leaving them. Their hearts are too hard and their eyes and ears are too blind and deaf. He isn’t going to deal with them anymore.
- So he leaves the Pharisees, gets into the boat, and heads to the other side with his disciples. Look what happens next.
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread.
- The disciples and Jesus are in the boat and they are cruising along, but the disciples forgot to bring bread. And all they had with them was one loaf. Sound familiar? But Jesus cautions them, saying beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. And they start talking about the fact that they have no bread. The disciples are not doing so well at this point.
- Jesus’ warning is that they will be just like the Pharisees who are so blind and deaf to the signs of the Messiah that they miss it. The Pharisees didn’t see, the Herodians didn’t see, now disciples, don’t be like them!
- But they are exactly like them. They miss it. And they start talking about bread.
Look at Jesus’ response.
17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
- He knows what they are talking about and he starts rebuking them by asking them questions. Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Can you see? Can you hear? Do you remember?
- Then he reminds them of the miracles that just happened, where Jesus fed five thousand and then four thousand with very few loaves. Don’t you guys remember how many were left over? There was more bread left over than what we started with. Don’t you remember these signs?
- Do you not yet understand?
- So what is happening here? Remember, the Pharisees demanded a sign, aren’t going to get one, and they are blind. Now, the disciples are in the boat with Jesus and he warns them not to be blind like the Pharisees, and they start worrying about not having enough bread. And Jesus is like, “Are you kidding me? Don’t you remember what I did with the 5,000 and the 4,000?”
- It turns out, that the disciples are just as blind as the Pharisees. The Pharisees don’t get a sign and they are blind, the disciples have had plenty signs, and they are blind as well. They don’t get it. They don’t see.
- And what is it that they are blind to? What don’t they see? It’s not that Jesus has the power to make more bread, though that is part of it, but it’s the question of who Jesus is. The Pharisees get no signs and are blinded to who Jesus is. The disciples have had many and they are blinded to who he is as well.
- And this teaches us something profound about understanding, seeing, and believing. The disciples have had many signs. They have seen Jesus do miraculous things. They have heard him teach with profound wisdom. They should have every reason to believe who he is. But, seeing is not believing. Seeing miracles doesn’t produce saving faith. Seeing the power of God with your own two eyes and hearing his voice with your own two ears does not automatically mean you are going to have faith.
- Some of you probably know people who do not believe in Jesus, but it seems like they have been given every reason to. Maybe there have been a ton of miracles in this person’s life, and they just refuse to admit the source of those miracles. Or maybe they have gone to church forever, heard the gospel for years, seen other people come to saving faith in Jesus, but they themselves have not made that step. In fact this is the state of most of the world. According to Romans 1 there is enough general revelation in the world that people should know who God is, but they don’t. So what’s the deal? It is clear for the disciples and people we know that seeing does not produce saving faith.
- Why not? Because faith is a gift. Faith is something given. You can see all the signs in the world from God but you are not going to believe until God gives you faith. Faith is a gift.
- The Pharisees and the disciples are on the same playing field. They are both blind. Jesus leaves the Pharisees, and now what is going to happen with the disciples? Notice how Jesus talks to the disciples. He rebukes them, calls them out for their failure to see who he is, but he keeps using the word yet. In verses 17 and 21 Jesus says, “do you not yet perceive?” and “Do you not yet understand?” Unlike the Pharisees, who Jesus left, there is still hope for the disciples. There is still an opportunity for them to understand. For them to get it. For their blindness to be removed. But this has to come from Jesus. Jesus has to remove it. Jesus has to reveal himself to them, open their eyes and their hearts to truly see and understand him and believe in who he is. And there is still hope for this for the disciples! Jesus has not left them like he left the Pharisees.
- So what do we do with this? When it comes to saving faith, we are all spiritually blind. There is nothing we can do on our own to fix our spiritual blindness. We must receive sight and understanding and enlightenment from God. We must receive the gift of faith from God in order to truly see.
- This highlights a tension in Scripture that we must acknowledge, come to terms with, and ultimately rejoice in. The fact that we cannot do anything on our own to truly see Jesus. He must be revealed to us. Saving faith is a gift given by God. But we also have the responsibility to choose Jesus. We have the responsibility to believe in him. But that belief and that faith must be given to us by God. This is a tension in Scripture that we should wrestle with. It is one that I will probably wrestle with for the rest of my life.
- But at the end of the day the point is this, that saving faith is a gift we must receive from God. We cannot achieve it or acquire it on our own.
- So, if you are in Christ, if you believe in Jesus, rejoice! Praise God that you have been given the gift of faith. Understanding that faith is a gift given by God and realizing that you have been given this gift leads us to greater worship of God. Because he has chosen us to be part of his family and his kingdom.
- If you are not in Christ, if you do not believe in Jesus, than accept the gift of faith God is offering to you right now. He is extending that gift to you, receive it. See clearly who Jesus is, believe in him, and be saved from your sin.