Sunday, June 28, 2009

Yet Another Loaf

And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side. Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat. Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.” But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.” So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?” (Mark 8:13-21, NKJV)
* * * * * * * *
If we can safely assume that the Gospels are presented to us in chronological order (and I believe we can based on this passage and other reading), then I have come to the conclusion that the disciples were not just ignorant or slow, they were just plain dense. They had been first-hand witnesses to miracles, signs, and wonders since the wedding at Cana. They were willing to forgo their careers, meager as some were, to follow an itinerant rabbi from a backwards village in an extremely rural (read “unsophisticated”) province. Given that experience, you would think a little thing like limited resources while out on the lake wouldn’t faze them in the least.

Yet, we find the disciples and Jesus coming off another tiring round of meeting the needs of people and interacting with the Pharisees. Everyone, once again, wanting something from Jesus and giving little to no thought about ministering to Him. So the haggard band has escaped in one of their boats for a little trip on the lake.

You can just imagine how this plays out if you try. They shove off from shore for some other point across the lake and one of them says “Did you bring anything to eat?” They rummage through their limited collection of stuff and find they have only one small barley loaf among them. Jesus is still focused on His latest encounter with the Pharisees. He warns His disciples to guard their hearts and minds against the watered-down and altered religious teaching of the day and the pervasive nature and trap of politics. His warning speaks of avoiding “leaven”, symbolically the tendency to let something small sink in and grow until it permeates the entire loaf (or life in this case).

For whatever reason, the disciples miss Jesus’ point again and focus on themselves. They are still hungry (physically) and think the Master is talking to them because they have been discussing the lack of bread in the boat. Jesus, ever the patient Teacher, holds a brief history lesson, harkening back to the two great crowd feedings and the spread of leftovers that were a result of His miraculous provision of food for the crowd. His focus turns just a bit sterner as I read it when He asks, “How is it you do not understand?”

I’ll admit I chuckled as I read this passage a few times. While none of the twelve is presented as a scholar (they appear to run a fairly wide range of training), we have to think they would have “gotten it” by now. And, while I accuse them of being dense, I have to admit I’m often not a whole lot better at accepting God’s basic provision for me.

In our hurried and harried society, few of us truly know want or even delayed gratification. Certainly, we wouldn’t be found with a group of our friends on a trip saying “Did anybody pack lunch?” And even if we did, there is a food stop at the next exit. And while we will attend church and other functions regularly, we often forget the intimate nature of God providing for all our needs. In doing so, we open the gate for that leaven Jesus warns of in this passage. Once the gate is opened, other concerns rush in and grow until we have difficulty truly accepting just how real God’s promise to provide can be.
So while I accuse those disciples of being dense, how much more dense am I, especially given the fact that I have so much more revealed to me? May God help all of us to avoid troubling ourselves over the small stuff (or the big stuff for that matter) and rest in His provision for our well being. In doing so, perhaps we can pay better attention to the leaven and root it out before it has a chance to grow into something much bigger and more difficult to deal with. God knows about our crooked path and He will always make the proper provision for the journey.
* * * * * * * *
  1. When is the last time you took the opportunity to focus on God’s promise of provision for you? How well does that promise, especially in its most practical sense, connect with you?
  2. Have you gone on a “leaven hunt” recently? What have you found and what have you done about it?
  3. In our world of instant availability, do you find it difficult (or even unnecessary) to wait on God’s provision? How does this impact your guard against the leaven of the world and your ability to avoid it?

NKJV - Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment