Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Four thousand persons fed with seven loaves and a few small fishes, Mar 8:1-8. Christ refuses to give any farther sign to the impertinent Pharisees, Mar 8:10-12. Warns his disciples against the corrupt doctrine of the Pharisees and of Herod, Mar 8:13-21. He restores sight to a blind man, Mar 8:22-26. Asks his disciples what the public thought of him, Mar 8:27-30. Acknowledges himself to be the Christ, and that he must suffer, Mar 8:31-33. And shows that all his genuine disciples must take up their cross, suffer in his cause, and confess him before men, Mar 8:34-38.
The multitude being very great - Or rather, There was again a great multitude. Instead of παμπολλου, very great, I read παλιν πολλου, again a great, which is the reading of BDGLM, fourteen others, all the Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Gothic, Vulgate, and Itala, and of many Evangelistaria. Griesbach approves of this reading. There had been such a multitude gathered together once before, who were fed in the same way. See Mar 6:34, etc.
Having nothing to eat - If they had brought any provisions with them, they were now entirely expended; and they stood in immediate need of a supply.
For divers of them came from far - And they could not possibly reach their respective homes without perishing, unless they got food.
etc. - See on Mat 14:14 (note); Mat 15:35.
And they had a few small fishes - This is not noticed in the parallel place, Mat 15:36.
Dalmanutha - See the note on Mat 15:39.
And he sighed deeply in his spirit - Or having deeply groaned - so the word αναστεναξας properly means. He was exceedingly affected at their obstinacy and hardness of heart. See Mat 16:1-4.
Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread - See all this, to Mar 8:21, explained at large on Mat 16:4-12 (note). In the above chapter, an account is given of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians.
They bring a blind man unto him - Christ went about to do good, and wherever he came he found some good to be done; and so should we, if we had a proper measure of the same zeal and love for the welfare of the bodies and souls of men.
And he took the blind man by the hand - Giving him a proof of his readiness to help him, and thus preparing him for the cure which he was about to work.
Led him out of the town - Thus showing the inhabitants that he considered them unworthy of having another miracle wrought among them. He had already deeply deplored their ingratitude and obstinacy: see on Mat 11:21 (note). When a people do not make a proper improvement of the light and grace which they receive from God, their candlestick is removed - even the visible Church becomes there extinct; and the candle is put out - no more means of spiritual illumination are afforded to the unfaithful inhabitants: Rev 2:5.
When he had spit on his eyes - There is a similar transaction to this mentioned by John, Joh 9:6. It is likely this was done merely to separate the eyelids; as, in certain cases of blindness, they are found always gummed together. It required a miracle to restore the sight, and this was done in consequence of Christ having laid his hands upon the blind man: it required no miracle to separate the eyelids, and, therefore, natural means only were employed - this was done by rubbing them with spittle; but whether by Christ, or by the blind man, is not absolutely certain. See on Mar 7:33 (note). It has always been evident that false miracles have been wrought without reason or necessity, and without any obvious advantage; and they have thereby been detected: on the contrary, true miracles have always vindicated themselves by their obvious utility and importance; nothing ever being effected by them that could be performed by natural means.
If he saw aught - Ει, if, is wanting in the Syriac, all the Persic and Arabic, and in the Ethiopic; and τι βλεπεις, Dost thou see any thing? is the reading of CD, Coptic, Ethiopic, all the Arabic and Persic.
I see men as trees, walking - His sight was so imperfect that he could not distinguish between men and trees, only by the motion of the former.
And saw every man clearly - But instead of ἁπαντας, all men, several excellent MSS., and the principal versions, have ἁπαντα, all things, every object; for the view he had of them before was indistinct and confused. Our Lord could have restored this man to sight in a moment; but he chose to do it in the way mentioned in the text, to show that he is sovereign of his own graces; and to point out that, however insignificant means may appear in themselves, they are divinely efficacious when he chooses to work by them; and that, however small the first manifestations of mercy may be, they are nevertheless the beginnings of the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel of peace. Reader, art thou in this man's state? Art thou blind? Then come to Jesus that he may restore thee. Hast thou a measure of light? Then pray that he may lay his hands again on thee, that thou mayest be enabled to read thy title clear to the heavenly inheritance.
