A PAINFUL DIAGNOSIS
Lord, increase our understanding.
Read MARK 8:14–21
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?”
New International Version (NIV)
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“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
Just as in 6:45–52, where the disciples experience a difficult boat journey, this time Jesus exposes their lack of understanding and emphatically so. When He warns His disciples about the Pharisees (and Herod) they misunderstand (15,16). Jesus then fires off a series of rhetorical questions at them (17,18). Verses 19–21 probe the disciples’ condition, exposing their failure to grasp the meaning of the two feeding miracles and the leftovers. Having spent a considerable length of time with Jesus, the disciples still misunderstand the nature of his mission.
At the root of the disciples’ lack of understanding is their “hardness of heart” (cf. 17, also 6:52). In Greek, a passive construction is used, “their hearts have been hardened”. Mark does not clarify who has done the hardening. In 4:12, quoting Isaiah 6:9 and 10, it appears that God is the One who hardens the hearts of people who are unwilling to listen to Him (cf. John 12:40), but “hardened hearts” may also refer to the human condition after the fall. Verses 17–21 echo the blindness and deafness of rebellious Israel in Jeremiah 5:21, Ezekiel 12:2, and Moses’ words to Israel in Deuteronomy29:2–4 (J Marcus, Mark 1–8, Doubleday, 2000, p511, 513). The implication is that the disciples, who have been chosen by Jesus as the new Israel (Mark 3:13–15), still behave like old Israel!
Things are looking bleak. Is there hope for the disciples? Yes, the “still” in “Do you still not understand?” (cf. 17, 21) implies that their lack of comprehension is not permanent, and they will eventually understand (J Marcus, 2000, p508). How will Jesus heal their condition? This will unfold when we move from section 6:30 – 8:21, which was dominated by the theme of food, to 8:22 – 10:52 which focuses on travelling with Jesus on the road of discipleship.
As you travel with Jesus on the lifelong journey of discipleship, think of issues in your life that need addressing.
Lord, we were born into Your kingdom knowing nothing, but we desire to grow in knowledge and understanding of Your ways.