Do You Get It Yet?

Posted: February 10, 2014 in Mark

Mark 8:11-21, “Do You Get It Yet?”

There was a great photo going around on Facebook this morning of a t-shirt that read: “4 out of 3 people don’t understand math.” 🙂  Sometimes things are tough for people to understand – some things are hard to get.

It can be that way with God.  People can be around the things of God all their lives: they can grow up in church, listen to Christian radio, do all of the right “Christian” things, and still never really understand Jesus.  They never get to the point where they truly understand that He really IS the Lord of all Creation who died for them at the cross, fully rose to life from the grave, and offers to save and forgive them.  Oh, they’ve ­heard the news; they just don’t get the news.  It never makes it from their head to their heart, and they’ve never taken that step of faith to actually receive Jesus as their Lord.

The disciples hadn’t gotten it yet.  They didn’t understand what they needed to understand about Jesus.  They would soon…when Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ (next week!).  But at the moment, they were still confused – wavering back & forth in their faith.

The sad part is that they seemed satisfied with their lack of understanding.  They could hang around Jesus, witness incredible miracles, wonder & marvel at Jesus, and even receive power from Him to do ministry.  But even with all of that, they seemed content to sit on the fence.  They loved Jesus the teacher, Jesus the prophet, Jesus the miracle-worker, and they were even willing to occasionally  entertain the idea of Jesus the Messiah.  They had left all they had to follow Jesus, yet their hearts had not yet fully been committed to faith.  They still had hardened hearts and a lack of understanding.

Jesus doesn’t want us to stay in that place.  There are times we all have doubts, but we’re not supposed to get comfortable there & stay there.  Jesus wants us to commit fully to Him.  After all, He already committed fully to us when He went to the cross.

What will it take for you to “get it” with Jesus?  What will it take for hardened hearts to be humbly broken in faith?  (1) Look at what it is Jesus has already done.  (2) Look at Who it is Jesus had already demonstrated Himself to be.

No longer be OK with not understanding about Jesus…move forward in faith!

Mark 8:11–21
11 Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him.

