Shalom, and welcome to V’ahavtah Yisroel, a Hebrew phrase, which means you shall love Israel. We hope you’ll stay with us for the next 30 minutes as our teacher, Dr. Baruch shares his expository teaching from the Bible.
Dr. Baruch is the senior lecturer at the Zera Avraham Institute based in Israel. Although all courses are taught in Hebrew at the Institute, Dr. Baruch is pleased to share this weekly address in English. To find out more about our work in Israel, please visit us on the web at loveisrael.org. That’s one word, loveisrael.org. Now, here’s Baruch with today’s lesson.
Dr. Baruch: If someone were to ask you, is there any evidence of idolatry in your life? How would you answer to that question? Now, most of us who have received Messiah Yeshua would answer, absolutely not, that we are committed to the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. But before you answer too quickly, we need to do what it said in Hebrew, [foreign language 00:01:10], that is to take an inventory of our life, our thoughts, our actions, because it’s very easy for that idolatrous spirit to creep into a believer’s life.
To get your Bible and look with me to the book of Mark and chapter eight, the book of Mark and chapter eight. Now, last week we began this chapter and we saw a great miracle, the feeding of the 4,000. And immediately thereafter, Pharisees came to Messiah. They had traveled a great distance, not so much because they were interested in truth, rather, they wanted to entrap him. And what happened? We saw that he didn’t play into their hands. He immediately left and departed.
I want to pick up our study where the scripture does, with their journey away from that location in the wilderness, back to one of the villages near the Galilee. Let’s begin in verse 14. Mark’s gospel, chapter eight and verse 14. And speaking about the disciples we read in verse 14, and they forgot to take bread, and only one loaf did they have. And they were speaking among themselves saying this in the boat.
So the focus was on the fact that they were traveling and they forget to take bread, sustenance for the future. And with that said, what happens? Well, now move on to verse 15. Messiah begins to instruct them, to give them truth. And he instructs them saying, “Look out and beware.” Now, it’s very important that we pay attention to those two words, look out and be aware. They’re basically two words that are synonyms. That is, they mean basically the same thing, to look, to see. Not much difference between them.
So it’s going to become very important later on, these two words in arriving at the right interpretation of this passage. So he warns them to look out, to see what’s going on. And he says, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Now, these two individuals were very different, the Pharisees, this group and Herod. But they had something in common. They both had what Yeshua called this leaven, and this leaven had to do with a perception, how they saw things. And what they had in common, even though they were very different, they had this in common. They all saw the world, and them at the center of it, that they were the most important aspect.
The Pharisees, they use their religious tradition to position themselves and to give themselves stature within the community. Herod, he used also religion for a very similar purpose. Now, Herod prided himself on being the king of the Jews. But if we know a little bit about his history, he wasn’t Jewish by birth. He was an Edomite, literally an enemy according to the scriptures, especially the prophecies, an enemy of the people of God. And he knew that as an Edomite, Israel would never receive him as king. So what did he do? Well, he converted to Judaism. And that conversion was not because he was compelled by the truth of Moses, because he saw the hope of the prophets, because he fell under conviction and wanted redemption, none of those reasons. It was only for him to beat the king in Jerusalem. So they both were motivated based upon selfish concerns.
Now, what happens? Well, Messiah begins to speak and warns them, saying, “Look, behold, watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod.” Now, instead of examining their life, they do what? They rush to a conclusion. Look on to verse 16. Now they began to do something. They began, and the word here is where we get the same English word for something which is logical, something which is rational. And when we look at spiritual truth, we can’t always use our logic, our rationale. We need to simply submit to the truth of God, but they weren’t doing that. They were looking at it rationally, logically from whose standpoint? Well, from their standpoint. Again, they were thinking about themselves.
And they began to rationalize to one another that it was because they did not have loaves, that is enough food that he said that statement. They picked up on the term leaven or yeast relating to bread and believe that’s what he was emphasizing. But notice his response in verse 17, something totally different. And knowing, that is, knowing their thoughts, understanding where they were spiritually. And we need to point out something, the disciples simply don’t get it. They don’t come to the truth throughout these four gospel accounts. They did not think that Messiah would die, and after he died, they did not think that he would rise from the dead. They did not have any faithful expectation what God was going to do with his only begotten son. They were faithless. They did not comprehend the truths of God. And we have to ask ourselves, why was that?
