Series - Trinity Gospel of Mark

The Isaiah Connection (Mark 7:31-37)

The New Testament is soaked in the glorious experiences and expectations of the Old Covenant scriptures. This is clear in Mark 7:31-37, where the entire passage hinges on understanding the miracle account in the context of the Old Covenant promises.

The prophets often warned Israelites to turn from their sins and return to serve Him with their whole hearts. Yet, Yahweh knew many wouldn’t listen; “they are a rebellious people, lying sons, sons who will not hear the instruction of the LORD,” (Isa 30:9). God often juxtaposed these warnings of certain judgment for rebellion with promises of His future blessing, despite their wickedness. Here, I’ll briefly journey from Isaiah 32:1 – 35:10, to provide Messianic context for the miracle account from the Gospel of Mark (7:31 – 37). This context will help us appreciate the trinitarian implications of Jesus’ actions.

A Vision of the Kingdom

Isaiah promised, “a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice,” (Isa 32:1). These leaders, particularly the king, would be a true shelter in the time of storm for the Israelites (Isa 32:2). Eyes and ears will be opened (Isa 32:3-4), and the upside down moral value judgments of corrupt men will finally be set right; “the fool will no more be called noble, nor the knave said to be honorable,” (Isa 32:5).

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Jesus and the Woman from Tyre (Mk 7:24-30)

"The Canaanite Woman" (ca. 15th century)

Read the rest of this series about the Trinity in the Gospel of Mark.

Mark’s a guy who appreciates irony, and the best part is that he never has to go looking for it – Jesus supplies it. He’s just had a very sharp disagreement about ritual, ceremonial purity with the scribes and Pharisees who’d come from Jerusalem (Mk 7:1-23). They held to a racist interpretation of ritual defilement and believed any primary or secondary contact with a Gentile made them “unclean” before Yahweh. They even believed the very air itself could contaminate them, and proscribed bizarre and arcane rituals for cleansing pots, cooking utensils, and their hands before any meal.

In dramatic fashion, Jesus rebukes this heretical invention (“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites!”) then heads straight out of Galilee “to the region of Tyre and Sidon” (Mk 7:24), which is Gentile territory. Every Christian’s heart should be warmed as he reads this swift denunciation of legalistic foolishness. The Jewish leaders are blind as bats to Jesus and His message, whereas a Gentile woman in Tyre understands everything, and displays a mature and earnest faith. Jesus knew this would happen (cf. Lk 4:22-30). The trip to Gentile country deliberately emphasizes Jesus’ lesson against the heretical ceremonial rules of the day, and it makes the point to anyone who has eyes to see.1  

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The Son Who Reveals the Father

"Jesus Walks on Water," (ca. 1684)

The interesting thing about the Gospel of Mark is that Jesus doesn’t tell us (over and over again) He’s the Messiah; He proves it by His actions.1 This passage (Mk 6:45-52) is full of trinitarian implications. It follows right on the heels of the feeding of the 5,000 (“for they did not understand about the loaves,” Mk 6:52), and it can’t be rightly understood without that connection.

Jesus’ Prayer

Alarmed at the crowd’s blasphemous intentions to make Him a dime-store King (Jn 6:15), Jesus “immediately made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side,” (Mk 6:45).

Commentators are divided about why He “went into the hills to pray,” (Mk 6:46). Some suspect He prayed that the disciples wouldn’t be seduced by these wrong Messianic ideas;2 a notion some scholars reject.3 Others think He prayed the disciples would have a safe voyage.4 If that was His intent, then God surely didn’t listen! Some think Jesus prayed for Himself, that He wouldn’t yield to the temptation to take a shortcut to His Kingdom and bypass Calvary.5 Options one and three are the most likely.

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The Man Who Would be King

"The Miracle of the Loaves and the Fish," by Lambert Lombard (ca. 16th century)

Read the rest of the series

After he fed the 5000, why did Jesus make the disciples leave the area so abruptly?

Why the Hasty Retreat?

Mark tells us, “immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd,” (Mk 6:45). Mark doesn’t tell us why, and neither does Matthew (14:22-23). However, John does give us some insight:

When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” (Jn 6:14).

At least some people connected the dots, and understood the significance of what had happened. Jesus is the true shepherd of Israel (Mk 6:34). Because the nominal Jewish political leader in this region had abdicated his responsibilities (cf. Mk 6:14-29), Jesus stepped in to fill the gap “and he began to teach them many things,” (Mk 6:34). He also “healed their sick,” (Mt 14:14) and “spoke to them of the kingdom of God,” (Lk 9:11). Likewise, their religious leaders were apostates who’d fenced the law so much they’d lost all sight of it, and had perverted the grace of the Old Covenant into a system of works righteousness (cf. Mk 7:1-13).

