Mark 8:17 “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?”
Just a few days before this instance, hardened hearts caused Jesus’ disciples to be amazed when they saw Jesus walk on the water to them. Here, Jesus’ statements reveal some of the characteristics of someone with a hardened heart.
First, a hard heart keeps us from perceiving spiritual truths. This is why everyone in a church service hears exactly the same message yet, some will receive while others won’t. It’s not the Word that is the variable, but rather the condition of the hearts. A hard heart stops spiritual perception.
Second, a hardened heart stops us from understanding spiritual truth. When a person doesn’t understand God’s Word, Satan finds no resistance when he comes to steal it away.
Third, a hard heart keeps us from remembering. This isn’t to say that we can’t recall facts or scriptures. As related in Mark 8:19-20, the disciples remembered the facts of the two miraculous feedings, but they had forgotten any spiritual lessons they might have learned. Likewise, some people can quote scripture or remember what the sermon was about, but they can’t perceive the spiritual life in the message or retain what they did perceive.
A hardened heart blinds us to any spiritual perception and keeps us thinking only in the natural realm. Small faith and a hardened heart are the same. Hebrews 3:12-13 parallels an evil heart of unbelief to a hardened heart. It takes great faith to keep our heart sensitive to God. Seek Him with your whole heart today.
Matthew 16:21 “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
Despite the abundant and clear prophecies about His death and resurrection, Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand or remember Jesus’ words until after His resurrection… Luke 24:5-9. Luke records twice that Jesus’ sayings about His resurrection were hidden from the disciples. It is interesting to note, however, that the chief priests and Pharisees remembered Jesus’ prophecies about His resurrection (Matthew 27:63) when His disciples didn’t.
One of the great truths of the Bible is that Jesus died for our sins, not for His own. Jesus was totally sinless. This is one of the major differences between Christianity and the religions of the world. No other religious leader has ever claimed to be sinless, therefore no other religious leader is even in the same class with Jesus. Also, no other religious leader has ever given his life in sacrifice to atone for the sins of others. It wouldn’t have done any good if one had. Since the religious leaders were sinners themselves, their lives weren’t worth any more than any other sinner. But, since Jesus was the sinless Son of God, His life was worth more than all of humanity throughout the ages.
Every detail of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection was already prophesied in scripture before it happened. All the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection had fulfilled scripture. God’s Word is the ultimate authority and only through His Word can we receive faith to be born again. We must preach the Word, not experiences. Experiences are only useful to illustrate that God’s Word is true. Jesus is alive from the dead. His tomb is empty. Jesus provided us with the ultimate verification of His authority. He arose from the dead.
Mark 7:13 “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
Deuteronomy 4:2 clearly states “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it . . . .” This same thought is repeated in the New Testament in Revelation 22:18-19 with very stiff penalties. Religious man is very swift to observe the part about not diminishing any of God’s commandments, but there seems to be an unwritten law that adding to them is okay. Every denomination has its own set of “do’s and don’ts” which aren’t found in scripture, and like those of the hypocritical Pharisees, their unwritten laws usually have to do with outward appearance.
We need to remember that adding to God’s commandments is just as bad as taking away from them. We need to speak when the Bible speaks, and be silent when the Bible is silent.
The commandments of God and the traditions of men are not the same thing and must always be clearly distinguished. Any attempt to place them on the same level will always result in making the Word of God of none effect. You have to either “lay aside” the commandment of God to keep the traditions of men or you have to “lay aside” the traditions of men to keep the commandments of God… Exodus 20:3. Church liturgy is tradition, as well as many of the “do’s and don’ts” taught by churches today. We can neutralize the positive power of God’s Word toward us, and nothing will do that quicker than elevating man’s traditions above God’s Word. God’s Word is still true… Romans 3:3-4 and will not return to Him void… Isaiah 55:11.
The Word will not profit anyone who doesn’t believe it, but God’s Word itself doesn’t lose any power. If some do not believe God’s Word, does that make God’s Word of no effect? The answer to this question is a resounding “no!” God’s Word still has its power to save, and it will profit you when you mix it with faith.
John 6:61 “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?”
This scripture, as well as Matthew 15:12, reveals that people will be offended by the Gospel. As much as possible, however, we should make sure that it is not ourselves that are offensive. But we cannot labor under the deception that everyone will receive the Gospel, even if the truth was presented properly. We know that Jesus represented His Father perfectly and yet most people rejected His message.
In these two instances, when Jesus realized He had offended the listeners, He didn’t apologize and try to make concessions to gain their acceptance. Instead, He got harder. This hard message of commitment is not only beneficial to those who receive it, but it serves a dual purpose in that it exposes the “tares among the wheat.”
It is important to be aware that the children of the wicked one are placed among the true believers. We should be very careful about putting just anyone who professes Christianity into any position of authority…1 Timothy 3:10. Our best defense is to preach the Word of God without watering it down. False brethren will not endure sound doctrine… 2 Timothy 4:3. They leave when the Word, which is sharper than any two-edged sword, begins to expose the thoughts and intents of the heart. There will still, however, be those who are deceived and unaware that they are not born again, remaining among the Church until the end of this world.
