Lesson 64: Back Around the Sea of Galilee
Matthew 16:1-12, Mark 8:11-26
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome again to our study. This is lesson #64. At the end our last lesson, Matt. 15:39 said that Jesus and the apostles "took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala." Mark said they "entered into a ship...and came into the parts of Dalmanutha." So, which was it? Magdala or Dalmanutha? You're probably thinking this is two different names for the same place. Well, you're right! And that place is on the west side of the Sea of Galilee; about as west as you can get. City # 18 on your map. This is the only time this city is mentioned in the N.T. The spelling is in the last verse of Matt. ch. 15 and in Mark 8:10. So, take your choice! We might say that Jesus was back in his home territory. And just as you would expect, The Pharisees came tempting Jesus (Matt. 16:1-4). Let's read that! Are you ready? Starting at the beginning of Matt. ch. 16. Let's read. "The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowering. 0 ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah, and he left them, and departed." The Pharisees and the Sadducees were two rival factions of the Jewish religion. This is the second time the Sadducees have been mentioned in our study. The first time was when some of this faction came to John's baptism back in Matt. 3:7. There was another rival faction that we encountered back in Mark 3:6, called the Herodians, that took council against Jesus. These factions commonly disagreed among themselves; but, it seems they united against Jesus. Whether the Pharisees MENTIONED HERE were associated with those that came from Jerusalem and charged Jesus' disciples with transgressing the traditions of the fathers by not washing their hand (which we read about in Matt. ch.15); we cannot be sure. The first verse we read (in Matt. ch. 16) stated their purpose of coming to Jesus was to TEMPT HIM. They came insisting on a "sign from heaven". In other words they discounted any miracles that Jesus had done, the feeding of 5000, the feeding of 4000, all the healing, restoring the widow's son at Nain, Jairus' daughter, and ALL SUCH, as insufficient to establish that Jesus was the messiah. So, they said give us a sign FROM HEAVEN; you see, the Pharisees (you'll will remember) maintained. THAT the devil could do miracles and that Jesus was doing miracles through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, Matt. 12:24. So, their point was: establish that you are from heaven. But, you see, they asked for such a sign hoping Jesus would fail the test, so-to-speak. That's the idea of them tempting Jesus. What EVER Jesus would have done; they would NOT have accepted as sufficient. It's like political parties, unions and similar causes today; once they get bent on establishing their point, they will pervert anything to get their way. But Jesus was NOT ABOUT to get into a contest with such temptation pushers.
Now, notice WHAT JESUS SAID to these people in v.2-3-4. They could discern the face of the sky; but they couldn't put together the simple facts that Jesus was the messiah, i.e. taking into •consideration HIS miracles and all the prophecies of the O.T., on which they claimed to be expert. The example that Jesus gave to show how intelligent and how observant they were in some areas and yet so blind in others; is very revealing to me. This brings back old memories. About 50 years ago when I was in the first grade; I stayed with my maternal grandmother for a year or two. She has now been dead for more than 40 years. But, from that old front porch where we occasional sat in the
afternoon; she taught me this weather principle that the Jews had observed at least 1900 years before. When the SKY IS RED in the west, back where the sun goes down, in the afternoon; you can be pretty sure the next day will be a nice clear pleasant day with no rain. To make that point she taught me a little poem:
Evening red and morning grey, sends the traveler on his way.
Evening grey and morning red; brings down rain upon his head.
Somewhere along the line I came across others who had learned the poem somelike this:
A red sky at night is a sailor's delight. A red sky in the morning; sailor take warning.
In college many years later; I learned the scientific reason for that phenomenon. As one looks toward the sun late in the evening, the line of sight is very close to the earth's surface. If dust particles are plentiful in the atmosphere the sky takes on a reddish color. Those dust particles in the atmosphere also play a part in the precipitation and condensation process whenever the temperature reaches the dew point. But, since the earth rotates from the west to the east, that precipitation will likely wind up some place else. However, if that condition exists in the morning when we're looking toward the sun in the east; that atmosphere, with a red condition, will be right over us in a few hours. Thus, the atmospheric conditions are at least partly conducive to rain or some other form of precipitation that day. Now, most likely those people didn't understand why. But, you see, they were observant. They knew that one condition usually followed the other. So, Jesus was saying, you see, they were pretty sharp. For whatever it's worth, you might notice Jesus DID NOT SAY their observation was RIGHT or WRONG. But, Jesus' point was that if they were observant enough to interpret the face of the sky; they were INTELLIGENT ENOUGH to reach the right conclusion in the spiritual realm; if they would be honest and apply their brain cells to spiritual things. And, there is a great lesson here for us. You know, it is simply amazing how observant and how perceptive people are in the scientific realm today; with medicine, agriculture, engineering and such like; yet, they have so much difficulty understanding the bible. Why is that? Obviously, it's not a lack of intelligence. You see, the problem IS some place else. So, Jesus was saying these Pharisees and Sadducees had enough evidence, you see. He called them "Hypocrites" in v.3, i.e. they were acting or pretending that they couldn't decide. When, really, they were trying to dig up some dirt they could use against Jesus. So, Jesus said in v.4, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign..." They were wicked or evil because they were pretending not to understand. And yet, they were trying to destroy Jesus. They were adulterous in that children are usually more honest than that. Jesus said that no sign would be given; and yet, Jesus built into their conversation a definite sign discernible in less than a year from the time of that conversation. The Jonah statement was, of course, a reference to Jesus' resurrection that took place only a few months later. It was a sign that CAME FROM HEAVEN as they requested, in that God raised Jesus from the dead. I trust you remember Jesus used this same statement once before back in Matt. 12:40. We said then that this had reference back to the O.T. book of Jonah. If you know that story, the reference HERE becomes self-explanatory. If you don't know the story; I'm going to let you acquire that understanding. Then after Jesus had made this point to the Pharisees; he more or less walked off. That short sentence at the end of v.4 says, "he left them, and departed."
