December 3, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news this morning is from Mark 8:14-21.
They had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. He enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?” they answered [him], “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Here we have again an instance of the disciples’ focus on their own well being and failure to provide for themselves adequately. They’re hungry and they brought only one loaf of bread with them. Having witnessed Jesus perform many miracles including feeding thousands of people, they still fail to look to him to provide for their needs — material and spiritual. They fail to understand that God is acting through him. And Jesus let’s them have it. First the Pharisees have exasperated him and now his own disciples.
Jesus and his disciples are speaking on different levels to one another. They take his reference to leaven to mean bread, the ingredient that makes it rise. Jesus is using leaven to mean the spreading evil of the religious and political authorities, evil intent on his death because he is a threat to their positions of power and privilege. He reminds them of his feeding of the multitudes so that they can understand that he is the bread of life. Yet they still don’t understand and he accuses them of having hardened hearts — hearts consumed with their own needs and providing for themselves first before others and failing to acknowledge that God provides for all their needs.
Boy o boy! He’s talking to me again! I so often misunderstand the word of God; it’s like we’re talking two different languages, mainly because I tend to make things too complicated. And I most often look to my own power and resources to tackle a problem instead of looking to God for what I need. I focus first on my material and emotional needs. How can I get those met in the way I want? Rather than praying — being in conversation with God — about meeting my real need to first be in communion with him, resting in His love and trusting that He will provide what I need — what I really need and not what I think I need. Barclay puts it this way, “If we would only read the lessons of experience aright, it would teach us not the pessimism of the things that cannot be, but the hope which stands amazed that God has brought us thus far in safety and in certainly and the confidence that God can bring us through anything that may happen.” That’s what I need to pray for — the confidence that God will bring me through anything that may happen. Do I still not understand that?