  • When did the Pharisees come?  After the feeding of the 4000 (and well after the feeding of the 5000).  Jesus had healed multitudes, walked on water, cast out demons, and raised the dead.  It’s in light of all of this that their request is so ridiculous.  But the immediate context is Jesus’ trip among the Gentiles.  He had gone 50+ miles to the north, and healed the daughter of a Syro-Phoenician woman – He had returned to the Gentile area of Decapolis and healed a deaf-mute – He had fed 4000 men (+ woman & children) with a few loaves…and all of this got the attention of the Pharisees yet again.  Matthew tells us in the past that the Pharisees had asked for a sign, back when Jesus cast out demons & the Pharisees accused Jesus of doing it by the power of the devil.  In turn, Jesus warned the Pharisees about a sin from which there is no forgiveness (the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit), and the Pharisees & scribes asked Jesus for a miraculous sign that would prove Jesus’ authority to say & do these things (Mt 12:38).  Mark doesn’t write of the earlier request for a sign, but there’s no doubt in the gospel of Mark that the Pharisees have often been opposed to Jesus.  Apparently, Jesus’ ministry among the Gentiles was a bridge too far for them.  They had seen Jesus work among the Jews (such as feeding the 5000), but when He started doing the same miracles among the Gentiles (feeding the 4000), they flipped out.  They could not conceive of God’s blessings being given to those whom they deemed as dogs, and they demanded some sort of proof that Jesus had the right to do these things.
  • Notice that the Pharisees did not come with honest questions for an honest discussion.  When they got to Jesus, they “began to dispute with Him.”  IOW, they came looking for an argument.  The fact that they came “testing” (or “tempting,” as the word can be translated) does away with the possibility that they came to honestly investigate further regarding this prophet.  They came specifically to discredit Him in the eyes of the people. They came to shout Him down and shut Him down.
    • There is a massive difference between a seeker and a skeptic (some of which was very publicly displayed this week in the evolution/creation debate).  A seeker is someone looking for the truth; a skeptic is someone looking for holes in a person’s story.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing (for example, skepticism is good regarding police interrogations, or claims from religious cults), but it can also be a very bad thing.  If someone has a presupposition that a particular idea cannot be true, then they won’t be open to the idea of it, even when it is true.  Typically, that’s the case today regarding many of the new atheists.  They have the presupposition that God cannot exist, so they will deny God’s existence, even when God does exist (independent of their belief).
    • The Pharisees had a presupposition against Jesus.  By & large, they believed He simply could not be the Messiah, so they were not open to the possibility that He actually is the Messiah.  No matter how many miracles Jesus performed – no matter how much prophecy Jesus fulfilled – no matter how much Scripture Jesus accurately taught – because the Pharisees were already set in their heart against Jesus, they would always be set against Jesus.
    • Be careful not to have a presupposition against truth!  If we’re always close-minded to truth, then the only thing left for us to believe is a lie.  That’s where the Pharisees were, and that’s where many people are today.  They’ve had bad experiences with individual Christians, so they believe Christianity must be flat-wrong, and they have completely shut themselves off from it.  They are unwilling to believe it is the truth, so they are not open to the honest possibility of it.  All that is left for them to believe is a lie…and that lie will send them straight to hell.
    • Of course, this all begs the question: how can we know what IS truth?  If it’s OK to be skeptical concerning false claims (i.e. Mohammed being the ultimate prophet from God), but not OK to be closed-minded regarding true things (i.e. Jesus is God the Son revealed to us), then how do we know what to be skeptical about & what to be open towards?  Simple: like anything else, look to the facts.  Is there any proof that Jesus’ claims are true and Mohammed’s claims were false?  Yes.  There are many differences between the two, but the most important is this: only one of them rose from the dead.  The resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference in the world.
  • So the Pharisees asked for a “sign from heaven” – either referring to something that was demonstrably done by the power of God, or a very visible miracle done in the sky (such as the sun standing still in the days of Joshua).  At a casual glance, it would seem that they were simply asking for proof, but again we need to remember how absurd this all is.  Their very question came on the heels of a very active season of supernatural miracles performed by Jesus.  He HAD given them signs…again, and again, and again.  What they were saying was, “Everything You’ve done isn’t enough.  We need more.”  More than feeding literally thousands of people with a handful of food?  More than walking on water?  More than healing the maimed & lepers?  More than raising the dead?  Jesus had done all of these things; the Pharisees simply didn’t care.  They claimed to be concerned about the things of God & for guiding the people into the truth of Scripture, but they were willfully blind to the works of God that were right in front of them.  They were willfully blind – choosing their unbelief over obvious proof that God had provided.

