Matthew 16:5-12; Mark 8:14-26
“You have eyes – can’t you see? You have ears – can’t you hear?” – Mark 8:18 NLT
The disciple were just ordinary men. Most of them were uneducated, even by the standards of their day. And each of them had willingly left behind whatever career they had chosen for themselves, in order to follow Jesus and learn from Him. It was a common practice for young men to follow a rabbi and become His disciples. But the disciples probably had no idea just what they were getting themselves into when they took up after Jesus. This was going to be one wild ride. Jesus was not like any other rabbi or teacher. He was the Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah. He had unprecedented power and unparalleled teachings. Learning from Jesus was like drinking from a fire hose. There was more truth than they could handle. Everything He said and did caused them to have to rethink everything they thought they knew about God, religion, life, ministry, the Messiah, and His coming Kingdom.
But what I love about them is their ordinariness. These guys were just like me. They didn’t always come across as the brightest bulbs in the box. They could be stubborn, insensitive, uncaring, prideful, argumentative, overly competitive, and at times, just plain stupid. But then, so can I. Their hearts were in the right place, but they were having to deal with a lot of issues that sometimes blinded them to the truth of what Jesus was trying to teach them. They were just men, and they tended to get stuck on an earthly level, obsessing about things that didn’t really matter. Today’s passages share just such an occasion. They have crossed back over the lake, and when they arrive on the other side, Jesus makes a comment regarding the Pharisees, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6 NLT). Now the disciples were already a little put out, because they realized that they didn’t bring any bread with them. And what makes this particularly funny is that they had had seven baskets full of bread left over from when Jesus fed the 4,000. They just forgot to bring any of it with them. So, the disciples get into a heated argument over the fact that nobody had brought any bread. They somehow think that Jesus is talking about bread, and so they start passing blame and pointing fingers. Jesus stops them right in their tracks. “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread?” (Matthew 16:7-11 NLT). Ouch! That had to have hurt. But Jesus is trying to get them to understand something far more important and life threatening than a lack of bread. It is as if He is saying, “I can get you plenty of bread when you need it. That’s not a problem.” But the greatest threat to their lives was false teaching. The kind of false teaching that the Pharisees and Sadducees were spreading among the people under the guise of truth. Like yeast, this teaching was working its way through the nation of Israel, contaminating the minds of the people against Jesus and His teaching. Ultimately, they would turn the people against the disciples as well.
Their obsession with temporal, physical things was preventing them from understanding the more significant issues that threatened the cause of Christ. They were majoring on the minors. Jesus could provide them with plenty of bread. He had already shown His ability to do that. But He was much more concerned that they understood why He was so strongly opposed to the religious leadership of the day. They needed to see the danger of following their ways and listening to their teaching. Because they were wrong. Regardless of how spiritual and righteous they may appear, they were prideful, arrogant men who were teaching a different kingdom and rejecting the very Son of God. Better to go hungry than feed on the false food these men offered up on a daily basis.
Jesus wanted the disciples to listen and learn. He wanted them to see the world around them with new eyes. The message He would leave them to take to the world would be opposed by these same religious leaders. They would face ongoing resistance from the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus wanted them to understand just how dangerous these men were. They were not allies. They were not on the same team. Their message stood in direct opposition to that of Jesus. And they would continue to be a stumbling block for many when it came to the Good News of Jesus Christ. And that piece of information was far more important than who forgot to bring the bread.
Father, it is so easy to focus on the wrong thing in this life. We can easily take our eyes off the task at hand and obsess about things that have no eternal significance. Help us stay focused. Help us to see what is really important to You and Your Son. Because we are so effected by the physical, we can easily get distracted by physical things like food, clothes, money, shelter, etc. But there are far more dangerous and subtle threats to our lives and to Your Kingdom. Open our eyes so we can see what You see. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men