COMPASSION (v.1-10). Jesus was sensitive to the needs of the crowds that followed Him. “I have compassion on the crowd,” He said. Compassion is love in action. Jesus put His love for the people into action by performing an astounding miracle of multiplication. That’s Jesus for you: loving, blessing, providing, and caring.
SIGNS (v.11-13). The Pharisees came demanding a sign from Jesus, a miracle that would be impressive enough to convince them that He was the Messiah. This bothered Jesus (He sighed deeply) because their request was a “test” (v.11). In other words, the Pharisees did not want to see a miracle so they might believe in Jesus and worship Him, but so they might gain an opportunity to dishonor Him, discredit Him, and (ultimately) to destroy Him.
LEAVEN (v.14-21). In my opinion, Jesus is using a bit of humor to make a point here — a serious joke, if you will. As the disciples were thinking about snacking on the small amount of bread they had in the boat, Jesus said, “Look out for the leaven.” Leaven is a piece of yesterday’s dough used to make today’s dough rise. It contains active yeast, and so a very small amount would spread and permeate a large lump of dough. In the same way, a little bad doctrine could infect a lot of people, ruin many lives, and send many to hell. The leaven of the Pharisees was legalism: the more religious rules you keep, the more God will like you. The leaven of Herod was the other extreme, liberalism: rules don’t matter; do whatever makes you happy.
The exchange in verses 16-21 is funny because Jesus’ statement about leaven went right over the disciples’ heads, so He just went with it, making another point: when you are with the One who can instantly create food for thousands, don’t worry about where your next meal will come from!
HEALER (v.22-26). When some people (friends?) brought a blind man to Jesus, they begged Him to touch the man. Jesus did, and in a most unusual way. He spit on the blind man’s eyes, and the man regained his sight! What a powerful Savior — even His saliva works miracles!
CHRIST (v.27-30). This scene, presented in greater detail in Matthew 16:13-20, contains the famous confession of Peter: “You are the Christ.” That statement is as true today as when Peter said it. I am glad I can say with assurance that Jesus is the Christ and He is my Christ.
DISCIPLESHIP (v.31-38). Jesus spoke plainly (v.32) about how He would suffer, die, and rise again. Peter’s rebuke revealed His misunderstanding: Jesus would take no shortcuts in fulfilling the plan of redemption. Likewise, there are no shortcuts on the road to Christian discipleship. Read verses 34-38 again, slowly. This is real Christianity.