12 But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.”

  • Can God be disappointed? Apparently so.  Jesus “sighed deeply” upon hearing their question and dishonest skepticism.  We can only imagine the emotion that Jesus was feeling, but it surely wasn’t good.  He had dealt with their skepticism time & time again, and was constantly rejected no matter how much proof He had already given.
  • Question: Knowing that Jesus had already done hundreds of miracles, and that more miracles and wonders were to come, why does Jesus deny them saying, “no sign shall be given to this generation”?  Obviously Jesus wasn’t denying the use of supernatural miracles – nor was He saying that there would not be a definitive sign given.  Matthew’s account records a longer statement from Jesus, in which Jesus tells the Pharisees the one sign that would be given: Jonah.  Matthew 16:4, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed." []  Talking about the resurrection…
  • So if Matthew records Jesus referring to the sign of the prophet Jonah, why not Mark?  That’s a pretty important statement, which seems to change Jesus’ answer profoundly.  There’s a big difference between “no sign” and “no sign, but one.”  Obviously Mark and Matthew do not contradict; Matthew simply expands and gives more information.  But why wouldn’t Mark (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) record this?  Surely he knew what Jesus had said – it’s doubtful that Peter would not have informed him at some point.  What purpose does Mark have in leaving it out?  As a writer, what is Mark trying to communicate?  (Remember basic Bible study methods: observe – interpret – apply.  Step one is to observe.  If the only gospel we had was the gospel of Mark, we would not know what Jesus said about Jonah & the resurrection.  Yet this is still the inspired Scripture of God.  What can we tell from just the words that we DO have?) 
  • The key is to remember to whom Jesus is speaking: the Pharisees.  The whole context shows the Pharisees denying the signs that had already been given.  This was not an honest request; it was a selfish hypocritical demand.  On the surface, it just seems to be a question, but in reality what would have happened if Jesus had given a sign right then & there?  The Pharisees would have denied it and asked for something else.  It was sinful (wicked) rebellion against God and the proof God had already given, and it was hypocritical because it was two-faced.  The Pharisees didn’t care about signs; they cared about authority.  They did not believe Jesus because THEY weren’t the ones giving credence to Jesus.  They thought that unless THEY approved something as of God, then it wasn’t truly of God.  They set themselves up as the authority, to the point that they wanted the Messiah of God to recognize their authority (rather than the other way around).  …  That’s what Mark is getting across.  It’s not so much the fact that Jesus was denying a sign (He would do many signs); it’s that Jesus was denying them a sign.  He wasn’t going to do anything extra.  He wasn’t going to do anything outside of the plan of God.  To a “generation” that rejected God’s plan of salvation, Jesus was not going to give anything that was not already offered (which was plenty).
    • Many times, it comes down to an issue of authority.  Are we looking to Jesus as the authority, or are we looking to grant Jesus authority?  Who’s God in all of this: Him or us?  Too many people think that God is to bow to their whims, rather than the other way around.  God is God; we’re not.  All sin comes from a confusion of that fact.  When we think we’re more important than God, that is rebellion (by definition) & sinful.
    • More basic looking to Jesus as the authority, are we looking to Jesus at ALL?  Are we looking to Him, or are we looking for the things He might do for us? … See Him as God first; everything else will come later.

13 And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side. 14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat.

  • Jesus leaves the Pharisees (He doesn’t wait to be dismissed by them!), and He & the disciples get “into the boat again.”  They’ve been doing a lot of travelling to different parts of the Sea of Galilee, and they do it one more time.  Seemingly they go to the northern shore (vs. 22 picks up in Bethsaida), and while they’re on the way it becomes lunchtime.  And again, the disciples show themselves to have lost track of things, as they “had forgotten to take bread.”  Remember that there are at least 13 grown men in the boat, and now all they had was “one loaf” (one thick tortilla) between them.  Not a good thing!
  • It goes to show how human the disciples were.  We tend to think of them in glowing terms, many times referring to “Saint Peter, Saint John, etc.,” believing that they could do no wrong.  The only reason they were saints is the only reason WE are saints: we’ve been saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ!  Other than that, they were just as human as the rest of us.  We can just imagine them saying to one another, “Didn’t you get the bread?  Weren’t you supposed to be in charge of it this time?  We had 7 laundry baskets of bread a while ago, didn’t anyone think to save a few loaves for us?!”
  • Thankfully, it doesn’t faze Jesus in the slightest, though He does use their predicament for a teachable moment.  See vs. 15…