As long as Jesus was in the world in His physical body, He was lighting the way to the Father. He now shines through our lives. It is our responsibility to be a witness. The purpose of a light is to dispel the darkness. So “let your light shine before men… Matthew 5:16.
John 6:34 “Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.”
It is probable that these Jews were expecting Jesus to rain down manna on them the way God did before in the wilderness. After all, anyone who could feed five thousand men with one small lunch should be able to produce manna. They were still thinking of physical food.
The word “manna” means literally “what is it?” The children of Israel said, “It is manna: for they wist (or knew) not what it was.”…Exodus 16:15. Manna was a nutritious food which appeared on the ground every morning shortly after the children of Israel left Egypt and began their 40-year wandering in the wilderness. Moses called it “bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.”
The Lord, in speaking to Moses, called it “bread from heaven.” It was small and round, like coriander seed, and was white in color or yellowish, like bdellium. The people, after gathering it, ground it in mills or beat it in a mortar, baked it in pans and made cakes of it. It tasted like wafers made with honey or fresh oil. It was gathered every morning and had to be used up that day or it would stink and have worms. An exception was on the sixth day. It could be gathered for the Sabbath and wouldn’t spoil… Exodus 16:22-26.
Although they were looking for pieces of bread to materialize, which would have been a great miracle, it would have been insignificant compared to the miracle of God being manifested in the flesh…1 Timothy 3:16. They were talking to the greatest miracle that God had ever performed, but they were blind to it. Many times, we get so intent on seeking God in one area that we forget the greatest miracle of all, which is the love and redemption given to us from God through His Son.
John 6:26 “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.”
Jesus knew the hearts of all men and therefore, He did not commit Himself to this crowd. Just the day before, these same people tried to take Him by force and make Him their king, but He withdrew and spent the night in prayer.
This crowd looked like they were seeking Jesus, but they were actually trying to use Jesus to seek their own end. It is true that there are many personal benefits to be reaped through serving the Lord, but the benefits are never to become our object. In all things, Christ must have the preeminence … Colossians 1:18.
Jesus exposed the true intentions of the people’s hearts by preaching a strong message of commitment. Those who were self-centered were offended and left while those who were willing to lay down their lives to experience God’s abundant life remained. Commitment to God Himself (not what He can produce) is what always separates the true worshippers of God from the false.
Jesus tried to explained that He was the only way to the Father (John 14:6) and that others would have to come through Him, the people grew angry. It always angers the flesh to think that all our righteous acts can’t save us, but Jesus made it clear that our only part in salvation is to believe. Believe what? Believe on Jesus and His sacrifice – not ours. Salvation is a gift and cannot be purchased… Romans 10:2-3.
Many times, we get so intent on seeking God in one area that we forget the greatest miracle of all, which is the love and redemption given to us from God through His Son. God loves us so much!
Mark 6:52 “For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.”
Most of the time, we think of a person with a hard heart as being someone who is in terrible rebellion to God. While it is true that a rebellious person does have a hardened heart, in this instance, the Word is referring to the disciples’ hearts being hardened. They were, “sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered” at Jesus walking on the water.
The word “hardened” as used here, means “to make calloused, unyielding or cold in spirit, or insensitive to.” The disciples were not God haters, but rather they had become so sensitive to the natural world and its limitations that they were overwhelmed to see Jesus supersede these laws. Therefore, they had a hardened heart.
If they had kept in mind the miracle they had just seen Jesus perform (the feeding of the five thousand), then they wouldn’t have been amazed to see Jesus walking on the water toward them. After all, He had constrained them to get into the ship and was therefore responsible for them. He was just a short distance away from them, and was in the same storm himself, so they knew He was aware of their situation. They should have been expecting Jesus to come and save them, even if He had to walk on the water to do it.
Many of us are more sensitive to fear and doubt than we are to the truths of God’s Word. This is because we have thought more on things that minister fear and doubt. We can take these laws about hardening our hearts and use them in a positive way. We can actually harden our hearts to doubt by considering only God’s Word. It is a possible and obtainable goal to become just as sensitive to God and faith as we have been to Satan and doubt. Meditate on God’s Word today.
John 6:9 “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?”
Notice that Jesus didn’t just turn some of the stones into bread (as Satan had tempted Him to do in Luke 4:3. Usually, the Lord simply blesses what we set our hand to do. The resources were totally inadequate to meet the need in this instance, but when the Lord blessed it, there was more than enough.
Jesus didn’t just teach the disciples, but He trained them also. He was constantly trying to involve them in these miracles. Just a matter of days later, He again asked His disciples what they could do to feed the multitude of four thousand men. It was like He was saying “You missed this question when I asked you how we could feed the five thousand men. Now, here are less people and more food. What would you suggest this time?”
Instead of remembering the previous miracle, they acted like they had never seen Jesus feed the multitude and they looked at their own resources again (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:1). Likewise, we all too often try everything we can do first and forget God’s supernatural power until all we can do is pray. Many people have missed their miracle because they never took that first step of faith and used what they had. This young lad was certainly credited with part of this miracle for offering what he had. When in need, we should seek God’s direction for something to set our hand to, and then trust Him to bless it and multiply the results of our work.