Christ’s Power Over Every Need
The Gospel of Mark Sermon Series
“Are Your Hearts Hardened?”
The Invisible Gorilla
Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons conducted an experiment at Harvard University more than a decade ago that became infamous in psychology circles. Their book The Invisible Gorilla popularized it.
The two researchers filmed students passing basketballs while moving in a circular fashion. In the middle of the short film, a woman dressed in a gorilla suit walks into the frame, beats her chest, and walks out of the frame. The sequence takes nine seconds in the minute-long video. Viewers are given specific instructions.:
“Count the number of passes by players wearing white shirts.” Of course, the researchers were not interested in their pass-counting ability They wanted to see if the viewers would notice something they weren’t looking for, something as obvious as a gorilla. Amazingly, half of the test group did not.
How is this possible? How do you miss the gorilla in the room? (see video below) 
What Do You Mean, “How Can We Feed These People?” (vv. 1-10).
In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
This passage, “makes it evident that Mark saw both feeding miracles as important revelations of Jesus’ significance. His devoting space to two accounts of the same sort of miracle suggests that each one had for him a special significance and that neither could be omitted without losing something important.” So what do we gain from the second miracle, that we don’t see in the first?
(v. 1) “again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat ,” The accounts in chapter 6 and here is chapter 8 are so similar that some scholars believe them to be duplicates of one occasion, but “Both Mark and Matthew give both miracles, distinguish the words for baskets (kophinos, sphuris), and both make Jesus later refer to both incidents and use these two words with the same distinction (Mark 8:19f.; Matthew 16:9f.).” This second feeding of Four Thousand is to a Gentile audience.
In this second miracle of feeding the great crowd there is less detail given than in the first miracle – no mention of the color of the grass, how the people were groups together and their appearance of a flower garden, just the bare basics of the miracle. So the emphasis is not on the miracle itself, or Jesus’ ability to do this miracle; instead the focus seems to be on the disciples, and how they respond to the situation of needing to come up with food to feed many people.
Previously in chapter 6, when Jesus asked them to feed the people, they said, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” There suggestion was that they could go and buy bread, but for that many people it would be very expensive (Jesus do you really want to spend that much money?) In chapter 8, the disciples say, (v. 4) “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” – there is no place to go and get the bread.
The two separate feedings and the reaction by the disciples (like they don’t even recall that this exact same thing had already occurred) drives us to ask the questions, “How can the disciples miss this?”
No Sign Will Be Given to The Hard Hearted (vv. 11-13)
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
“What they asked for was something like the manna (John 6:31), or a thunderstorm from a clear sky (1 Sam. 12:18) or fire from heaven, such as came to Elijah (1 Kings 18), or the signs of Joel 2:30, 31. There was the popular impression that, although miracles upon the earth might be spurious and deceptive, signs from heaven could not be counterfeited. It was expected that they would accompany the Messiah, and therefore Jesus was repeatedly asked to fulfill this expectation.”
But the request for a sign from Jesus was not genuine. Jesus refuses because of their unbelief. They are not doubting Jesus’ ability to perform miracles, they are asking for a higher miracle, one that would prove it is from God (i.e. the heavens) instead of working with Satan, as He has already been accused of.
These leaders knew by now, that Jesus would not do miracles upon demand, so they repeatedly ask for a sign in the heavens. Jesus knows their hearts, Jesus himself was the true sign from heaven, the living witness to the present God. Jesus was in the Father, and the Father was in Him – if you were blind to that fact, no sign would remove that blindness.
(v. 12) “And he sighed deeply in his spirit,” – the word anastenazo, is found only here in the NT. “It describes Jesus’ grief and disappointment when faced with unbelief of those who, because of their spiritual privileges, ought to be more responsive to him.” They knew the Bible backwards and forwards, and could quote whole books of the OT. “But, through their stubbornness and rebellion, they remained blind and deaf while others were healed.” The problem is the will not the intellect.
How many signs did they need to show that He was who He said He was? How many miracles, casting out demons, and explanations and teachings does Jesus need to do before a person believes Him? For the Pharisees, it was just one more.
In Luke 16:31is the story of the rich man and Lazarus where they both die and the rich man goes to Hades and Lazarus goes to Paradise. The rich man wants to warn his living brothers of the torment so He asks Abraham to let him warn them, so Abraham, “said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” Eventually, Jesus will rise from the dead, and this same group instead of being convinced, seek to cover it up, and pay the soldiers to lie.
We have all the miracles and teachings required for one to place their trust in Jesus in the Bible. We have the complete Word of God, and it is sufficient. Ask yourself, if I don’t believe, what do I really need to place my faith in Christ, and is it really a lack of evidence, or is your heart just refusing to repent and bow before the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.? Is it simply a love of sin, and pride?
(v. 13) “And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side” – Jesus doesn’t give them a sign, he doesn’t continue the conversation with them, He just gets in the boat and leaves. Sometimes there is nothing more to say or do – He left them in their unbelief and blindness.
