I really enjoy feasting on the product of the Father's breath with ladies serious about their spiritual growth.
The passage was familiar as was the reaction of the other ladies in the group.
The general sense was that Jesus was totally frustrated with the disciples' reaction to the situation. A couple of the ladies even repeated Christ's words with a strong get-with-it-guys, what's-the-matter-with-you tone.
I felt terribly off in the face of their common responses.
We were reviewing Mark 8 which opens with the account of Jesus feeding a crowd whose core was 4,000 men. Evidently the disciples had no idea where to get enough bread to feed them and asked Jesus.
He answered them with a question of His own.
"How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked. (verse 5)
"Seven," they replied.
Jesus organized the crowd, broke the loaves into pieces, and directed the disciples to share it among the people. A few small fish were discovered so Jesus did the same with them. Everybody ate their fill and there were seven baskets full of leftovers for the disciples to retrieve.
After an interaction with the Pharisees Jesus and the disciples got in a boat to go to the other side of the lake. When Jesus spoke to them about the "yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod" in verse 15 the disciples said His remarks were probably the result of their having only one loaf of bread with them in the boat.
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? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"
"Twelve," they replied.
"And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"
They answered, "Seven."
He said to them, "Do you still not understand?" (verses 14-21)
Okay, I recognize the seeming dense-ness of the disciples.
I mean, after all, they had already been with Jesus when He fed an even larger crowd with 5,000 men at the core. And there were many similarities.
- on the edge of a body of water
- a boat was involved
- an isolated setting
- crowds of hungry people
- no sources to get food
- insufficient funds to purchase food
- Jesus asked about available bread
- the disciples reported a small amount of bread
- the disciples found a small amount of fish
- Jesus got the people organized in groups
- Jesus broke the bread and fish into pieces
- the disciples participated in the distribution
- all the people ate their fill
- the disciples collected leftovers with their own hands
I am continually overwhelmed by the long-suffering nature of God the Father throughout the Old Testament and the seemingly-endless compassion of Christ during His time of earthly ministry. I've also come to see the Master's time with the Apostles as a full-on mentor program. Perhaps these views impact the way I perceive the Mark 8 interchanges.
From my perspective Jesus was making the most of the tutorial time He had with the disciples on their mini-cruise away from distracting crowds.
Nothing happens by chance with God. Every detail of this life is woven into His perfect plan. I see the similarities between the two feeding sessions as specific teaching points for the Master Teacher. Jesus made the most of the lack of provision on the boat to draw the disciples back to the previous episodes where it seemed there were no resources on hand.
Their Tutor used questions to lead the disciples' thinking.
First about the topic of their conversation.
Then about the need for them to engage their minds with what was happening around them.
Next encouraging them to check the condition of their hearts.
Also about their ability (or willingness) to make the most of what their senses gathered.
Continuing, the Savior urged them to remember what they had witnessed in the past, on both occasions over several points.
Having prompted them in each of these areas, He asked them again if they understood.
This strategy seems like an excellent way to walk through an intentional life.
Consider the purpose of our conversations.
Apply our minds to what's going on around us.
Examine our hearts.
Make sure we're verifying and evaluating what we see and hear.
Remember the past, how God acted in Scripture, the world, our own lives.
Bring all this input before the Lord to confirm our conclusions and seek real understanding.
Rather than chastising the disciples for acting like knuckleheads, I suggest Jesus the Christ was caring for them in intimate ways on their personal journey toward maturity. I also suggest that He was modeling the way the disciples were supposed to treat others as they shared the Gospel and guided others in their spiritual growth and development.
As usual the Word doesn't really end there. The same loving, compassionate, gracious, specific, careful, and obviously effective model stands before each of us.
Dear Father, thank you for the richness of the Scriptures. Please cause each of us to grasp all You have for us as we study and meditate, not just as a collection of things to itemize but as the transforming work of Your Potter's hands. Amen