The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’ And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ They said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’
Preached Sunday, November 19, 2017 at Westfield Church by the Rev. Jonathan Chapman
Today, we’re half way—we’re halfway through the Gospel of Mark almost to a verse which means we’ve seen half of what Jesus has to offer us in this shortest of gospels. And the dialogue at this critical moment in the entirety of Mark’s gospel is…less than inspiring. Those pesky pharisees show up again and they try (per usual) to trick Jesus into cornering himself by their standards. Of course, he doesn’t fall for it, instead, he tells them to buzz off and he gets into a boat. That’s usually how Jesus works—he says what he wants to say, then gets in a boat—have you noticed?
And while he’s in this boat he’s steaming about the interaction he just had with the Pharisees. “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod!” In modern terms, one bad apple spoils the whole barrel—a little bit of nastiness can wreak havoc.
And the disciples, who’ve been traveling with Jesus this whole time, who’ve seen it all—the miracles and healings and exorcisms—those same disciples who are piled into that boat with Jesus, don’t get it. They totally miss the point.
“It is because we have no bread.”
I love this line. In fact, it might be one of my favorites in all of scripture. At first blush, it seems like Jesus is talking about metaphoric yeast and the disciples are talking about literal bread—and that’s true. That is happening here. But, I like to read it another way. Have you ever heard of being hangry? That’s when you’re angry because you’re hungry. I get hangry, and Greg knows it. So, if we wait too long for lunch and I start getting pissy, he gives me a kiss or two—those are Hershey kisses, in case you were confused—and backs away slowly.
Guys, the disciples thought Jesus was hangry—that is, he was hangry because they had no bread.
And Jesus isn’t having it. “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand?”
Nope. They didn’t. And really, we don’t.
Let’s take a survey. Now this is going to take some real honesty and vulnerability. But I’m confident you have it. Close your eyes. Now raise your hand if, you’ve ever thought “I don’t get it” when you’ve thought about the Bible, Faith, Jesus, etc. Now keep your hands up. And open your eyes.
Folks we don’t get it. We try. We want to, and we certainly have moments of clarity. But very often when it comes to our faith, we say things like I just don’t get it. I just don’t understand. We hear it at times of unexpected death or diagnoses that come out of the blue. We hear it when kids act up or when a gunman walks into a church and massacres the congregation. “I just don’t understand.”
Well, here’s the good news. Neither did the disciples, so we’re in good company.
And do you know what Jesus does when his disciples don’t understand, he helps them try. When they miss the point and worry about no bread, he reminds them that little can become much—just like it did when he fed the 5,000 and the 4,000.
Last week, we read three healing stories—one of which told of Jesus healing the blind man. It took two tries, remember? That story begins the second half of the gospel of Mark—that’s too say, it comes right after this moment of not understanding. Does that seem interesting to you? It does to me—that right after we encounter the disciples missing it all together that the first thing Jesus does is help the blind to see.
Friends, that’s good news for us—It’s good news because it reminds us that no matter how much we miss the point, no matter how thick we are, how much we don’t understand, how blind we are, God is relentless in helping us see.
Thanks be to God. Amen.