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 Do You Understand Yet?

Mark 8:1-21

Message #27

Let me ask you a couple of questions. Do you understand what the Lord is doing? Do you understand God’s plan? Or how God is at work for good in your present situation? Do you understand what God is up to? Or why he’s got you where he’s got you? Do you understand yet?

Today’s message is about spiritual understanding.
#1) Do you think you have it?
#2) What is the first step to get it?

Do you have spiritual understanding yet?

One more question for all of us today: When we come to an event or a teaching in the life of Jesus, are we genuinely and honestly looking to gain spiritual understanding from it for our lives?

When we interact with Jesus in some way, are we actively desiring to gain some spiritual insight (understanding) from it? I would like to suggest to you today; we might often think that we’ve got a pretty good handle on understanding these things. We are prone to think that we actually “get it.”

I don’t mean to be too direct, but when was the last time you said to the Lord, “Lord, show me what I don’t understand here, show me what I’m missing here.” “Lord, change the way I see this situation, change the way I feel about this situation.” “Lord, throw out my human understanding and give me true spiritual understanding.”

Guys, that is what Jesus is trying to get his Disciples to do today. We’re in Mark Chapter 8 today, and it was only back in Chapter 6 that Jesus fed the 5,000. Now, just two chapters later, we come to a similar miracle of Jesus feeding the masses. It is so similar that the critics try to say that there was just one event, and Mark must have had some kind of short-term memory loss, and he re-wrote the same miracle just two chapters later? But that is not what happened because these two events are not the same.

There’s a difference in how many people. A difference in how many days the people were with Jesus. A difference in where they got the food. A difference in how they were served and in the blessing. A difference in what was left over and how it was collected. And most importantly, today’s event occurs in a different place and with different people.

The previous feeding of the 5,000 was in Galilee, with exclusively Jewish people. Today’s feeding of the 4,000 was in the Decapolis, which is predominately Greek people because the gentiles in the Greek Decapolis needed 4,000 witnesses who saw the “Living Bread of Life” create from nothing the “Physical Bread of Life.”

But the main point of what I see in our text today, what I think we really need to grasp, is that the Disciples still had plenty to learn about the spiritual understanding of these miracles.

So, let’s read through our first section today (verses 1-9), and then we’ll comment on it. And if this event sounds familiar to you, ask yourself why is Jesus taking his Disciples through an almost identical event – for a second time.

Mark 8:1–9 (NLT)
1 About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them,
2 “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat.
3 If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”
4 His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?” (sound familiar)
5 Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?” “Seven loaves,” they replied.
6 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd.
7 A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.
8 They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food.
9 There were about 4,000 men in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. 

Now, R. Kent Hughes suggests three huge spiritual lessons here.

#1) Jesus Is the True Bread of Life come down from heaven.
#2) Jesus is Not Just the Bread of Life for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.
#3) The Supply of Jesus will Always EXCEED the Need that we have.

Those are three deep, great spiritual truths, and certainly three great truths the Disciples could have chewed on (so to speak). And we could chew on these three great spiritual truths for the rest of our lives and never fully understand all that they mean.

But, do you think the Disciples were “looking for” the great spiritual truths about Jesus in this second almost identical miracle? Do you think they were really searching for the spiritual understanding here or were they maybe thinking, “Well, I guess this is how we’re going to have to feed people from now on…”

Guys, the big picture today (the main point) is the Disciples lacked spiritual understanding. In fact, at the end of our text today, Jesus is going to ask his Disciples very directly, “Don’t you understand yet?” and the answer is obviously – no, they did not understand yet. They didn’t understand what Jesus was up to. They didn’t understand what God was doing. They didn’t see how God was at work for good in their situation. They didn’t see the big plan, the big picture. They did not understand.

And can I tell you please, we are often in the same boat as them? Maybe we think we understand. “Oh, I understand what God’s doing. You know, he’s punishing us,” or whatever. I don’t even know what stuff people come up with. But can I tell you please, that more often than not, we don’t understand what God’s doing any better than the Disciples did? And you’ll see it more as we continue. So, moving on to Mark 8:10.

Mark 8:10 (NLT)
10 Immediately after this, he (Jesus) got into a boat with his disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha.

This is the Port of Magdala, where we go today and see a synagogue that Jesus definitely would have taught in. We love being there. It was a huge port in the days of Jesus. We can go there and see it, and it’s incredible.