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Jesus Feeds the 5,000

"Miracle of the Bread and Fish," by Giovanni Lanfranco (ca. 1620)

A person can know who Jesus really is by looking at what He said about Himself, and what He did. His actions tells us who He is.1 Here, in this miracle account, Jesus’ actions show He is both divine and yet distinct from the Father. And, in doing so, Mark shows us the doctrine of the Trinity.

This miracle is mentioned in all the Gospel accounts. It clearly occurred in an isolated location (Mk 6:31); likely in the hill country north of Capernaum and west of Bethsaida.2 Mark has already identified Jesus as the shepherd who leads and teaches Israel (Mk 6:34); a metaphor of royal power and military might, not pastoral tenderness.3 Jesus is often compared to Moses, especially by Peter (cf. Acts 3:22f), who tradition tells us was Mark’s mentor.4 Now, Mark gives us another parallel. Just as Moses led the Israelites into the wilderness and relied on God to supply their needs in the desert, Jesus led His people into a “lonely place” and He, too, must find a way to feed them.

Moses was angry at the people, and preferred to die rather than continue to endure their treachery (Num 11:15). Earlier, immediately after the miracle at the Red Sea and their divine rescue from the Egyptian armies, the people had begun their grumbling;

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Against Cardboard Shepherds

"The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes," by Lambert Lombard

Trinitarian heresies usually stumble over who Christ is. Without fail, these heretical groups, sects and movements brand themselves as “renewal movements.” God gave us the Scriptures but, alas, things went haywire after the apostles died. The church lurched into heresy bit by bit. These groups warn us that the Greeks influenced Christian thinking, and eventually this pagan philosophy corrupted our doctrine of God, and the church was in darkness. Until … (cue theme music) … someone read the Bible for himself and discovered The Truth (insert heresy now).

For example, Anthony Buzzard, a conservative Unitarian, writes,

Though I believe with a passion the extraordinary and yet eminently sane claims of the New Testament writers, I have the strongest reservation about what the Church, claiming to be followers of Jesus, later did with the faith of those original Christians. I believe that history shows an enormous difference between what has through the centuries come to be known as the Christian faith and what we find reported as first-century Christianity.1

The truth is that these cults are reading the Bible in a very flat, sterile way. The Gospels are thoroughly Trinitarian, and the cults cannot find their doctrine through a systematic exposition of Scripture. Here, in our text this morning, we see Jesus as the shepherd over Israel:

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Jesus Sends the Apostles (Mark 6:7-13)

"The Appearance of Christ on the Mountain in Galilee," by Duccio di Buoninsegna (14th century)

This is a series about the Trinity. It explores this doctrine by brief expositions of different passages from throughout the Gospel of Mark, showing how the Trinity is the explicit and implicit teaching and assumption of Scripture.

After the chilly reception He received in his hometown synagogue, the Bible tells us Jesus “went about among the villages teaching,” (Mk 6:6). Mark continues the story:

And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.

And he said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.” 

So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them (Mark 6:7-13).

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Jesus & the Angry Nazarenes (Mark 6:1-6)

Christ Preaching in the Nazarene Synagogue (ca. 14th century), Visoki Decani Monastery, Kosovo

This is a series about the Trinity. It explores this doctrine by brief expositions of different passages from throughout the Gospel of Mark, showing how the Trinity is the explicit and implicit teaching and assumption of Scripture.

Throughout his letter, Mark has told us who Jesus is and, by extension, who God is. People have to believe in the real Jesus and the real God; you know - the triune One. If you don’t believe in the real Jesus, then you don’t have union with Christ, you don’t have salvation, you don’t know the Gospel, you aren’t reconciled to the Father and you don’t have the Holy Spirit. This means people have to actually understand and accept who He is.

They have to accept that He’s the eternal Son of God, sinless and holy. They have to believe He added a human nature to His divine nature, in the incarnation. They have to believe He and the Father are One, and that He and the Father are also distinct, in some way. They have to believe Jesus is equal to the Father in power and glory. They have to believe Jesus is co-eternal; He has no beginning or end. They have to believe Jesus is Lord of all, that He’s the rightful King over God’s creation, and that they must bow their knee to Him in submission like loyal subjects.

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