Well, look again, verse 17. And knowing, that is, Yeshua knowing where they were spiritually, he says to them, “Why are you rationalizing?” Meaning, why are you considering this according to your own perspective? Why aren’t you seeing things, in other words, from God’s perspective? “It is because,” what? He says, “you don’t have bread. Are you still not knowing and not understanding?” Now, most of the time we hear those two things and we think that they go together, knowing and understanding. And they do, but they are not one in the same. Why do I say that? Some people believe when I know something, then I’ll understand. But the truth of scripture is this, knowing God’s truth opens up a new dimension to us. Knowing the truth of God will cause us to understand things from God’s perspective.
When we are rejecting the truth, we will not understand what Messiah is up to, what he wants to do in our life and what he’s going to do in regard to the purposes and the plans of God. So he says something, look again, verse 17 at the end. He says, “Are you still not knowing and not understanding?” And the last part of that verse, verse 17 is very awkward in the way, the style that it was written. Now, this is the problem. Many times when we come across a text that is somewhat confusing, awkward, hard to understand what do the translators do? They render it in a very simple way. In other words, they interpret it for us and they ought not do that.
See, I like scripture that’s sometimes very difficult because it causes one to pause. It causes one to get on his knees and seek Godly truth, that God would be his teacher, that God would reveal what he’s saying here. And it’s awkward because right next to each other, in this verse, there is a verb and a participle. Now, usually one or the other, but not both, and not together in this way. The first word is a participle, and it has to do with that which is made hard, which has become hard over a period of time. Secondly, it has to do with the next word is a verb, which has to do with having something. And the object is what? The heart.
So he’s speaking about them having a heart which has been made hard. And that’s very important for us to understand. Now, it’s not, as some would teach as they do in regard to Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, that God just reached in and hardened Pharaoh’s heart. And similarly, they could interpret this in the same way, that it was God hardening the disciples’ heart. But that doesn’t make much sense because Messiah is chastening them for not perceiving, not knowing, not understanding these things. And it makes no sense that Messiah would be upset with them, disappointed with them if God as heavenly father was one that was causing them to be in that position.
Now, it’s important, they have hard hearts, but what’s vital to see is that they were made hard, that passive mood. And what caused them to do so? Because they were looking at the situation from a human standpoint. They were looking at it from their vantage point with them at the number one location. That is to say, they were first. Now, in order to help us understand that, look at the next verse, verse 18, we read, “Having eyes, but do not see. Having ears, but do not hear.” Now, many people might read that and believe that Messiah’s simply speaking that verse in describing them. That’s true, but it’s only half, right. What’s important to see is that this phrase, having eyes, but do not see, having ears, but do not hear, is a citation from a Old Testament passage, from the book of Psalm, Psalm 135.
And here’s the key. Whenever there’s a text quoted in the New Covenant from the Hebrew scriptures, what we have to look at is the context. And that Psalm, Psalm 135 is very well known to any religious Jewish individual. I say that because we read Psalm 135 every Sabbath in the synagogue. And if you know this passage of scripture, he’s not speaking in Psalm 135 about man, but rather he’s speaking about idols. If we look at the context, idols may have eyes, but they don’t see. They might have ears, but they do not hear. And they are not an instrument of blessing. So we should not put the emphasis on idolatry. What does that mean?
Well, idolatry had something in common. It didn’t matter what idol that you might pick, what statue that you might bow down to, what you might say in your prayers in this idolatrous worship. They all had something in common, and that is the idol worshiper worship in order for what he could get from it. He wanted answered prayer. He wanted his prayers, his requests, his plans to be blessed. And if not, well, that one would just crush that idol and go and pick out a new one. But what we need to see is this. If that’s our approach to the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings, we’re not going to be blessed. We have not understood spiritual truth and we’re not going to be perceiving.
So what Messiah was saying in this passage is that, you’re not knowing, you’re not perceiving, you’re not understanding, speaking to the disciples, because the focus of your life is just that, your life, and not what Messiah is about. Now, what is he about? Well, he tells us. Let’s move on. Verse 18, at the end, he says, “Do you not remember?” He just taught the disciples about what is at the forefront of Messiah’s purpose, why he has entered into this world. And we could summarize that with one word, kingdom. Messiah is always about the kingdom. We see that he taught parable after parable, especially in the book of Matthew, in the book of Luke, about the kingdom, that we might understand it correctly, that we might know not only how to enter into the kingdom, but how to live that kingdom lifestyle today.