So, Jesus is there at Magdala. And Mark 8:11 says,

Mark 8:11 (NLT)
11 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. 

Have you ever argued with the Lord? Have you ever tested the Lord? Have you ever demanded a miraculous sign from Jesus?

How many “miraculous signs” do you think the Pharisees had seen or heard about by this point? How many “miraculous signs” had the Disciples seen by this point? How many “miraculous signs” have we seen or heard about in our lives? How often has God proven himself or shown himself? But don’t we have a tendency to climb in the same boat now with the Pharisees?

Guys, we are in the same boat. It’s not just the Pharisees. We have a tendency in our own sin nature to argue with Jesus. We have a tendency to argue with God. “Hey God, this is not how I thought it was going to be. Not how I envisioned it, God. Did you not see the vision I had in my mind? It was different than this. Why are you doing this to me, God?”

And then maybe we’ll test God. “God, I don’t know if you’re in this or not. Lord, if you’re in this, then – make the fleece wet and the ground around it dry.” It worked for Gideon, but don’t push it.

Or how about demanding that God prove himself? “God, if this is you, then do this – because you have to prove yourself to me if you want me to follow you.” That’s sad.

So, we have a tendency to argue with Jesus, to test him, and to demand that he prove himself to us. Let’s be honest – we still have some spiritual understanding to gain, right? We still need to understand the heart of God. We need to understand more about what he is doing. And the more we point at the Pharisees of them arguing and testing and trying to make Jesus prove himself, the more we may be pointing at ourselves.

And then, the more Jesus may have a similar response to us, as he did to them.

Mark 8:12 (NLT)
12 When he heard this
(their Arguing, Testing, Demanding), he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” 

Doesn’t it concern you that Jesus sighed deeply in his spirit? Doesn’t it scare you that Jesus would sigh deeply in his spirit over your attitude towards him?

Now, of course, there was more proof coming that Jesus IS who he says he IS, culminating in his Resurrection from the dead. But what Jesus is saying here is, I’m not playing this game with you. I’m not playing by your rules, and I’m not jumping at your demands. The Pharisees (as well as you and I) are not in a place to argue or test or demand that Jesus prove himself to us. Jesus is not the one with a lack of spiritual understanding. You and I are.

And so, Jesus is not the one who needs to bend to our understanding. We are the ones who need to bend to his understanding. 

That is the point today. We can’t put on Jesus our understanding and our perspective. We can’t say, “This is the way I see things. This is the way it should be. Jesus, why aren’t you listening to me?” We absolutely must come to Jesus in humble brokenness, knowing that we lack spiritual understanding; that we lack the correct spiritual perspective. We don’t know all that God’s doing. We can know some – we know the Gospel, we know Jesus is glorifying his name, that the Holy Spirit is pointing at Jesus. We know what the Word says. But when we come and say, “God, why this and why that, and how are you working here, and how are you working there?” we have to start by saying, “Lord, I don’t understand. I lack the understanding and the perspective in this situation. I lack the correct spiritual perspective. Lord, please give it to me.”

And there may be some right now who are thinking, not me. I actually DO have spiritual understanding. I get it. I understand. Can I just share something I’ve learned with you? It’s a secret that comes from forty years of following Jesus and thirty years of serving him in ministry. It’s an old man’s truth… here it is.

The more we think we understand, the more we most likely don’t understand. The more we think we know, the more we most likely don’t know.

Guys, if we are going to grow in our spiritual understanding of Jesus Christ, it must begin with our complete acknowledgment that in ourselves, we lack spiritual understanding.

If we will come to Jesus and honestly say, Lord, let me first agree with you. (That’s what confession is). I don’t know what you’re doing here. I don’t understand. I don’t get it. I don’t see what you’re doing or why. The only spiritual insight I have is what you give me by your Holy Spirit through divine revelation and leading. In and of myself, I don’t know.

Please lead me and guide me for your name’s sake. Please fill me with your Spirit and reveal to me the correct spiritual understanding. Lord, I can’t reason this out. I can’t figure this out. I can’t logic this out. I can only receive – leading, guiding and revelation from you, by your Spirit, by abiding in you, staying close to you, Lord. I’m in trouble here, and I need to know what you would have me do.