15 Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

  • Keeping in mind that “leaven” is basically a reference to baking yeast, Jesus’ statement (kind of a mini-parable) makes sense in the context.  They didn’t have any bread with them, and they would need yeast/leaven if they were going to make bread.  So as long as they were thinking about leaven, Jesus remarks about the “leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 
  • Physically speaking, leaven is what is used to ferment bread dough, which is needed for it to rise.  Yeast is actually a living organism, and as it feeds on the dough, it reproduces and lets off carbon dioxide gas, causing the dough to grow (rise).  If you’ve ever done any baking from scratch, you know that just a tiny bit of yeast is necessary to ferment an entire batch of dough.  It will grow & grow, until it affects it all.
  • Because of what yeast/leaven does, leaven plays a large symbolic role in the religious ceremonies of the OT.  Because leaven spreads, it’s often used as a picture of sin or any sort of corruption that spreads.  Thus the bread of the Passover was to be made without leaven.  The lack of leaven symbolized two things: the Hebrews didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise, and it was totally without corruption.  What God did, God did quickly & God did in purity.  In addition, any grain offering given to the Lord was to be given without leaven (Lev 2:11).  There were other times leaven was used in offerings (such as the peace offering, which used leavened and unleavened bread – Lev 6:13), and typically this would symbolize the fact that sinful man was being given mercies by the sinless God.  In any case, the whole idea is that leaven grows, and it affects everything it touches.  There are some things that we want to see grow (such as the Kingdom of God – Mt 13:33), and there are other things we do not want to grow (such as legalism – Gal 5:9, or sin – 1 Cor 5:6).
  • So what’s going on here?  Jesus told the disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  He’s warning them about something that they could get from the Pharisees and Herod that would grow among them & affect them all.  Of course, that all begs the question: what is the “leaven” that Jesus refers to?  Jesus and the disciples had just left yet another encounter with the Pharisees, in which they made their true colors known.  They didn’t believe Jesus, and they had no intention of believing Jesus.  They were self-righteous, and hypocritical.  Matthew’s account directly records Jesus calling the Pharisees hypocrites in regards to their request (Mt 16:3), and at another time in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus states plainly to “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Lk 12:1)  The Pharisees were complete hypocrites, and their hypocrisy affected everything from how they treated others (legalism) to how they treated Jesus (persecution).  They claimed to be able to interpret the Scriptures, but they refused to acknowledge Jesus’ fulfillment of those same Scriptures right before their eyes.  Their hypocrisy blinded them, and it was their downfall.
    • And Jesus’ point was that their hypocrisy could spread.  Why did the disciples need to beware of it?  Because they could adopt the same attitude.  They could also fall into the trap of religious hypocrisy.  They could be around Jesus and receive grace for themselves while never extending grace to others.  They could read the Scriptures and get fat on doctrine, while never actually applying what they learned in obedience.  Worse yet, they could have the truth of the Messiah right before their eyes, and still stubbornly refuse to come to faith in Him (such as Judas did!).
    • The warning to the disciples is still the warning to us.  Christians can easily engage in all of these same hypocritical practices.  How many times have we seen people proclaim themselves to be “holier than thou,” while living a lifestyle of sin?  It’s “grace for me; law for thee.”  And it’s wrong.  Likewise with the hypocrisy of always learning, never doing. To know what to do and refuse to do it is sin.  A sin of omission is no less a sin than a sin of commission.  And worst of all would be knowing of Jesus, but never surrendering to Jesus in faith.  To have the gospel repeatedly given to you – even being able to quote it to others – and never personally receive the forgiveness of Christ is not just hypocritical; it’s infinitely tragic.  Beware!
  • Notice that the “leaven of the Pharisees” was not the only leaven that Jesus warned them about.  He also warned about the “leaven of Herod.”  This is another major difference between Mark’s account & Matthew’s.  Matthew 16:6, "Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”" []  Again, there’s no contradiction here; just different details.  But the details are important.  Mark never mentions the Sadducees, and Matthew never mentions Herod.  It’d be easy for us to assume that they are just different words for the same thing, but the text suggests something else.  The Sadducees were certainly the more politically connected of the religious elite, and they would have had far more in common with Herod than the Pharisees.  However, there’s no real reason that the terms would have been used interchangeably.  In addition, Jesus directly linked the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but separated the leaven of the Pharisees from the leaven of Herod.  “Leaven” is used once in Mt 16:6, but twice in Mk 8:15.  Greek grammar would suggest that Matthew refers to one type of leaven, but Mark refers to two types.  If that’s the case, then there is another type of leaven that Jesus warns us about: “the leaven of Herod.”  Not the leaven of the Herodians (the political party of the Jews that followed King Herod), but the leaven of Herod himself.  Although the Herodians are mentioned elsewhere in Mark, the gospel of Mark only shows King Herod one time (other than here): Ch. 6 in regards to his treatment of John the Baptist.  Obviously we know much more about Herod Antipas from the rest of the NT (and from history), but again we need to deal with our text.  What is Mark recording Jesus saying about Herod, based on what Mark has already shown us about Herod?  How is the leaven of Herod different from the leaven of the Pharisees?  Let’s remember what Herod did when he started to hear of the growing fame of Jesus.  Mark 6:14–16, "(14) Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” (15) Others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.” (16) But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!”" []  When the Pharisees heard of Jesus, they were hypocritical in their faith and persecuted Him.  When Herod heard of Jesus, he didn’t understand who Jesus was and blamed it on his persecution of someone else.  The Pharisees willfully refused to believe in Jesus; Herod just didn’t get it at all.  Herod missed the point entirely.  He had been complacent in regards to the suffering of John the Baptist (indulging the whims of his wife and step-daughter) and had stopped up his ears to John’s call for repentance.  If the Pharisees are a picture of the religious hypocrite, Herod is a picture of the apathetic world.  He’s unsaved & doesn’t care.  He’s happy to imprison a prophet for speaking the truth, and shows little hesitation for having him killed.
    • If the disciples could fall into the error of the Pharisees, how might they fall into the error of Herod?  After all, unlike Herod, the disciples actually did have some faith though it was little & it wavered back & forth. … The disciples had been sitting on the fence regarding Jesus.  The thing about fence-sitting is that it isn’t very comfortable.  Eventually you have to get off.  They could either walk towards Jesus in faith, or they could walk away.  Other people had followed Jesus for a while, only to turn away (Jn 6:66).  What would stop the disciples from doing the same?  Jesus had not yet gone to the cross, nor risen from the grave – the disciples could easily have gone back to their old life, and given everything up.  Essentially, that’s what Peter tried to do after his denial of Jesus (Jn 21).  Of course, at least one disciple did indeed walk away, and engaged in all of the sin of the world: Judas.
    • Eventually everyone comes to a point where they need to make a stand regarding Jesus.  We cannot sit on the fence.  We cannot engage in complacency, like Herod.  Either we’re going to follow Jesus, or we’re not.  That’s because either we belong to Jesus, or we don’t.  Herod may have been the political king of the Jews, but he certainly didn’t have any faith & he didn’t know the real King of the Jews.  What about us?  If we know Jesus, we need to follow Jesus.  We cannot sit on the fence.