So the emphasis was on the kingdom. And we’re going to see, in the next couple of verses, what is foundational to know, if you have knowledge, spiritual knowledge, and you have perception, spiritual understanding, in regard to the kingdom. Let’s move on, verse 19. He’s basically asked them a question. He says, “When there was five loaves that were broken,” he says, “they were broken for 5,000.” And then the question is, “How many broken pieces filled up the basket?” He asks them, and they say to him, “12.” “Likewise,” verse 20, “and when there were seven, meaning seven loaves of bread, and they were for the 4,000, how many baskets were full of pieces? How many were taken up?” And they answered him and they said, “Seven.” And then notice what he says, verse 21. And he said to them, “Are you still without understanding, unable to perceive?”
Now, what’s he talking about? Well, here again, numbers are important in the scripture. The two numbers, which he emphasized here was the number 12 and seven. 12 having to do with the tribes of Israel or Israel in a general sense, and seven having to do with sanctification, holiness, being set apart for a purpose. Now, what was the focus of Messiah? The kingdom. It was always the kingdom.
And here’s the key. If you want the kingdom to come, then you better be concerned with the sanctification of Israel. That is, that Israel begins to be set apart for the purposes of God, because that kingdom will not come until Israel gets right with God. And that’s why those who teach a replacement theology, those who think there’s no longer any significance to the people of Israel, the Jewish people, the land of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, those who teach that all those things are done away with, they’ve been replaced with something else, all those people are not knowing the truth. They do not have the understanding. They’re not part of where God is wanting to take his people. In fact, they’re obstacles. They are just like the disciples. They’re unknowing and perceiving and what? Concerned about other things rather than the kingdom, the things that Messiah is concerned with.
Now, in order to bring this point home, what does Messiah do? He does a miracle. And that’s to tell us something. So many times in the scripture, in fact, it’s almost without exception, we see Messiah teaching and immediately thereafter, doing a miracle. Why? In order to confirm that teaching. The miracle is like a visual aid that confirms the truth that he just shared. And that’s exactly what he’s going to do in this passage. Look, if you would, to verse 22. And they came into Bethsaida. Now, Bethsaida was one of the three villages along the Sea of Galilee that Messiah cursed. And why did he curse them? Very simply because of unbelief.
And you can always see unbelief in a person’s life because their focus is themselves. There is an absence of [foreign language 00:18:39], good deeds. They’re not pursuing the things of God and they’re not submitting to the truth of God. So once again, verse 22. And he came into Bethsaida and they brought to him a blind man. And they besieged him, that is Yeshua, that he would place his hand, that is, touch him. Verse 23. Now, Messiah responds to this request, but in a unique manner. Remember that Bethsaida is known for what? Lack of faith, unbelief. And therefore, verse 23, and taking the hand of the blind man, he did something. He brought him out, outside the village.
Now, here again, it’s somewhat awkward in the Greek language. It uses a verb that has a prefix for out. He brought him out. The implication is outside the city. But then to emphasize that, there’s a word exo, which means outside. So it’s redundant, but it’s not because of any other reason than to emphasize this fact that they left Bethsaida, this place of unbelief. Verse 23, and taking his hand, that is the hand of the blind man, he led him outside the village. And what did he do? He spat in the eyes, his eyes.
Now, why did he do that? Well, spitting, we can’t look back to Deuteronomy 25, and spitting is seen as a curse. And we need to understand something about this blind man. This blind man was not like the one in John chapter nine that was born blind. How do we know that? Because we’re going to see in a few minutes that the text says that his eyesight was restored. That means he had it and he lost it. And usually, in the scriptures, a blind individual is seen not only literally blind, but as a way of speaking about unfaithfulness, unbelief, one who misses out on the truths of God, that lacks spiritual perception. So this man personifies Bethsaida. He personifies as well, the disciples.
Now, that’s why I said, if the disciples can miss out on things, they can miss out on the truths of God, that they can be scolded for having idolatrous practices in their minds, then so too, can you and I. In fact, so much of what’s being taught today focuses and tries to bring people in to the congregation of the Lord through selfish objectives, that is saying, come to faith and you’ll get this, come to faith and God’s going to bless you this way, rather than saying, come and serve the kingdom purposes.