I need you to reveal to me the spiritual understanding that I need. And Lord, for the part that’s too deep for me to understand, I will trust you completely. When I can’t see, I’ll trust. When I don’t understand, I’ll trust. And I will continue to stay close to you and abide in you to walk the path that you’ve set. I’ll remain on the last post you gave me until you give me a new post. And Lord, I pray you would continue to reveal true spiritual understanding to me – as we walk together. Continue to reveal day-by-day, step-by-step, the incredible, awesome, glorifying thing you’re doing in the midst of this circumstance right now.

If we will come to Jesus with that heart, then Jesus will embrace us and reveal his spiritual understanding to us (eventually). The Refiner’s fire is kind of at work for a while, usually. But eventually, he will reveal it. Back in verse 11, the Pharisees did not come to Jesus in this way, and so Jesus responded to them differently. The Pharisees responded to Jesus differently – so Jesus responded to them differently. In Mark 8:13 we read,

Mark 8:13 (NLT)
13 So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake. 

He didn’t debate. He didn’t beg. He didn’t say, “Oh no, boys, watch! I’ll make a rock so big I can’t lift it.” He just goes and leaves them to their own thinking, their own nature.

And right here, I’m sure the Disciples were thinking, Man, those Pharisees! Those thick-headed, stubborn, blind Pharisees. They just don’t get it. Man, I’m so glad we get it! Jesus saw how awesome we were, and that’s why he picked us. We understand you, Jesus. We’re tracking right with you. We’re not like those other numbskulls. We have spiritual understanding.

Are you sure? Or is it – maybe that – you don’t?

I want to read our final set of verses all at once today because I really want you to see yourself IN this conversation. I want you to really grasp the power of what’s happening here. So, again, the Pharisees just proved that they lack spiritual understanding. And now, it’s the Disciples turn.

Mark 8:14-21 (NLT)
14 But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat.
15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.
17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in?
18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all?
19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?” “Twelve,” they said.
20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said.
21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them. 

Some of us had fathers who used a similar type of “teaching method” with us. It goes like this: “Son, is there a brain in that head of yours?” “Are you sure you’re firing on all cylinders in there?” “You’ve got eyes, right? Why don’t you open ‘em and see what’s going on around you?” “I see you got ears, they’re stickin’ out of your head – here’s an idea, why don’t you try usin’ ‘em?”

Guys, when I was growing up, this was the preferred method for raising a son in America. But now, the fathers of the current youth generation – Gen Z – they’re not allowed to use this effective teaching method. Why? Because our progressive culture is outlawing anything resembling us telling our children that anything they think – or anything they feel – might actually be wrong.

But it seems pretty clear to me that Jesus was trying to get this same “subtle point” across to his Disciples.

Let’s review.

Mark 8:17 . . . “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in?
18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all?
19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?” “Twelve,” they said.
20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said.
21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them. 

Well, Lord, I guess no, we don’t understand yet. We want to understand, but apparently, we don’t.

Guys, my one and only point today is this: We, (like the Disciples), lack spiritual understanding in and of ourselves. Without the infilling of the Holy Spirit, without the transforming power of God in our lives, we just don’t get it. It’s not in your own nature, no matter how gifted we think we are. The truth is – we do not know what God is doing, except for the limited amount that he chooses to reveal to us.

Our own logic, our own reasoning, our own perspective, and our own presumptions are almost always – not God’s.

And so, we have got to begin our attempt to understand what God is doing by clearly understanding that we don’t know what God is doing. 

THAT is the beginning of spiritual understanding. We have to start this “revelation process” with God by saying, “Lord, I don’t know what you’re doing. I don’t pretend to know what you’re doing. But I believe you will reveal it to me as I SEEK YOU, and AS YOU FEEL IT IS NECESSARY, and so I follow you, Lord!

“I don’t follow a ‘fully understood’ plan. I don’t follow a clearly laid out road map. I follow a personal God. I follow you, Lord Jesus. And as I follow you, Jesus, I pray you would give me eyes to see more of what you are doing. I pray you would give me ears to hear more of your voice. I pray you would give me a heart to receive more of your spiritual understanding.”

God can and will give us more spiritual understanding, but it must start with us, recognizing that we have NO true spiritual understanding on our own. We can only receive spiritual understanding as we humbly SEEK God FOR it and as he graciously reveals it to us.

Isaiah 55:8–9 (NLT)
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. 

May we have the courage to set aside our own thoughts and our own ways, and instead, seek the Lord with all we’ve got for HIS spiritual understanding.