16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”

  • Obviously the disciples didn’t understand a lick of what Jesus had just told them.  They were still stuck on bread.  We can understand…once we start thinking about food, it’s rather hard to stop. J  But they were missing out on what Jesus was saying.  Note two major problems with their response: (1) they didn’t ask Jesus, and (2) they didn’t listen to Jesus. 
  • First, they didn’t ask Jesus – “they reasoned among themselves.”  If they had a question about something Jesus had said, why not ask Jesus?  After all, He was right in the boat with them.  It’s a small boat…it’s not like they could have gone down to another desk & had a conference together without Jesus hearing them anyway.  Yet they turn aside & start whispering to each other about bread.  Think about it: guys who didn’t understand what Jesus said, asking other guys who didn’t understand what Jesus said, all the while with Jesus sitting not more than a couple of feet away.  That’s the height of foolishness!  Just ask Jesus!
    • How much more quickly would some of our problems and questions be resolved if we just asked Jesus?  If you’re a born-again believer in Jesus Christ (you’ve asked forgiveness for your sin & you’ve personally asked Jesus to come into your life as your Lord & King), then the Bible says you are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).  Chew on that for just a moment: you have God the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you.  You are never without the personal presence of Almighty God.  If you have a question, you can ask God because God is always with you.  That’s not to say we cannot ask one another, because that’s one of the reasons God has placed us within the church.  We need Godly believers around us to help us bear our burdens, and to help equip us for the work of the ministry.  But the Church is never a replacement for the Holy Spirit.  One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to teach us (1 Jn 2:27).  The very first thing we ought to do when we have a question is to pray.  God is right here!  We can ask Him!
  • Second, they hadn’t listened to Jesus.  Jesus did not say a word about bread, but about “the leaven of the Pharisees & the leaven of Herod.”  Jesus’ statement had nothing to do with disciples’ lack of food, but to be careful of certain types of leaven.  Even there, the focus wasn’t on the leaven itself, but where the leaven originated.  The disciples heard half of Jesus’ words, and ended up missing His point entirely.
    • Isn’t that how we end up reading the Bible so often?  We pick up on phrases here & there, and we latch onto those things, sometimes missing what God is actually saying to us through the Bible.  We’ll hear “faith without works is dead,” so some people go to concentrate on works, works, works, and totally ignore the need to have faith in Christ.  (Or vice-versa.)  Or we’ll hear “give and it will be given to you,” so other people think that if they give all their money to Christian ministries that God is somehow obligated to bless them with incredible riches – and they thereby miss the whole point of what it means to be a cheerful worshipful giver.
    • The sad part is that none of us needs to miss out on half of what God has said.  We’ve been given the written word of God…we can read it ALL.  At least the disciples could use the excuse of not having heard quite everything when Jesus said it.  We have it written down, and we can read it as often as we like.  The question is how often do we “like” to read it?  READ IT!  Pay attention, and take in ALL that God has to say through His word!