Now, let's read Mark's account. Mark 8:11-12-13. Let's read that. Mark ch. 8, beginning in v.11. Are you ready? "And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be giver unto this generation. And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side." Mark didn't mention the Sadducees and he didn't tell us about the weather prediction parable that Jesus used; otherwise, everything is pretty much the same. Matthew simply said that Jesus departed. Although, v.5 mentions the other side to where he went. But, Mark said that Jesus "departed to the other side." That probably means Capernaum or possibly Bethsaida, if you look at your map.
Since you've got your bible open to Mark; let's read v.14-21 and then we'll back up to Matthew. Are you ready? Mark 8:14 beginning. "Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves saying, It is because we have no bread. 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? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I brake the five loves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?" Now, let's back up to Matthew ch. 16 and read v.5-12. This is Matthew's account of the same thing. Beginning in Matt. 16:5. Let's read. "And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, 0 ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." O.K. the apostles thought Jesus was accusing them of a lack of adequate food. They must have gotten a chuckle out of this in later years as they thought back upon this. However, I think this demonstrates that most of what Jesus said was in figurative or metaphorical language. This HELPS US to understand Matthew's statement back in Matt. 13:34, "without a parable spake he NOT unto them..." The idea OF LEAVEN, in that day, was undoubtedly a common metaphorical reference to anything that was thoroughly penetrating; especially bad influence. But, you'll remember in the parable of the leaven, Matt. 13:33, Jesus used it in a positive way. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven has some of the characteristics of leaven. However, in the statement HERE about the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees; Jesus was saying these sects had a puffed up heart, similar to that quality leaven imparted to bread, in that, their evil thoughts and evil thinking had penetrated their minds and hearts to the point they were so perverted they rejected Jesus' miracles and teaching without ANY THOUGHT to the consequence. They had hardened their hearts; is another common bible expression. Which simply means that one is too biased to reason honestly. Thus, leaven was a symbol of hypocrisy and pride. Thus, Jesus was cautioning the disciple about such biased and prejudicial thinking; lest they be infiltrated with the same.
Now, let's flip back to Mark ch. 8 and read v.22-26. This is another case of Jesus' healing that took place in Bethsaida. Mark is the only writer that records this case. Let's read it. Beginning in Mark 8:22. "And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 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 aught. And he look up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up; and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town." O.K., I suppose this was pretty much of A TYPICAL CASE of Jesus' healing. In this case, Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out, away from the crowd. This had to do, undoubtedly, with the crowd control idea and the fact that Jesus did not want to infuriate the Pharisees and Sadducees unnecessarily. In privacy, then, after healing the man, v.26, Jesus sent the man to his OWN HOUSE and request that he NOT GO into the town or spread it around to any in the town.
Alright! We are assuming these things happened in the summer of AD 32, i.e. less than one year before Jesus died on the cross. As we bring this lesson to a close; let's evaluate and review briefly. This is half of our lesson; but, we still have at least half (and may be more than half) of our text to cover. As you can see, most of the context of these four books are devoted to the last few months and mostly to the last few weeks of Jesus' life on earth. The hard core Jew's were fast becoming belligerent toward Jesus. They at first came to John the Baptist in droves. They were fascinated with that coming kingdom idea. Like Nicodemus, they wanted to know about the kingdom. But, like Nicodemus ALSO, the more they learned about the kingdom, the less they wanted to know. But, SOME were not QUIET like Nicodemus; they thought in more violent terms. They couldn't imagine the Son of David growing up in that infamous town of Nazareth, the son of a carpenter, with no formal training in the school of the Rabbi. He just DID NOT FIT their concept. However, they COULD NOT deny Jesus' miracles. His miracles were too many, too frequent, and too plain to deny. However, the biggest disappointment came when: Jesus DID NOT promise them political superiority over the Romans. He shunned their attempts to make him their king. And he wouldn't accept the traditions of the elders, washing of hands, etc. Jesus kept the sabbath as Moses taught it. But, he didn't accept the oral tradition (i.e. additions) with respect to the sabbath. Jesus said He was Lord of the sabbath also (Matt. 12:8). He came to fulfill and thus bring to an end the Mosaic code. This change was just too broad and too sweeping for most of the Jews to accept. Some had already taken council to destroy him. Thus, the different sects began to investigate and demand a sign from heaven. They were not going to accept Jesus as the messiah unless they were forced to. Jesus would not accommodate their demands. Opposition began to grow. Jesus understandably began to intensify apostle training. He had made one trip with his apostles beyond the immediate area around the Sea of Galilee for privacy. Our next lesson is about another such trip. So, hurry back, and have a good day.