Taking Responsibility for One’s Own Spiritual Journey (vv.14-21)
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
After the conflict with the Pharisees, the disciples realize that of the seven (giant) baskets full of bread, they only have one single loaf (to feed all of them). So they are all in a boat, Jesus is reviewing in his mind the conflict with the Pharisees (where He sighed deeply), and is wanting to discuss this in their ministry going forward, Jesus says, (v. 15) “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
The leaven that Jesus is referring to is their influence – the beliefs and teachings of the Pharisees could grow and influence them (the disciples). Therefore, you have to watch out, be on guard. It is something that corrupts.
So what is the influence of the Pharisees? Seeking a Sign, while being hard hearted. Jesus wants them to understand that the authority that he possesses cannot be proved by a sign. Only by faith can they recognize him as the bringer of God’s salvation. In light of all the miracles Jesus has done, and in light of all His teaching they cannot see Him for who He truly is because of their pride. Their influence was just being hard-hearted.
Watch Out So that You Do Not Become Hard Hearted!
What is the influence of Herod? We only see Herod mentioned in Mark 6:14-29. When he discovers that he made a vow to give a girl anything, and she asks for John the Baptist’s head on a platter – he gives in instead of breaking his vow and being embarrassed in front of the leaders present at the banquet. Herod is unwilling to do what is right if it meant looking bad before the crowd because of pride.
Watch Out So That Pride Does Not Keep You From Doing What Is Right!
It is hard heartedness and pride that is keeping other leaders from understanding who Jesus really is. Here the disciples are in danger of not understanding who Jesus really is.
(v. 16) “And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread.” – The disciples have completely missed what Jesus was saying and trying to teach them. So Jesus rebukes them, and “This rebuke is the harshest comment on the dullness of the disciples thus far in Mark and describes them in language borrowed from the OT where rebellious Israel is condemned for disobedience to God and an unwillingness to hear his prophetic word (eg. Ps. 95:8; Isa. 63:17 “hardness” of heart).”
In response to their dullness to the spiritual events surrounding them, and the conversations that Jesus is having with others (and even them) Jesus asks them a series of questions;
1. “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Jesus has asked them this question already in Mark 4:13 when discussing a parable, “And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”
Here the questions are more intense’; they have been with Jesus too long for them not to be able to perceive spiritually what is going on around them. This is the third and final trip across the sea and the disciples are in the same state of failure to understand as did the first two trips (4:40-41; 6:51-52, 8:21).
Hebrews 5:12 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” We are responsible for our own spiritual journey – take whatever steps you need to take to grow in your relationship with Christ. Coasting, just going along is not acceptable – you are responsible for your own faith journey. Maturity carries with it responsibility.
2. (v.17) “Are your hearts hardened?” – They are acting like those on the outside, even though they have had an insiders view of His ministry. Mark 4:11-12 “And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” Have you heard the gospel so many times that it no longer moves you – have you heard the stories of Jesus’ miracles that they no longer astound you!
3. (v. 18) Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? This is the scripture Jesus quoted earlier in the book of Mark 4 when teaching parables to the crowd. The disciples (those on the inside) were told what the parable of the soils meant, but the crowd (those outside) was left not fully understanding the various soils, and seed, etc.
Now, the disciples are placing themselves in the place of those outside by not perceiving the spiritual implications of what is going on. It is moving beyond just not getting it, to being obstinate and hard headed. It’s like they are not even trying to grasp Jesus’ teachings and what He is trying to do among the people.
The words also echo the prophet Jeremiah’s description of “foolish and senseless people” who are stubborn (Jer. 5:21, 23), and Ezekiel’s description of “rebellious people.”
4. And do you not remember? Jesus then walks them back through the two miracles, and the disciples know the facts (twelve baskets, seven baskets, etc). But they aren’t putting in the effort to put the facts together into a bigger picture.
(v. 21) “And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” The disciples are suffering from the same spiritual blindness that the Pharisees have. They can’t see how the feeding of the five thousand and here the feeding of the four thousand are the same. They still don’t see Jesus as the answer to the need they have (bread, hunger).
A shallow perception of Jesus is very dangerous. “Jesus was not just a prophet or wonder-worker but the Son of God, whose ministry not only brought fulfillment to the prophetic hope of Israel but also was the basis for the preaching of salvation to the whole world.”
 Mark Batterson, The Grave Robber: How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible, Baker Books .
 The word used for basket (spyris) is the same type of basket mentioned where Paul was lowered from the wall of Damascus in Acts 9:25. “Whereas a kophinos is a wicker basket in which Jews ordinarily carried their food when journeying.” Frank E. Geabelein, General Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1984) 687. Also, they are in a desolate place, where do they get 7 baskets large enough to put men into? Where did they get these large baskets and what were they used for in such a desolate place?
 Larry W. Hurtado, New International Biblical Commentary, Mark (Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishers, 1989) 121.
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 1 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1930) 329.
 W. N. Clarke, An American Commentary on the New Testament, Volume 3 (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Judson Press, 1950) 111.
 Clarke, 112.
 Geabelein, 688. Mark 3:22 “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”
 Geabelein, 688.
 Max Anders, General Editor, Holman New Testament Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Holman Reference, 2000) 133.
 Geabelein, 689.
 Max Anders, 126.
 Jeremiah 5:21
 Daryl D. Schmidt, The Scholar’s Bible, The Gospel of Mark (Sonoma, California; Polebridge Press, 1990) 94.
 Hurtado, 128.