17 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? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?

  • If Jesus was disappointed with the Pharisees, we can only imagine how disappointed He was with the disciples.  After all, the Pharisees were expected to have hardened hearts – but what about these men who lived with Jesus day-in and days-out – for many months by this point?  They had experienced all these things with Jesus – they had heard so much of His teaching – and yet their hearts were “still hardened.”  Back in Ch. 6 when Jesus walked on water, the Bible tells us that their hearts were hardened (6:52).  It’s amazing that they could have witnessed the things they did, and been empowered by Jesus the way they were, and still have their hearts hardened against faith.  They still had so very little understanding of who Jesus is, and what Jesus was saying to them.
  • Jesus’ questions are rhetorical, more than anything.  They are His chastisements, hopefully causing the disciples to wake up & take a look at themselves.  How is it that they still could be without understanding?  At this point, they were acting little better than unbelievers, from whom the truths of God were hidden.  Remember, that was the point of teaching in parables: to reveal the truth of God to those who had faith, while concealing it from those who had hardened hearts.  Mark 4:11–12, "(11) And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, (12) so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’ ”" []  The disciples were supposed to be those who understood.  They were the ones taught by Jesus, and given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.  Yet the disciples of Jesus were acting like those who never knew Jesus.  They were without spiritual understanding.
  • Jesus doesn’t want us to be without understanding!  We are given the truth of God so that we would understand.  A person who has the Spirit of God within them has at least some understanding of the mind of God (1 Cor 2:11-12).  We’re taught by the Spirit so that we can understand spiritual things.  That’s not to say we all have graduate degrees in theology (far from it!) – but that we understand Jesus.  Someone who has been born again understand who Jesus is.  He/she understands that Jesus is alive, and that Jesus has a real, vibrant, living relationship with him/her.  We understand the truth that sin kills, and Jesus gives life.  We understand what true life is because we’ve experienced it.  When our Savior speaks to us through prayer & His word, we listen.  We listen because we understand.  We hear our Savior’s voice, and we follow.
  • The problem with the disciples at this point is that the heard, but they only followed half-way.  They may have been with Jesus physically, but their hearts were far from Him.  They were in danger of the very thing that Jesus had just warned them about: taking on the leaven of the Pharisees & the leaven of Herod.
  • Their lack of understanding may have broken Jesus’ heart, but notice His compassion towards them.  He chastised them, but He wasn’t willing to let them just wallow in their ignorance.  He continually reaches out to them, trying to help them understand…

19 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.” 20 “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.”

