We shall find in chapter 8 another example of that which we have been
noticing. Jesus leads the blind man out of the town. He does not forsake
Israel wherever there is faith; but He separates the one who possesses it
from the mass, and brings him into connection with the power, the grace,
the heaven, whence blessing flowed-blessing consequently which extended to
the Gentiles. Power was not exercised in the midst of manifest unbelief.
This clearly marks out the position of Christ with regard to the people. He
pursues His service, but He retires to God because of Israel's unbelief:
but it is to the God of all grace. There His heart found refuge till the
great hour of atonement.
It is on this account, as it appears to me, that we have (chap. 8) the
second miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. The Lord acts again in
favour of Israel, no longer as administering Messianic power in the midst
of the people (which was implied, as we have seen, in the number twelve),
but in spite of His rejection by Israel, continuing to exercise His power
in a divine manner and apart from man. The number seven
[see note #6]
has always the force of superhuman perfection-that which is complete: this
however applied to what is complete in the power of evil as well as good,
when it is not human and subordinate to God. Here it is divine. It is that
intervention of God which is unwearied, and which is according to His own
power, which it is the principal object of the repetition of the miracle to
Afterwards the condition both of the heads of Israel and of the remnant is
displayed. The Pharisees require a sign; but no sign should be given to
that generation. It was simply unbelief when abundant proofs of who He was
were before them; they were the very things which had led to the demand.
The Lord departs from them. But the blind and unintelligent condition of
the remnant is also manifested. The Lord warns them to beware of the spirit
and the teaching of the Pharisees, the false pretenders to a holy zeal for
God; and of the Herodians, the servile votaries of the spirit of the world,
who, to please the emperor, set God entirely aside.
In using the word "leaven," the Lord gives the disciples occasion to shew
their deficiency in spiritual intelligence. If the Jews learnt nothing from
the Lord's miracles, but still asked for signs, even the disciples did not
realise the divine power manifested in them. I do not doubt that this
condition is set forth in the blind man of Bethsaida.
Jesus takes him by the hand and leads him out of the town, away from the
multitude, and uses that which was of Himself, that which possessed the
efficacy of His own Person, to perform the cure.
[see note #7]
The first effect well depicts the condition of the disciples. They saw,
doubtless, but in a confused manner, "men, as trees, walking." But the
Lord's love is not wearied by their unbelieving dullness of intelligence;
He acts according to the power of His own intention towards them, and
causes them to see clearly. Afterwards-away from Israel-the uncertainty of
unbelief is seen in juxtaposition with the certainty of faith (however
obscure its intelligence may be), and Jesus, forbidding the disciples to
speak of that which they certainly believed (the time was gone by for
convincing Israel of Christ's rights as Messiah), announces to them that
which should happen to Himself, for the accomplishment of God's purposes in
grace as Son of man, after His rejection by Israel.
[see note #8]
So that everything is now, as we may say, in its place. Israel does not
recognise the Messiah in Jesus; consequently He no longer addresses the
people in that character. His disciples believe Him to be the Messiah, and
He tells them of His death and resurrection.
Now there may be (and it is a most important practical truth) true faith,
without the heart being formed according to the full revelation of Christ,
and without the flesh being practically crucified in proportion to the
measure of knowledge one has of the object of faith. Peter acknowledged
indeed, by the teaching of God, that Jesus was the Christ; but he was far
from having his heart pure according to the mind of God in Christ. And when
the Lord announces His rejection, humiliation and death, and that before
all the world, the flesh of Peter-wounded by the idea of a Master thus
despised and rejected-shews its energy by daring to rebuke the Lord
Himself. This attempt of Satan's to discourage the disciples by the
dishonour of the cross stirs up the Lord's heart. All His affection for His
disciples, and the sight of those poor sheep before whom the enemy was
putting a stumbling block, bring a vehement censure upon Peter, as being
the instrument of Satan and speaking on his part. Alas for us! the reason
was plain-he savoured the things of men, and not those of God; for the
cross comprises in itself all the glory of God. Man prefers the glory of
man, and thus Satan governs him. The Lord calls the people and His
disciples, and explains distinctly to them that if they would follow Him,
they must take part with Him, and bear their cross. For thus, in losing
their life, they would save it, and the soul was worth all beside.
Moreover, if any one was ashamed of Jesus and of His words, the Son of man
would be ashamed of him, when He should come in the glory of His Father
with the holy angels. For glory belonged to Him, whatever might be His
humiliation. He then sets this before His chief disciples, in order to
strengthen their faith.