Today’s reading: Mark 8:1-21
It’s funny, I don’t know how to feel when Jesus says things to the disciples like this: “Do you still not understand?” (v. 21) Because, you know, I’m pretty sure their answer was “Nope”… and, frankly, sometimes, so is mine.
Once again, Jesus is teaching on a remote hillside. Once again, dinnertime comes around and nobody thought to bring the picnics. Once again, bread and fish are blessed and broken, and once again the apostles are put to work distributing the miraculous meal (and then gathering up the leftovers).
But this time, after the miracle was over and done and all the faithful picnickers had gone home, Jesus and the disciples got in a boat to go to another area. There, they were accosted by Pharisees who were bent on forcing Jesus’ hand. And as usual, he refused to play their game… he got back in the boat and sailed away.
But this time, back on the boat, the disciples realized they didn’t have enough bread on hand–just one loaf. Jesus saw their worry, and said (cryptically, in my humble opinion): “Be careful. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
The disciples, trying to decipher their teacher’s message, went in to a huddle. The best they could come up with was that Jesus was rebuking them for not bringing enough bread. Jesus (no doubt rolling his eyes to heaven) asked them what was fast becoming a standard question: “Do you still not see or understand?” Why are you still talking about the silly bread—didn’t you see what I can do with bread? Do your eyes and ears not work—and haven’t you seen what I can do with broken bodies?
What a contrast with the stories of faithful friends bringing their broken loved ones to Jesus for his healing touch–those who can be made well by their faith. Here are his closest companions, his chosen ones, befuddled over bread.
Had they been too busy passing the plates and scraping together the leftovers to pay attention to Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes?
Were they too distracted by defensiveness against the Pharisees’ accusations to notice that they could be just as blind as the religious establishment?
I don’t begin to understand everything about Jesus’ parables and sayings (and, if I may say so, I tend to distrust people who claim that they do). If it was difficult for the twelve–those who walked the dirt roads alongside him, shared picnics and boatrides–how much more difficult is it for us, who are distanced by generations and by geography? If they constantly needed their eyes and ears to be opened, how much more do we?
Hear my prayer, O God:
On the busy days,
keep my gaze focused
on the miracle of bread–
In the face of confrontation,
keep my ears and eyes
open to your signs of life–