So what does he do? Well, he brings this man outside and he spits in his eyes and he sets his hands upon him. And he asked him and here again, a very awkward sentence. Most Bibles, they want to smooth it out, but literally, it’s awkward because Messiah is anticipating something. Here again, there’s no surprises to Yeshua. God knows all things. And everything happens in the scripture for a purpose, meaning it’s written in a certain way in order to convey truth. And what this literally says, it says, “If what you see.” Now, no one would talk like that, but there’s a purpose. He wants to know if this man sees. Now, Messiah knows all things. It’s not written that way for him, it’s written this way for us. It anticipates something not being right. When you say, if, you’re unsure. Well, Messiah is not unsure. It’s going to call our attention to what this man’s going to see.
So Messiah begins if, and then he says, “What do you see?” And it’s understood by Messiah that he’s going to see something very unique. What is that? Verse 24. And looking up, meaning regaining his sight, he says, “I see men that are as trees. I see walking.” Now, once again, awkward grammar, but what does he do? Well, go back if you would, to verse 15. Remember when Messiah speaks to the disciples and he says, “Watch, look out,” those two words, he uses those same two words in this verse. When this blind man, who’s now able to see, speaks, he says, “I see men as trees. I see walking.” Twice, these two words, synonyms for see. And the important point here is it draws our connection back to the disciples, meaning the disciples were in this same things. They weren’t perceiving things correctly. They weren’t understanding the kingdom, and neither did this man.
Now, why do I say that? Well, look again. Verse 24. He says, “I see men,” that’s okay, he says, “as trees. I see walking.” Now, unless you understand Jewish backgrounds, you’re going to miss out on a very important truth in this verse. The term walking has to do with lifestyle. In the book of Psalms, Psalm number one, men are like unto trees, not just there, but in many places, especially in the New Covenant, men are likened to trees. Why? Because trees are called to produce fruit and we’re called to do the same thing, to do good deeds, fruit.
Now here’s the point. When you look at an individual, he might clean up nice, might wear a nice tie and coat and groom himself very well. He might be very, very outwardly religious, going to the synagogue each day, going to the house of worship each week, and whatever. And you may say, “He’s a good man.” But see, men, it’s very easy for men to give off one impression, but be very, very different. Why? We’re deceitful. But trees, not so. Trees, when you look at them, you can see, well, there’s leaves, there’s green leaves, there’s fruit. That’s a healthy tree. That tree produces good fruit, so it’s a good tree.
Well, that tree over there, it’s brown, its leaves are withers. The fruit is kind of rotten. And you know it’s a bad tree. So trees, you know in a second, good or bad. Men, not so. Now, here’s the key. In the kingdom of God, in the kingdom of God, there’s going to be no deceit. There’s going to be nothing hidden. Everything’s going to be revealed. Men are going to walk, that is behave. Remember, that term walking in Hebrew, is a term [foreign language 00:26:21] or [foreign language 00:26:23], which means Jewish law, the parameters of Jewish lifestyle. So when it talks about someone walking, it’s talking about their behavior.
In the kingdom of God, we’ll see people’s behavior. We’ll see men as trees. We’ll know in a second, but this man, he’s not ready for the kingdom. And what he’s saying here is that these disciples, they weren’t ready for the kingdom. So what happens? Well, look, if you would, to the next verse, verse 25. And therefore, again, he set his hands upon his eyes and he looked and he what? It was restored. Meaning back to what? His human condition, back to how we are in this world. And it says, and he looked this, this one, and he saw all things clearly, that is, from this vantage point, from this world. And he sent him, verse 26, and Messiah sent him into his house saying, “Do not enter in to the village.” That is, do not go back to those things of unbelief. Move forward. He put this man on the place where he was just like all of us. Had the responsibility now to exercise faith, to trust in the promises of God, to respond to the word of God and prepare himself for the kingdom of God.
But whether he’s going to do that, well, better question is whether you and I are to do that is up to us. If we keep ourselves first, we’re going to miss out. We’re going to go back into the village of unbelief. It’s only when we pursue truth, that we seek spiritual knowledge, that we’re going to have an understanding that positions us ready for the kingdom of God. Well, we’ll close with that until next week, and we complete our study of Mark chapter eight.
Speaker 1: Well, we hope you will benefit from today’s message and share it with someone else. Please plan to join us each week at this time and on this station for the radio edition of loveisrael.org. Again, to find out more about us, please visit us at our website, loveisrael.org. There, you will find articles and several other lectures from our teacher, Dr. Baruch. These teachings are in video form. You may download them or watch them in streaming video.
Until next week, may the Lord bless you in our Messiah Yeshua, that is Jesus, as you walk with him.
Shalom from Israel.