  • Jesus breaks it down very simply for them.  He’s not talking about bread.  Had bread ever been a problem for Jesus?  No.  If they needed lunch, all they needed to do was ask.  Jesus was more than capable of providing more bread than they could possibly eat at any given point in time.
  • Beyond the supernatural miracle was the point of the miracles: it was a demonstration that Jesus is God.  Jesus is enough to provide for the Jews, and Jesus is enough to provide for the Gentiles.  Jesus is the Giver of life, and all peoples everywhere are to look to Him.  The disciples needed to stop reasoning among themselves to try to figure out what they could do to make things happen; they needed to look to Jesus in faith.  They needed to stop sitting on the fence, and truly give themselves over to Jesus.

21 So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”

  • There’s a final difference with the account in Matthew here.  Matthew goes on to explain that the disciples understood that Jesus wasn’t talking about bread, but about the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mt 16:11).  In fact, in Matthew’s account, Jesus specifically explains it to them in those words.  Yet Mark leaves all of that out.  He leaves us hanging on the edge with the disciples.  Why?  It all sets up a contrast.  The disciples did not understand… yet.  But they would, soon.  By the end of that boat ride, no doubt the disciples understood what Jesus meant about the leaven (which Matthew tells us), but their greater misunderstanding was not about the leaven, but about Jesus Himself.  They still didn’t quite get Jesus.  But they would.  Soon, they would come to the understanding that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  But until they understood that, then they would miss everything else.  It wouldn’t matter how much time they spent around the things of God if they had no faith in the Son of God.
  • Likewise for us.  Do you understand Jesus?  Have you been around the things and people of God, and still lack personal understanding through personal experience?  Do you get it yet?  You’ve heard the teaching – you’ve seen Jesus work in other people – you’ve witnessed Jesus’ love and compassion for the world…but have you personally taken that step of faith?  Or are you still without understanding?  Move forward in faith! 

Three groups who don’t get it, or were in danger of not getting it.  The Pharisees – Herod – the disciples.

  • The Pharisees were willful in their blindness to Jesus.  They knew what they were doing, and tried to assert their own authority over Him.  They were hypocrites in every sense of the word, as those who claimed to be of God but were in reality without God.
  • Herod did not likely understand what he did, but he didn’t care.  He was of the world, and acted like someone of the world.  He was apathetic towards Jesus, and missed Him completely.
  • The disciples were warned by Jesus of both – and they were in danger of being infected by either doctrine.  They could either slip into hypocrisy, or slip away entirely.  They had sat on the fence about Jesus for long enough; it was time for them to get serious.


There are warnings here for the person who knows he’s a Christian, and for the person who thinks he’s a Christian.

If you’re truly born-again – if you’ve given your life over to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, then you can still be in danger of being infected by the leaven of the Pharisees.  All sorts of well-meaning Christians have fallen into the trap of hypocrisy & legalism.  They’ve taken the truth that they do know, and they twisted it from the grace of God, imposing their version of it upon others.  Or they’ve tried to act as the final authority on what God has said, despite God Himself being the authority.  Beware!  Christian, God has called us to a life of humility; not hypocrisy.  We’re to walk with our Lord Jesus in humble faith, gently helping others do the same.

For those on the edge of the church, there is much warning to you as well.  You are in danger of either willfully shutting your eyes to Jesus (per the Pharisees), or turning completely away from Jesus (per Herod).  It’s tragic to look among the world and see the roads lined with what the Bible calls “apostates”: those who turned their back on God.  They had been around Christians, and gave it all up.  They gave up any pretense of faith, and any desire to have Jesus, and walked back to the things of the world.  And without their realizing it, they turned away from their hope of eternity and forgiveness from God.  Don’t be another!  Open your eyes to Jesus and see Him for who He really is.  Look at the cross & resurrection & see what He has really done.  Stop sitting on the fence regarding Jesus, and truly give yourself over to Him today.

  1. John Warren Jr. says:

    It interests me how the Lord teaches the disciples. He really challenges their understanding. It’s like, “If I just give you the answer, you’ll never learn.”

  2. timburns says:

    That’s a great point. We’ll actually be looking at that a little bit today in Mark 8:22-30. 🙂

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