Mark 8:1-21: Do You Need a Sign from God? Maybe He Delivered One Already!

Miracle after miracle, healing after healing and both the Pharisees and the disciples didn’t get Jesus. The Pharisees wanted a sign and the disciples worried about their next meal. Yet, they couldn’t see JESUS and what HE was all about. Let’s dig in…

Mark 8:1-21

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”

His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied.

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod

14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Mark 8:1-21 NIV

Do YOU Understand?

Let’s unpack this…

Feeding the multitudes. Image by Good News Productions International from (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Feeding the multitudes. Image by Good News Productions International from (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
  • They were in the area of the Decapolis, a Gentile area, where He dealt with Legion, the demons who possessed a man. Then He healed a deaf man. The people kept coming, bringing their sick to be healed. Most importantly, they stayed to hear His teachings.
  • This also showed that Jesus came not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles, too. In John 10, Jesus tells us of the “other sheep”… “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:14-16 NIV) The first sheep are the Jews and the “other sheep” are the Gentiles.
  • 3 days later, all their food was gone and they were far from their homes. Jesus had compassion for them. He knew their need and filled it. God doesn’t want anyone to suffer.
  • It seems the disciples forgot that Jesus had multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish and fed not just 5000 men, but their families, too — around 15-20,000 people. If He did it then, why couldn’t He do it again?
  • Leaven and un-leaven bread – When He fed the 5000 Jews, the loaves were specifically “barley loaves” – un-leaven (with no yeast) because it was around the time of Passover. Here, in Gentile territory, the loaves were regular loaves made with yeast.
  • The baskets in each feeding were different too. The Greek word for baskets in the Jewish setting is “kophinos” or small basket. In the Gentile setting, the Greek word for basket was “spuris” or hamper — a large basket.
  • There were 12 baskets of leftovers after the first one, and 7 bigger baskets of leftovers after the second. 7 is the number of completion.
  • In both feedings, Jesus broke the bread, gave thanks, and then gave the bread to the disciples to distribute. This reflects Jesus as the bread of life during the last supper. We would die without Jesus — we have no recourse without Him.
  • The same miracle He did for the Jews, He also did for the Gentiles.

Stubborn Unbelief

Jesus next addresses the stubborn unbelief of the Pharisees and the disciples…

Jesus walks on water. Image by Sweet Publishing from, (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Jesus walks on water. Image by Sweet Publishing from, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pastor Sandy Adams comments…

He worked countless miracles. Multiplying fish and bread – calming a storm – raising a girl from the dead – healing the sick – casting out demons. What other sign did they need?

Sadly, some folks are spiritual ambulance chasers. They’re not interested in faith. They’re sensationalists who just want to see miracles for miracles’ sake. Here’s the truth we need to realize – the only thing signs and miracles produce is the desire for more signs and miracles.

God’s miracles are the product of our faith, they don’t produce faith. Romans 10:17 tells us, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” The study of God’s Word causes faith to grow.

Throughout Scripture leaven, or yeast, is a type of sin. Leaven corrupts by puffing up and inflating – and so does sin– sin pumps up our pride. In the Gospels, Jesus talked about three different types of leaven…

The leaven of the Pharisees was legalism. The Pharisees bound God’s people to a strict adherence to the Law of Moses… The leaven of the Sadducees was liberalism. The Sadducees compromised with the pagan world around them… The leaven of Herod was political leverage. The Herods sought political muscle. Jesus saw legalism, liberalism, and political leverage as leaven – as sinful forces. All three were corrupting influences on God’s people. Jesus relied on love!

Jesus wanted to talk about these factors when He brought up the subject of leaven, but the disciples were still thinking of the previous day’s events – the multiplying of the bread.

Sandy Adams

A Warning in a Riddle

Jesus warns us with a riddle. As He reminds the disciples of how many leftover baskets they had, both times He said, “When I broke…”. With yeast/leaven, a little goes a long way — the leaven of the Pharisees was hypocrisy, self-righteous, religious legalism. For Herod, it was worldliness, malice, wickedness, and political leverage.

Though we have to respect authority, however, we do not have to condone their ungodliness. (I could go off on a major tangent, but I’ll save it for another post.)

The disciples were thinking of daily, practical needs, not of spiritual things and needs. There’s more to God’s Words than what a casual reading is going to give you. That’s why we need to STUDY the Bible, not just read it.

Pastor Danny Saaverdra writes…

Here, the word leaven or yeast is being equated by Jesus to doctrine and teachings. Recently, I bought a pizza steel and have been making pizzas from scratch at home each week. And I’ve had to work a lot with yeast. The thing about yeast is that once you introduce it to the party, it doesn’t just rise in one isolated area. It permeates the entire dough ball, ferments it, and changes its overall structure. 

Friends, we’re a lot like a dough ball in that our bread (our heart and viewpoint) is determined by the doctrines, teachings, ideologies, philosophies, positions, propaganda, conspiracies, theories, and opinions we sprinkle in and allow to ferment. Gradually, these extra-biblical, self-righteous, post-modern, post-Christian, pseudo-spiritual, self-help, atheistic, liberal, conservative, woke, alt-right, racist, Marxist, nationalistic, progressive, legalistic, Pharisaical, Herodian, and anything else you can think of THAT ISN’T FULLY AND SOLELY FROM SCRIPTURE, that isn’t the GOSPEL OF JESUS, can change the overall structure and composition of our hearts. And sadly, most of the time it happens in such a way we don’t even realize it. 

So, friends, here’s my advice: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” 1 John 4:1 (HCSB). We should evaluate all messages, media, news, and entertainment, consider the source, and reflect on what we’re letting into the dough ball of our hearts in context of the Word and the doctrines established by Jesus, the apostles, and the early Church. We need to critically think, pray constantly, and invite the Spirit to reveal truth into what is being sprinkled into us. This may end up requiring some work on our part to sift out the yeast; it may mean removing certain practices, unfollowing certain voices, or even seeking biblical counseling. But it’s so important we all do it as believers in order to remain firmly in the truth of Christ.

Danny Saavedra, The Gospel of Mark (Part Four):

Wow! I couldn’t have written that better myself!

Related: Stop the Idea Viruses

What Type of Leaven/Yeast is Permeating Your Life?

I’m going to end today’s lesson with Pastor Danny’s suggestions and prayer…

Do a deep dive into the dough ball of your heart and mind. Is there any leaven from the world, from other ideologies, from politically charged movements, pseudo-spiritual or self-help philosophy, or any legalistic or progressive false doctrines? Chances are we all have some worldly yeast particles sprinkled in. Pray and seek the Spirit’s wisdom on what is not of God and how to surrender it to His truth.

Pray: Father, thank You for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth who “searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10 NIV) and guides me “into all truth” (John 16:13 NLT). I pray if there is anything in me, any beliefs, ideologies, philosophies, thoughts, opinions, or anything else that is not of You, that does not line up with Your Word and the gospel of Your Son Jesus, that You would reveal it, refine it, and remove it! I want nothing more than to know You and to live fully in the way, truth, and life of Your Son. Help me and cleanse me, Oh God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Danny Saavedra, The Gospel of Mark (Part Four):

As Pastor Danny says, we must rely on the Holy Spirit of truth to guide us daily! The thing is only born-again believers get that wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, when they’ve surrendered their lives to Jesus. What are you waiting for? Right now…

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace, Joy, Peace, and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Top image of the Pharisees is copyright of the LUMO project (Big Book Media) from

Child of Love

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!