He sent him away to his house - So it appears that this person did not belong to Bethsaida, for, in going to his house, he was not to enter into the village.
This miracle is not mentioned by any other of the evangelists. It affords another proof that Mark did not abridge Matthew's Gospel.
And Jesus went out, etc. - See on Mat 16:13-20 (note).
Thou art the Christ - Three MSS. and some versions add, the Son of the living God.
And he spake that saying - Concerning the certainty and necessity of his sufferings - openly: with great plainness, παρῥησια, confidence, or emphasis, so that the disciples now began fully to understand him. This is an additional observation of St. Mark. For Peter's reproof, see on Mat 16:22 (note), etc.
Whosoever will come after me - It seems that Christ formed, on the proselytism of the Jews, the principal qualities which he required in the proselytes of his covenant.
The first condition of proselytism among the Jews was, that he that came to embrace their religion should come voluntarily, and that neither force nor influence should be employed in this business. This is also the first condition required by Jesus Christ, and which he considers as the foundation of all the rest: - If a man be willing to come after me.
The second condition required in the Jewish proselyte was, that he should perfectly renounce all his prejudices, his errors, his idolatry, and every thing that concerned his false religion; and that he should entirely separate himself from his most intimate friends and acquaintances. It was on this ground that the Jews called proselytism a new birth, and proselytes new-born, and new men; and our Lord requires men to be born again, not only of water, but by the Holy Ghost. See Joh 3:5. All this our Lord includes in this word, Let him renounce himself. To this the following scriptures refer: Mat 10:33; Joh 3:3, Joh 3:5, Co2 5:17.
The third condition on which a person was admitted into the Jewish Church as a proselyte was, that he should submit to the yoke of the Jewish law, and bear patiently the inconveniences and sufferings with which a profession of the Mosaic religion might be accompanied. Christ requires the same condition; but, instead of the yoke of the law, he brings in his own doctrine, which he calls his yoke, Mat 11:29 : and his cross, the taking up of which not only implies a bold profession of Christ crucified, but also a cheerful submitting to all the sufferings and persecutions to which he might be exposed, and even to death itself.
The fourth condition was, that they should solemnly engage to continue in the Jewish religion, faithful even unto death. This condition Christ also requires; and it is comprised in this word, Let him Follow me. See the following verses; and see, on the subject of proselytism, Rut 1:16, Rut 1:17 (note).
For whosoever will save his life - On this and the following verses, see Mat 16:24, etc.
Whosoever - shall be ashamed of me - Our Lord hints here at one of the principal reasons of the incredulity of the Jews, - they saw nothing in the person of Jesus Christ which corresponded to the pompous notions which they had formed of the Messiah.
If Jesus Christ had come into the world as a mighty and opulent man, clothed with earthly glories and honors, he would have had a multitude of partisans, and most of them hypocrites.
And of my words - This was another subject of offense to the Jews: the doctrine of the cross must be believed; a suffering Messiah must be acknowledged; and poverty and affliction must be borne; and death, perhaps, suffered in consequence of becoming his disciples.
Of him, and of his words, in this sense, the world is, to this day, ashamed.
Of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed - As he refused to acknowledge me before men, so will I refuse to acknowledge him before God and his angels. Terrible consequence of the rejection of Christ! And who can help him whom the only Savior eternally disowns. Reader! Lay this subject seriously to heart; and see the notes on Mat 16:24, etc., and at the end of that chapter.
All the subjects contained in this chapter are very interesting; but particularly:
1. The miraculous feeding of the multitudes, which is a full, unequivocal proof of the supreme Divinity of Jesus Christ: in this miracle he truly appears in his creative energy, with which he has associated the tenderest benevolence and humanity. The subject of such a prince must ever be safe; the servant of such a master must ever have kind usage; the follower of such a teacher can never want nor go astray.
2. The necessity of keeping the doctrine of the Gospel uncorrupt, is strongly inculcated in the caution to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod: the doctrine of the cross must not only be observed and held inviolate, but that doctrine must never be mixed with worldly politics.
Time-serving is abominable in the sight of God: it shows that the person has either no fixed principle of religion, or that he is not under the influence of any.